Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A journey through time at the Tramsmusée

When you look at old photos of Luxembourg-City you may be surprised at finding out that there used to be trams all over the city. Unfortunately they were completely removed in the 1960s in favour of buses, which were more fashionable and more economical at that time. I love trams, so I can't help feeling that the city lost part of its character in favour of being more mainstream and modern.

So it was with some curiosity that I participated to latest urban sketching session organised by LUCA at the museum of public transportation, commonly known as "Tramsmusée".

In a small room, you can go through the evolution of public transport in Luxembourg, with one example of electric tram, horse tram, tram coach, bus, etc. on display. There was even a bus just like the old school buses that used to take me to highschool. The common colour to all is a dark, almost indigo, blue with creamy yellow borders.

Nowadays there is not just one colour of bus. Depending on the model, the operating company and even possible advertising they can range from white to red to rainbow-coloured and the occasional old-fashioned dark blue reminiscent of the ancient trams. 

At the moment there are construction sites all over the city, the biggest project being... to reintroduce trams to replace a big part of the buses. They say that only idiots don't change their minds, but I find it a pity that we lost the historic trams and their charm, which cannot really be replaced by modern models. 


It would be quaint to see a few old rickety trams run through the city, like Lisbon and its yellow trams. Maybe they will use the old carriages on special occasions. I would definitely be in line to take a ride in one of them.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

InkTober 2016

So I tried the InkTober challenge again this year. I wanted to do the same "one drawing from imagination" thing I did last year and it started out pretty well...

... until it didn't anymore.

A combination of having to travel abroad for work, getting a cold and feeling generally uninspired (for a few months already) made me accept the fact that this year's InkTober month would only have 11 days for me.

This made me realize that I had probably put too much pressure on myself and that sometimes, in order to not lose joy in something you need to let it go for a while. Which is also why I haven't been posting much lately. I'm hoping that phase is slowly coming to an end now.

Here are my InkTober drawings for this year. I hope I'll do better next time.

You can see all my past InkTober drawings here

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Wandering through Lisbon - family and beach time

I usually spend at least a week in Portugal visiting some of my family and going to the beach in the central region of the country. This year, however, I only spent a long weekend in Lisbon, so I was not expecting to do any of these two things: see any of my family and go to the beach. So it was a very pleasant surprise when I ended up doing both.

On Saturday, I met with one of my aunts and a cousin who live in the extended region of Lisbon. I was treated to a homemade lunch (my aunt is one of the best cooks I know), then a short expedition to a beach in Ericeira followed by a visit to Mafra and ending with a delicious dinner (frango no churrasco, barbecued chicken like I only find in Portugal).

We stopped at a place called Aldeia do Sobreiro on the way. It is a place dedicated to ceramics where you can find a small miniature reproductions of a mill and different rooms showing how people used to live in the past. I couldn't resist making a very quick sketch there, the only one of the day, as I didn't want to bore my family.

On Sunday I met with one of my co-workers who was in Lisbon with a friend for the weekend as well and we went to the beach in Carcavelos. The tide was high, so the beach was very narrow and people were almost lying on top of each other. Not my favourite type of beach, but I was so happy to be able to actually go into the ocean that I did not care at all.

Carcavelos is located on the Atlantic coast, not far from where the Tagus river ends, so the water was cold, but fairly quiet, quite different from the beaches I am used to around Figueira da Foz, where the waves can be very strong and the water's temperature a bit colder.

It was amazing to be able to bathe and I had fun seeing my friends getting in the chilly water. The temperature can be challenging when you are not used to the Atlantic at all, but once you are inside it is perfect.

I had time to make a quick sketch while my bikini was drying. The lady on my left offered me the perfect framing. When I first came out of the zone, I noticed that I had gathered a few admirers, her included. Sketching is always a great icebreaker.

We ended the day at a tiny restaurant around Chiado with a lovely bottle of vinho verde.

