Clockwork Lisboa: City of Color

April 03 2022 – Jeff

Clockwork Lisboa: City of Color

Clockwork Lisboa: City of Color

Portugal’s capital, Lisboa, is unlike any city I’ve ever seen.

Last autumn, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend several weeks in Portugal, one of the few European countries I had never traveled.

Lisboa, what a feast!  Around every corner was another melange of colorful edifices.  Misshapen buildings eclipsed one another up steep hillsides, each peering through some narrow window towards the sea.  A road stuffed itself with wiggling, stylish people, then stretched out atop another road, which dinged with rickety trolley bells heaving on its way.  That road bridged still another road, this one silent and vacant, a small town street oblivious to the hive buzzing overhead.

Lisbon Trolley

People slipped along narrow sidewalks, boarded buses and trolleys, and went up and down on public elevators.  The bay was never far.  It gazed up at the towering colony with a tranquil nod, and subtly imparted its calm.

I felt as though I were in a clockwork.  Not a clockwork like a German train connection, but rather like one devised in the back room of an old toy repair shop, a mad mustachioed man assembling gears whose purpose was only discernible to him, or to his grandchildren setting out one day to explore its great mystery.

Clockwork Lisboa

Before long I realized that there was a coherent palette to the cityscape.  Each adjoining building was painted with a different brush, yet the pastels repeated enough among the winding cobblestone avenues that after some time I became familiar with the palette of this clockwork.

I spent the afternoon photographing buildings.  I had just conceived an early version of the Swirls of Earth map editor, and it was imperative that I should try to derive a style from this flourishing city. 

Sri Lanka in Lisboa Style

Sri Lanka in Lisboa Style

This was the advent of the "lisboa" style, and it is one of my favorites.  Not every color I found that day worked on a map as well as it did washed across a building, but at length I came to a palette that I enjoyed, and took me back to that singular day lost in clockwork art.

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