A blaze of juicy colors at Les Folies Bergère in Paris

SBS Juicy ColorsI am teaching a klass at Sketchbook Skool, a really great online drawing University with a Fakulty of outstanding teachers, I’m really proud to be part of. There is also a huge crowd of amazing students who produces an never ending flow of great pieces of art, even among beginners. I love it so much that I am also following the Bootcamp track just for the sake of it, with 3 quick demos and homeworks a week.

But let’s be honest, sometimes there are assignments you feel less inspired by. That was what I thought, looking at the Juicy colors demo from Koosje Koene. Not that I did not like it. On the contrary, I was fascinated by the vibrant process and its colorful result. No, I think it came right back from my childhood. As a matter in fact, I am not comfortable doing large color spots on a sheet of paper. It reminds me of awful times at primary school where my teacher used to yell at me each time I was doing an ink blot (I can even recall the smell of this wonderful purple ink) in my school notebook.
Plus I’m a kind of guy who loves to be in control of his drawing and therefore don’t feel comfortable with blots or colors deciding by themselves of their destiny. And last but not least, I wasn’t satisfied with my last so-so drawing on “making money” – though it was a very clever one brought by my friend Danny Gregory (also cofounder of Sketchbook Skool) – and I was afraid of having one more lousy drawing in my sketchbook.
But, by joining the kourse I made an initial commitment of tackling every assignment, whether I feel inspired or not, because I found out that, sometimes, wonderful things can pop up out of an assignment you don’t feel at ease with, simply because you’re pushed out of your comfort zone.
And finally, I also wanted to be sure ‘d’en avoir pour mon argent’ …I mean…get value for my money even though Bootkamp is a free lunch (Btw TINSTAAFL).

So I was ruminating for the past 48 hours on what I could draw for this assignment…until lunchtime yesterday.
I was having lunch with my wife, in what we call in French a ‘boui-boui’, a little shabby bar where to shelter illicit love. Oh Yes… I must add I have made up my mind long time ago to also select my wife as my mistress, mostly because I was said it was the best solution to avoid family affairs.
So we were having a clandestine rendezvous in that boui-boui to discuss private highly important matters, like scrutinizing our sons’ last marks at school in order to define our evening strategy… when… I suddenly I saw it !
My drawing assignment …
It was standing right in front of me…
The rain that was falling for the past 24 hours has suddenly stopped. The dark clouds parted to let a ray of light illuminate the facade of the building in front of me, a wonderfully refurbished theater with a pure Art deco architecture, les Folies Bergère.
I was contemplating with fever the central motif bathed in a golden sunlight.
There it was… my juicy SBS assignment, right in front of me in its vibrant blaze of joyful colors.
– “Jean-Christophe, Are You listening to me?” asked my wife.
Holy Ghost! Why do women always picked up the worst moment to ask embarrassing questions ?
I smiled and dishonestly answered ‘Yes!’
– “And what did I just asked you” she smirked ?
I smiled again, like a shameful naughty boy trapped with his hand in the jam pot.
– “Huuu…Yes… I mean Yes I agree with you. As always !”
-Oh No ! She answered. You’re still lost somewhere in one of your drawings. Anyway, we’ll finish this conversation later. Time for me to go! Next business appointment in 10mn ! Talk to you soon and give my Bonjour to your SBS friends, she growled !!!
She just left. Let’s be cynic and say the timing was a perfect one for me! I still had half an hour before my next meeting, far enough to tackle this delightful colored silhouette dancing amongst geometrical patterns. I pulled out my sketchbook and my Pelikan fountain pen. I draw feverishly for 30 mn, botched my afternoon appointments ‘en moins de temps qu’il ne faut pour le dire’ (in less time than it takes to say it) and rushed back home.
I then took my small Winsor & Newton watercolor, melted Aureoline, Yellow Cadmium and Carmine. I reminded having seen, long time ago, Ralph Steadman drawing in a TV documentary, swinging like a conductor in a Wagner Opera, sending blots on his sheet of paper.
So, I tried to mimic him, swinging violently huge sets of color blots for the next twenty minutes. I stopped only when my paper started to look like a psychedelic leopard fur….
…And so was my whole desk, the carpet of my living room and my white shirt. ☹
But I was happy to have ventured out of my comfort zone.

