I had to look this cafe up on google maps’ street view to find out its name as despite taking a lot of photographs here, I didn’t take any that included its name. It’s located on the corner of Notre-Dame, (and is visible, from it’s red awnings, on my recent Notre-Dame efforts). Sadly the light was really grey and flat but I was still keen to do some sketches based on the photos. I think there’s something inimitably French about the white shirts and black waistcoats of the waiters and the red awnings that characterise so many of the cafes in France.

I didn’t have much time to spend on painting this week so this is a bit of a rough and ready sketch and, despite its obvious heavy handedness, I still think there are some pleasing elements to it. I was mainly trying to focus on the people, and to keep the very complex and ornate background of the cathedral nice and simple.

Sketch of Cafe Aux Tours, Notre-Dame, Paris
Sketch of Cafe Aux Tours, Notre-Dame, Paris

As I’ve sat with this in my mind for a few days, I’d quite like to have another go this (don’t I always!). I think there’s a slightly different way that I could approach this that I’m keen to try out. For this attempt, I did a very light wash over the entire image which I then built up with subsequent washes. Unfortunately, more often than not, I didn’t get the desired tone with these subsequent washes, so then had to go in again with further washes that has resulted in a slightly too heavy overworked feel. I’d also like to try to paint the figures as I’m painting everything else, sometimes they feel left to the end and subsequently seem to sit ‘on’ the painting rather than living ‘in’ the painting. Again, a lightness of touch, and of paint would be a welcome improvement on these figures!

I also know that it’s strange to have a white van as a focal point! This was in the actual photo and I liked the counterpoint of the man’s profile against the back of the van (plus is meant that I also didn’t have to show the architectural details of the windows all the way down to street level!). Speaking of street level, I did intend to dissolve a lot of the foreground detail but again, I think this has gone a little too dark.

When I view this from a distance I’m quite happy with the way it reads, particularly the background of Notre-Dame (with the exception of the large windows that I think will need re-considering if I do try this again).

I think there must be something subliminal about keep writing ‘try  again’ as the more I’ve written it in this post, the more I’ve convinced myself that I’ll definitely be painting this again! Fortunately, I’ve got enough photos of this scene to look at changing the composition, perhaps introducing some different figures and maybe even losing the van!

12 thoughts on “Café ‘Aux Tours de Notre Dame’

    1. Thanks so much for such generous and enthusiastic comments and am delighted that you like the blog and the painting. Coincidentally, I’m posting a follow up to this that’s scheduled to go out tonight- be interested to know which painting you prefer if you get the chance to check back sometime! Thanks again for making the time to comment – it’s much appreciated!

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  1. I can’t imagine having limited time and trying to excel in watercolor, you are tenacious! Did you notice that you have a nice visual fulcrum (to me) using that red/black roof edge? I have been wanting to get more adept at striking the value rich and strong to help eliminate the danger of over working a piece, it is so hard! I have also been re-reading my book by Trevor Chamberlain and he talks about this. I can’t wait to see your re-takes on this.

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    1. Thanks so much Margaret – I’d be interested to get Trevor Chamberlain’s take on this – happy to take on board any help or advice! I’m not sure if there are any shortcuts sadly – just a case of remaining aware, trial and error, and sheer persistence! I’ve managed to draw out a new sketch – hope to squeeze some painting time in this weekend. Happy painting Margaret!

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