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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

“Welcome to Paradise” – Sketches from Warsaw

Some sketches and photos from a whirlwind trip to Poland. My Ukrainian friend Anhelina, replied to my Insta story announcing my arrival in Warsaw with the words "Welcome to Paradise" which seemed like simply charming words.

 


Ahead of the 2024 EU elections (6-9th June), it has become apparent that I am going to be dashing across Europe like an ADHD bouncy-ball. As per usual, I have over-committed myself to attending / performing at far too many events; decisions which I usually regret but continue to make because of my people-pleasing tendencies and inability to say “no”. It doesn’t help that often when I say “no”, people completely disregard my answer and manage to talk me into doing what they want (which, to be fair, is not that difficult). People often tell me that they feel exhausted just following my travels on social media – I agree that it’s all a bit much. I often get to the point of complete disorientation where I find myself wandering around in a slightly dazed state, I become incredibly clumsy; dropping and walking into things, spilling drinks, etc. and frequently wake up unable to recall where the fuck I am. I am surviving on caffeine and paracetamol at this point.


Whilst lurking in the corner of the room where the refreshments were served, my social anxiety getting the better of me (until a really friendly Italian came up to chat with me), I noticed a rather poignant piece of graffiti incongruously scrawled on the wall.



Of course, many of the events I enthusiastically agree to do because they are opportunities I really want – I guess one of the problems is that I have a very poor conception of my physical limits. I am also obliged to attend six events for the  which I am working on as the Communications Consultant – mobilising young voters for the elections. I have quite enjoyed attending these events, where I get to meet so many lovely people, there is also less pressure on me “to perform”, besides from making a short presentation about the project – I am mainly working “behind the camera” – making photos and videos for social media posts and collecting footage / interviews for a documentary about the project – I really enjoy this work. The event in Warsaw was one of these occasions and I find it delightful to meet the partner organisations, learn about their work and see them “in action” working with politically engaged youth from across Europe – I feel really privileged to share these moments with these communities.

 

Having said that, I always feel guilty for dropping out of the social activities at the end of the day, which they are always so keen for me to join. I appreciate that it comes across as anti-social and I frequently feel bad about it, but I also know that after working all day (usually from 9am-6pm) my social battery has run out and the introvert inside me starts screaming for some respite. So, I make my excuses (usually, that I need to edit and upload the social media posts – which is not a lie) and leave. I often find it very hard to wind down at the end of these over-stimulating events, due to the intense conversations and activities, (possibly also due to the abundance of free coffee) and if I don’t have a few hours alone, to decompress – I struggle to sleep. Sometimes this happens anyway. It makes me wonder if I am well-suited to the work that I do and maybe I need to reconsider my choices.



I do think my contribution is appreciated, and the visual identity I have created for the “YEUF project” is fun and actively encourages the young people to participate in the visual communication. I brought the “YEUF glasses” and the signs with the song lyrics with me to Warsaw and many of the young people enjoyed taking photographs with these props. I was delighted when a group of three took the word “TOGETHER” and struck a pose along with the comment “Go big or go home!” - I love this motto.

 


One Italian man called Kevin (I have never got to the bottom of why so many Italians are called Kevin), participating in the activity was sporting I an “I am Kenough” cap – which delighted me! And he was gracious enough to let me borrow it for a photo.



 We took a large group photo with all the participants outside the University buildings holding the title of the song “It’s Time To Vote” and they all happily shouted the line for a video which will make an incredible end-clip for the music video. The lead organiser from the Polish partner organisation asked me if I wanted a photo with me in it – and I quite happily refused. I’ve been thrust centre stage so often, that I relish the opportunity to document other people’s work from the side-lines.



One way that I like to wind down after all this excitement is by making sketches of some of the things I have seen during the day. I try to walk from my accommodation to the event venue (rather than taking public transport), so I can see the city whilst I am there. I rarely have the time during the day to sketch “on location”, so I take photos as I am passing and work from them later in the evening. I find the drawing process to be quite meditative – it gives me something to focus my concentration on and quieten all the shit which is constantly circulating in my head. It also helps to ground me in the place, and gives me a tangible record of where I have been (photos just don’t have the same impact) – when I look at my sketchbooks, the memories come flooding back; sounds, smells, light, temperature, weather, etc. I think there is also an element of “people pleasing” too, because my landscape sketches are always received well on my social media and people often express their delight and appreciation when I have taken the time to celebrate their hometown in an artwork.

 

I managed to make seven landscape sketches during the three days I was in Warsaw, as well as a “visualisation” of one of the events I attended which was titled the “Weimar Triangle” – which I discovered is the name for a regional alliance between France, Germany and Poland.

I had an interesting conversation with one of the speakers, a board member from Stiftung Zukunft Berlin who I met last year. He himself wasn't wearing a suit but commented that many of the participants were smartly dressed - I replied that I was never smartly dressed. His remarked that he had recognised me instantly from behind because of my royal blue sweater - it was my uniform and perfect for the occasion.



The first two, I did make “on location” – as I took a very early flight and had a couple of hours to kill en-route. I sat on the grass which in hindsight, was probably ot a smart move (see photos at the end of this blog post). The first sketch was an ink drawing of the Polish Eagle on a statue in front of the Supreme Court of Poland (which seemed like very strong, national symbols).



The second sketch I made was a watercolour painting of one of the huge metal Pegasus sculptures outside the Krasiński Palace.



The rest of the sketches were made from photographs. Including an ink sketch of an archway leading to a sideroad I passed when walking between venues.



A watercolour sketch of the imposing, glass-walled banks, the yellow and red trams and the delightful Spring Tulips which line the roads of the city.



I felt obliged to make a drawing of the monstrous Palace of Culture and Science building which dominated the skyline.

 


I also made a watercolour of some of the charming architecture in the old-Town (which was completely razed during WWII and had to be entirely reconstructed). However, the waterproof-ink pen I usually use to make my watercolours had run out, as well as the spare one – so, I had to improvise an alternative style which didn’t turn out a bit of a mess. I really hope I can find some more pens when I get to Italy.



Finally, I made a very sketchy drawing with a wide tip ink pen of a very dynamically shaped structure which was the entrance to a train station.



I didn't have time to see an exhibition whilst I was in Warsaw, however, I saw some interesting street art as I walked across the city. I was especially captivated by a concrete wall with children's drawing setched into the side - my favourite was the rat. I was somewhat less captivated by the odd shitting pink dog sculpture in one of the parks.



The weather in Poland was warmer than in the UK, but I wouldn’t exactly have described it as “Summery” (I wore jeans the whole time) – despite this, I still seem to have been bitten multiple times by insects. I can only imagine the situation will be significantly worse in Rome. And i'm not sure I brought enough antihistamines with me - I will have to try and obtain some more when I get there...



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