Last evening I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Opera national du Rhin performance of “Der Rosenkavalier” by Richard Strauss. Knowing I might have a bit of time to sketch (it’s a long opera with two intermissions) I brought along my drawing book. I sketched the loge to the cacophony of the orchestra tuning their instruments. And then since I had an aisle seat I tried drawing during the show. The costume design was comedia dell’arte, so lots of fabulous masks and interesting characters. In the third act one of the female leads came down the aisle next to me and stood only a few feet away. I drew her there and then again later when she reappeared on stage.
Victor Hugo described Strasbourg cathedral as a “gigantic and delicate marvel” (Wikipedia is good for bits like that!) which makes it very difficult to paint. It’s all spikes and spires and pink sandstone. The north tower was completed in 1439 but the south tower was never built ( I believe it would have created a building that was too heavy) which it makes it a very unique structure. I tried to give an impression of it with a brush rather draw all the details with a pen which would have probably taken all day.
I was totally surprised and extremely touched when a participant from my Paris workshop sent me this link to a video he had put together from scenes he shot during our two days of sketching. I had absolutely no idea he was filming during that time! So a very big merci to Michel Colson for this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR1LA4GsCPQ&feature=youtu.be
Warning: this may not work in all countries. It worked in France and Canada but not in the USA because of a copyright on the music. Write me a comment to let me know if it works where you are.
This scene was painted in Petite France, the oldest area of Strasbourg that dates from the Middle Ages.
There are certain iconic scenes that I have imagined sketching in France and one of them is a classic train station. I arrived early at the Gare de l’est on my way to Strasbourg and found a table in a cafe facing the tracks. It cost me a couple of euros for the coffee I needed to allow me that seat with a view but it was worth it because I checked that sketch off my list.
Several months ago when the idea for this Paris workshop was proposed to me I had a vision of sitting outside under a plane tree, sketching beautiful street scenes. That vision never included wearing every piece of clothing I brought with me and trying to stay warm. Today the spitting rain forced us to find shelter. Our first destination was the portico of the Musee d’art moderne de la ville de Paris where we sketched the Eiffel tower in the distance and from there we moved to the Musee de Quai de Branly where I sketched the red columns of the museum entrance. The tough ones among us braved the damp and the cold while the intelligent ones painted the view while having tea inside the cafe. As you can see, everyone did something quite remarkable.
Looking at this demonstration that I did Place de Stalingrad this morning you might think that it was a beautiful warm day in Paris. Wrong! When I opened the curtains before 7 a.m. the sky was charcoal and the Paris streets were slick with rain. But these French sketchers are pretty tough and despite the cold and the damp we painted all day. The sun appeared infrequently in the afternoon and we had to capture the cast shadows pretty quickly sometimes but mostly everybody managed to get in two or three paintings.