January 17, 2021 – “1H1KM & Explosion in Beirut”
Marielle Durand, Thierry Chehab
Building on last week’s discussion of reportage drawing, this week we were joined by Thierry Chehab and Marielle Durand, two of the USk Talks Reportage Proposal winners, to talk about their reportage projects.
|Thierry Chehab and Marielle Durand|
Thierry Chehab joined us from Beirut, Lebanon, and shared his experience during and after the explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. He felt the shock of the explosion in his apartment outside of the city, and first sketched from an image of the mushroom cloud caused by the explosion to post on social media to let others know he was okay. He described himself as “not a reporter, not a reportage artist,” but says reportage came to him.
He documented the damage to his grandmother’s apartment after having to actively make the decision to do so, saying that it almost didn’t feel right to take the time to sketch while others were working and cleaning, but he knew he had to tell the story of what was happening.
Thierry sketched the site of the explosion and continued documenting the effect on his friends and neighbors, and sketched the recovery process as work began to restore buildings. As a new reportage artist, he tried to be fair to the whole look and feel of a scene, to convey emotions, and included a few words of description. He was able to convey the look and feel of the event by incorporating the personal aspect as well as the effect on the whole city.
Marielle Durand joined us from Paris, France, to talk about her reportage project, 1HR 1KM. During Paris’ initial pandemic lockdown in early 2020, Marielle was sick and stuck inside, unable to do much drawing. When the second lockdown was announced, she made a plan to draw outside every day, working within the constraints set by the government of only going outside for one hour a day within one kilometer of home.
Whether it was nice out or dark or rainy or cold, Marielle goes out every day and tries to find and document where people are working; she is staying creative and staying connected to others. Her work captures the look of Parisian neighborhoods, but there is a story under that of shop owners trying to make a living during difficult times – restaurants adjusting to take-out only, flower shops shifting away from weddings, new shops struggling to survive.
Marielle spoke openly about the difficulties of this time and how it affects our mental state, but also offers this insight, “Drawing is magical, it can save people, it’s healing. It saved me from craziness.” She and Rob discussed how we, as urban sketchers, have a superpower to see beauty in the everyday, and that it is our duty to use that ability to bring this energy to people and to make connections with our sketches. She said that after the frustration of the lockdowns, she realized that drawing is the thing she has that can make herself and others feel better and feel connected.
For approaching people when sketching, Marielle says to not focus on the result; make your sketch using tools that you’re comfortable with. Keep it simple. Thierry added that you have to “make yourself invisible;” be the camera that is observing.
Rob asked how they are able to capture things when there is tragedy all around. Theirry suggests detaching yourself from what is happening with an imagined barrier or filter and saying to yourself, “I am here to record.” Marielle added that focusing on the one space you are drawing and making the decisions that go along with sketching can help with that. She added that you might feel like it is inappropriate, as Thierry mentioned about documenting destroyed buildings, but you are recording it for history and for yourself.
Be sure to watch the full video for more great tips from both artists!
Challenge: Beauty in the Beast
Document an example of joy amidst adversity, within one kilometer of your home, in one hour.
By sketching the story you’re telling, you give the scene a certain grace and a certain energy. Being present and noticing the little things gives us that boost to get to the next day and the next.
Don’t forget to share your USK Talks Challenge sketches on Instagram using the hashtags #USKTalks and #USKTalksChallenge. You can follow Thierry Chehab on Instagram at @atary81 and Marielle Durand at @marielledurand.artist.