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.

Monday, April 1, 2019

silly kindergarten ditty

Art is your voice,
That innate natural part of you.
Art is your choice
To let your life reflect that which is you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

why i love paris (11)

One Saturday in January, I took up an invitation from my friend Anne, a fellow urban sketcher, to meet inside Eglise Saint-Etienne du Mont to draw. I had never been inside this church just beside the Pantheon, and I almost certainly had not heard of it. But after stepping inside, what a beauty to behold!

I joined Anne in the back row facing the central balcony and got to sketching the view in front of me. The initial goal was to let loose a bit by doing without my usual measuring points on the paper and feeling out the proportions more instinctively. Which I accomplished. After that, the penchant for detail caught up with me. As the sketch was taking shape, I took more interest in it -- so much that I came back the following day to the same spot to fill out the double page of my sketchbook with the rich, lovely matter that laid before my eyes.

It turned out to my first sketch ever in a church, and I am glad it happened in Paris.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world.

Marianne Williamson

Several years ago, I stumbled upon an article by Steve Pavlina that had this to say:
A friend of mine, who seems pretty happy in his current career, calls this "embracing your own fabulousness." He said that people who are unhappy fail to recognize and embrace how fabulous they are, so they can’t express or share their fabulousness with others. I completely agree.
It's a lovely concept that I also find in expressions such as "loving yourself", "unique ability", "do more of what makes you awesome", and the like. And I think that they are all good.

But there's just something about "embracing your own fabulousness" that hits the spot.

Even better, the word "fabulous" itself.

I'll take that.

fabulous [ fa-byə-ləs ] adj.
♦ COMMON. Implausible albeit real. ⇒ astonishing, extraordinary, fantastic, unbelievable, prodigious
♦ (EMPHATIC) Enormous. ⇒ astronomical, colossal, exorbitant
♦ INFORMAL. Uncommon. ⇒ exceptional

Saturday, January 26, 2019

my red nose (2)

It took almost three years, but the red nose has finally returned.

It is currently colder than it was on that morning of April, 1 2016, but discouragement cannot be an option. The weather is not responsible.

After five red nose outings so far this year, with progressively challenging rules, I feel less and less anxious putting on and wearing the nose. I should wonder why the anxiety anyway since people generally do not seem to care much about what you look like. And if they do seem to care, they will most likely end up not say anything. For the most part, all you get is a curious look, a warm smile, or a repressed laugh. But no talking, at least not to me. Because ‒ and you know this ‒ you do not talk to strangers that you have no (good) reason to talk to.

Having the nose on in public has been an interesting experience. There is indeed a feeling of discomfort, but it has been nothing close to troubling. I don't necessarily feel happy nor sad. Even though I don't initiate conversations with anyone (at least not yet), my mind is more open to the environment. That is, unless I happen to be reading a book, because objectively, wearing a red nose does not really change much ‒ it's like wearing a pair of glasses. And after the nose goes off, there is not much a feeling of victory or success as there is of calm ‒ compared to the suffering that would have happened if the opportunity to wear the nose was passed up. It's like either you're in or you're out : there is no such thing as a neutral choice. And it's rather too late to say "I was not aware of this, so it's not like there was a choice to make."

But the bigger change that comes with the experience appears to affect your mind. Your perception of what you feel capable of doing and that of what you think about people's judgment of you changes. For the better. Put another way, you feel more liberated of your thoughts on what people would think and more able to do what you would not have dared previously.

The general public, in the metro or on the street, is one and the same: people you don't know. You get used to them more or less quickly. Rather, it is the colleagues at work that really make the anxiety go up. Perhaps it's the fear of stepping out of a very comfortable role in which they are used to seeing me and the fear of presenting something that is out there, something that others do not do. Oh no, what would they think? So far so good, they seem to find it amusing for the most part. And all this time I was fearing ridicule and disapproval. Silly me!

Beyond the fear, I am mostly trying to honor the idea around the red nose so that it does not end up in the wastebin like many before it. Repression has to stop winning this game.

Honoring the idea is essential given the charge that the idea carries. Firstly, the idea is mine. Secondly, it is unconventional. Thirdly, there is a sentimental aspect : the nose was gifted years ago by Corinne, theater instructor extraordinaire, who I joined wearing the nose in public for the first time when we took the metro after class one evening (and yes, I also love Corinne). And finally, the nose is red, so what does not fit in is made to stand out.

Here are some interesting reactions that I have gotten so far:

1) Just seconds after putting on the nose on my way to work, I ran into a lady.

Lady: What is that? ... What is that?
Me: In your opinion?
Lady: Is it to protect you from the cold?
Me: No, I love it!
Lady: Oh, ok!

2) While exiting a RER station, I got stopped by a journalist who had seen me some moments prior.

Journalist: Are you wearing that red nose in response to the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests and in solidarity of the (supposedly pacifist) gilets rouges (red vests) movement?
Me: No, it's personal. It's a personal expression.

He showed support for what I was doing, which I appreciated.

3) A colleague met me at the elevator on the ground floor at work.

Colleague: So, what is the punishment?
Me: No, it's an embellishment!

