My Traveling Sketchbook: Prague's Architectural Inspiration
On to the second stop of the trip; Prague. Having never been to the Czech Republic before, I was anxious to see what this region had in store. Of the eleven countries I've traveled to, I can honestly say that Prague has been the most unique (so far!)
It is not often that one city can represent a vast amount of architectural styles- yet Prague holds them all, side by side in it's beautiful capital. From Romanesque to Gothic, Renaissance to Baroque, and even Rococo to Classicism...Prague throughly represents all eras. Architecture has the potential to unlock every artists' imagination and I encourage any traveling creative to make Prague their next stop. This city was the perfect place to dive head on into the culture and gain an insight to my own artistic voice.
The architecural lines and shapes quickly began to stimulate my imagination and desire to sketch abstract. My mind could not get enough of the burnt orange roofed houses, intricate gothic structures, and lavish castle gardens.
Although archictecture must be more functioning, so to speak, than a painting hanging on a wall; the basic elements of art are always needed to create both buildings or finert. All makers, no matter the medium, need to develop strong sense of balance, harmony, and aesthetics in order to accomplish the final goal. Observing these incredible structures from all periods of art has given me a creative bearing; similiar to a compass. I am anxious to get home to my acrylics and empty easel to play with line and texture. Prague has many areas to offer and I would suggest you take the time to explore them all. It is a very clean city, (despite the graffiti) easy to navigate, and safe for late night adventures. Many of the famous scenes are overrun by visitors- so I would suggest visiting many areas at various times of the day in order to get a true feel for the atmosphere. Visiting large points of interest in the early morning makes all the difference.
Here are my favorite places of inspiration:
Old Town Square.
What an incredible piece of history! The town square has remained nearly untouched for decades...and the views of architecture are simply breathtaking. The multicolored, intricate houses caught my eye immediately- but are just the beginning of what the square has to offer.
High in the tower of the elegant Town Hall is the world famous Astronomical Clock- which has shown the procession of the Apostles since The Middle Ages. Immediately, I began doing research on the workings behind this 600 year old clock, and couldn't believe all that it is capable of and represents. The details and vivid colors on the face itself were unlike any other. When the hour strikes, be sure to watch everyone gather in front of the clock to watch the Walking of The Apostle. It amazed me; the thought of time having such a heavy signicance...even for those who lived long ago.
For only a few Euros, you can climb to the top of the clock tower and feast your eyes on some beautiful birds' eye views of the square. Below, there were hundreds of people, scurrying about to witness the square's beauty. Compared to the size of the archicture surrounding them, they appeared tiny, minuscule, and insignificant. Through out life, there are times when it may be difficult to wrap our head around the power and greatness of something. For me, standing in this bell tower, overlooking a 600 year old city, I felt small. But in the most empowering, and inspirational way a person can feel.
Dominating the opposite end of the square, stands the mystical Tyn Church- one of the most admired Gothic structures in all of Prague. On the third corner, The Church of Saint Nicholas, another breathtaking structure from the inside out. We spent hours exploring, observing and tasting all the Square had to offer.
One of the most well known structures in Prague, this bridge was built centuries ago in 1357. Baroque statues line the outskirts of the passage, and there is plenty of viewpoints all across the way. Because of its fame, the Charles Bridge is packed with visitors, taking away from of the aesthetic views and intimacy. Visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and to catch a glimpse of the structure in the early morning fog. For me, journeying across this century year-old walkway took hours. There are so many characteristics to admire, a vast amount of art to research and interpret. One of the most visited statues, St. John of Nepomuk, is rumored to bring good fortune to all who touch it; leaving a gleaming, worn plaque in the sunlight.
The Charles Bridge connects Old Town and Lesser town, where my next place of inspiration lies. Here, just across the bridge, there is a bell tower (that many often pass) which allows you to venture to the top for yet another incredible city view.
