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.

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Sketching in Paris With Melanie Reim

JC Melanie Reim

It was 9:30 pm and i’ve just heard the little tinkling of an new incoming mail in my smartphone.

“Bonjour, Jean-Christophe,
I know that this is very late notice, I am going to be in Paris, arriving tomorrow afternoon. I wonder if you might be free to meet for a coffee late afternoon?
Cheers
Melanie Reim”

At that time, all I knew about Melanie was that she will be teaching at Sketchbook Skool next month in the same Storytelling Klass than me, that both of us figured in Danny Gregory‘s book ‘An Illustrated Journey‘ and that I loved her drawings full of energy.
Oh yes, she also seemed to be sharing that simple philosophy that, as we say in french, ‘Les amis de mes amis sont mes amis’. (The friends of my friends are my friends).

This is how I came to meet with Melanie Reim on a bright sunny saturday afternoon in the Latin Quarter, one of the most (thousands) adorable areas in Paris. We just chatted, exchanged ideas, sipping altogether this delightful september afternoon up to the point where Melanie couldn’t resist to the charm of the lovely Place de l’Odeon.
She took her sketchbook out of her bag, quietly unscrewed the cap of her wonderful vintage Pelikan fountain pen and started to draw the surrounding atmosphere. I felt obliged to do the same but could hardly draw as I was fascinated by the magic of her vigorous lines taking shape on the paper. She has a wonderful style with rather angular lines: the facade of the Odeon theatre unveiled gradually as ever I had seen it previously, and people popped on her sheet of paper at speed light.

Unfortunately, storm clouds started to gather over the zinc roofs offering a wonderful shade of grey (not 50 but not far). A large first drop spotted on her sketchbook and we were forced to pack in emergency. Too bad she couldn’t finish what seemed to be a very promising sketch.

We quitted as if we’ve know each other for years.
Melanie is truly a wonderful artist and I can’t wait to see what her course will be.

If you like the roofs of Paris, then you should come in winter

Paris - Toits enneigés lo

When I was in high school, our classroom, on the top floor of an old building in the heart of Paris, used to have a gorgeous view upon a cascade of Haussmann roofs. Though I were physically present in the classroom, my mind wandered outside, flying over roofs as Peter Pan would do, while constantly doodling in the margin of my Latin notebook.

Since then, I have kept a secret passion for these gray zinc roofs so typical, especially at wintertime when snow highlights them.

But don’t try to find this point of view: it is an imaginary one, just a patchwork of elements picked here and there, to try to compose an almost perfect view of Paris

C’est en hiver sous la neige que les toits de Paris sont les plus beaux

Quand j’étais au lycée, notre salle de classe, située au dernier étage d’un bâtiment en plein centre de Paris, offrait une vue magnifique sur une cascade de toits Haussmanniens. Si j’étais physiquement présent dans la salle de classe, mon esprit, en revanche vagabondait à l’extérieur, survolant les toits tel Peter Pan, tandis que ma main griffonnait incessamment dans la marge de mon cahier de Latin.

Depuis, j’ai gardé une passion secrète pour ces toits en zinc gris, si typiques surtout lorsqu’en hiver la neige vient les mettre en valeur.

Mais n’essayez pas de retrouver ce point de vue : il est imaginaire, un patchwork d’éléments piochés ici et là, pour tenter de composer une vue rêvée de Paris.