Paris Sketchbook

paris-cafe-flore-sketchCoffee and the View at the Café de Flore

In June of this year I found myself in Paris, France on business and was able to stay an extra five glorious days for exploration and discovery. Here are a few pages from my sketchbook of that trip.

paris-fountain-stravinsky-sketch The Stravinsky Fountain at the Centre Pompidou, and the coffee I had while making the sketch


Rue Saint-Honoré @ Place A. Malraux
I was by myself which I didn’t mind a bit, and decided to wander each day with no particular plan or agenda. I just followed my nose as they say, and soaked it all in. I ended up not visiting a single site that required a ticket or a wait in line. I didn’t even go into any art museums (except for gift shops, of course!). I did a ton of walking, people watching, a bit of shopping and some fun sketching. Most of my sketching was done from sidewalk cafes with a café au lait or glass of French champagne for moral support. Very refined!
paris-notre-dame-sketch paris-notre-dame-sketch
Notre Dame Cathédrale, and the sketch right before rain forced me under a tree to add the watercolor.
paris-sennelier-sketch paris-siene-sketch
The Sennelier shop on Qaui Voltaire Across the Siene to the Louve

Paris is a visual feast and yes, beautiful. It’s a great place for just looking, a favorite pastime of mine. I got some great ideas from Eric Maisel’s A Writers Paris book which I highly recommend. It is not so much about writing as about setting time aside to pursue creative exploration and how a focused trip can facilitate that process. His ideas aligned very will with my intention for the trip so finding that book was a real bonus.

food-sketchesI Ate Well!

Earlier in my life the idea of being somewhere significant by myself (let alone Paris!) would have been horrifying. But now it was just what I needed and I had a wonderful time. I do promise to take my husband along next time though!

36 Responses to “Paris Sketchbook”

  1. mary ann miller Says:


    I’ve just finished my second rebinding effort with the help of your directions. Very clear and helpful! I did not use Moleskines but books the size I wanted that were in good shape from garage sales. I used the Fabriano Artistico paper you liked for the first time, and I love, love, love it! Thank you so much for sharing those instructions. I teach Travel Sketching and will be taking a group to Provence next June, so this isn’t the end of rebinding.

    If you are still a “sketchbook junkie,” please see my sketchbooks I have published on my website, You might like them.

    Are you still posting? I love looking at your sketches.

  2. Midge Says:

    I am going to Europe for the first time Oct. 2012 and want to sketch as I go. It’s a BD and Anniversary gift from my husband… what a guy…his gift is that he doesn’t have to go! Traveling with a girlfriend. I just found your site/blog and am so happy I have…my sketching skills are elementary but I’ll try my best.

  3. ksklein Says:

    Hi Martha,

    hope you are well. Long time no see! I was in Paris with my sister this August and loved it. Paris is always great. I´ll be going there again in December with my daughter.
    The huge golden flower pot in front of the Centre Pompidou was on the roof of the Museum when we arrived there.

    Take care,

  4. Lee Kline Says:

    I hope you are still doing your blog. There do not seem to be many responses lately. Are you there, still working, drawing?

    We travel to France often to see our daughter, son in law and granddaughter, and drawing is important to all of us. Our daughter is a muralist there and I am a retired graphic designer here. Our granddaughter has us all beat – draws all the time.

    Thanks so much. You may reply to the e-mail address. Otherwise I do not know where to find your reply to this comment.

  5. Mia Valdivieso Says:

    Amazing…You are so talented. This is a dream of mine to go to Paris to sketch. Thank you for sharing your wonderful work .

  6. theresia Says:

    I love your Paris sketches. I love Paris 🙂 Glad to find this blog

  7. mindi Says:

    Your sketches are magnificent!

  8. Cynthia Morris Says:

    The way you did Paris is one of my favorite ways to be there – alone and wandering as I please. It’s certainly a place with enough stimuli to do that and not be lonely.
    I love the photos that accompany the sketches you made.

  9. Mariela Constantinidis Says:

    I lived in Paris for seven years and I love it!
    Your sketches are fabulous and your blog as well!

  10. Trevor Says:

    Hello Martha, just found your Paris sketches. Very nicely done! I live in Paris and yes, nicely done indeed. I especially like your rendering of the Stravinsky fountain . If you happen through again sometime drop me a line … I could suggest a few other sites that aren’t quite as famous but very much worth the visit.

