Follow the ICAA daily from October 7-14 as we study the classical architecture, interiors, and landscapes of Paris through observational drawing and painting. Based on the ICAA’s annual Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour, the Paris program is led by prominent architect Kahlil Hamady and designer Leslie-jon Vickory, alongside renowned watercolorists, Bernd Dams and Andrew Zega. Daily blog posts are provided courtesy of ICAA staff and participants of the program.
October 14th, by Connor Moran: On Saturday, the final day of the tour, the group was given time to practice sketching techniques learned throughout the week in a location of their choice. I used this free day to climb Montmartre and study the tower of Sacré Cœur. Making my way up the western side of the hill, I ran into the Montmartre Harvest Festival parade. Musicians, performers, and tourists crowded the winding, narrow streets of painter’s shops and artist’s residences, ideally setting the tone for a spirited drawing.
I finished the climb and posted up at a bustling cafe on Rue du Chevalier de la Barre with a perfectly framed view of Sacré Cœur’s towering northern spire. Here I worked on capturing the scene for almost two hours before packing up and heading back towards the Zega & Dams atelier for the tour’s farewell dinner.
Once at the atelier, the tour’s participants exhibited their sketches and renderings completed over the course of the week, highlighting the lessons that impacted them most and receiving comments from the instructors and colleagues. The review was followed by an incredible home-cooked French meal and words from our instructors, bringing the tour to an inspiring close.
October 13th, by Elaine Rose: On Friday, the group met in the neighborhood of the Panthèon to commence a day of library tours. We visited and sketched three sites – Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and Bibliothèque Mazarine.
The first site was Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève: following a tour led by Mme. de La Mure the Bibliothèque’s archivist, before opening hours, we viewed architect Henri Labrouste’s original drawings, a collection that includes preliminary design sketches, furniture drawings, and final watercolors.
The next few hours were spent sketching the soaring reading room which we gained access to with our newly minted library cards.
Our second trip was to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where we saw additional spaces designed by Labrouste. The reading room was an incredible, skylit space populated with elegant iron columns supporting a nine-square of sail vaults.
We ended the day with a tour of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, located within the Palais de l’Institut de France. A complex sequence of spaces culminated with an ascent up an oval staircase to a private reading room. Many students drew measured plans to decipher the progression of spaces there.
October 12th, by Geoffrey Barnes: Outside of Paris is a foundation dedicated to traditional craft and artistry as well as to the value and importance of honest labor. Established in the 1950s with the generosity of Yvonne de Coubertin and the collaboration of the director, Jean Bernard, The Fondation de Coubertin educates the next generation of artisans and experts in traditional craft. It takes great advantage of the Coubertin grounds and Chateau, with thoroughly modern workshops and sculpture gardens alongside centuries-old buildings and reference material.
On a clear, early fall day we arrived and walked the drive to the Chateau. After a breather and some coffee, we began the tour, which would include visits to the various ateliers and lunch with the artisans. We were able to visit with stone masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, and gilders, who were working on contemporary jobs in addition to prestigious cultural restorations such as the Louvre and Versailles. Each of them impressed the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of craftwork, not just in textbooks and videos, but in the real act of doing. They shared their drawings and sketches and demonstrated techniques for creating beautiful, lasting works of art.
M. Serge Pascal, who is receiving a Medal of Honor for his work, showed us how he takes a flat millimeter-thick piece of iron and transforms it into a piece of foliage with curves in all directions, a technique called repoussé, which no computer or CNC machine could recreate. He told us how his anvil and hammer were his musical instrument and he pinged out clear notes while deftly shaping metal. Monsieur Remy showed us a wrought-iron bannister whose panels were so complex that he produced a 1 to 1 hand-drawn template, as often happens at the Fondation.
Apprentices from all over France come to the fondation as part their tour of compagnonnage. Their education, in addition to their craft, also includes philosophy, language and liberal arts coursework. They live and work at the fondation to practice and advance their connaissance, or “know-how” that the Fondation represents. The Chateau houses their reference library, with one of the earliest French translations of Vitruvius.
