Saturday, July 22, 2017

France Sketchbook - Day 2 - Paris

6" x 8", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

On Day 2 of our Paris visit, we were feeling pretty energetic, since we had gotten a good night's sleep and were recovering from the time change. My friend, Karen, who was coming to the workshop in Provence, was in Paris, so she joined us for part of the day. We thought we'd take the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to our first destination. Sounds like a good idea, right? See how happy and chipper everyone looked as we waited for the bus? The bus that was supposed to run every ten minutes...

Candy, Karen, and my mother, Saundra
the bus that we waited for for 45 minutes. The bus that never came! Trust me, we were not that smiley when we finally called Uber.

But while I was waiting, I pulled out my sketchbook. Thinking I would only have about five minutes to sketch, I dashed off this little drawing of the beautiful building right in front of us, the Hotel des Invalides, which was originally built in the 17th century as a hospital and retirement home for soldiers. It now houses several museums. (I just noticed I need to turn "de" into "des" in my sketch.)

Hotel des Invalides
Our first stop of the day was the Tuileries Gardens. It felt good to be in a green space in the heart of the city.

The Parisians all seemed so relaxed. No one was hustling to get anywhere. They seemed to have all the time in the world to just sit by the water or in a cafe. (You can tell the Parisians from the tourists because they aren't posing for selfies every ten seconds.)

Even the grass-munching goats were mellow....

There was lavender growing in a formal garden...

plus flowers, garden statuary, and an amusement park.

But in this huge park, complete with fountains, moats, terraces, a grand allee, an orangerie, and a carousel, do you know what is almost impossible to find? This....

There was one ladies' room in the entire park! And you had to pay to use it. It sure made us appreciate the fact that there are restrooms available everywhere in the US. It's definitely not that way in Europe.

All that walking around gave us an appetite, so we found a cafe in a nice shady spot and settled in to have some lunch and do a little sketching.

Karen and I sketching at the Tuileries

Here's the scene I drew while I was waiting for my lunch....

and here's my delicious lunch of buckwheat crepes filled with cheese and mushrooms.

I think the leisurely attitude of the French must have been contagious, because we felt no compulsion to rush off to the next must-see tourist spot. We just nibbled at our lunches, sketched, sipped our cappuccinos and enjoyed being in Paris on a beautiful blue-sky day.

(More of  Day 2 tomorrow!)

Monday, July 17, 2017

France Sketchbook - Day 1

Hello out there! It's been so long since I've checked in here that you might have been wondering if I got lost in Paris and never made it home. :) No such luck. (Just kidding, Fred!) I'm back home safe and sound, just catching up on things and taking some time to relax with the family after being away. The trip was wonderful in every way (except for the ungodly heat in Paris), so why don't I just start at the beginning and give you a rundown of what we did, where we went, and who we met along the way? I'll share photographs, along with my sketches. I think it will be interesting for you to see how a sketch of a scene can hold so much more life and energy than a photo.

You can read about my trip preparations and the sketchbook I used for my travel journal in this post. I saved two pages at the beginning of the journal for a title page, and, though I usually wait until I've completed a travel journal to design the title page, I had a firm idea of what I wanted to do for my France sketchbook, so I went ahead and did it this week.

Two-page spread in a 6" x 8" handmade journal filled with bright white Kilimanjaro 140 lb. watercolor paper. The artwork was done with ink and watercolor.

The quote on the left side of this two-page spread is one that speaks to the excitement and anticipation that I always feel when embarking on a journey to a place I've never been before. The lettering is inspired by the work of Susan Branch. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should - she's an American treasure. Subscribe to her email newsletter and her blog for quotes, artwork, recipes, and a glimpse of life on Martha's Vineyard.

But I digress...back to the sketch...
I did the lettering and border with a size 0 Escoda Versatil brush, which worked really well. I've been trying out some different brands of brushes, and I'm liking the Escoda Versatil very much.

For the title page, I wanted to feature some of the things that say "France" to me: wine, a paint brush, the Eiffel Tower, bicycles, figs, cherries, straw hats, lavender, cafes, Euros, fleur-de-lis, macarons, the Arc de Triomphe, baguettes, summer dresses, Brie, olive trees, crepes, croissants, apricots, strawberry jam, sunflowers, the French flag, and the chirpy way that everyone says "Bonjour!" when they greet you in France. 

