Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Field Report - Paris

Some Urban Sketching from further afield...

Back in August when it seemed half the sketchers in the world came to Portland to draw our city I found myself going in the opposite direction - on my first ever trip to Europe. I spent a few days each in London, Paris, and Berlin running around madly trying to see everything. And, while I mostly took photos or bought postcard sets at each place I went, I did get some drawing in...

I did the most drawing in Paris, the middle leg of the trip. I wasn't running full speed like I did in London at the beginning of the trip, nor was I exhausted like I was on the last leg in Berlin. Paris is best when you slow down anyway.

You could spend the rest of your life drawing Notre Dame and not be done. I didn't get inside - the lines were too long that day - but I did have a great time drawing the facade.  

The BHV (below) really summed up the spirit Paris for me. This ornate, 150-year old building is...a department store. Paris is old and funky, but it is not decaying. It is used. Lovingly so. Sure, there were plenty of museums, but just as many old buildings were being lived in, worked in, and played in. It was wonderful.


My favorite museum had to be the Musee d'Orsay. I like Impressionist painting, particularly Degas, so the Orsay was high on my list of places to visit. I was not disappointed.

Paris Museums are crowded, but usually around the famous paintings. I didn't bother trying to squeeze into the Monet room, any more than I bothered braving the line to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Instead I usually wandered away from the crowds to try to find something that felt significant to me. My favorite work in the museum turned out not to be a Degas, but this work, 'Le Silence' by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, an artist I'd never heard of before...

Drawing in a crowded museum is not for the self-concious - I'm sure at least a hundred people peeked over my shoulder in the time it took to do this copy. I didn't mind much - you tend to tune them out after a while. And yes, there is a certain amount of satisfaction when you're getting as much attention as the work you're copying.

If you are seeking some peace and quiet in Paris - and you probably will be at some point - try visiting a church. I didn't realise that the church near my hotel, the Eglise St-Paul St-Louis, was open to the public until I went in on a whim on my last day in the city. Very peaceful inside, with locals coming to pray quietly at the front of the church while people with cameras stayed largely unobtrusive in the back (if they didn't the locals weren't shy about telling them so, either!). I did my own form of meditation, by drawing this statue of Joan of Arc in a quiet corner of the church...

All in all, a great first trip to Europe. I did a few drawings in London and Berlin as well, plus lots of pictures from all three cities, all of which I have posted on Flickr.

I definitely plan go back someday. Having done the mad whirlwind tour, I'm hoping to slow down a lot more next time and do even more drawing!


  1. These are wonderful! I love the detail in the architecture and the cross-hatched shading in the sculpture. The quiet of 'Le Silence' really comes through. Thanks for posting.

  2. You may not have finished many drawings, but these do feel like they got your entire attention for the time you had :-) You strike a really nice balance between capturing lots of detail and keeping your hand loose. Great drawings.

  3. Thanks to both of you for the comments! ^_^

  4. Beautiful drawings and terrific report. Thanks for sharing. Notre Dame took more than a lifetime to build so why not a lifetime to draw.

  5. "Notre Dame took more than a lifetime to build so why not a lifetime to draw."

    Indeed! ^_^ And, thanks for the comments.