What's Popular


Artist, Alán Ramiro Manning, sketches in shades and a hat by the pool
Alán’s account is beautiful hand-sketched art, with a generous helping of travel escapism
Alán Ramiro Manning

These Sumptuous Sketches of the World’s Cities Will Dazzle Your Instagram Feed

And the artist has practical tips for even the absolute beginner to drawing!

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

June 20, 2024 11:18 am

A Lisbon-based artist, Alán Ramiro Manning’s @seethelines features his gorgeous sketches and watercolors depicting street scenes from all over the world. (Art AND travel?! That’s a terrific twofer! You’re welcome. Oh, he’s also adorable.) Today, Alán outlines (in more ways than one) the benefits of sketching, as well as ways anyone can start doing it, no matter how good (or bad) you are at it.

Neil Patrick Harris: Hi Alán. Paint me a picture of your Instagram journey. Wait — sketch me a picture of your journey.

Alán Ramiro Manning: Eleven years ago, I rediscovered my love for sketching while studying architecture abroad in Barcelona. I started posting on my personal account, and one of my friends said, “All right man, we get it — you like to sketch!” That sort of inspired @seethelines, but also fortified my purpose to travel the world and sketch. The name refers to when you see the lines, you see edges, profiles, how the sky meets the buildings, shadows, light cascading across facades…it’s a romantic way of seeing and living. I went to architecture school, and I saw many of my colleagues from school or in my career lose touch with the joy of sketching. I wanted to rekindle that love not just for myself, but for anyone who follows my work. Now, my account has become a platform for creating and connecting. I also offer online workshops every week and every month, and in-person workshops in Lisbon once a month and around the E.U. and beyond.

Alán sketchin’ up a storm in Barcelona
Alán sketchin’ up a storm in Barcelona

NPH: But what if you’re terrible at sketching, and haven’t drawn anything in decades? The last art class I took was by a PBS spaceman from the 1980s.

ARM: I see the true act of sketching like writing your signature. That’s how comfortable, unique and fluid it can be with practice and repetition. Sketching offers numerous benefits beyond creating art. It enhances observation skills, boosts creativity and encourages mindfulness and a deeper appreciation of your surroundings. Sketching is always there for you. You’ll never feel lonely again. That’s one of the reasons why I love sketching so much; recently I arrived in a totally different city from my own, alone, with a mission to sketch.

Collage of the early stages of a sketch vs. the finished sketched
Wizardry on paper. Simple as that.
Alán Ramiro Manning

NPH: But where do you even begin? Drawing is super intimidating for most people.

ARM: It is intimidating! What I recommend is this: grab the tools that kids draw with — crayons, markers, colored pencils. Something you can’t erase, which helps you form shapes and values quickly. Then, start a 7-minute timer and make a game out of it. Sketch various scenes and objects, anything you want, one after the other. This helps form the habit.

NPH: Sounds free association-ish. I dig. What is it about urban sketching that appeals to you?

ARM: City scenes invite serendipity, and finding your scene involves a romantic walkabout. When you find it, it’s like love at first sight. I recently shared a Reel that shows both the serendipity of sketching in a city and what to look for while discovering a scene — you’ll see a group of boys walk up casually, shake hands with me and lean on my shoulder. This was in Morocco, and shows the kindness of their culture. I was in the middle of filming the moment of what caught my eye to sketch.

NPH: NYC’s version of serendipity probably involves finding a spot in Times Square where someone in a giant counterfeit Elmo costume harrasses a kind family of tourists to tears. What’s your go-to sketching spot in Lisbon slash the world?

Colorful sketch of Portas do Sol, Lisboa, Portual held in front of the view
Who needs a postcard when you can whip out one of these bad boys?
Alán Ramiro Manning

ARM: In Lisbon, it’s Alfama — starting from Graça Cathedral, which is a lookout point, you’ll have a variety of scenes to discover, walking down through the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon. Its narrow streets, colorful buildings and vibrant atmosphere make it an endless source of inspiration. In the world…this is a tough question to answer. I have sketched in over 30 countries…. Italy! Wait, no — Morocco! It’s inspiring, with the use of vibrant colors and textures. There are so many unique characters in the historic village of Essaouira that I couldn’t resist sketching. I showed my sketchbook to locals in the community, and they recognized who was in the sketch! That left a lasting impact upon me.

NPH: Favorite color?

ARM: Ultramarine Blue.

Ready to Read This Article?

Love this FREE article on our FREE website?
To keep reading all our content — for FREE — sign up for our FREE weekly email.
You're welcome.

Please enter a valid email address.

Already have an account ?