Thursday, 6 July 2017

Celebrating Luxembourg's industrial past at the Fête des Hauts Fourneaux

For this month's sketchcrawl we decided to head to Belval again, in the South of the country. The site of the old blast furnace was open to visitors for their annual "Fête des Hauts Fourneaux".

I always find this location very impressive, but seeing it come alive with activities and music made it all the more interesting.

Inside the blast furnace, a group of men were demonstrating how it used to work on a miniature model. Their protective gear with their silver outfits, thick gloves and big helmets reminded me of a sci-fi movie.

It was very impressive to see molten metal come out of the pipe at regular intervals, reminding everyone that the protective gear was indeed essential for this task.

It's hard to believe that Luxembourg's economy once rested entirely on metallurgy. Witnessing such demonstrations is essential not to forget that past.

After a while, due to the wet and slightly cold atmosphere outside, some of us found refuge at a neighbouring café for a pleasant session of drinking, drawing and chatting.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Luxembourg celebrates its national holiday on the 23rd June. It's the date when we officially celebrate the Grand-Duke's birthday (though his actual birthday is on a different date).

However, the evening of the 22nd is when the actual partying takes place. The city is alive with concerts at every corner, there is a parade and big fireworks. It's the occasion to witness the city in a way you never see it the rest of the year.

That day I left work early, hoping to take advantage of the warm weather to do some sketching. Unfortunately the weather was too good. Not something I say very often here, lol. The intense heat was too much to bear and I only managed to do a couple of quick sketches.

This one shows the view on Place d'Armes as seen through the columns of the Cercle Cité.

The second shows one of the trucks selling drinks that were starting to pop up on the main squares. 

Hopefully next year I will be more productive.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Farm in the city

One fine Saturday in spring, I stumbled across horse-drawn carriages in the middle of the streets of the capital. Luxembourg is not like some cities where you can find this type of transportation mainly for the benefit of tourists, so my surprise was complete.

Until I remembered that part of the city had been taken over by farmers that weekend for an event they called Bauerenhaff an der Stad (farm in the city), the perfect occasion to whip out sketchbook and pen for a few quick sketches before heading to an appointment. 

The event was taking place under the watchful eye of the Gëlle Fra (golden lady), and gathered farmers and cooperatives from all over the country who were there to show their work and products to consumers and city folk in particular.
The children's response was enthusiastic to say the least and in some cases I wondered if it was their first time seeing real life animals. 

The cows were a big hit and many children were trying to feed them, but I guessed that they had already gotten enough hay from previous little hands.

I heard many amusing comments around me and a lot of questions to which parents didn't necessarily have answers (neither did I for that matter).

"Look! That goose is taking a bath!"

"What are these rabbits called?" - "Those are bunnies, not rabbits."

It must be a real treat for farmers to see such positive reactions. All in all, it looked like this first edition was a pretty successful event, which I hope will be repeated in the future. How else can a city dweller like me get to sketch a few animals?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Between Metz and Paris

After last week's international sketchcrawl weekend, I was not sure many local sketchers would be interested in participating to the usual monthly outing.

However, we ended up being a group of five hardcore sketchers to explore the area between Place de Metz and Place de Paris through our drawings.

Explore might be a big word. After sketching at the Rousegärtchen on one of the very convenient benches, the grey weather and looming rain chased us to a bar nearby.


The Paname, the unofficial name Parisians give to the French capital, is very aptly named, as it is located on Place de Paris. A trendy and cozy place, many people were enjoying their Sunday afternoon there. Plus a handful of curious sketchers.

Friday, 5 May 2017

USk Luxembourg's 1st international sketchcrawl - Day 2

Sunday felt much more relaxed. Maybe it was because we had nothing to take care of, except being at one or two meeting points in time.

When I arrived at the morning gathering point at Abbaye Neumünster there were already a few people busy at work. No need for any kind of speech or explanations, people just started sketching away as they arrived and I just joined the fun. 

The place was made even more interesting by the fact that there were preparations for Labour Day and the Urban Trail was happening at the same time. I know some of the sketchers tried to draw the runners passing us by, but I was more focused on our own event. How could I miss a chance to sketch Lolo sitting on the ground, sketching the beautiful abbey?

 I also had time to have a proper lunch this time, with my friend Tessy, Julien, Isabelle and Angel, a sketcher who had come all the way from the UK to sketch with us! 

Oscar's has some of the best burgers in town and a very sketchable interior decoration. What else could we need?

My last sketch, and one of the highlights of the weekend, is a portrait of Rolf Schöter, one of my favourite sketchers. I really admire his style, so watching him sketch and get some tips from him was a really great experience.

The whole weekend I kept marveling at the fact that so many people came, some from quite far away. And seeing sketchers again that I had met before at other USk events in my own city felt amazing!

It was such a thrill to see that people were happy and loved the city. We were even asked to make it an annual event. I say: "Why not?" It's well worth the effort after all.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

USk Luxembourg's 1st international sketchcrawl - Day 1

Our regional group of Urban Sketchers has been very busy this past month, preparing for our first international sketchcrawl taking place on 29th and 30th April.

