Paris is a dream city for artistic types. There are the countless museums of all kinds, of course, but the city itself is also art, a vision worthy of capturing in a gilded frame.
The beauty of Paris has long inspired artists, and even though the days of, say, Impressionism are long gone, the city remains an exhilarating place for the creatively minded.
Paris lover Anthony Tambourini is currently sketching his way through a series of illustrations of the City of Light’s monuments, restaurants and cafés, which he plans to ultimately gather into a book. If you too love the idea of drawing your way around Paris, read on for Anthony’s advice on how to lure out your inner artiste…
Let’s start with the all-important tools … Can you tell us what we’d find in your Parisian artist kit?
“I tend to use individual sheets of A4 Daler Rowney paper carried in an A4 zipped document holder with a clip.
And I generally use Uni Pin & Staedtler fine line pigment pens, ranging from sizes 0.1 to 0.8mm.
I also use a 15-centimetre ruler that belonged to my son when he was little. I’m sentimental like that.
Sometimes I opt for a pencil for the rough idea of a chosen subject, for making notes. I’ll also take photos at this stage. Once home I get more intricate with said pens/ruler for details and effect.”
You draw in black and white — is this because Paris is such a monochrome city?
“It was more an evolution from rough original sketches, of making notes of details. I think black and white encapsulates the finer details in ways that colour misses sometimes.”
What is it about Paris that you most love to draw?
“I have an interest in all Haussmannian-style buildings — such beautiful lines! A lot of thought went into this transformation of the city landscape. The craftsmanship and elegance of the architecture fascinate me.
Monuments ranging from Sacré-Coeur (which was one of my first Paris landmark drawings) to the Eiffel Tower, to the bridges over the Seine … There are so many to mention.”
Which Parisian eateries are your favourite subjects?
“I find it quite easy to draw Parisian cafés and restaurants. I like the way such a drawing transports the viewer back there, evoking memories. Some of my favourites are Brasserie Vaudeville, Le Café Marly and Le Petit Châtelet (39, Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005; above).
I currently have La Tour d’Argent (above) on my drawing board. I’m doing a series on this fabled restaurant, as it has a fascinating facade.”
Sketching for hours while en terrasse is the dream for many — do you have a preferred café for this?
“Paris has, as everyone knows, a vast abundance of cafés where you can read, study and draw. Le Café Marly is relaxing. Le Nemours (above) also — the staff here are always kind and let me spend hours sketching.”
What about sketching en plein air — do you have any favourite public spots?
“Yes, a street bench or a step can be just as good, and I can work while everyone around is getting on with their lives. I find Place des Vosges a tranquil place to draw — I always try to visit on my first day back in Paris. And I also have a soft spot for the Jardins des Tuileries. As busy as they can be, I feel like I’m at the heart of the city when here. The green Tuileries chairs, which are dotted all over the park, can be comfortable for sketching.”
Many aspiring artists set up their easels or whip out their sketchpads in the rooms and gardens of the city’s museums. Do you have an ultimate museum for this?
“Musée Rodin is a favourite of mine, as I feel enthralled being so close to such beauty — it’s hard not to feel inspired here.”
Where in Paris do you shop for art supplies?
“Even when I don’t require anything, I visit Magasin Sennelier (3 Quai Voltaire 75006, by the Pont du Carrousel). Equally good is Lavrut (52, Passage Choiseul 75002). It’s always a delight to visit both — they’re Aladdin’s caves of art materials.”
Do you have any favourite books that have inspired you, and that you can recommend?
“Since my youth I’ve collected Paris books — novels, historical, political … I treasure my art books. My favourites, in no particular order, are: David Gentleman’s Paris, Paris Sketchbook by Jason Brooks, Paris Buildings and Monuments by Michel Poisson, and My Paris Sketchbook by Alain Bouldouyre.”
What advice do you have for someone who has never really tried their hand at illustration, but wants to give it a go the next time they’re in Paris?
“I suggest you walk around a lot, look up, stop frequently, and take in the surroundings. No matter what level you’re at, Paris brings creativity and artistry out of you. And above all, don’t be afraid to try.
Also, if someone says, ‘Paris has been done a million times,’ my answer to this is: ‘Yes, but not by you.’”
P.S. THREE MORE BUYS FOR FUTURE PARIS SKETCHERS …
- Conté à Paris Drawing Set. A dozen graphite pencils in a chic tin you’ll want to keep.
- How to Read Paris by Chris Rogers. A crash course in the appreciation of Parisian architectural details.
- Moleskine Art Sketch Album. Your sleekest accessory for your next doodle session at Café de Flore.