Opus Resource Library
Urban Sketching and Plein Air Painting with Jose de Juan
Opus Resource Library
An urban sketch of Kitsilano Beach by Jose de Juan
"Kitsilano Beach" by Jose de Juan

"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."

Fascinated by light and weather, he employs a representational approach, striving to show respect for materials and an honesty of rendition. 

Jose's Thoughts on Urban Sketching:

"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. "

An urban sketch of children playing at a waterpark by artist Jose de Juan
Urban Sketch by Jose de Juan

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. 

"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."

Urban sketches of Roller Derby participants by artist Jose de Juan
"New Westminster Roller Derby" by artist Jose de Juan

"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.

Urban sketch of people sitting on the grass near the beach in Vancouver by artist Jose de Juan
"August 4, 2019 Vancouver Pride" by Jose de Juan

"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."

Explore More of Jose de Juan's Plein Air Paintings

A plein Air painting of a lake or inlet surrounded by trees and mountains by artist Jose de Juan
A plein air painting of families playing at the park  by artist Jose de Juan
A plein air painting of a person smelling the lilacs in the garden at the front of a green heritage house  by artist Jose de Juan
A plein air painting of a 2 people walking and one person riding her bike on the sidewalk beside a plum-coloured house  by artist Jose de Juan

Watch and listen to the full interview in the Opus Visual Podcast: Explore with Urban Artists

About the Artist:

Jose L. De Juan graduated from the Madrid Art Academy in his native Spain, and has since moved to Vancouver, BC. Watercolours, oils, computer or any other medium, it's all part of a desire to give visual shape to the moment. 

Jose is a devoted plein-air artist and finds constant inspiration in the city and its surroundings. He likes to plant the easel and look around for any subjects, surprised by light and weather. Jose strives to show respect for the materials, honesty of rendition and a representational approach. He hopes his work finds an echo in the viewer's own search for beauty in everyday's blur.

Thank you to Jose de Juan for this wonderful article and podcast interview. Visit Jose de Juan's website to see more of his artwork: josedejuan.com or follow him on Instagram @josedejuan

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