I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Wandering through Lisbon - sketchcrawling with the locals

I might be quite predictable on this, but one of my favourite parts of Lisbon is Alfama. I love its small streets and corners, and the fact that it reminds me of a village. That is why I arranged to meet Eduardo Salavisa and other sketchers from Lisbon at one of its viewpoints, Portas do Sol.

Before that, however, we spent some time at Largo dos Trigueiros, where we met with Pedro Loureiro and Pedro Alves. They were on their lunch break and took the opportunity to sketch with us. I was not very productive then. Between taking a quick bite to eat and getting to know the Pedros a little, I was not really feeling inspired to sketch at that moment.

After this sadly very short encounter with these two talented and friendly sketchers, Eduardo and I headed to the meeting point at Portas do Sol to start our sketchcrawl. We were a tiny group, only Zeta joined us, and headed down the stairs to our first stop at calçadinha da Figueira.

Down, down some more, we stopped at Igreja de S. Miguel where I started to sketch the view up the stairs. Three boys were playing, one of them racing down the stairs of the church on his bike. His curiosity got the better of him and he came to see what we were doing, quickly joined by his friends.

Gonçalo, aka Piriquito (parakeet), Vítor and Diogo were very impressed by our drawings and I sketched them, so I would have a memory of them in my sketchbook. Unfortunately, I didn't quite capture Piriquito's likeness (I aged him at least 10 years!), but he seemed to like it, specially when I added a few dots to his cap. Children are very forgiving that way.

After this fun meeting with the boys, Eduardo and I stopped at Pois, café, a café next to the Sé.

Eduardo showed me a few more interesting places, good bars and cafés and we finished our sketchcrawl with a beer at Café Tati near Cais do Sodré.

Thank you so much for this pleasant afternoon, Eduardo!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Wandering through Lisbon - unexpected encounters

I spent a few days in Lisbon last week, soaking up some much needed sun and meeting friends and family. It's always a pleasure to go back to this beautiful city with its old charm, friendly inhabitants and (usually) great weather.

I arrived on Thursday in the early afternoon and set out to do one of my favourite things: wander around aimlessly, see where I end up. The call of my stomach being quite strong, I stopped at this place called Cister for lunch.

There was a football game on one TV screen, a telenovela on another. Welcome to Portugal! :D
I somehow ended up near Príncipe Real where I saw this fascinating building. The sketch doesn't do it justice at all, but it was really beautiful.

I particularly liked the cupolas with the spikes.
 After a while, I noticed that there was an unusual amount of activity, specially in the areas of Chiado and Baixa where most shops are. Apparently I had chosen the day of the annual Vogue Fashion's Night Out to arrive.

Shops were open until late at night and there were concerts and special offers all over the city. Lisbon was buzzing with activity and excitement and there were beautiful people everywhere.

Some elegant gentleman took a picture of me while I was sketching this
I was planning to go people watching and sketching after dinner at a restaurant called Relicário near my hotel, but I got side-tracked by my friendly neighbours, a group of jolly elderly people from Bermuda.

They were Portuguese descendants and were on their first trip to explore their ancestor's original country. They were very curious about how you said things in Portuguese and I was happy to teach them a little.

I was bemused that one of their surnames was Da Silva, my mother's maiden name. I like the idea that if we were to dig far enough in the past, we would discover that we are related. The world is so small after all.

They loved my sketch and even paid for my dinner
The following day I was meeting Eduardo Salavisa and some other sketchers from Lisbon in the afternoon. I had some time to sketch the elevador da Lavra on my way to our meeting.

I love to stumble upon one of these cute yellow fellows
More on that in my next post.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Sketching at the Schueberfouer

Every year, starting around mid-August, the Luxembourg city funfair called "Schueberfouer", a mixture of market and funfair, takes place for three whole weeks.

It is one of the oldest and most beloved Luxembourg traditions for young and old, so it was inevitable that I would go sketch it at some point, on my own and with Urban Sketchers Luxembourg.

