For me, visiting art stores in Barcelona is like visiting jewelry stores with rare and unique offerings.
During my stay in Barcelona I was able to visit six different art stores, each with a range of exciting art supplies and especially watercolor offerings.
It was a great opportunity to check out the different types of watercolor paper. The papers were made in Spain, Italy, Germany and England. I was able to feel the texture and understand the paper better than trying to order it only online. There are no stores in my area that display such a range of papers, much less from Europe.
As I examined the watercolor paper, I envisioned art projects based on the different sizes – from the large-sized horizontal for long landscape paintings to more portable blocks. Of course, examining the miniature paper that I’m using now for The 100 Day Project was interesting too.
I purchased some wonderful cold pressed paper with deckled edges that was made in Catalunya. I purchased several Catalunya-made blocks of paper.
And the selection of watercolor brushes was enthralling!
I enjoy and use Escoda watercolor brushes, particularly the travel brushes. The Escoda Brush Factory is just outside of Barcelona.
In several of the art stores, the synthetic Escoda brushes were displayed in racks. The high-end Escoda brushes, made from squirrel and mink, were more carefully stored.
In one store, Piera, the Escoda brushes were brought out to me in a wooden box by the salesperson, who would hand me a brush to examine, but I could not touch the bristles.
Then there were the Lamy pens.
I have always loved writing and drawing with fountain pens — those good old Schaeffer cartridge pens. On a previous trip to Barcelona, I had seen an Urban Sketcher at Santa Maria del Pi using a bright yellow fountain pen of some type.
In exploring the art stores then, I discovered his pen was a Lamy. When I returned to the US, I purchased a white Lamy Safari online for my sketching and have loved it. On this trip, I found art stores with entire Lamy pen displays.
The large colorful Lamy pen display at the entryway of the Raima art store caught my attention. A staff member helped me find the right pen color, nibs and cartridges with permanent ink — a rare find indeed.
The staff in all the art stores were knowledgeable and helpful. In addition to knowing the location of items I was looking for (and in some instances bringing out cases of special brushes), they could provide insights about the art materials.
Sometimes the conversations were little language adventures for me — and for the staff.
Spanish and Catalan are the languages of Barcelona, and my Spanish was very limited. But most staff either spoke at least some English or the store had a staff member who was fluent in English.
While talking with a staff member at Belles Art Ferran about watercolor brushes, we discussed painting locations in Barcelona. He asked if I had been to Parc del Laberint d’Horta, a large garden that includes a labyrinth of large hedges. He said the garden would be a great location for watercolor painting and for enjoying nature.
That led to my friends and me spending a day painting in the park. We found a painting location after we had conquered the labyrinth.
We explored two Barna art stores. One store carries only paper; the other carries brushes, paints and print materials. This was the store we had to wait to open after the afternoon siesta. We had been painting at La Sagrada Familia and walked what seemed miles to get to the Barna stores, which were about a block apart.
Art Hilgard was near one of our favorite restaurants: Macchina, a design-your-own pasta restaurant. Art Hilgard carried unique tiny, very portable mop brushes.
My friends were indulgent — knowing I loved to feast in the art stores. And, I think I saw them enjoying the unique offerings of each store too!