USK Workshop: Victor Hugo Urban Sketch Voyage 2.0 – Postponed

The Urban Sketchers Rhein-Main are planning a sketching project along the Rhine inspired by Victor Hugo for 2020 and 2021. The French writer, poet and avowed visionary of Europe travelled the Rhine several times in the middle of the 19th century.

His texts are well known and the description of the places on his route is enchanting. Less well known are his great travel sketches. Some of them show concrete landscapes and towns, castles and palaces on the Rhine. In part he used his impressions in the sketchbook as an occasion for imaginative graphic visions of romantic landscapes and places. The border between poetry and reality becomes blurred in his texts and drawings.

Starting from this artistic and cosmopolitan background, the Urban Sketchers Rhein-Main will embark on a drawing journey on Victor Hugo’s tracks. We plan to draw at several stations along the Rhine and meet other Urban Sketchers groups from Germany and France.

Workshop and Sketchwalk Weekend from 9th to 12th July 2020 

Postponed due to COVID-19. More info soon.

The first event of this project is a Workshop and Sketchwalk weekend taking place in the Middle Rhine Valley World Heritage Site.

This region, with its many castles and palaces, is closely linked to the romanticism of the 19th century. Today, however, the small towns and villages on the Rhine are separated from the river by railways and expressway. Coaches and river cruise ships bring large numbers of tourists to the area every day. The castles, palaces and villages have developed a special appearance due to these facts. We would like to compare the real impressions of today with the texts and sketches of Victor Hugo.

We invite the three lecturers Jenny Adam, Marion Rivolier and Sebastian Lörscher to our Urban Sketching weekend from 9th to 12th July 2020. Their focus is on mixed media/acrylic markers, watercolour/landscape sketches and reportage drawings.

Besides the booked workshops we offer eight sketchwalks.

On Sunday we will sketch castles and the Loreley from a chartered ship. The weekend will end with a small pop-up exhibition.

Our workshops and sketchwalks focus on three towns Victor Hugo had visited and drawn: Bacharach, Oberwesel and St. Goar. Our main location and meeting point is Bacharach.

All participants will receive selected text and picture material on Victor Hugo in preparation for the event. We also recommend reading his book „The Rhine“.

Three different ticket options can be booked:

  • Workshops, sketchwalks and boat tour 230€ 
  • Sketchwalks and boat tour 40€ 
  • Sketchwalks 15€ 

Bookings will be made via Eventbrite from 15 December 2019.

More information on our website, or go directly to Eventbrite to book! (sales start Sunday 15th Dezember at 4 p.m. CET)

The Workshops 

Drawings by Jenny Adam, Marion Rivolier und Sebastian Lörscher 

Our lecturers Jenny Adam, Marion Rivolier and Sebastian Lörscher will hold three workshops of about 3 hours each for about 15 participants each. The workshops will take place in different locations in the Middle Rhine Valley. The participants should prepare for an active weekend. Some of the ways to the workshop locations have to be covered on foot and/or by public transport.

Since our project follows in the footsteps of Victor Hugo, we asked our lecturers to deal with his texts and pictures.

In the sense of the Urban Sketching idea, in addition to the technical and content theme of the workshop, the current atmosphere and mood on the Rhine with all the contrasts of this area will be seen and integrated.

Depending on the registrations, one or more of the workshops will be held in English. The Marion Rivolier workshop will only be held in English.

Jenny Adam – Making your mark 

Bright colors and bold shapes with acrylic markers and mixed media

Workshop A Description 

In this workshop, we will focus on using Acrylic markers and mixed media. We will apply them to Urban Sketching and use them to our advantage, creating bold and beautiful sketches in the process. We’ll be following the traces of Victor Hugo’s voyage in the Middle Rhine valley in the 1840s, and respond to his works in our exercises.

Victor Hugo’s travel sketches and notes will guide our route along the Rhine: we’ll sketch both what remains and what has changed in this scenery. His drawings are distinguished by the use of simplified shapes, mixed media and high contrasts. We will use these characteristics in our own work, using the modern tool of acrylic markers.

In contrast to watercolours, acrylic markers are not transparent but opaque, which means you can work light over dark, and cover up marks you already made. Also, the texture of the paint flowing from the tip is thicker, and matte, and creates uniform color in line and shape, which makes for a striking, graphic approach. We will start by getting to know our new medium and go through simple drawing exercises that help us make the most of the marker: thinking about shapes, masses and how to loosen up our linework through blind contour and broken line drawing. Think less is more! Next, we will study and define light and dark areas in our sketch and sketch them in monochrome. Then in later exercises, we will create evocative sketches with a limited, abstracted color palette where we emphasize value rather than color and learn to combine acrylic markers with other tools in our sketching kit.

Throughout the exercises we will refer to Hugo’s work as an inspiration and practical example for particular exercises

Learning goals 

  • Understand how acrylic markers work and become confident in their use 
  • Loosen up lines and focus on shapes 
  • Study Victor Hugo’s drawings and create a drawing as a response to his work 
  • Create high-contrast drawings through an emphasis on value 
  • Create bold and atmospheric colour drawings using a limited palette and abstract color schemes 

Bio Jenny Adam

Jenny Adam (*1986, Germany) is a product designer & illustrator based in Hamburg. While studying in Barcelona, she discovered Urban Sketchers and has enjoyed drawing together and sharing her sketching experience ever since. She co-founded the Rheinmain chapter in 2013 and hosted the first german national meeting of USk in 2015 in Darmstadt. She has curated, organized and participated in many Urban Sketching events, including exhibitions and workshops in Germany and abroad.