The narrow, steep stairway was incredibly rewarding once reaching the top. The buildings overlapping in height create strong negative space, their roofs seeming to compete at a glimpse of the sun. Views of both lesser town, old town...and even the Charles Bridge- made for my favorite view of the city. The Castle and St.Vitus Cathedral sit powerfully from afar, overlooking all of Prague; seeming to watch over all below. The Church of St.Nicholas and it's copper dome remain hidden, yet bold, in all of Lesser Town's wonderful character. As far as the eye can see...architecture from all periods of time, longing to be admired.
We were the only observers for the 45 minutes spent at the top, and I was able to sketch/take note of all that was surrounding me. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and will continue to be on all of my journeys... But there is something to be said for jotting down all that our senses take in while present in a moment. How do I feel, what do I see? What little details of sensitive information will be missed when looking at this photo, 10, 15 years from now? Prague has reminded me to be present, to continuously live in the moment.
The Lennon Wall.
Yes, it's true.. Prague has an infatuation with John Lennon. I overheard many tourists mocking the area for their love of westernized music, calling it "weird" or "random"; when really, this admiration stands for something so powerful and inspirational, that it should never be misunderstood. Visiting The Lennon Wall emphasized the importance of misunderstanding when traveling. As travelers, it is so important to remember...just because something is unfamiliar or you do not understand it; does not mean it is strange. Judgement is an ugly thing. No sooner than approaching the mural, The Lennon Wall immediately became one of the biggest places of inspiration while traveling through Prague.
The Lennon Wall represents the fall of the Communist Regime in Prague. It stands for freedom, for peace, and for individualism. John Lennon and all western music was banned for years, and as an act of protest, Prague citizens began painting Lennon lyrics and art on this wall to symbolize their strength. Even with guards standing through the night, more and more art was added to the wall. Prague would not back down, and it was a foreshadowing to the Velvet Revolution. This wall is ever-changing, and is still painted over and added to constantly.
Standing there, in front of this incredibly powerful piece of history, chills ran over my body. For centuries, the arts have always been a means for communication; a voice. Running my fingers across the mural, I couldn't help but feeling grateful. Grateful for every chosen act through out my daily life, grateful for each time I am able to pick up a paintbrush, pen, or turn on my favorite record. The colorful mural represents a sense of community; of people longing, hoping, and praying for a similar dream. And to me, that is what all art should always work towards. Peace, Love, and Individualism. The colors and writings of this wall all blend together to be sure that the voice of freedom is heard. And an artist, it is a beautiful, emotional experience to witness such a bold act of creative expression.
Another beautiful piece of Prague that goes without saying is the 1,146 year old Castle district. Large walls surround the area, creating a village within itself. There, lies one of the most magnificent structures in all of the Czech Republic, St.Vitus Cathedral.
I spent hours wandering, and re-wandering, both the outside and inside of the Cathedral. Each Cathedral I visit, it never ceases to amaze me how unique and full of character they are. The story-telling frescoes on the ceiling, Gothic and Baroque statues surrounding the facadé, rare stone mosaics covering the walls, and the intricate stained glass windows. How can I pull these shapes, these colors, into my work? These brilliant structures of architecture all create such strong compositions... How do the shapes of the doorways and windows lead your eye around the entire building? The statues and intricate details of the exterior emphasize such lovely shadows when the sun hits them- how does this create depth? Each minuscule detail had a plan, a purpose. Nothing is random, nothing is left to chance. How will this thought/realization affect my work?
And briefly, I sat down to sketch..
The Castle is also surrounded with wonderful, lush gardens; along with views of Lesser Town. Many of the gardens were closed during our visit, but I took in as much as I could..leaving the rest to my imagination. The high, rough textured brick walls against lush greenery created strong visual stimulation.. The colors longing to be on my paint palette.
The outcome and play of sketches inspired by Prague architecture using watercolor and ink pen.
Follow more of my journey on Instagram: @sruetercreates and #MyTravelingSketchbook
As an artist, Prague has gifted me with incredible insight to all periods of history. Studying art history as a BFA was a great experience, but observing them in real life always offers so much more. The vast amount of architecture reminds me that all art, no matter the form, is working towards a common goal of composition, color, and balance. I am hopeful that these areas will reflect in my work once back at my easel.
Stay tuned. Xo S