Urban Sketching with Jose de Juan

May 31, 2021

Jose de Juan graduated from The Madrid Art Academy in his native Spain and moved to the USA in 1994, where he began working as a computer artist in the film industry. Despite rigorous career demands, his passion for painting has held strong. Now living in Vancouver, Jose is a devoted plein-air artist who finds constant inspiration in the city and its surroundings. Fascinated by light and weather, he employs a representational approach, striving to show respect for materials and an honesty of rendition. 



When I go outside and paint, I’m not usually looking for something. It is the moment where you stop and you don’t always know why. You have to ask yourself, ‘What is it that I like about this?’ It could be a colour. It could be the way a shadow is creating an interesting composition.



There’s no point trying to copy nature because nature is infinitely detailed and is almost always going to win. So in the painting, what I try to do is express a moment: ‘This is transient, but we captured this instant where the light was hitting just right or this view was made special by the weather.’ To me, that’s what’s magical about being outdoors – there’s something beautiful everywhere, even in modern settings. You just have to look and be open.


You create differently outside. You never know what you might discover and you’re more accepting of what happens. There’s a painting almost everywhere. The city is always changing – evolving even during the course of a painting. As the day moves, interesting things happen, which you have to allow yourself to see, more than go searching for. 


I’ll just jump on the first bus that comes. Sometimes I get off downtown or sometimes I go to the end of the line and see what happens. The other day I ended up at a milk dairy farm – it was not really pretty, but I painted there and made it work.



When I’m outside, my state of mind is almost like a scavenger. I squint a lot, because when you squint, you stop seeing the details of things – you stop seeing cars and buildings and you start looking at shapes and lights. 


There’s an urgency when you’re urban sketching – the weather, your physical comfort, the people around, all affect you. Try to synthesize what you’re seeing and once you get your idea down, just let it be. You have to adapt to where you are, so make an effort to reduce your materials and limit your palette. I don’t carry many brushes. Flats are great – they create nice edges and are more ambiguous. Finally, it’s important to have a friendly attitude because people are going to talk to you, especially in the city. 





Watch and Listen to Jose’s Full Interview in the Opus Visual Podcast

Explore Urban Sketching with Zandro Tumaliuan and Jose de Juan

Listen to the new podcast featuring Zandro Tumaliuan and Jose de Juan. As we explore the outdoors, we explore our inner world.. Check out… Watch Visual Podcast