Cecilia Crowe '22 Creates Art in Paris

Fresh from four weeks spent at the Paris College of Art (PCA), Cecilia Crowe ’22 stopped by campus to share her work with Sarah Isusi, her GSB art teacher. A brilliant assortment of sketchbooks, watercolors, ink drawings, and large figure sketches adorned a table in the art studio, everything from corner café scenes to the famed opera house to tile patterns from Cecilia’s hotel, all capturing glimpses of Paris.

Armed with 70 pounds of art supplies, Cecilia landed mid-June in the French capital for her two classes: Portfolio Development and Drawing from Architecture and Interior Design. PCA proved a welcome chance to interact with other artists in city full of artistic inspiration.

“We had a trip each day to various places, where we’d do drawing of sculptures, paintings, and wildlife, whatever we wanted to focus on,” said Cecilia. “I went to the Louvre six times and spent three hours each time. It was empty the first two weeks until it opened back up to tourists.”

This atmosphere is exactly what Cecilia craved instead of an online summer program. “I was looking to be in-person this summer and do art with a large group of people,” she said. “My two options were Parsons Paris and PCA, and I picked PCA because of its location. Paris is a massive urban and cultural center, and PCA is a good art school.”

For her portfolio class, Cecilia got back to foundational basics. Her English-speaking teacher asked students to focus on two themes, one a personal choice (junk food) and the other picked out of a hat (aquatic shadows). For each theme, Cecilia developed her ideas in sketchbooks, culminating with a final watercolor. “For my final piece on aquatics, I painted a vampire squid from hell,” she said. “In biology, I wrote a 12-page research paper on this squid, which is as big as a football and is relatively harmless.”

As Cecilia thumbed through her various sketchbooks, she revealed a wide assortment of art, including wallpaper patterns she crafted from paint pens, scenes from Luxembourg Gardens, and a watercolor of Marie Antoinette’s chicken coop. This sweet rendering depicted a pink flower in the foreground and a blackbird perched on the thatched-roofed. “For the chicken coop, I sketched and lined it while in front of the building,” she said. “I spent five hours on this, three outside and two on the watercolor.”

Ms. Isusi’s enthusiasm for this painting felt contagious: “I’m feeling the light! I can picture those windows!”

Thanks to the time devoted to this painting, Cecilia was able to recreate the scene’s exact coloring. “When the light came into the building, it was actually green,” she said.

“I’m just stunned!” said Ms. Isusi. “Cecilia has done a lot of work on her sketchbooks; it shows her personal development. For her senior year, she’ll use her artwork to apply. Most schools are looking for 12-20 pieces, so she’ll start documenting. It’s so exciting for me to see what she’s doing outside of my class.”

Spending time in the City of Lights certainly fueled Cecilia’s creativity, even though her days were long. “Paris was very tiring, I worked 9 to 5,” she said. “At the end of class, we’d usually be really far away. One day I ended up a Versailles. I’m a habitual person. I did my sketches, went to gardens, alleys, and drew stuff. I miss feeling the energy and the freedom.”

As for the coming school year, Cecilia is ready to get to work. “I’ll get through AP Art, I have a rigorous course load, and I’ll finalize my college list,” she said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Click here for more information about the GSB Fine Arts Program.

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