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!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Lazy Sunday afternoon on the Mosel bank

For the August sketchcrawl we went to Remich, at the border with Perl, Germany. Or rather, we went to Perl, at the border with Remich.

It was Leen's brilliant idea to sketch on the German side, thus enjoying the beautiful sights on the Mosel river while avoiding the crowds.

Under the shade provided by trees, we had a variety of subjects: the boats, the people, the landscape, the café. I chose to sketch a boat (ship) that had just docked called Iris.

We were quite the novelty there, with many people stopping to observe us. It was after I heard the third Luxembourgian person around us that I realized that forget Remich: this side of the river is actually where all the Luxembourgers go to enjoy the Mosel river.

This sketch is off to greener pastures
One of the skippers of the Iris stopped by to admire our work. He hinted not very subtly at the fact that he would love to keep my sketch, so I obliged. It is always flattering to have an admirer.

We had planned to meet again at 3 pm to share our sketches, but it was so nice to be in the sun and just sketch and talk that when we looked at the time it was almost 4 pm. High time to go for a drink and sketch each other and counter-sketch in retaliation!

It's difficult to capture an Italian woman's natural elegance on paper. Maria Grazia did not approve
It was a fun afternoon and I highly recommend to anyone going to the Mosel to enjoy Remich in Perl.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Sketching London - red boxes, Germans and Mary Poppins

There is so much to do and so much to see in London! On the first few days we walked around to so many places that I don't actually remember in what order...

One would think that when using only one sketchbook, the problem of chronological order would be solved, but I hopped around a bit on this one, so here are my sketches in the order I think they were made.

Stephanie was very keen on sketching St Pancras station and I could easily understand why. The building is gorgeous. Made of red brick, it looks like a castle and was a bit too daunting for me - I was a bit tired of imposing buildings.

Fortunately, the station is as interesting inside as it is outside and I was immediately attracted by this statue called The Meeting Place by Paul Day. The frieze at the base of the statue caught my eye in particular. It features images from the history of the Tube and train: soldiers departing for war, people queuing, even a couple embracing while one of them keeps looking at her phone (very contemporary).

I heard the piece did not get good reviews. Not brainy enough probably. Call me cheesy or naïve, but I liked it.

At first I thought it was a tribute to soldiers who went to war
London being such a big and busy city, I sometimes felt it difficult to find a quiet place. As a tourist you just don't know where to go. Fortunately, Anne knows some good spots and she took me to Berkeley square, where I practiced painting foliage and finally added the iconic red phone booths to my sketchbook. I couldn't leave London without at least one of these lovely red boxes.

No trace of the Tardis, though
Covent Garden, another one of those names you hear over and over again but can't really picture if you haven't been there before, is a bustling place with markets and lots of visitors.

While I was sketching, a German guy asked me if I could quickly sketch a reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers. He was participating in a friendly competition over the city and one of the tasks was to copy the painting. He assured me he was no good at drawing at all, so I helped him cheat.

So many tourists!!
At some point, Anne took me to the Court of Justice, another impressive building. We sat on a bench in front of it, and in front of some activists from Anonymous who were protesting about something.  I find it very interesting to see something that I only know from TV or the internet. It makes it much more real.

This is where I lost one of my favourite pens...
In search for another quiet corner, we stopped near Fleet street to sketch these cute buildings. The area seemed to be full of solicitor's offices, there were smart-looking people coming and going.

Chim Chim Cher-ee
The whole afternoon I had songs from Marry Poppins stuck in my head.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Sketching London - Grenich

This year I was unable to go to the USk symposium again, but I still wanted to get a little bit of the symposium vibes and meet up with some sketchers I don't usually see, so I spent one week in London with Stephanie Bower, Anne Percival and Gail Wong.

I haven't been very prolific these last few months and this was just the thing to get me sketching again.

It was my first real visit to London and I couldn't have had better company or better weather (up to over 30 °C!!).

My journey started with the usual plane sketch, nothing out of the ordinary. I gave up trying to make the perspective look accurate when I noticed that the left seat was way too narrow, so I just continued adding watercolour pencil lines and colour.

According to this sketch, the girl sitting next to me had a really long neck
After landing, I immediately went to the area where the apartment I shared with Stephanie, Anne and Gail was located and sat down at a Costa cafe while waiting for the ladies. Plenty of time to sketch the street outside and to realize that we were staying right next to Chinatown. The first "Chinatown" I have ever been to. There is no such thing in Luxembourg.

The lion on the wall should have tipped me off
The next day, Stephanie, Anne and I (Gail arrived a few days later) headed out to sketch the city first thing in the morning. We didn't need to get very far, in fact we walked about 20 metres before we stopped to sketch the pub across the street, the St. James Tavern.

To be honest, I had absolutely no plan with this sketch - but then again, I rarely do - and I just whipped out my watercolours. Then getting a bit frustrated with that, I continued in watercolour pencil and ballpoint pen. 

The buses just wouldn't stand still!
Anne, who knows London quite a bit, guided us through the city and at some point we arrived at Westminster palace. I had an "OMG I'm in London" moment when Big Ben started chiming as we were sketching the palace. Coincidentally, did you know that Big Ben is the name of the bell, not of the tower itself, which is called Elisabeth Tower.

I saw the beautiful Michelle Yeoh here! Got completely starstruck
After lunch, we took the boat to Greenwich (pronounced "Grenich", as I learned), where we stumbled upon a graduation, which I just had to sketch.

It was very interesting to see all the capes and catch glimpses of what the graduates were wearing under them. The women in particular were dressed from proper to fancy to pretty slutty. Interesting mixture of genres.

It was a beautiful day for such an occasion
I caught Stephanie and Anne in action after I finished gawking at the graduates.

Masterpieces being created
Finally, before leaving we walked up the hill to see the Greenwich line. Unfortunately the site was already closed, but we could see the famous time line from afar. The view over London from there was stunning. Stephanie started sketching it, so I tried my hand at it as well. Though for me it was all done in line work - no time or energy for more.

Panoramic views, always challenging
We headed back to Piccadilly after this, with a few sketches and quite a sunburn to show for it.