Sketch and the City

Few months ago I took a long business trip. In 7 weeks I’ve traveled 3 continents, 5 countries and 13 cities (blackjack!). I stayed in numerous hotels (from pretentious tasteless boxes of “Hilton-likes” till tiny no-brand-name yet stylish lodges), met with many people from different walks of life (some of them change 20 G’s wrist watches every weekday matching it to the color of their shirt, while the others work long nightshifts – no weekends or holidays for a monthly paycheck of 200 bucks)… It was pretty intense trip indeed.

My purpose was to get new projects; unfortunately the practical results were not quite satisfying…Well, after all it is “crisis times”. Yet my trip gave me something else – not quite measurable in ordinary mathematics of business. Somehow the intangible footprint of the places I visited was delicately laid upon my soul; and in a long run this spiritual impact might be greater than those unsigned contracts.

I’ll try to express those elusive urban impressions that I irrationally value above my weak commercial outcome. However graphics might do it better.



click on image to enlarge

It wasn’t my first time in Paris, and as banal as it sounds, you can never get tired of this City. City of gallant chevaliers from Dumas’ romances, city of dreadful creatures from Victor Hugo’s dramas, city of Erick Maria Remarque’s gorgeous ladies, always tragically dying at the end of the novel… I guess, to me Paris is like a giant stage of an endless theatrical performance, where the play is our life. Paris architecture is a miraculous decoration that participates in all plot lines and eventually becomes a play character on it’s own. Perhaps even the central character on the show. That’s why I would never be able to analyze Paris urbanity in some technical terms of constructions. This City is alive to me.

That evening I was drunk (it’s absolutely pardonable given the quality of French wine), sad (a lady I wanted to be with me in Paris didn’t come) and emotionally exhausted (earlier I visited Napoleon’s tomb in Les Invalides). It was rainy outside and I had a pack of Gitanes which I could smoke in my hotel room. (Can you imagine smoking Gitanes in a “health-obsessed” America?) My room was located under the mansard roof and through it’s sloped windows I could see elegant silhouettes of Seine bridges. It was all so dreamy that I couldn’t help it and made few quite moody sketches. Those were abstract images of Paris, with no particular details of specific places… That was my raw feel of Paris or you can call it my Act of Love with the City.

… If I were a woman I would like to conceive my child in Paris.



click on image to enlarge

As I visit Moscow often, I am always utterly surprised at the surreal air of this great Byzantinesque city, “Third Rome” as Russians call it. They might be quite right about it, even though it is hardly encouraging in the eyes of refined Western liberals. Well, leave your refined feelings at home as you come here! Moscow is huge. Moscow is widespread. It’s colossal architectonics literally suppress you. It has nothing to do with New Yorkish vertical dynamics of skyscrapers. Moscow is rock-solid monster. Capital of a Grand Empire. Yes, Imperial would be the right word. Caesarean. As they say: The Third Rome…

And yet, as a complete opposite to it’s unbreakable exterior body, Moscow’s face is amazingly colourful, grotesque, tacky at times… It’s main square, where some of the bloodiest dictators are buried, is called red. Red Square is not just a name or some demonic symbolism – it’s an architectural nature. Slavic onion-shaped domes are cheerfully painted in white, blue and gold tones. Central streets are full of kitschy advertisements childishly announcing arrival of pop-stars from 80s…

Modern Moscow is a vibrant expressionist carnival, multi-colored pop-art strangely confined within the rigid reality of gargantuan obsolete buildings. Such duality is scary and puzzling at the same time. I bet you, this city has some daredevil creature inside it’s Kremlin walls. So don’t be surprised if you notice a shadow of a hobgoblin dancing on the rooftop.

Moscow is weird. It is powerful, brutal, energetic, jaunty, and magic. If Paris is all about romantics, here you might dare to explore some wild pleasures.

… If I were a woman I would like to meet my lover in Moscow.



click on image to enlarge

Since Toronto is my home city where I come back from stressful journeys I can’t be objective. I state it upfront: Guilty, I am biased.

Certainly Toronto has not that much of an amorous fleur and antique bronze patina as Paris. Definitely it is not as imposing and flamboyant as passionate Russian capital. But it is so clear and airy. It is so simple and yet gracious… I would summarize my City in one word: purity.

See, Paris and Moscow are like dazzling, graciously aging women to me. Curvy ladies in gorgeous plumage of history. Portrait of such lady is often hanged on a grand staircase in a massive gilded frame. It is always a canonical classic painting (oil on canvas, as it’s stamped on museum plate) with rich color palette and deep shadows. Usually those are portraits of the grandmothers who were in the flower of their beauty at least a century ago.

Toronto is nothing like that. Toronto is a lovely esquisse, black and white graphics of a fresh young girl. She’s not curvy. She’s a sketch frivolously drafted in one streamline. She has no heavy velvet gowns but calico dress. No French cosmetics or Russian jewellery, but floral wreath. She is your first love. She is your first kiss. She is your future.

And if you don’t waste your time on false choices that girl will answer your kiss and will be yours forever.

‘Cause after all… if I were a woman I would like to have my wedding dance in Toronto.


One Response to “Sketch and the City”
  1. Michael B. says:

    Nice! Personal, yet very relatable (to me, at least). I loved the way the sketches complement the text, especially the simplicity of the b/w Toronto sketch.

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