Marion Rivolier – Express the romantic landscape as a colored poem! 


 “Les vapeurs rampent dans les ravins, les nuées accrochées aux collines semblent hésiter et choisir le vent; de sombres forêts druidiques s’enfoncent entre les montagnes dans les lointains violets, de grands oiseaux de proie planent sous un ciel fantasque qui tient des deux climats que le Rhin sépare, tantôt éblouissant de rayons comme un ciel d’Italie, tantôt sali de brumes rousses comme un ciel du Groenland.”  – Victor Hugo, Lettre 25 

“The vapors crawl in the ravines, the clouds hung on the hills seem to hesitate and choose the wind; Dark, druidic forests plunge between the mountains in the distant violet, great birds of prey hover under a whimsical sky which holds the two climates which the Rhine separates, sometimes dazzling with rays like a sky of Italy, sometimes soiled with red mists like a Greenland sky.”

Workshop B Description 

When I read this letter by Victor Hugo, the sketch of the future watercolor comes directly to my mind; the poet used so many colored and atmospheric images! I really want to discover this place and to capture its essence.

Through these words, I dream about rhythms of shapes, variations of colored contrasts and colored value contrasts. This is a way to express an atmosphere: we need not describe each detail of the subject. It is also a way to play with light that is changing at every moment. We will be lucky to be near the water, we can also add the water flow to our painting.

A new way to look at the world is as shapes rather than as lines. In this workshop, we will forget lines for a moment, to observe and create the various colored shapes of the beautiful Rhine panorama.

We will work with watercolor, directly with the brush, without preliminary sketching. After a warm-up in colored values, we will work, through several exercises, on the expression of the atmosphere, between sky and water, in warm and cool values and in colored contrasts. We will also play with words to create our own colored poem of this place.

To take full advantage of this workshop, you must want to express yourself directly with the brush, to get out of your comfort zone and to have fun mixing the colors!

Learning goals 

  • Notice, express and paint in large masses rather than lines. 
  • Understand an urban landscape in a new way, by colored shapes (values and colors) directly using the brush. 
  • Have fun mixing colors to create your own palette and play with colored contrasts. 
  • Feel the freedom of gesture – learn to be sure of your marks, and not be afraid of making a mistake. 

Bio Marion Rivolier 

I am a painter and a scenographer from Paris. I spent my childhood and adolescence discovering drawing and painting techniques, copying Japanese or Italian painters, and exploring bodies, space and movement. I obtained a degree in Visual Arts in 1996 and then I attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. I discovered scenography, the art of space, a discipline in perfect harmony with my work as a painter: the dialogue between moving bodies and space. I graduated in scenography in 2000. Since then, I alternate between designing sets for theaters and museums, and painting.
What interests me the most is to grasp the movement and the light on location. Watercolor is for me the richest and most responsive medium, because it allows to go from an intense color to absolute transparency. I love to be surprised by the pigment that dilutes in water, water that is often not controllable! Watercolor allows me to quickly capture the light, color and movement of a place or action.


Sebastian Lörscher – The Rhine spectacle 

Storytelling/Reportage Drawing


Workshop C Description 

During his travels to the Rhine area, Victor Hugo met castles with “terrible glances” and “turrets like shot up asparagus”. He listens to the “chattering between the stream and the path” and shudders because of the “ghost called palace square”. Bacharach seems to him a place where “a giant trading with antiques wanted to open a junk shop”.

Metaphors and observations like this, a traveler only can find if she or he spends a lot of time lingering. That’s exactly what we are going to do in the workshop. The participants look for a place where they sit for a period of two hours. This can be a busy place like a market where a lot of things happen. But much more interesting will be to choose a place that seems boring at first sight. Here, everything what attracts the eye will be drawn and every sound, observation or thought will be written down. In the beginning, the eye certainly might perceive bigger sensations like castles, houses or people. But the longer it deals with its place, the more it will be sharpened for the fine, poetic perceptions.

By writing and drawing at the same time, the participants will notice that each place has its own little or big story to tell. Or, as Victor Hugo would say, if you look closely, you’ll be offered a little “Rhine spectacle” everywhere.

Learning goals 

During the workshop I will walk around and support the participants. I will help them to find their own special way how to combine drawings and texts and arrange them on their sketchbook pages. I will help them to figure out on what they could concentrate if they feel lost by too many sensations at their place. And I will encourage them to try out new sketching techniques. When you have a lot of time to draw at one place there is a chance to try out things you didn’t try before. I have a huge range of sketching techniques I can teach, so we can figure out together which one might fit best to one’s place.

I want to teach them to sharpen their eyes for little details, to not just look for and sketch the big sensations.
I want to teach them to carefully observe their environments and to dare to draw and write at the same time. The take-away will be to recognize that every place, even if it seems the most boring one in the world, has its stories to tell.

Bio Sebastian Lörscher 

Sebastian Lörscher, born in Paris in 1985 and grown up near Munich, is an illustrator and author living in Berlin. His graphic novels have received a host of honours and are in the catalogues of various publishers in Germany and France. Loerscher’s recent work focuses particularly on the medium of illustrated features. He travels to faraway lands with pencils and sketchbook and captures his impressions in drawings, texts and comic strips done in situ.


USk Rheinmain



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