Thursday, September 12, 2019

views of the outdoors from indoors in courbevoie

La Défense

Almost a year after publishing a blog post on outdoor sketching near my work building in Courbevoie, I did not expect to write a companion piece showing other sketches of the Courbevoisien outdoors, but this time from indoors.

Yet after finding myself with three such sketches, the opportunity to bring them all together and to share the fruits of the labor was too exciting to pass up.

I took my time on these sketches, which were done inside my work building over several days, at lunchtime or in the evening after work hours.

Immeuble en chantier, Courbevoie

Above is a building in construction along the train tracks joining Paris (terminus Saint-Lazare train station) to La Défense.

Boulevard de la Mission Marchand, Courbevoie

Above is the track for Tram 2a along Boulevard de la Mission Marchand. This tram line joins Paris (terminus Porte de Versailles) to La Défense.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

dead flowers

Five months ago, I brought home a bouquet of hortensias from the local florist.

Today, they are dead.

Actually, they have been dead for while. If I had to guess, 4 months?

But ... they seem to be holding up quite well. I mean, just take a look at them at five months old.

I'll admit it, I am not a pro with flowers. Habits to keep my apartment floral on a regular basis have been difficult to put in place over the years. Each time, I start off with a lot of enthusiasm and get some momentum going, and then somewhere along the line, I get swamped up by other "more important" things in life.

Truth be told, I have always been lucky with hortensias. I bought one of my first ones, a single stem, about seven years ago. Would you believe that I still have that same stem in my apartment? It stands tall in a transparent single-stem vase. Dry, yes. Very. But tall. And proud.

That makes me a proud owner of some pretty dead flowers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

les sacs des parisiennes (2)

After starting again a few months ago to take photos of bags in Paris, I have become a more sensitive and almost desperate character.

My eyes are always out and about, darting from left to right and back to left, focusing on the slightest sighting of any bag carried by a woman. What is on it? Are there words, or just a bunch of images? What are the words? Are they saying something interesting? How do I feel about the message? Have I already taken a picture of this bag before? These are questions that I ask myself often and very quickly in order to decide whether to act or not.

Paris might very well be the world capital of all things French, yet the majority of bags that one finds on its streets have inspirational messages written in English. Granted, that is the case for the bags that I see and the messages that resonate with me. On one occasion, the girl carrying the bag did not seem to know what the words in English meant (see bag no. 9 below). She must have paid little attention to the message, the bag merely being a tool for her. She even admitted that she was "nulle" in English. Fortunately, I was able to convey the message after translation. "Ah, c'est beau", she said.

Here is a second collection des sacs des Parisiennes.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

several weeks, 100 people (1)

As a member of the Urban Sketchers community, I have become familiar in recent years with an annual global initiative called one week, 100 people.

The goal is to draw 100 people in 5 days (Monday to Friday).

Sounds simple, right? Indeed. Except that I could never get around to drawing just one person in a whole week. I do not draw people in general, and besides my workweek is too busy to try drawing something I prefer not to draw.

Yet, in the past several months, with a will to improve my technique, I started a habit of drawing one hour per workday. As it turns out, it's easy (and quite interesting) to fill up minutes of that hour sketching people in the metro, train, or bus during my commute to and from work. It is actually a matter of killing two birds with one stone.

Armed with a Fabriano sketchbook and a few Staedtler pencils, I went hunting for drawing subjects every morning and evening. Drawing in the subway and other public transportation vehicles will undoubtedly draw reactions from nearby passengers. Whether it was muted curiosity, verbal praise, a "thumbs up", or simply indifference, I just kept piling 'em heads up. At some point, I realized that I had gathered a bunch of them in several weeks.

Below is a collection of 100 of them.

Which ones are your favorites?

Friday, July 19, 2019

la lune

All I wanted was to take my inner artist out on a date. An opportunity to take the next morning off came up at the last minute, and I took it. It was decided: we were going to the exhibition LA LUNE : Du voyage réel aux voyages imaginaires (literally "THE MOON") at the Grand Palais in Paris. I really wanted to see this exhibition even though I did not really know what to expect. Maybe it was the words in the title that evoked beautiful things for me : lune (moon), voyage (journey), imaginaire (imaginary). Maybe it was the blue in the promotional poster (yes, blue is my favorite color). Whatever it was, I was not going to pass up the occasion to check out this exhibition, which would end in four days.

This decision-making happened yesterday, and the exhibition ends on Monday.

So I showed up at Grand Palais this morning. Just moments after entering the exhibition space, I discovered something when I read the first text display. It was the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon!

Indeed, that historic event took place on July 21, 1969 and today is only July 19, 2019. But still!

