Thursday 6 September 2012

The Deja Bru Project

The commission was to create a Paris street scene for a new coffee shop Deja Bru at my local shopping centre. The brief was to include the Eiffel Tower, the buildings of Paris and street cafes painted in black and white. 

To prepare for the work I made a half size drawing of the scene. Half size made sense because the complete work would consist of 3 canvases each measuring 48" x 48". It was important make decisions about the composition where I could see the complete layout.

I obtained large sheets of good quality cartridge paper from Arthouse Northside, strong enough to withstand countless erasures during the drawing process. Two and a half sheets were joined and fixed to the studio wall with tape. Fortunately I had one wall that was long enough to do this!

I turned to the Internet to collect the necessary reference. Some images were a breeze -there are numerous wonderful images of the Eiffel Tower. Google Earth helped with the buildings. First I surfed the Net  for Paris cafes to get the addresses. Once I was there it was down to street view and I was in Paris. The view (complete with people) was then saved as a jpeg.

Sometimes I would want to see the building from further back so I'd move the Google man to a different place in the street only to find that the photo included a bus moving along in front of the building! 

Deja Bru left panel

Deja Bru centre panel

Deja Bru right panel

Once the drawing was approved, and after priming the canvases with good quality gesso, I squared up the canvases. The draft drawing was enlarged by doubling each element. 

Although the brief was for black and white, the painting needed to have tones of grey to add depth and to give more scope to do justice to the architectural details. Since the work was so large I used acrylics because they are fast drying, making it easy to move the canvases off the easels as I alternated between the three sections. The three panels were worked on at the same time keeping each at the same rate of progress to ensure continuity.

As I teach in my studio, the canvases needed to be moved to safety during the classes. It was useful not to have to contend with slow drying oils. Working exclusively in acrylics in tones of grey, black and white was a good exercise in tonal contrast - good lighting was essential. I was also swiftly reminded that acrylic paint dries darker - hmmm. I soon learnt to mix up larger quantities and save these in an air-tight container. In this way, the tones remained more constant and would not dry out too quickly. 

As the work progressed, the client suggested including the name of the cafe, so Deja Bru was transplanted to a street in Paris - with a dash of red. 

Final touches included more black and white in looser brush strokes - and it's done.

The paintings were installed last night and I must admit I am pleased. I'll post a photograph soon.


  1. Awesome Carol, its such beautiful piece. It send me right back there. You've really captured the essence of Paris xo

  2. Thank you everyone - it was so much fun to do.

  3. These canvases are fantastic, Carol. It looks completely at home in the cafe as well which is great.

    Carol I was wondering if I could maybe get some help? I’m working on an 'out and about' atm, and a part of the app will have bloggers recommending 5-10 places in their city to check out for all sorts of things from craft to shopping to eating and everything in between, I was wondering if you might recommend maybe a few places you love? I will put links to your blog on the app and drive more traffic your way. We have over 3,000 people signed up to download the app already and it hasn't even launched yet (we're super excited!) It's also a fantastic platform for you to highlight the businesses who have commissioned your work as well as your work itself.
    If you're happy to be a part of it all, Carol, just pop on here -

    or you can email me on xx