The sudden storm from the night before turned into a steady shower through the night and all morning in Lille. I don’t mind, I like the rain, and the day before had been very sunny. On rainy days when travelling with a sketchbook you do have to be creative, and open to the fact that maybe you will need to sketch inside a lot more, or just have a different experience. I live in Davis California nowadays, so rain is a proper novelty. That said, I went out for breakfast pastries in the morning, and I just had to try and sketch the bakery. Paul is a chain, but the bakery still looked like a good sketch. However there was very little shelter across the street, so I stood back to the wall holding my sketchbook upright and drew what I could, adding in some colour when I got back to the dry hotel room to eat my pain au chocolat. Oh man, French pastries for breakfast is still my favourite thing to wake up. Although on our second trip to France in July, I could tell my wife was getting a bit bored of them. I particularly like the pain au chocolate aux amandes, the one with almonds in it, it’s delicious. Big fan of an escargot as well (the sticky raisin-filled pastry shaped like a snail’s shell).
As I say, you have to be creative as a sketcher when it rains, and you also have to seize the best spots before they are taken. Here at the back side of the Notre Dame de la Treille cathedral in the middle of Lille I found a shop on Rue de la Monnaie that was not open but still had its awnings out, with a good view down the alleyway leading to the bluish-grey hued church. It was raining steadily but not yet too hard, and generally people weren’t under umbrellas. Another French sketcher came and started sketching underneath the awning too; events like this are nice because there are so many sketchers around and they all say hello to each other, and you get to see other peoples’ styles. Some more passed by, evidently looking for a dry spot. Several French sketchers I had met were seeing Lille for the first time, like me, though I did speak to a local while drawing this as well, he was telling me about how he loves living in Lille. It’s a nice place (and in a great location, so easy to get to London…). Though as with everywhere else in this part of Europe, you get used to the rain. I spent a year in Belgium, I saw my fair share (it rained a lot more there than even in London).
Next up, I stopped at the interesting-looking Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse. While I didn’t go inside the museum itself (I’m here to sketch outside! Rain be damned!) it was interesting to walk around the courtyard and some of the grounds. There is a big purple ‘cosmic serpent’ sculpture as you go inside – two serpents, actually – but it was just too wet to really draw those. There was a small covered area in front of a corridor facing the courtyard, where about four or five sketchers had installed themselves on various little stools. There wasn’t much room, but I squeezed in out of the way, and held my sketchbook vertically to attempt to draw the clocktower. It looks like the two serpents are waiting for someone to come and let them in, or out. The rain was pouring down by this point. I listened to the other sketchers talking in French, they had some very nice art styles. Behind us there was a corridor leading to the Jardin Médicinale, and I could see someone drawing what looked like a little figure with a pumpkin for a head. The sketcher left, and I drew the corridor with pumpkin man at the end of it. He looked a bit dejected, poor pumpkin head. I walked down to the little garden, and it was full of similar figures with pumpkins and other such vegetables for heads. Very realistic little people they were, with believable poses, doing things like watering the plants, or climbing a ladder – I drew that guy quickly. They are called Minitos, and were made by Jean-François Fourtou. according to the Lille 3000 Utopia site, this project originated in “a tale that the artist recounted to his daughter about little characters who lived underground in their garden, digging labyrinths and growing things in the vegetable garden.” I enjoyed being around them. The rain kept on coming down though and I was getting hungry (though maybe not for pumpkin soup), so I went to look for lunch.