Recognizing the total coincidence of my visit, I went on to celebrate history and appreciate some moon love in the exhibition.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

love your dragon

I don't know much about How To Train Your Dragon or Game of Thrones, but I have taken a liking to dragons as they are described in the film Finding Joe.

In this documentary, the dragon is used as a metaphor for those things that scare you. Sharing your truth with your parents or initiating a conversation with a stranger are two of my current favorites. For some people, perhaps it's about speaking before a large audience. For others, it may be the idea of dancing at a party whereas everyone else is sitting down. I do not think that scary things are necessarily problems, unless we spend a lot of time thinking about them and yet avoiding them in the end.

Perhaps giving lots of attention to the dragon ‒ via thought and avoidance ‒ is a sign that we should face it?

Gay Hendricks, a psychologist featured in Finding Joe, thought similarly. He suggested that by facing the dragon, or more appropriately 'your' dragon, you would develop a larger sense of yourself. Yet he thought that loving your dragon was a more efficient approach. Possibly because, like we all know, love is something positive and powerful.

Rather than facing our fears, let us love our dragons. In doing so, we become able to love ourselves more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

in color

One Sunday last month, I branched out like never before. After five steady years of subtle persuasion from sketcher friends, I took my first steps in urban sketching in color.

I joined several members of the Urban Sketchers Paris group on Quai d'Austerlitz that day with the intention of breaking in the watercolor set that my colleague Purnima had gifted me. Even though I brought some paintbrushes, which had also been gifted, I was really lost on what to do. Using the technique that Anne suggested to me and the paintbrush and water container that Blandine lent me, I was able to do something with the view of Port de la Rapée.

It took me just fifteen minutes to fill the A4 page, whereas it would have probably taken three hours to do the same with my black pens!

We'll see how the watercolor exploration unfolds ...

Saturday, June 15, 2019

the art of saying bonjour (2)

Upon entering the "take off your shoes" area at the local pool last Sunday, I said Bonjour to a man as I took a seat close to him on a bench. The Bonjour just came off spontaneously; I was not working my smile as much as when I make a conscious effort to say Bonjour or to interact with someone. As soon as I began removing my shoes, I sensed that this man was looking insistently at me, as if he was trying to get my attention. I looked towards him and indeed, he was about to ask me a question. So I took off my earbuds to listen to what he had to say. "On se connaît ?" ("Do we know each other?"). I replied no. I could read some surprise on his face before it gave way to something more relaxed. He then said something that I was unable to register. The only thing I could make out was "C'est poli" ("That's polite"). I smiled, he smiled too, and then I was off to the changing rooms ‒ but not before we shared a "Bonne journée !" ("Have a good day!").

Ah, good ol' Bonjour. I have learned during my time here in France that it is common to say "Bonjour" to people that you more or less know or that you need to get information or something else from. But never to random strangers that you don't intend to have a conversation with. I will not go as far as to say "That is a shame", but I will say this: saying Bonjour to random people merely for the sake of doing it can be therapeutic. Both for the giver and the receiver. But especially the giver.

It is surely for this reason that I aim to give out bonjours to fifty random people each day in Paris for the rest of the year. Outdoors, indoors, in the metro, and almost anywhere else.

The more love I can put into each bonjour, the more I can heal. Hopefully at the same time the receiver can heal too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

les sacs des parisiennes (1)

Women are such bearers of good messages and one ought to respect both ... women and their messages.

Four years ago, I got the idea that when during my life in Paris I got a glimpse of a woman carrying a bag with a message that I found interesting if not meaningful, I would go up to her and ask her if I could take a photo.

In three months, I got three photos. The following three years, nothing. The idea had ended up in the burial ground.

Just recently, the idea reemerged. Somehow. Maybe it knew that I was finally ready to embrace it.

Here is a collection des sacs des Parisiennes.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


While browsing through magazines in the WHSmith bookstore in Paris ‒ for images that would make up an autobiographic collage ‒, I came across the one below.

I did not realize it at the time, because all I cared about was what was potentially inside the magazine ‒ images that evoked things that I cherished. Things like adventure, drawing, nature, travel, well-being, and the rest. But as I later found out, the cover itself summed up those more abstract themes that I cherished even more, in the same one line that appears at the top of every issue.


I was in heaven.

It was only even later that I discovered that the title of the magazine bore the name of one of my favorite books of all-time.

The really funny thing is that the "flow" book ‒ in its presentation of an approach to achieving happiness by transforming life into a unified set of optimal experiences ‒ encourages the celebration of creativity, imperfection, and life's little pleasures.

Could it be a coincidence that both magazine and book are called "flow"?

I would like to think not.

P. S. The magazine did not disappoint ‒ it was chock-full of wonderful images. What I did not expect was that it had many other interesting things to look at, to read, to play with.