This last weekend we hosted around 100 sketchers, both locals and from neighbouring countries. We even had a guest who came all the way from Norway to participate in our event!

Saturday I had to find a balance between looking out for people, a short interview for the local news network, answering phone calls and sketching throughout the weekend. I have to admit that I did a lot of running around that day, including a quick stop at the Duck Race that was taking place in the Patrusse valley with a few sketchers.

Many families had gathered to see 16,000 plastic ducks being dumped in the water and "race" for charity. Unfortunately there was a shortage of water, so it was less spectacular than I expected, and there were so many people that I didn't get to see much racing. I was told the view from on top of the bridge was better though, so I might try that instead next year.

Coming back up for air, in a way, I settled with some of my fellow sketchers near the Musée Nationale d'Histoire et d'Art. Much more relaxing after the big crowds around the Duck Race.

In the evening we headed for Rives de Clausen, where we would take the traditional group photo and have dinner.

The whole day couldn't have been better. Between the wonderful weather and the amazing participants, I had a lot of fun and looked forward to spending a lovely Sunday in good company again.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Somewhere between up and downtown

Every now and then, when the weather is nice and I can enjoy a walk around the city's ledge I can't help thinking how beautiful this little city is.

Following the different trails around the city you can find hundreds of picturesque sights and spots to sketch, between the remains of the ancient fortress and the beautiful valley underneath, you would be hard-pressed not to stop and enjoy the view.

Take these two sketches, for example. These locations are literally about 50 meters apart.

Right under the Bock to the left, overlooking Abbaye Neumünster to the right

Arriving at the "Austrian gate", beside the Bock

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Where is the bridge?!

We have had a couple of really sunny weeks lately, enticing me to take sketchbook, pen and watercolours out and explore the city. The reopening of the Adolphe bridge was the perfect occasion. It is one of my favourite places in the city and boasts one of the prettiest views over the "ville haute".

The bridge, also called Nei Bréck (new bridge) by the locals, is one of the most iconic monuments in the city and had been closed off for renovations and improvements for the future tram to run through.

I was decidedly a bit naïve in my eagerness to sketch the bridge, for when I arrived it was still covered by the scaffolding... No sketching my favourite bridge today! So instead I sat down in the middle of the temporary bridge next to it, looking back at the building of the state bank, another iconic building. It is where the original headquarters of the European Coal and Steel Community were, the forebearer of the European Union.

This view, with traces of the working site soon to be removed gave me a sense of documenting another, far smaller, moment in history.

However, the day was decidedly windy and I was soon covered in gravel and sand, so I stubbornly finished my sketch as fast as I could and moved on to a more secluded location between the trees, from where I could make a quick sketch of the tower.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Between the city and the countryside

It was a very busy weekend for Urban Sketchers Luxembourg, with not one but two sketchcrawls.

On Saturday, we attended the guided tour organised with Musee Dräi Eechelen and LUCA around the Adolphe bridge, or "Nei Bréck" (new bridge), as the locals call it. The bridge had been closed for renovations and to adapt the infrastructure for the future tram. It is great to have it back!

The tour was guided by Prof. Robert Philippart, who is a real expert on Luxembourg's history. While I wasn't able to hear all the information he provided (there was a big group of people and I was focused on my sketching), I did hear a few interesting tidbits, like for example the fact that the bridge's decorations were designed by craft workers as a way to promote their know-how, and not by artists or architects as is usually the case.

I have to admit that I was more interested in sketching our tour guide and group than the surroundings, particularly given the fact that the bridge is still covered with scaffolding.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for our sketching group among the crowd. Our guide was happy with the experience as well. Hopefully we will be able to repeat it in the future.

On Sunday we had our monthly outing, this time far from the crowds of the capital, in Grevenmacher, at the border with Germany.

It couldn't have been a more different sketchcrawl with wonderful weather and sedate Sunday pace.

It was very pleasant to sketch in the sun, observing the families enjoying their Sunday afternoon. A group of children popped by to see what I was doing, asking me where they were on my sketch.

The afternoon ended - how else? - around drinks on a terrace. Five ladies sketching and enjoying each other's company.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Pa pa! papapapaaaaa!

A few months ago I had the opportunity to attend a concert rehearsal at the Philharmonie. The philharmonic hall elaborated by Christian de Portzamparc is one of my favourite concert venues in Luxembourg. While I unfortunately did not have time to sketch the beautiful building during the guided tour we had, I was able to get a couple of sketches done during the rehearsal itself.

Besides a couple of other guided tour groups, there was one man sitting in front of me who seemed to be following the music along on a music score. Although I can read notes, I would be stumped if I had to read the score of a whole orchestra! I wondered if he was a music critic.

I don't remember the name of the piece, but it was a more modern composition, difficult to follow. The full experience involved the use of instruments among the audience, which allowed me to see one of them up close.

We were sitting too far from the stage for me to sketch the musicians, but I was able to catch the conductor's dramatic poses as well as some of his (to me) cryptic comments to the orchestra.

