Sunday, July 6, 2014

why i love paris (5)

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, I joined other members of the Paris Sketchers crew in the 14th arrondissement of Paris to celebrate la Fête de la Nature (Nature Day).  The outing was a convergence of three separate plans.  First, there was Sigrid, an urban sketcher from Vancouver, who had informed us some months earlier about her visit to Paris in hopes to draw with us.  Then, there was Charlotte, a local urban sketcher and president of "Le Lapin Ouvrier", an association that manages a shared garden in the 14th arrondissement, who had invited us to visit her garden during the fête and ultimately sketch there.  Finally, there was Marion, another local urban sketcher, who had told us about a group of drawing enthusiasts visiting from Puerto Rico that were interested in sketching with others in Paris.  In light of these different contexts, the Sunday was bound to be one that would be not only rich in sights, sketches, and sunshine, but also rich in shared experiences.

From a personal standpoint, on this particular day, I was looking to draw my a-- off.  I had just returned from vacation overseas, and since I did not sketch a whole lot during the time away, I had fallen behind my weekly quota.  So I had some catching up to do in order to restore the balance.  Having taken account of the work already done, I figured that it would suffice to do 8 sketches with each requiring 30 minutes or less in the 3 or 4 hours before everyone got together for the usual drinks after drawing.  As you can imagine, this plan would leave little time to reflect on finished drawings or to engage anyone in a conversation, which were two things that I usually did.  Eight sketches in a few hours.  A goal that I had never attempted before, not even at SketchCrawls, where sketchers gather in different parts of the world to spend a whole day on a particular site doing nothing but sketches.

In the end, I could managed only 7 sketches, which was 5 more than my previous high.  Even though I succeeded in keeping my pen on the pages of my drawing book for (almost) three and a half hours, the time spent was marked by some pleasant distractions every now and then.


After arriving at Place de la Garenne and saying quick hellos to Marion and Jean-Marc, both of whom were already at work, I went to unfold my stool in a corner of the square where I got warmed up by making the sketch below.

I found the view below of the Jardin de la ZAC Didot it interesting, so I started scribbling.  At some point, I noticed a group of about 10 people pass from the garden to the square with Charlotte and then walk over to where Marion was sitting.  They were the sketchers from Puerto Rico.  Afterwards, they came with Charlotte to say hello to me.  I stopped drawing for a chat with them, using the occasion to resurrect my Spanish with little success.  Fortunately for me, the group organizer spoke French.

Sometime later, Sigrid arrived, by bicycle.  I got to meet her and found greater ease speaking with her in English after we started off in French.

Things got interesting once I entered the garden.  Unlike the quiet and empty square, the garden with rather lively, with kids playing all over the place and curious adults peeking here and there.  I soon spotted Charlotte, who gave me the warmest and most animated welcome ever.  She then explained to me how the shared garden concept worked and even offered me a very raw taste of a few herbs grown there, notably thyme and tarragon.  After a while, when I was seriously itching to resume drawing, Charlotte found me a discreet spot under the shade in the middle of a enclosure that contained plants and a few trees.  I could not have asked for a better location.  From there, I found an interesting scene, except that Sigrid and Marion were in it, busy sketching away.  Even though I preferred to avoid drawing people, I felt that I had no other choice but to include the two ladies in the picture.

I needed one more sketch in the garden before moving on and quickly settled on the one below.  While I was drawing, Charlotte came to offer me some syrup made from quinces cultivated in the garden.  How kind!  At some point, Marion started announcing that we would be going shortly to Rue des Thermopyles, which was nearby. I had never been there, but I figured that it was a remarkable place.  I kept that in mind and raced to wrap up my sketch.

I joined in the walk over to Rue des Thermopyles.  Within a few minutes, we ended up on this mostly straight and narrow street that had a countryside vibe to it.  But what I found most striking ‒ and I am sure others can say the same ‒ was the extensive plant decor on facades of the buildings bordering the street.  There was even a thick bundle of leafy branches that traveled from one facade to the one across it, forming an arch of plants for people and cars to pass through.  It was all a sight to behold.  With great delight, I began to capture the view towards one end of the street, only to end up less than five minutes later with the view obstructed by a sketcher from Puerto Rico.  I was not sure of what she was doing since her back was directly in front of me, but as she did not leave the spot, I figured that she was sketching.  And she was.  At that point, I felt that there was no other solution but to put her in the sketch. I even had to draw her over the initial line I had traced to mark the edge of the left sidewalk.

I sought another view nearby that had nothing to do with the perspective of a straight and narrow street.  I found one simply by looking in the opposite direction.  There, Luis Alfonso, who led the group of sketchers from Puerto Rico, Marie-Odile, a local sketcher, and a sketcher from Puerto Rico were sitting on the sidewalk, filling in their sketchbooks.

Shortly after I had begun yet another sketch on Rue des Thermopyles, Marion was leading the group to go have drinks in a neighborhood cafe, which generally signaled the end of sketching activity.  I was determined to carry out my plan to finish, so when the group was getting ready to leave, I kept drawing, albeit more hastily.  After 20 minutes in a newfound solitude, I was done.  Sketch No. 8 was going to happen but on another day, since I was eager to reunite with the group.  Besides, I was also spent and my drawing arm needed to rest for a long while.  So I got up, folded my stool one last time, and set off in the direction of the garden that we had arrived from, very content with the efforts that I had produced, in the company of twenty other sketchers, some from Paris, others from farther away.

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