Lecture 8: Drawings Inside a Prison


Lecture Presnter: Nelson Paciencia

I came across urban sketching in late 2012. Since then I have drawn compulsively, and always in a very dedicated and passionate way, using it as the tool to get to places and meet people, which in some cases would have been impossible without sketching.

Recently I volunteered to give drawing sessions in a prison. I decided to give a small part of my time, to whom time is its worst enemy. I wanted to share this passion of drawings in sketchbooks with someone who had the same passion as me, and probably didn’t’ know it. In January 2014, I started giving regular drawing sessions in the most high security prison in Portugal, Monsanto.

A small group of prisoners, each one with their own history of frustrations, living every day with indifference and repulsion from society, become extraordinarily committed to these two and a half hour sessions, every two weeks, most probably the only moment of apparent freedom in their lives.

It’s the experience and the results from those sessions that I want to share in this lecture.

  • Their incredible drawings and my drawings, capturing those indescribable and unique moments.
  • The feeling I had when I visited that place for the first time;
  • The way I introduced myself on that first day to a small group of men, ashamed of their past and with a faraway hope for the future.
  • The sensation earing the strident sound of automatic grills and the echo that does not end along those stone walls, the guards, and the people’s day to day stories around that place;
  • The drawing challenges and constraints due to security reasons, the themes chosen, and the jazz music we listened to during the classes, the empathy amongst all of us.
  • Their incredible life stories, narrated in the first person.
  • The power and addiction of being a volunteer (!) 




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