It stopped raining for a little while after lunch. After walking about the back streets of Lille in the steady drizzle to find a restaurant to sit down in and enjoy some ch’ti region food, with little success (most of the outdoor seating had closed up due to the rain, and places were generally full inside at lunchtime) I ended up eating at the cafe that was that day’s “hub” for the urban sketchers, near the Treille cathedral, and just had a fairly small snack. I ended up chatting with some German sketchers I bumped into, such as Basel-based Tine Klein who I had met at previous symposia, she paints dramatic watercolour sketches I really admire and was talking technique with her friend from Berlin. I didn’t see any of the other sketchers I know, I was planning to join them in the evening for the drink-n-draw (or rather “drink-n-look-at-amazing-sketchbooks”). So after lunch I went back to the hotel to dry off, and when I headed out again the rain had stopped. I headed towards the train station, Lille Flandres. I couldn’t remember if Lille Flandres was the French name for Ned’s wife, on the Simpsons. In the road leading up to the station, Rue Faidherbe, there are these big green sculptures, so I stood next to one and drew the Gare itself. It opened in 1842, known then as just ‘Gare de Lille’. I spent a lot of time in European train stations when I was younger. In the summer of 1998 I took a five week trip around Europe with a Eurail pass, carrying the big Thomas Cook Rail Timetable book with me, but I never passed through Lille Flandres. I love a train though. I got this far with the station and that was enough, because the rain was back.
I crossed the street and took shelter in the awnings of a closed cafe. The rain wasn’t heavy (yet), and I felt quite contented. As a resident of Davis California I don’t see much rain any more, so it’s still a thrill to get a downpour, even one that stops me sketching wherever I want (spoiler alert – it rained a lot more on this trip, I still made the best of it). I still had a decent view of the rear of the Eglise St. Maurice de Lille and I couldn’t resist all those triangular turrets. I plotted it out and started sketching, and then the heavens opened up. I’m assuming someone in the heavens left the bathroom taps on. The rain was the heaviest I had seen in a pretty long time, and it was getting hard to really see. It was also being driven in towards me, so I was still getting wet, though not as drenched as those dashing down the street. Well, I thought, no point in trying to draw in pen, so I gave up and went to the next page, and added a wash, before adding in what details I could with the paintbrush (below). Not the sort of thing I usually get to draw but I definitely enjoyed it, and it definitely reflects the mood of what I saw more than the line drawing. I left the original sketch as it was, that’s part of the story.
The day’s urban sketching exploration was over though, so I jumped from shelter to shelter and dashed to my hotel. I am glad I stayed in such a good central location. It wasn’t a fancy hotel, just a regular Ibis, but the room had a desk which is something I always look for in a hotel room, as a sketcher who sometimes has to finish stuff off.
In the early evening, I walked out to the citadel park, to a little bar where the Sunday night meeting of French urban sketchers was going to take place. There I met with people that I knew from sketching trips gone by, such as Sophie Navas, Vincent Desplanche, Mauro Doro and more, and enjoyed a beer and looked over some amazing sketchbooks. We then went on to meet with my Belgian sketching friends Gerard Michel, Fabien DeNoel and Arnaud De Meyer, as well as French sketchers Martine Kervagoret and Lolo Wagner, it was great to see them all again. There were some others who I did not know as well, and others whose art I was very familiar with such as Jean-Christophe Defline and Sylvain Cnudde, whose work I have been really loving for a number of years (his sketchbook is even more amazing in person, I tell you). We had a quick drink at a cafe, before many of us went off to find some dinner at a place big enough for an urban sketching evening. Aux Moules on Place Rihour was that place, we ate in the large room inside and the staff were very friendly. I did do some sketching on the paper placemat (as did others), and also drew a panorama. Sophie (who I had first met briefly at the Strasbourg USk France Rencontre in 2015, and who now lives in Strasbourg; her sketches are great and she also designs excellent posters) did ask if I minded that everyone spoke French (she knows my French is a bit rusty) but I said that I loved to listen, and that I did understand most of what was being said, but I probably couldn’t join in to speak as much! Vincent Desplanche had copies of his book of sketches from Japan to buy, I snapped that up.
My moules were great, the beer was nice and it was fun to meet up with old sketching friends (and listen to some French, if only occasionally speaking it!). It had been another long day, so I went off to bed and fell right asleep. Next day I would be off to Belgium for a few days of sketching and exploring.