I can't say that it was a piece I would have paid money to listen to, it was not harmonious enough, but it was indeed a very interesting rehearsal to witness. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Rainy afternoon at the Rotondes

At the last sketchcrawl with the USK Luxembourg, we met at the Rotondes in Bonnevoie. This location was first used keeping steam locomotives and their maintenance. Later it worked as a repair shop for buses.

Toward the end of the 20th century, they were added to the list of classified monuments and renovated to be used as exhibition spaces. Today, they host concerts, exhibitions, a pub and a variety of cultural events.

We met in the afternoon as usual and were joined by Jonathan, a fellow urban sketcher from the UK who was visiting the city that weekend. Unfortunately it had to be one of the wettest days of the year so far. We jokingly commented to Jonathan that it was probably not a big change from the weather at home.

Our group split between those who wanted to stay in dry space and those crazy enough to try to sketch on the roofed overpass between the Rotondes and the Luxembourg train station. I joined the second group.

It would have been a perfect location despite the rain, had it not been for the strong wind pushing water through some of the openings in the overpass. In spite of those conditions, I was pretty proud to manage a decent sketch.

However, after a while we all had to concede to the weather and headed inside to the Rotonde's pub, the Buvette, for a cosy session of hot drinks and sketching.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Celebrating diversity at the Festival des Migrations

Luxembourg celebrates its diversity in many ways throughout the year, but the one event where it is the most obvious is the Festival des Migrations.

The festival is organized by a non-profit organization and has grown so much over the years that it now takes place at the Luxexpo, a huge hall that must have been a warehouse in the past.

It is the occasion for smaller non-profit organizations whose aim is to share their culture and promote diversity and citizenship to show their activities and glimpses of their traditions.

Over three days people are treated to free concerts and demonstrations and have the possibility to try a variety of food from all over the world.

I spent an afternoon there sketching with a friend. The most difficult task was to choose a subject and find a place where we wouldn't be shoved by people from all sides.

I was particularly attracted by the colourful and lively African stands. Many were selling handicrafts like decorations, handbags, clothes and jewellery. Impossible to resist! 

There was a surprise at almost every corner, like this Ethiopian stand serving Ethiopian coffee prepared in what I assume is the traditional way. It was the strongest coffee I had ever tasted, but also one of the best I had ever tasted.

The lady serving it was extremely graceful, pouring the beverage in small cups in exactly the same movement over and over again.

Sitting on small stools at yellow and red tables, it was impossible to resist sketching the beautiful coffee setup.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Art and antiques in a hall

In February, we went to the Luxexpo with Urban Sketchers Luxembourg. We had the choice between the Antiques Fair and a Wine Salon. I wasn't surprised that everyone in the group chose to explore the Antiques Fair.

The organizers kindly let us enter for free when they hears that we were enthusiastic amateur artists.

While waiting for a couple of latecomers, I sketched a stand exhibiting a few frames. There was not much movement there, most people went straight for the antiquities and artworks displayed inside the hall.

The Luxexpo is a huge hall whose size can be adapted to fit the needs of the different fairs, exhibitions and festivals taking place there. I found the contrast between the venue and what it was exhibiting quite interesting.

While I was making the sketch above, a group of Germans blocked the view, so instead of getting annoyed about that I decided to sketch them as fast as possible.

There were so many interesting objects and artworks on display! It was difficult to choose what to sketch first. This display of old toys was a no-brainer, though. It really felt like I was in a small antiques shop somewhere and not in a huge hall.

The day ended with a coffee at one of the temporary bars. All in all, it was a great venue to spend a cold winter afternoon in good company.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sketching with the USK Netherlands

The Urban Sketchers Netherlands organised a sketchcrawl in Maastricht last December. Since the city is about 2 hours away by car, some of us sketchers from Luxembourg decided to go and join them for the day.

I arrived just in the nick of time for a workshop help by René Fijten. The idea of the workshop was to document a place going from the general feeling to a detail. René is a great teacher and he was kind enough to translate everything for the non Dutch speakers so we could all benefit from the exercise as much as possible.

For the first exercise, René asked us to sketch the general view of our meeting place, describe it as we saw it. Was it a busy place? a small location? etc.

Then we stopped at a passage. Again: what were our impressions?

We then had to choose one of the facades that were more interesting to us and document it.

And finally, finish with a small detail.

I found this approach very interesting and a good exercise to keep in mind when sketching outside. I think it would make for a very interesting composition on a big double page, for example.

After the workshop, and after lunch, I joined other sketchers at the bookstore Dominicanen, an old church re-purposed as a library and a gorgeous place.

There were tons of great spots to sketch in there, but I decided to challenge myself with a birds-eye view over the hundreds of clients on the lower floor.

It was such an interesting viewpoint that I did a second sketch, this time focusing only on the people. So much can be said about a place merely through the body language of the people there!

Only too soon it was time to share all the sketches and for the group photo. The USK Netherlands made a great little clip documenting the sketchcrawl.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Just wondering...

I like to sketch random people from photos found online. It's a great exercise and, since they are total strangers, less pressure to make a good drawing.

Old mugshots are particularly interesting. For one, I love how different people looked in the past. Their hairdos and clothes particularly. Some of the men even look positively dapper.

Sketching these faces always makes me wonder what their lives looked like and why they were arrested.