Click to enlarge and see details of individual sketches

I drew the lettering first with pencil, then laid a piece of tracing paper over the page to draw the little sketches. That made it easy to erase when I wanted to change the size of something or move it around. I eventually filled the entire page, then I used graphite transfer paper to trace the designs onto the watercolor paper in my sketchbook. The images were inked with a Platinum Carbon fountain pen filled with Platinum Carbon black ink, then painted with watercolor. I love how it turned out.

When I'm leaving on a teaching trip, there's a lot of preparation that needs to be done. In addition to all the usual pre-trip stuff at home like weeding the garden or cleaning out the fridge, I have to get everything ready for the workshop. On the day I was leaving for France, I was running around like crazy, trying to finish up a hundred different things, while my husband, Fred, casually packed his bag and headed out the door for a trip to Connecticut. The contrast between the two of us gave me a great idea for a page in my sketchbook.

As I sank into my seat on the Boeing 757 bound for Paris, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Everything was done - now all I had to do was enjoy! And I finally had the time to start on that page that our preparations had inspired. I started itemizing all the things I had had to take care of before I got on that plane, and I made a separate list for Fred... 

I ran out of space on my page....

but there was plenty of room on Fred's....


We landed in Paris around 9:30 am local time, which was 3:30 am Pennsylvania time. By the time we got to our apartment it was noon, and we were completely exhausted, having been awake for 24 hours. But we quickly discovered that the apartment didn't have air conditioning, so we were better off heading out for some sightseeing than trying to nap. 

No energy for sketching on Day 1, but at least I did some journaling.

The temperatures in Paris that day reached almost 100 degrees, but at least there was a breeze, which made it bearable. We walked up the street to catch the "Hop On Hop Off" bus. It took us on a rambling tour of the city, passing many of the most popular tourist spots, like the Opera House...

the Louvre...

 the Seine...

Notre Dame...

the Arc de Triomphe...

and of course, the Eiffel Tower...

We sat on the top level of the double-decker bus, high above the traffic, and watched the world go by. It was a great way to get a feel for how the city was laid out, and along the way we saw plenty of interesting sights, like gorgeous buildings, inviting cafes, a cute gourmet shop...

Yes, even in Paris, cell phones are ubiquitous

pretty doors and balconies...

and the sex shops along the Moulin Rouge (not something I wanted to take pictures of, or remember!)

We finally made it back to our neighborhood and stopped at a corner grocery for some provisions (and wine!) then took the tiny elevator up to our 8th floor flat. (Doesn't "flat" sound Parisian?) 

My mom felt so claustrophobic in the elevator! :) It was less than three feet wide.

We had French cheese and crackers for dinner (always one of my favorite vacation meals).

Oh, and wine, of course! From France, of course. 

Then, finally, it was time to sleep, but not before gazing out our windows at the Eiffel Tower illuminated against a clear night sky. Hard to believe...we were really in Paris. 

PS - I'll be posting more Paris sketches as I finish them. I filled 54 pages with line drawings, journaling, and partially completed paintings during the ten days I was in France, so I should have plenty to work on over the coming weeks and months. I hope to finish everything before I head to Italy in September. (I'll probably laugh when I read that statement in October!)

PPS - Don't forget about my Greece workshop, October 3-15, 2017. There are still a few spaces open - let's sketch the Greek Isles together!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bon Voyage!

Today's the day! It's finally here. This afternoon I'm flying to Paris! I've been dreaming of this for years. I remember buying a Paris guidebook almost twenty years ago in the hopes that I would somehow find a way to visit that magical, mythical place one day. It all seems unreal, the fact that I'm now one of those people who flies off to Europe to see the sights and visit all the places that have starred in the books I've read, the movies I've watched, and the songs I've listened to all my life. But it's real! And it's happening in just a few hours. Yippeeee!

I've been awfully busy this past month getting everything ready for the trip. I had to write up all my lessons and print the handouts for my French Escapade workshop in Provence, send preparatory emails to my students, shop for a comfy pair of shoes, figure out what sketchbook to take, fill my palette, and gather my supplies, plus my garden had to be planted and the flower beds whipped into shape. But all that is done, and I'm ready to go.

