France: Paris and the South, Jan 2020

Here is a corner of St Eustache, near Les Halles in central Paris.

St Eustache was built between 1532 and 1632. I drew it standing in the pedestrian area near Les Halles, as people flowed by. I enjoyed the fact that there were huge chimneys on the church, shown high up on the left edge of the picture.

The sky was overcast. It was a Monday. A group of lively young people were hanging about, calling to each other.

Meeting point for Public Calm

This pedestrian area was one of those liminal zones: between public and private, not quite a pavement, not quite a plaza, partly a thoroughfare, partly a resting zone. As a result, the social rules were ambiguous. People were hanging around, people were passing through. Evidently there have been incidents. A large poster said: “City of Paris, Meeting Point, Public Calm. The operatives of the City of Paris in charge of Public Calm welcome your feedback and comments between 6pm and 6:30pm, Monday to Friday. To report an incident (“incivilité”) call 3975 or go to Paris.fr/incivilité”.

I was intrigued by the idea of City operatives charged with “public calm” (“tranquillité publique”), and wonder how and whether it works.

Here’s another sketch in the same area. This the “Bourse de Commerce”, the Commodities Exchange. It’s now the former Commodities Exchange, with massive building work going on to convert it into a contemporary art space. The architect for the conversion is Tadao Ando.

Bourse de Commerce, with crane and hoardings.

This was a sketch as I was waiting for the swimming pool to open.

I did some people-sketching in a café and in waiting areas on the trip. I am on a mission to get more people into my drawings, so I practice.

I walked across to the Left Bank, searching for “Maison Charbonnel”, the home of the maker of the etching ink that I favour. The place was there, on the Quai Montebello, just across the river from Notre Dame. However, because of the Métro strikes, or because of the weather or for some other reason or no reason atall, the shop was closed “until the 3rd of February”.

I drew a picture of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame, West front, from St Michel.

This took about one hour 35 minutes. The temperature was 7 degrees C.

Then I took sanctuary in a marvellous art shop I found: “Magasin Sennelier”, 3 Quai Voltaire. I was served by a gentleman who might have been there since the 1950s. He was pleased to tell me he knew L. Cornelissen & Son of London, and Green and Stone, and he knew Mr Rowney, of Daler Rowney paints, personally. Or had done. Sennelier paints were superior, I was authoritatively, if not entirely objectively, informed.

In the South I made a pen sketch of a vast canyon:

Blanc-Martel hiking trail, start point.

And here’s a quick sketch in the library, before dinner:

Corner of the library

Turks Head Café Wapping

Here is the marvellous Turks Head Café, Wapping, rescued from demolition by local residents in the 1980s.

The Turks Head Cafe, in front of St John’s Tower

Inside, I found warmth, quiet tables, and the gentle murmur of conversations: people actually talking to each other. I felt welcome here. The food was marvellous. Next time I’m going to have the Blueberry Tart. I only noticed it after I’d already had the substantial Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.

Inside the Turks Head Café

I went to pay my bill. When I returned to my table, there was a little group of people admiring the sketch (above). I chatted to a man called Mark, who, it turns out, runs the website “lovewapping.org“. We exchanged anecdotes about the representation or otherwise of residents’ views on local councils. His group grapples with Tower Hamlets Council.

Then I went outside to draw the café.

The tower in the background is St Johns Tower. The tower is “all that remains of the parish church of St Johns circa 1756 … the surrounding ground was rebuilt as flats in the 1990s to an attractive design reflecting the previous building on the site” says the Knight Frank website (an estate agent).

This drawing took 1hour 15 mins, done from the pavement by a huge brick wall. The colours are Perinone Orange, Phthalo Turquoise, Mars Yellow and Hansa Yellow Mid. As you see, the front of the cafe faces West, and caught the setting sun.

Here is the wall next to where I was standing.

London Bricks in Wapping.

A story book

I made a story book for a young friend. It describes an evening we spent together back in December. Here are some of the illustrations:

I made the illustrations by cutting shapes out of the coloured parts of magazines. Magazine pages are suitably strong and luxuriously glossy. Sometimes the pictures have textures which are helpful to the theme. The figures are about an inch high or less. It was very fiddly.

I decided to give the book a hard cover. Out there in the wild, it would need some protection. I’d not done a hard cover binding before. I examined several hardback books and had a go. Here are some pictures of the construction process:

It worked well! It remains to be seen how it fares. It’s out there now, being read and enjoyed by one of the characters in the story.