This transmission and preservation of knowledge, with respect for those who came before, and hope for those to come, are the hallmarks of the compagnonnage and it allows them to produce works of cultural importance and beauty that far exceed the sum of their parts.
October 11th, by Madison Head: Wednesday was dedicated entirely to studio watercolor sessions. Twelve seats spread between two tables and a fresh pot of hot coffee greeted us at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams in the morning along with a prepared drawing of a partial elevation, plan, and section of the south elevation of the Petit Trianon, stretched and stapled on watercolor board, courtesy of Kahlil and Leslie-jon. I was seated amongst professionals from LA, Rhode Island, and Chicago — this group could not be more fun and interesting!
With Andrew at the helm, we learned step-by-step how to prepare our drawings for the base washes and execute color variations in stone. After a baguette sandwich and a quick jaunt to the famous Berthillon ice cream parlor over lunch, we returned to studio to apply shadows, render columns and carefully draw and paint in the color of our window panes, the last step in a watercolor rendering. Andrew also shared some exclusive tips on rendering the natural wear and soot of a building.
Time flew! At the end of the day, we walked away with a partially completed watercolor of the exterior elevation of the Petit Trianon — a clean print with details of a mantle to complete in our own time, and, most importantly, the invaluable know-how and confidence to take on another watercolor of another building in another city.
October 10th, by Maggie Jones: Today we went to visit the Petit Trianon which is located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. This was truly a one of a kind experience as we had the whole grounds to ourselves and could wander about freely and even go into areas that are typically closed to the public including the Pavillon Français, Théâtre de la Reine, and the Belvédère.
Besides learning about the history of the place, we were also there to study its architectural details and specifically the South facade, which we will later render with watercolors.
I chose to do a value study of the façade. This entails a quick ink sketch of the elevation with some quick washes over that. This helps me to understand not just the building, but also the light and shadows that cover the façade; elements that will be truly important when beginning our final rendering. I also drew a few details around the grounds to help me gain more knowledge about what kind of a space this was as a whole.
Overall this was an incredible day that I will never forget! I look forward to taking my studies and using them to develop a more detailed rendering of the beautiful Petit Trianon.
October 9th, by Isabella DeBenedetti: Monday morning we met at Place de Vosges for a series of drawings. We spent the entire morning studying the building through quick, loose ink drawings, laying on watercolor to study shadows, and completing a few measured drawings. These three methods I found very helpful for quick sketching.
After lunch we reconvened at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams for an introduction and practice in architectural watercolor rendering. Andrew Zega led us through a step-by-step instruction of how to cache, create precise lines, and mix colors for shadow, reflected light, and many different surfaces on our test building. The difference in techniques between the morning’s plein-air drawing session and the studio session was valuable to see and experience.
In the evening we were warmly received at Atelier Rinck for a cocktail reception. I was fascinated by the level of dedication to craftsmanship and in awe of the incredible pieces they had on display. It was truly amazing to see some of the work they do and hear about some of their current projects.
October 7th and 8th, by Alexa Marshall: Over the weekend, the ICAA’s Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour group began their studies, meeting for the first time on Saturday evening at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams. The many young professionals in the group, from firms including Ferguson & Shamamian Architects and Peter Pennoyer Architects, mingled with undergraduate students from Benedictine College and other established professionals with backgrounds in academia, landscape design, and more.
The group attended orientation presentations from all four instructors, including Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory from the ICAA’s New England Chapter in Boston and Paris residents and watercolorists Bernd Dams and Andrew Zega. Everyone enjoyed a toast and more time for introductions before heading out to a welcome dinner at Café Marly. The restaurant seated the group in a room that overlooked the Musée du Louvre’s French sculpture court, giving participants a preview of the sculptures they would be drawing the following afternoon.
The next morning, the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams continued their presentation with a more in depth orientation of their watercolor expertise before going to lunch. After the break, students returned to the studio for a quick intro to sketching and wash with Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory. From there the group migrated to the Louvre, settling into the french sculpture court for figure sketching.
The group remained until the museum closed, capturing details of a sculpture selected by Instructor Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory.