We are spending three days in the lovely old city of Chur, Switzerland, a tiny gem nestled among the Aps. (Heidi’s mountain is one of them.) It has been perfect sketching weather and yesterday, ignoring jet lag, my friend MB and I sat in Fontana Park and sketched. Today we spent time sketching again, this time in a cafe with two other sketchers on the trip. We also found some marvellous rugs from India–very inspiring for you rug hookers. We gulped at the $10 000 Swiss Franc price tag!
I spent two sunny days in Seattle with daffodils and cherry trees before flying back to the snow and below zero temperatures of Ontario. Seattle is a great city, one I have been wanting to visit for a long time and one I will return to. Of course I had to make the requisite coffee visits and do some sketching. In Le Panier I sat with a great Montreal couple who were very interested in my Lamy Joy pen, so I passed on the Goulet connection, simple the best place to buy fountain pens.
I spent Tuesday at the Seattle Museum of Art and the Miro exhibit (see sketches and review here from Gabriel Campanario) and then a trip on the monorail and lunch at the Chihuly gardens. It was too cool to sit outside to sketch the wild glass sculptures, but I did get a quick sketch of the restaurant window before the delicious crab cakes arrived.
I sketched much of the time I was in Amsterdam. Sketching is the perfect travel companion. It allows you to sit alone in cafés or on benches and not appear lonely or lost. It is a great conversation opener so you end up talking to all kinds of people, mostly real inhabitants of the city, not tourists, and this always provides insights. But most importantly, sketching is a way of enhanced seeing, a way of really ‘taking it in’. As I’ve said before, for me it isn’t the quality of the sketches, although I’m always working to improve, but the process of being there and absorbing through my eyes and my pen and paints.
The weather was good while I was there, and by the last of the four days, I was able to sit outside to sketch. But the cafés and tea shops are perched right on the canals, so there is always a good view from a window seat. Here are a few of the sketches. The final one is of a small delft house, a gift from KLM. You can read the text about this–an unceremonious dumping followed by a bumping, 2 hours later, to business class.
BTW I was reading The Goldfinch the whole time I was there. This novel which has just been nominated for the Bailey Women’s Prize, (formerly the Orange Prize) begins and ends in Amsterdam in a hotel on the Herengracht. It is a story of deep and unforgettable love and loss–and the essential place of art in our world. The painting of the title is by a 17thC Dutch artist. The book was a bit over the top in repetitive detail, especially about endless drug-consumption and the Russian underworld, but still was a perfect read for my favourite city.
I spent day two of the USK Montreal learning from Shari Blaukopf, beginning at the bottom of Place Jacques Cartier looking toward Nelson’s column. Below are the stages of Shari’s excellent demo from value sketch to the final product.
In the afternoon we went to a quiet spot with a great view of the 1847 Marché Bonsecours. The skies were changing swiftly, there was lots of wind and a little rain. So much wind, in fact, that my hat blew away. But as I said, this workshop has it ALL. On Sunday Shari arrived with a hat for me! Below is my sketch and two others I managed to photograph before the rain drops. The final picture is from Sunday in Carré St. Louis with me sporting my new hat.
This was a top-of-the -line workshop. Marc and Shari had done intense preparation both in setting up the sights and in preparing the demos. They anticipated all our needs, and best of all, made it such a great pleasure to learn. A big thanks to both!
Wendie recently did a post on handmade gifts. I think they are the best, and you just hope that the recipient senses the love and care that went into the gift, all the planning and then the hours completing the project. Well no doubts here. My great friend gave me this sketch recently–depicting a moment of our trip to Berlin and Paris. We had the best time, sketching our way along, absorbing that world in a way you can never do with just a camera. So this gift is kind of a loop back, a sketch from a photo of me taking a photo. But at the same time it captures the essence of our friendship and I treasure it.
As I sat outside sketching this famous bookstore, I was very aware of the number of tourists visiting and posing for photos. It was a cold, damp day so with scarf pulled up around my ears and fingerless gloves on, I did a hurried sketch to absorb the history of the place. A. came to meet me after about 30 minutes and we went to another favourite spot, this time in the Marais, a short walk away.
This is a bustling, in fact crowded, tea shop with great servers and good food. (I was lucky to get the shot above in the early morning before the crowds.) We sketched here twice–the first time upstairs, the second time sharing a big wooden table right by the front door. Lots happening–and room for everyone.
Another spot we loved was Le Café Campana in the Musée D’Orsay, the creation of Brazilian designers, Humberto and Fernando Campana. Surprisingly good food–and of course the amazing old train station clock.
And finally another piece of Parisian history, Sennelier, and like Shakespeare and Company, in the same spot since those famous artists shopped here. We visited here twice because we loved the atmosphere and, of course, the colours!
This morning I walked down rue Mouffetarde to buy a loaf of bread and find a spot to sketch. This is a lively area of market stalls, shops and cafes. This has been a roadway since the Roman settlement of the area and originally lead to Rome. Many of the current buildings date back to the 13th century.
All around people were singing and enjoying the street theatre and a morning cafe. How civilized.
Then this afternoon we walked along the Seine to the Tuileries Garden to sketch. The weather could not have been more perfect. All of Paris seemed to be out enjoying the afternoon. The Tuileries has many, many chairs, enough for everyone to take in the sights and savour the day.
I am leaving tomorrow for two weeks away. A week in Berlin and a week in Paris, sketching and absorbing. I will keep you up to date right here, I hope, if the wordpress app cooperates. I have my sketch book, new palette, brushes and pens ready to go. I also have my reading planned: C.S. Richardson’s new book, The Emperor of Paris. Check out this link and the lovely short video which may make you want to go to Paris too. I absolutely loved Richardson’s first book The End of the Alphabet and I have great hopes for this new one. I always try to read a novel about the city I am visiting. For Berlin, Ian McEwan’s The Innocent. There isn’t a book of McEwan’s that I haven’t enjoyed, but the one on my top ten list is Atonement, a wonderful film too. But I digress…
It will be cold for sketching, especially in Berlin, so I decided to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves. You can see them in the top photo and below you will see I got carried away and made more for the show coming up in December. They are so easy to wear and so practical. There is a slit for your thumb and then your fingers are covered to the knuckles, but free for sketching or texting. Perfect. These pairs are made of gray cashmere, so wonderfully cozy.
For sketching inspiration I have been following Luís Ricardo Simões’ amazing blog, World Sketching Tour. Check the blog out, particularly this video. Here is one of his sketches from Berlin. His wonderfully loose style is so appealing. My friend A and I are hoping to absolutely fill our sketchbook with all kinds of images from these two great cities. I will keep you posted!
Here are a couple of my own recent sketches. A. and I spent a recent weekend sketching with Sharon Cranston, learning to relax and let the pen do the observing. This sketch is from a Picton Ontario food fair, full of people and great smells. We were right beside the fresh bread booth! The second is on the GO train into Toronto.
Drawing people is tough. Luckily this young woman was so involved with her phone that she didn’t notice me. Maybe by the time I am home from Europe I will have figured out how to do faces. When I add the mouth, I seem to ruin it. Ah well. What I am really after is the wonderful connection with a scene that you get from drawing it — far more than taking a photo. I can still smell the bread from the picture above!