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The last time I posted on this blog I was thinking of Italy's plight, but now we're all in this together. I hope you are all well, that you're staying home and staying safe, taking care of yourselves, and being mindful of the welfare of others at this strange time. I want to share the daily routine I began a few weeks ago, 'StayHome-Sketch-a-Day, where every morning I post a fresh drawing on Instagram and Facebook.
Here's the first one, prompted by a Sunday morning and the thought that now we would have to learn from our cats, Toby and Rembrandt, to be good indoor creatures. We would get more sleep, eat regular meals, take breaks when needed, and be content to sit quietly and let the world go by outside the door.
As time has gone by, I've tried to focus on the blessings of this confinement, because I certainly have a great many - a place to work at home (though I miss my studio and the people at the BOK building) and a pocket city garden with sunshine and fresh air. Enforced leisure and daily drawing has given me space and reason to zero in on the details, the things that truly 'spark joy' in my life.
We're lucky too, to live in a city and a neighborhood with lots of good food and creative ways to stock the cupboard while also supporting restaurants and small businesses that need to keep going. We miss being there in person, but this won't last forever, and in the meantime we're eating a lot of good bread (especially) and are doing some unusually ambitious cooking of our own.
It's only been a month, but we had one life-changing experience when our sweet, charming cat Toby, took a sudden turn for the worse and we had to let him go. He was 17 years old but always had the heart of a kitten. Rembrandt (at right), also 17, shy and insecure, is still, to date, going strong - he's sticking close to me these days. In the background of his picture you can see some of my Philadelphia scenes on the wall.
If you're already following, thanks for the nice comments and for your support. My daily sketches are posted at @macgregorartdesigns on Instagram and on Facebook at MacGregorArt.
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Two years ago I was in busy Rome, wandering the lively picturesque streets, filling my sketchbook, enjoying the bustle of outdoor cafes and crowded piazzas. Today, when we are all holed up in our houses trying to keep the Covid-19 pandemic from overwhelming the world, that freedom seems long ago and far away. Beautiful, unique, magnificent Italy overnight has became a cautionary tale: we've seen the populace retreat indoors as the numbers of cases and deaths mount to frightening levels, leaving the streets empty. Much of the rest of the world has now followed suit to prevent a similar scenario, but Italy has given us another kind of model, one of spirit and togetherness in the face of grave adversity, when music and singing began erupting on balconies all over the country.
In tribute to the brave people of Italy and their beautiful country, here's a new scene from one of my Rome drawings. The location is the Campo de Fiori, a popular morning market between the Piazza Navona and the Tiber River, where you'll find meats, cheeses, flowers, good spices, and lots of nearby cafes and small restaurants.
For me this scene has a good sense of the Italian embrace of life, with the sunny yellows of the buildings, some richer and more elegant than others, ringing the piazza in a warm hug as people go about their business. I picture all these windows opening to share waves, greetings, and music in this period of enforced isolation.
Creating the scene, I saved the market til last, loving the fun of filling in colors, bringing the street life into being. I hope this brings back your memories of sunny, colorful Italy, and inspires you with the Italian joy in life.
PS - the statue in the middle of the Campo de Fiori is of Giordano Bruno, a philosopher who was burnt alive for heresy on the spot in 1600. Grim, but he has been regarded as a symbol of freedom of thought - another inspiration.
Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!
Everybody loves French markets - all that color, fresh bright produce and flowers, gorgeous cheeses and breads, fresh meats and melt in your mouth chickens - how could you not? Paris markets sometimes seemed curated by some superstar food stylist, but that's just the way they are. Most Paris neighborhoods have markets three times a week but there are several daily markets, including this favorite in the 12th arr., the Marche d'Aligre. Especially famous for it's cultural mix and down-to-earth atmosphere, it is a sensory overload dream.
I visited on a busy Sunday morning (when there is also a brocante - flea market), walked through reveling in the sights, smells and sounds, snagged a perfectly placed table, ordered a cafe, and did my sketch. (rare good luck - chairs in the right place are hard to find.) The cafe was right across from the flower seller, so what serendipity to be able to feature that bounteous display!
The backdrop of Paris's creamy buildings, here in a working class neighborhood of simple apartment houses, provides a nice contrast to the riotous color and abundance of the market.