A lovely gift in the Santa Cruz coffee shop of Coimbra

Portugal - Coimbra Cafe Santa Cruz lo

At the heart of Coimbra, one of the oldest university towns in Europe, stands the most amazing coffee shop in Portugal. Housed in the former auxiliary chapel of the Cathedral of Santa Cruz, it has become a central gathering point for students and teachers. Curiously, this chapel has been over time, successively a hardware store, a police station, a plumbing shop, and even it seems, a fire station before being the coffee shop with Neo-Renaissance stained glass that we know today.
Fascinated by the architecture with its Manueline vaults, I chose my point of view, pulled out my sketchbook and started to sketch directly felt.
Absorbed by the drawing, I did not notice the waiter who approached me. He gently took out of his tray a postcard of the coffee shop and handed it to me. In perfect French, he told me that the old professor sat at the back of the room, observing how much I enjoyed the location, has asked him to buy for him the postcard in order to offer it to me.
The old professor stood up, greeted me and walked out of the cofee shop, leaving me alone with his precious gift. I looked at the logo in the corner of the postcard and decided i would add it to the drawing as a testimony of this lovely encounter.

Mon précieux cadeau au café Santa Cruz de Coimbra
Au cœur de Coimbra, l’une des plus vieilles villes universitaires d’Europe se trouve l’un des plus surprenants café-restaurants du Portugal. Abrité dans l’ancienne ancienne chapelle auxiliaire de la cathédrale de Santa Cruz, il est devenu le point central de rassemblement des étudiants et des professeurs. Curieusement cette chapelle a été successivement, au fil du temps, une quincaillerie, un poste de police, un magasin de plomberie, et même paraît-il, une caserne de pompiers avant de devenir le café aux vitraux Neo-Renaissance que l’on connaît aujourd’hui.
Conquis par l’architecture des voutes avec leurs nervures manuélines, j’ai choisi mon point de vue, sorti mon carnet de croquis et attaqué directement le croquis au feutre.
Absorbé par le dessin, je n’ai pas remarqué le serveur qui s’est approché de moi. Il a pris délicatement sur son plateau la carte postale du café et me l’a tendu. Dans un français parfait, il m’a expliqué que le vieux professeur assis au fond de la salle, observant combien je goutais l’endroit, l’avait chargé d’acheter la carte postale du café pour me l’offrir.
Le vieux professeur s’est levé, m’a salué et est sorti me laissant son précieux cadeau. J’ai regardé le logo du café imprimé sur la carte postale et décidé de l’ajouter à mon dessin en souvenir de cette charmante rencontre.


Portugal – The window of the Convent of Christ in Tomar is a well-known example of Manueline style.

Portugal - Tomar Convento de Cristo Fenetre Manueline lo

In Tomar, there is a wonderful monument built by the Templars in the twelfth century, the Convento de Cristo, a monumental monastery perched on the hill overlooking the city: a maze of cloisters, corridors, stairways, chapels and refectories built over time in a succession of different architectural styles
Overlooking the cloister of Santa Barbara, the gothic nave of the church has an exceptional huge window, very emblematic of the Manueline architecture: a flamboyant decor with nautical elements inspired from the Great Discoveries: ropes, shells, corals, algae …
This drawing, hastily executed in the cloister with a brush and china ink has long staid in black, unfinished. The disappointing smoky result could not recall the exuberance of the architecture. Until one day, I decided to open a tube of gouache and try to to illuminate it with a few touches of white …
..and finally give it a little relief!

Portugal – La fenêtre du Couvent du Christ à Tomar,  emblématique du style Manuélin.

A Tomar, il y a un merveilleux monument bâti par l’ordre du Temple au XIIème siècle : le Convento de Cristo, un couvent monumental perché sur la colline qui surplombe la ville : un entrelacs de cloitres, de corridors, d’escaliers, de chapelles et de réfectoires construit au fil du temps dans une succession de styles architecturaux

La nef gothique de l’église s’ouvre sur le cloitre de Saint Barbara par une énorme fenêtre emblématique de l’architecture manuéline : un décor flamboyant aux éléments marins inspiré des Grandes Découvertes : cordages, coquillages, coraux, algues…

Ce dessin, brossé rapidement dans le cloitre, au pinceau et à l’encre de chine est longtemps resté en noir, inachevé. Le résultat charbonneux ne parvenait pas a restituer l’exubérance de l’architecture. Jusqu’à ce qu’un jour, je me décide à déboucher un tube de gouache pour l’éclairer de quelques touches de blanc…                                               …et lui donner enfin un peu de relief !