Sketching in Cambridge

Here’s the view from a café in King Street, Cambridge.

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All Saints Church Jesus Lane.  Drawn in Jackson’s Watercolour Sketchbook.

This café used to be called “Clowns”. There were two Italian sisters downstairs. Now it is called “The Locker”, and the staff are different. Much to my relief, they have not messed it up. It is still a tranquil place. The coffee is excellent. There is no intrusive background music. People read books upstairs. I drew this picture looking out of the upstairs window. Behind me, on a low sofa, a man was reading two books alternately and monitoring his laptop screen. Both books were by Jorge Luis Borges.

At an adjacent table three women were making design decisions for the website of a charitable organisation.  This sub-page, that on the main menu, shall we include video? They discussed titles, and the placing of punctuation marks. I was concentrating on my drawing and only heard the odd word. Then one of the women described a conversation she’d had on a previous job, for a college. A fragment drifted over to me. She had quite a loud voice. “I told them it was “Porters’ Lodge”, and not “Porter’s” apostrophe “s”, because there was more than one porter.  But they told me I was American and didn’t know anything. “

Here is a drawing of a chimney on the houses on Mill Road, drawn from a café called “Tom’s Cakes”

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Chimney in Mill Road. Drawn in Jackson’s Watercolour Sketchbook.

On the bench by the window, a man was completing the cross word, or engaged in some other puzzle that required his total concentration. This made him a good subject for a quick sketch.

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Quick sketch in Vintage Paper Company Katazome Sketchbook, on vintage watercolour paper.

 

 

Sketching in Crete 2019

The air in Crete was warm and damp. This affected the paper. See how the ink has spread in this pen and ink sketch at the airport:

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This is De Atramentis Black document ink on high quality watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford, in a small book 6″ by 4″ from the Vintage Paper Company.

After that, I used pencil and watercolour only. Here is a view of the Akrotori peninsula. The warship is lurking in the NATO base.

We lived with insects. At a hand movement, other movements occurred, in the air, on the kitchen surfaces, on the floor. Ants made their way across the breadboard, collecting crumbs or notifying HQ of the location of the honey drip. Beetles arrived suddenly, folded their wings and inspected the floor. I tried drawing them.

Two geckos made their miraculous appearance some evenings and early mornings. They emitted small squeaks.

These are images made on “sun print” paper, using plants, and cut-out paper shapes. The geckos are a species of nocturnal reptile: Hemidactylus turcicus or Mediterranean House Gecko. They are insectivorous, eating, amongst other things, moths. I wondered if they would like to live in the Barbican ducts. It must be quite warm in there, and they would be entirely welcome to devour the moths.

They stick to the walls not with suckers but with hairs on their feet. The feet of geckos are subject of intense scientific interest, I read, since these hairs are so configured that they get close to the wall on an atomic scale (10 nanometers or so). At this distance the molecules of the feet attract, rather than repel, the molecules of the wall. There is a whole compendium of physics effects which make this possible: quantum mechanical, electrostatic, surface tension.  There could be an entire undergraduate course on the feet of the Gecko.

Outdoors there is landscape…

…and a garden.

I am learning to draw clouds. There were a lot of them.

I am learning to draw quickly. Here are some very quick sketches from cafés.

The grass was cut around the lower buildings in ancient Aptera, revealing arches.

Arches make poetry in the Agia Triada monastery: a pre-departure pause….

…before the airport.

Technical details

Pictures done in sketchbooks:

Using Watercolour box 1:

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Sun print paper was from Cowling and Wilcox on the Kingsland Road. It is called “Sunography”. I printed it on both sides.

Strange Landscapes from Wood (2)

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Here’s a print I made at East London Printmakers yesterday.

It’s a continuation of the project “Strange Landscapes from Wood”, which I started in November 2018, before work for the exhibition and New Year Cards took over.

This print shows a dialogue, or perhaps an exploration. Are they perhaps looking down a tunnel? Or watching a sunset?

This is a chine collé print from a copper etched plate. The paper is thin Japanese paper brought to me by kind friends directly from “Paper Nao” in Tokyo. You can see how the plate was made on this link: Strange landscapes from wood

The plain print, with no chine collé, looks like this:

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The coloured bits are placed on top of the plate, glue side up. I’ve described the process on this link: The chine collé process

Here is work in progress: