Stretching students, get ready to go on a great ride with automotive artist France Belleville Van Stone!

France (center) with Danny and Jason Das on their urban sketching trip at Grand Central Station in NYC

France (center) with Danny and Jason Das on their urban sketching trip at Grand Central Station in NYC

SBS: Do you remember the very first picture you drew? What was it?

France: I can’t remember the very first, but definitely one of my first. When I met my stepfather (I was about 3 years old then), he seemed so colossal to me that I made a drawing of him – which basically was a big mountain with a head on top and two hands sticking out on each side. He loved it so much that he turned it into a sculpture.

Are you working more on paper or your iPad these days?

I teach high school, and I have used my iPad a lot to illustrate things I’m trying to teach. As a result, I think I use the iPad more for drawing. The tips of my “Pencils” (the stylus made by Fifty Three) get worn out quickly.

When you draw portraits, do you draw from a photo or real life?

I have drawn from real life, but rarely. My husband has a couple of times, out of the kindness of his heart. No one has the time to sit in front of me while I struggle to capture their face, and I don’t blame them. So, mostly photos, definitely.

What are your current favorite art toys?

I really haven’t changed my “toys” that much over the years, so the ones I use now are very similar to the ones I was using ten years ago, with the exception of the iPad, of course. So, in order: 1. The Paper app on the iPad (+ the Pencil stylus). 2. My Montblanc fountain pen. 3. The Stillman & Birn sketchbook I have been carrying with me for months.

How did you get into urban sketching?

I kind of missed the Urban Sketching train, ironically enough. When Gabi Campanario launched the whole thing in early 2009, it coincided with me having a baby. Since I am a woman, that took over my life. So I was reading about people going out sketching in plein air while I was home in rural New Jersey nursing my baby. I did make attempts at going out later, after my daughter turned 3, and got to meet Liz Steel, Lapin, Paul Heaston, Stephen Gardner, Amanda Kavanagh, Walt Taylor – and, more recently (at long last!), Jason Das! But to this day, I don’t know if I qualify as an urban sketcher!

Have you ever been shy about drawing in public?

It is hard to overcome the idea of someone looking over your shoulder as you are making drawing decisions – as they may turn out good or bad. But I have tried to be unapologetic about it. I draw, I make mistakes, I draw too small, too big, too slowly, but I draw. So I am not entirely past it, but so be it. I can’t let the possibility of messing up or disappointing a possible “audience” stop me!

What is your favorite mode of transportation, both to ride and to draw?

Where I live now, in suburban NJ, there aren’t many alternatives. The car is the way to go. I have been stuck in such bad traffic before that I have pulled out a sketchbook while at the wheel, but it is far from being the norm for me. I love driving but I hate the time it takes me away from drawing. I love drawing on trains. When I was in France last December, I got a chance to sketch on the plane and on the train. Wow, that felt good.

For more on France and her art, visit her at wagonized.com.

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