The Schueberfouer was founded in 1340 by John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg. It was initially a huge market where people from all around the Greater Region came to sell their products, ranging from agricultural products and livestock to cloth, pottery and other household products.

Over the centuries shows and games started to become part of the fair, and the Ferris wheel and rollercoaster became permanent fixtures in the 20th century, later joined by more and more sophisticated attractions, some of them not meant for the faint of heart.

Today the market part is limited to one alley of small retailer's booths and the showmen with their attractions come from all around Europe: Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Germany and even the Netherlands and Switzerland.

People from all over the Greater Region come to enjoy the thrills of the different attractions and savour the typical Gromperekichelcher (potato patties), gebakene Fësch (fried fish, usually trout) and other delicious treats you can find in the numerous food trucks and restaurants.

The beginning of the Schueberfouer always feels bittersweet to me, as it brings loads of fun but also announces the end of the summer holidays.

On Sunday, we went there with Leen and Maria Grazia for the monthly USk sketchcrawl. I focused on the Ferris wheel, which I find immensely photogenic. The owners of the attraction came regularly to see how our sketches were progressing.

I am pleased to say that they loved them and even asked if they could buy my sketch. I told them that unfortunately, as it was part of my sketchbook, it was not possible, but I later sent them a scanned image.

One ride on the carousel and a drink later, I was ready to call it a day and to say goodbye to the Schueberfouer for this year and mentally prepare for the arrival of autumn.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Short trip to Manchester and back home

After our week in London, and before heading back home, I made a detour through Manchester, where Anne was kind enough to host me for two nights.

In such a short stay, I only got to see a few glimpses of this very interesting city, but it was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of London.

Anne showed us around her town and we stopped at a beautiful hotel, where they let us sketch in the lobby. I played around with colours and paint to sketch the beautiful glass cupola. Not a perfect sketch, but I like the colour combination here.

There was one thing I really wanted to experience while in the UK: a typical afternoon tea. The cafe inside Town Hall offered a beautiful tea, starting with a selection of small sandwiches and other savoury snacks, to scones and delicious little cakes.

It felt great to just sit and enjoy the afternoon in that beautiful place, taking time to sketch and chat with Stephanie, Anne and Gail. I discovered that Gail and I had a more relaxed view on traveling. We both love to take it easy and just enjoy a place. No need to speed through everything.

Outside town hall, there was a jazz festival in preparation, which I tried to sketch, but really it was beyond me at that moment. So I sketched Gail sketching the place. In a way you can say I piggy-sketched the place through her.

That was all for Manchester already. Short and sweet. On the train ride back to London, I saw this beautiful lady with a striking head scarf. Unfortunately I didn't get her likeness, as she moved around a lot.

Waiting at the airport, I had enough time to sketch what was going on outside. I find it's a good mental preparation to go back home. A way of adjusting mentally to the end of the holidays.

There were many businessmen in the plane. I started a conversation with my neighbour after he commented on my sketch. He found the bald patch of the man in the seat in front of mine particularly amusing. What can I say? I sketch what I see...

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sketching London - sketchcrawls

On Saturday, we joined the Urban Sketchers London on Trafalgar square, where I was very happy to meet yet other sketchers I knew, besides our Asian friends. 

I was not surprised to see Martine, a sketcher from Paris who attends most big sketching events and who must figure more or less prominently in almost every sketcher's sketchbook. I know I sketched her a few times myself in the past. It is always a pleasure to see her.

KK, Pramote and Tia already at work
I imagine Trafalgar square is a popular meeting place. At the time we were there, preparations for the Busk in London festival were underway, adding a bit to the general confusion. To get more comfortable and away from the crowd, I climbed on Nelson's Column, where other sketchers were already tackling the vibrant scene.

A very relaxing spot in a very busy place
There are many statues all over the square, but this one, of the horse's skeleton, caught my attention in particular. There was a ribbon-shaped bit on which text was scrolling. I think it was numbers of the stock exchange. I was told that this particular statue was there temporarily and that artworks exhibited on this spot are regularly replaced.