I packed much lighter this time than I did last fall on my trip to Italy. It's going to be hot in France, so lightweight summer clothes are the rule of the day. I did a sketch the other day of the clothes I was loading into my suitcase, and then, as I painted it, I thought, "Gee, do I really need that many pairs of capris?" Nope, so I pulled a pair out. I'm ordinarily a fairly heavy packer ("Oh, but I MIGHT need it!"), but I amazed myself this time. My suitcase isn't even full. (That leaves more room to bring home lots of irresistible goodies from Paris and Provence!) Anyway, here's the first sketch in my Provence 2017 sketchbook....

12" x 8", ink & watercolor in a handmade hardcover journal with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper
(Click to enlarge)
Comfortable shoes are a must on any European trip, since we do so much walking. I'm taking my black SAS sandals, which feel heavenly on my feet...

and my blue Teva sandals, which I also love...

and a pair of flip-flops for the pool and to use as slippers in the hotel room. And since it's going to be in the 90s when we get there, a dip in the pool will feel really good at the end of the day, so I packed my cute polka dot swimsuit, and a cover-up.

PJs are a necessity - I packed my black and white polka dot ones. I didn't realize they matched my swimsuit until I started painting the sketch. Funny. Wish I hadn't put them right next to each other on the page. Oh, well.....looks like I have a theme going here.

The main staple of my travel wardrobe is going to be summer dresses. They're the coolest thing to wear when the temps are in the 90s. And at night, if it cools off, I have a couple of pairs of leggings to slip on...

and a sweater or two...

A few tops and crops, and I'm all set....

Wait, I almost forgot my cute white denim jacket....

and a pair of shorts for hanging around the hotel.

One last thing...

the hat I bought at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida when I was teaching there. My friend Judy talked me into it ("It looks SO GOOD on you!"), so it always reminds me of her when I wear it.

The sketchbook I'm using for my Provence journal is one that's really special to me. It was made for me by my friend Susan, from Ohio. We had been online friends for a couple of years before we finally had a chance to meet at my Cheap Joe's workshop last year. Sweetie that she is, she had made me a beautiful, perfectly crafted hardbound sketchbook as a gift, which she gave me on the final day of the workshop.

Besides being a dream of a sketchbook, there's something else that makes it one-of-a-kind. The last two pages are filled with warm wishes from each of my students from the workshop.

Now that's a pretty special sketchbook. One that seems almost too wonderful to use. I've been saving it and admiring it, waiting for the perfect reason to actually take a pen and start desecrating those pristine pages. And then I decided, if PARIS doesn't qualify as worthy of this sketchbook, then what ever will? I know Susan made it to be used and loved, so it's coming along with me to France!

The sketchbook has a hand-sewn binding and a pretty floral cover. It's filled with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper. I'm really looking forward to filling it with happy memories. Starting it at home with my packing sketch was a good way to ease myself into it, get a feel for the paper, and relax about using it.

While I was working on the sketch, I realized that the off-white cover fabric would likely get soiled on the trip, either with paint or just from normal wear and tear, so I made a temporary plastic book cover for it.

I took a sheet of lightweight plastic (like from a Ziploc freezer bag) and cut it to size, then used a sewing machine to stitch the top and bottom edges. I sized it to cover the entire inside of the covers, so wet paint won't slop onto them.

Now my Provence sketchbook will stay as clean as the day Susan gave it to me.

In preparation for the trip, I've been taking care of a few things that have been nagging at me for years. I finally made time to put decorative covers on my Italy sketchbook from 2015. I covered the Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook with a dish towel I bought in San Gimignano specifically for that purpose. It has a map of Tuscany woven into the fabric.

For the back cover, I used a compass rose from another section of the towel. I pieced the border designs on the sewing machine to make the compass image fit onto the sketchbook cover.

The end papers were made from watercolor paper and sized to fit the space exactly.

To complete the sketchbook, I finally made a title page for it...

10" x 7", watercolor, Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook

The  lettering and borders were all painted by hand after being drawn with pencil.

My last tying-up-loose-ends project was to make a decorative cover for my 2016 Tuscany travel journal. For this one I used the stash of tickets, wine labels, business cards, brochures, and other paraphernalia that I had collected during the trip.

"Yes! Paste" was used to glue the pieces onto the cover of the 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal. After everything had dried, I brushed on a couple of coats of Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer.

For the end papers on the inside of the covers, I used the floral wrapping paper that I saved from the thank you gift my students gave me at the end of the workshop last year.

It felt so good to get some of these little projects wrapped up before leaving on my trip. I'm packed and ready to go. Now, let the fun begin!

The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, 
is a departure into unknown lands. 
Sir Richard Burton
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