4) While I'm seated in the metro, a lady sees me and smiles. I smile back. She walks through the people separating us and comes up to chat.

Lady: Do people see that ... ?
Me: Well I don't know what people see ... I am not "people."
Lady: And why ... ?
Me: It's just a means of expression.
Lady: Well we see that and it makes one smile.
Me: That's great! Thank you!

She was lovely. And courageous.

5) While waiting on a metro platform among a line of people, one metro rolls by and it is full. The doors open up and I see a lady inside standing next a child, and she notices me. Smiling, she gestures to the child to look in my direction. He looks, and then smiles. What else to do? I smile back.

Friday, January 18, 2019

love and fear

When you are doing something that you love enough, you really are not thinking about fear.

You are just doing it. It's all love.

The next time fear visits while you are trying to achieve a goal that you consider worthwhile, take a moment to ask yourself the following question:

Maybe this is a goal that I should love more?

The best part is when you end up loving the thing that you initially feared.

Fear for a linchpin is a clue that you're getting close to doing something important.

‒ Seth Godin

Thursday, January 10, 2019

ace yourself

If you love something, you accept it.
If you love something, you care for it.
If you love something, you express it.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

happy new year

As a blend of old and new, I wanted to begin the new year by sharing my favorite sketch of last year.

Port de l'Arsenal
Port de l'Arsenal

The icing on the cake is that this is one of my favorite places in Paris.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

on the streets of la butte aux cailles

It took an outing organized by Marie-Christine for me to get out and produce my first "serious" urban sketch following the summer break. The location? The Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood. I have always known it to be a lively and somewhat quaint area of Paris, with its cobblestone streets, colorful building facades, groovy bars and mellow cafés. But on that Saturday in early October, with fellow members of Urban Sketchers Paris, I was able to better observe and appreciate the neighborhood by sketching one of its streets. The experience was so enjoyable that I would return the following two Saturdays to create more "street art".

Rue Buot
Rue Buot

My visual exploration of La Buttes aux Cailles started with the above view from Rue Buot. It had most of the things that I like in a subject : perspective, architectural variety, and just a little greenery. The icing on the cake was sketching on the sidewalk. That is as urban is it gets!

Rue du Moulinet
Rue du Moulinet

The following Saturday, I was back in the neighborhood. Agnès, a fellow Parisian sketcher, had shown me her sketch of a mural inspired by the popular Super Mario Bros video game, and being a Super Mario Bros lover in my early days, it was only fitting that I sketch the mural too. I found it on Rue du Moulinet, and sat across the street from it to get it in whole in my sketchbook.

Rue de la Butte aux Cailles
Rue de la Butte aux Cailles

For the third consecutive Saturday, I found myself in the Butte aux Cailles to draw. This time, the lucky street was the one sharing the name of the district. I set my stool down on the square on the western end of the street, named Place de la Commune de Paris. The view towards the Rue de la Butte aux Cailles offered a pleasing combination of greenery, buildings, and inclines, all in perspective.

Monday, October 15, 2018

outdoors at lunchtime in courbevoie

At a USK Paris outing at Ground Control in early May, I met Stéphanie, a fellow sketcher. There was one particular thing that I learned during our encounter: we both worked in the Courbevoie part of the la Défense area. Our workplaces were barely 150 meters apart. Then came the obvious question: why not meet to sketch at lunchtime in the area?

Square Henri Regnault, Courbevoie
Square Henri Regnault

Our first meeting took us to the park named Square Henri Regnault. Inaugurated in 2013, this park was designed in close coordination with the residents of the three apartment buildings that surround it. Stephanie and I found a suitable spot for drawing on a bench that laid in the shade beside central pathway linking both entrances to the park. In spite of the numerous plum, maple, and ash trees around, what caught my eye was a lamppost along the pathway amidst a background of skyscrapers.

Parc du Millénaire, Courbevoie
Parc du Millénaire

One of my next meetings with Stéphanie took place in Parc du Millénaire. It was summertime, and we got to witness how popular the park was. Between groups of kids taking part in games with ‒ and without ‒ adult supervision and teams of employees having picnics on the wide-open, oval lawn, the park was abuzz with life. While Stephanie took to a sun-drenched bench directly facing the lawn, I took refuge in the shade of trees across the lawn, close to the playground. Branches and trees all over the place, I decided to outline them so that I could focus on the landscape below.

Parc Jacques Cartier, Courbevoie
Parc Jacques Cartier

My last sketching entry into parks in Courbevoie close to work was a solo trip to Parc Jacques Cartier. No stranger to picnickers like Parc du Millénaire, this park affords an equally leisurely vibe, with its installations of musical instruments immediately available to visitors. Among the ensemble you can find five tom-tom drums, an xylophone, and a carillon. Naturally, I resisted the temptation of creating music to sketch a view of the Faubourg de l'Arche neighborhood in the background from a secluded and shaded park bench.

I must credit Stéphanie for this foray into sketching in Courbevoie, as well as for her encouragements in using ink directly without making pencil outlines beforehand. Lunchtime at work has since become a nice opportunity to capture the environment around me through art.