  11. Mattias Adolfsson Says:

    Wonderful sketches!

  12. martha Says:

    Thank you all! I’d like to say I left space for the little photos in advance, but in fact I shoe-horned them in after the fact.

  13. joyce Says:

    Your drawings are wonderful as always….and I love the inclusion of a photo showing your journal in the spot you are drawing!

  14. Tricia Says:

    These are stunning. I love how you’ve incorporated the photos. Did you save space for the photos and add them later?

  15. Andrew Says:

    Loved your pictures. I hope you didn’t let your coffee get cold or your champagne get flat while you were drawing though!

  16. Lee-Roy Says:

    I am trying to plan a trip to Paris for this new year we are in and so these are very poignant for me right now. I especially love the one of the Stravinsky Fountain. I’ve never seen this before, so at first glance, it looked like an illus. of something like a windowsill with some abstract things that you added in. What looks like a styrofoam coffee cup was probably instrumental in throwing the scale off for me. Then I saw the people. Then I read the caption. Then it clicked. Very cool.

  17. Jana Bouc Says:

    These are my favorites of yours so far. Each one is a jewel and a perfect representative of your wonderful style. I love the colors you choose and the personality and flavor in every one of your drawing. Thanks for showing your travel watercolor kit. I’ll look forward to hearing more about your materials.

  18. Marilyn Says:

    Lovely renderings of the Parisian scene. These bring back memories of my time in Paris. I like them all but I particularly like the buildings – Notre Dame. I don’t know if I would even attempt that.

  19. petescully Says:

    These are so great, it’s such an excellent and rewarding way to look at places. Paris seems perfect for this type of thing but this style would brighten up anywhere. I’m going to buy a waterbrush now and learn to use it. This is inspirational.

    I used to live in France (in the south, Aix) and these pictures make me miss it incredibly.

  20. Karen Winters Says:

    Lovely work, Martha … the subtlety and delicacy of your work is a delight to see.

  21. Anastasia Says:

    Delightful sketches!!! I love Paris and your sketches bring back many lovely memories!

  22. wagonized Says:

    Magnifique! I love the view of the fountains by the Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame! The Quai Voltaire sketch was dead on too. Bravo.

  23. Malinda Says:

    Wonderful travelogue! Thank you so much for sharing these gems with us!!

  24. martha Says:

    Thank you, everyone! I do use a waterbrush for all my painting, and a really small watercolor set.
    I will post more about my materials in the next few weeks.

  25. Susan Cornelis Says:

    Having sketched some of these very same scenes I am awed by your ability to do such refined renderings in your little book and “out in the elements”. Totally charming.

  26. Kate (Cathy) Johnson Says:

    These are WONDERFUL, thank you so much for sharing your trip…it’s like being there, with another artist.

  27. lin Says:

    INCREDIBLE!! I love each of them — the looseness, the vitality, the recording of the trip — BEAUTIFUL!!!

  28. Laura Says:

    Martha, these are so fresh and lovely! Fun to see how differently we sketch the same city!

  29. Casey Says:

    These are wonderful! Thank you for posting them.

  30. paintedpicnic Says:

    Your sketching style is delightful, such a light touch. Do you take a waterpen with you or use watercolour pencils?

  31. andreaj Says:

    These are just great. Bringing back lots of memories of a lovely holiday in Paris. Thank you!

  32. chasingtigers Says:

    Wow! You really bring Paris to life here.

    I’ve been to Paris a few times – it was quite an easy trip when I used to live in London – and seeing your sketches really brought it all back to me! Your style of drawing architecture is particularly inspiring! Great stuff!

  33. Rebecca Says:

    Beautiful !

  34. Claudia (Mittroseliv) Says:

    Hello Martha,

    your Paris sketches are wonderful! I especially like how you sketched “Notre Dame”: it`s so lively!
    Keep up the good work!

  35. Shirley Says:

    I love Paris and really, really love your sketches. Each of the sites is very familiar to me and beautifully rendered. Thank you for sharing.

  36. Nancy Says:

    I’m so happy to have found your blog and web-site. It is very inspiring. I’m looking forward to seeing your entry on re-binding (?) your moleskin’s.
    Thanks……. looking forward to the new year of your posts. HAPPY NEW YEAR !

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