Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finally, it's why I'm here!

Last week, there were finally a few breaks in the rain and gray, and I was able to go to Versailles for one full day, then Vaux le Vicomte for the rest of the weekend.  I made so much progress on my Gabriel Prize project as I was finally familiar enough with the gardens and châteaux to know what I needed to do.  And the weather cooperated!

Posted here are a few of the study sketches I did at Versailles which show a progression through the gardens designed primarily by Le Nôtre (but with the help of his colleagues architect Le Vau and painter/interior decorator Le Brun.)  The level of design sophistication is really amazing--take away the classical decoration, and these are surprisingly very modern gardens.  Designed just after the "discovery" of the formal principles of perspective and incorporating optics, science, philisophy of the time, Le Nôtre manipulates the views and progression through the gardens in amazing and clever ways, often involving sloping the ground plane up or down. He builds in interesting spatial surprises as well, all done with great subtlety so you don't realize you're being manipulated!

I sat with a silly grin on my face while doing the first sketch, as I felt like I was peaking into the mind of Le Nôtre himself. These are discoveries that can't be made by snapping a photo, but by DRAWING...finding the vanishing points, looking at how one element relates to another.  This was entirely the goal and purpose of the Gabriel Prize:  to learn about architecture through hand drawing on site...

I also rented a bike and happily pedalled around the entire grand canal, then rewarded myself with an ice cream cone.  A really GREAT day!

First real view of the gardens.  Look how the water of the Grand Canal
appears to slope up--it's an optical illusion!
Versailles.June 14
View further into the gardens.  Look how the vanishing point
of the sloped ground plane is right on Apollo's head in
the fountain scultpure.  Draws your eye right there!
Versailles. June 14

I love the many bosquets, which you typcially enter through dark green
narrow passageways only to find the sparkling white water of the fountain
in  the center.  This view focuses again right onto Apollo in the fountain.
The ground gently slopes down toward the fountain.
Versailles. June 14

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