I've included several stages of my scene, beginning with the original ink drawing in my sketchbook. I worked my way through this fairly complicated scene by staging the background with neutral colors first, then having the fun of free-hand painting the market stalls and people. My color process is digital, but it is truly painting - all freehand, with an unlimited range of colors and tones.
This scene will join my International Series of prints soon at www.macgregor-art and my other sites, and should also be available before long at Slow Galerie in Paris, where prints of my Paris scenes are sold.
Let me know what you think!
If you'd like to know more about the market, here's David Lebovitz on the Marche d'Aligre https://www.davidlebovitz.com/marche-daligre-aligre-outdoor-market-paris/
When I'm not at home in Philadelphia I'm often in a lovely town in the Loire Valley in the center of France. The region is rich with natural beauty and history, all centered around the great Loire river, the longest river in France. But France has many rivers, and nearby is the Vienne, where the fascinating town of Chinon stretches along the banks and then climbs a steep hill to the great fortress castle on the heights.
Finished scene: Chinon: River, Town, Castle
The drawing for this scene was done across the river looking back at the panorama of the town with the castle. It shows the bridge and guardhouse leading to the castle buildings (a 2nd sketch continues the line of the castle and may be completed at some point.)
I wanted to convey the majesty of the 'forteresse' (distinguished from a 'chateau' by its serious defensive history) looming above the long undulation of white stone houses of the riverside town. In my work I seek a balance of several factors: the spontaneity and light touch of my sketch, the truth of color and place, and a sense of the particular site at a given moment. I'm happy with the pattern of this scene: the bands of color marking river, grassy bank, houses, green hillside, fortress, and sky.
Chinon, a familiar name in the wine world, is also one of those places where time can seem to stand still. On the windswept hilltop, surrounded by very old stones and with the French countryside stretching out for miles, it might be any moment in a 1000 year history, but one date stands out. In early 1429, during the Hundred Year's War, Joan of Arc marched into Chinon and confronted the French Dauphin, the uncrowned heir to the throne. She gained his confidence, then led him through a series of obstacles to be crowned in Reims, thus turning the tide of the war and giving France back to the French. The room where it happened is (almost) still there - three walls are gone, but one with a great fireplace remains, marked by a plaque to note the importance of the site.
I've included the original sketch, a photo of the meeting room, 2 images of the scene in progress, and the finished scene. I'd love to know what you think!
I've always liked the color gray. My latest finished scene, a view of St Malo in Brittany, France, is a study in grays, like the place itself, especially in winter. If you like gray, St Malo is a great place to be. The buildings of local stone are a testament to the power of gray, the weather is moody and often damp, the walls of the old city are high and strong, limiting daylight in the narrow streets. In winter twilight comes early and the sun makes a late appearance.
I clearly have enough northern blood to feel at home with the gray weather and the moody atmosphere, because I find St Malo to be magical. Before going this time I reread the novel, All the Light We Cannot See, which is set there amid the terrible human grayness of World War II when lives - in this case, those of 2 young children - were torn apart by the idiocy of war. St Malo was heavily bombed by American forces as part of the late push to rid Europe of the Nazis. Very little was left standing, but in a supreme act of human will and courage, the old city was rebuilt, stone by gray stone.
My scene, drawn from the ramparts, shows the wall of the old city that bravely fronts the harbor, daring the winds, the sea, and the weather to make a dent in its busy prosperous facade. For centuries St Malo was a rich treasure of a town, home to daring privateers with a thirst for wealth and adventure. Statues of the most famous of these pirates figure prominently around the city. Down below, rows of shop signs and awnings tell a story of simpler lives then and now.
Gray gets overlooked, shunted aside as a default, a watered down idea of something stronger and more forceful: a cup of tea instead of a hearty ale. But really it's a philosopher's color - subtle, always slightly on the edge of where you think it might be, a bit cool, a bit warm, a bit elusive.
Here are several stages in my scene, from the raw sketch through the process of adding a wide range of color and value, until the final moment when I clean it all up and add my signature.
It doesn't show in this scene, but one of the gifts of gray northern weather is that it can suddenly disappear, swept away by the wind. A day that started out with pouring rain became, in a few marvelous moments, glorious and golden, a thing to behold.
Artist/Designer/Illustrator - Drawing is my way to see and think about life in all its dimensions, color, meanings, and pleasures