Maybe it's Admiral Nelson's horse
After a quick bite, I tackled another giant of a subject, Admiral's gate. I tried out something similar to Pramote's technique, using a lot of water and dipping my watercolour pencils in water to make them nice and juicy. I felt exhilarated during this sketch, leaving behind any wish to make an exact sketch and just letting intuition guide me. I was fairly satisfied with the result and Pramote told me it was my best one yet.

Playing with accidents
The following day, Sunday, we met again by St Paul's cathedral for a sketchcrawl organised by Pete Scully, which he calls Sketching Wren's London. Pete started by giving us a bit of historic background on Wren and his work. He was very generous with his knowledge and even gave us a handout. I was sorry that we had to leave early to catch our train to Manchester.

I had time to make this quick sketch of the cathedral, sitting next to KK and Pramote. I let intuition guide me again and had a lot of fun with it. This sketch even earned me the highest praise from Pramote. He looked at it and exclaimed: "This is fun!" I couldn't be prouder of myself.

Even KK seemed a bit impressed :)
Before leaving, I walked around the cathedral for a bit and sat down to chat with Pete and make this quick sketch. I learned that Pete had been to Luxembourg in the past and would love to come back to sketch. Anytime, Pete! I will gladly guide you whenever you come.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Sketching London - Asian inspiration

One of my favourite things about urban sketching has always been to meet other sketchers, be motivated by their drive to draw and share tips and ideas for sketching to try out later.

On our third day in London, Tia and Patrick from Singapore, KK from Malaysia, Pramote from Thailand, and many other Asian sketchers arrived. Some I had met at previous symposiums, others I only knew from their sketches online.

Meeting them didn't start out well. I was just getting ready to join them in sketching Covent Garden when I realized I had lost my favourite Hero fountain pen. Most sketchers will be able to relate to that, particularly since that model is now quite difficult to find.

Seeing how disappointed I was, Pramote gave me one of his bent nib pens with lovely Super5 blue ink in it. The sun was shining again! Now I have a new toy and a beautiful memory to go with it.

In the evening we all went to Piccadilly Circus, where KK made one of his masterpieces as usual, and I tried out my new pen.

So crowded!!
The next day we all met for a day of sketchcrawling around the city, starting by Westminster Palace. I was honestly not very inspired at first, trying to test different things, nothing really working. The palace is such an imposing building (again), and we had been there already...

A bit muddies up, but I like my ghost people
Pramote kept telling me to just have fun and put lots of water and colour on the paper. Me being slightly uncomfortable with how unpredictable water can be, I started with the "just have fun" part.

So I focused on the tower and tried out a few approaches with different tools, Tombow brushpens and watercolour pencils, for a start.

This exercise helped me loosen up and I tackled the palace in a more abstract way again. Quick, simple and effective, I'd say. And more importantly: so much more fun!

We split up briefly for lunch, some people (like me) lured by the call of their stomach. Funnily enough, we all ended up at the same place: the cafeteria inside St. Martin's in the Fields. You would never guess there is such a lovely quiet place right on Trafalgar square. 

Tia & family, KK and Pramote
In the afternoon, we headed in the direction of the London Tower, stopping near the London Eye to sketch the view over the Thames after KK proclaimed with a silent nod and a cheeky smile that it was a good spot to sketch.

Panoramic view over the Thames, with Gail in the foreground
After finishing my quick panorama, I turned to find this very sketchable food truck a few metres away, which entertained me while the others were finishing their masterpieces.

This truck reminded me of the one by the Rotondes in Luxembourg
Unfortunately, the first rain of what had otherwise been a very hot week so far started falling. It was both a bit of a party pooper and also oddly very welcome.

This decidedly very Asian day ended at a Thai restaurant in Piccadilly, right across from our apartment, where Pramote knew the lovely owner, Nikki. Best Thai food in town and a very pleasant way to spend the evening!