After a few lovely painting days it was back to clouds and rain. And cold. So I've been a wimp and have been doing some sketching around home.
I hadn't sketched my teapot this trip, and it's always fun to do. I also had a request to sketch the fondant I love, and who am I to disappoint, especially when the request involves acquiring baked goods?
I did one of my home away from home, including my wooly slippers that I have been wearing almost nonstop this trip.
And finally I painted Square Leon-Serpollet, the lovely local park that is currently ablaze in tulips.
The park in my neighborhood, the back side of Montmartre, is Square Leon-Serpollet. It's a beautifully designed public space, with multiple levels of playgrounds, formal gardens, and ball space. It's got lots of nooks and crannies and a little bit of something for anyone in the neighborhood. It's also big enough to catch some sun early and late, when the streets and lower floors of buildings are canyons cut off from direct sunlight. So good in a city to have spaces like this.
The cherry trees along the top level are blooming right now. I sketched them last evening while I was out doing errands and then waiting for the pizza place to open. (7pm, which is late for this American, but the pizza made by guys from Naples is worth it.)
I was happy with the sketch and enjoyed doing it, so I went back this morning to do a fuller version.
I've been telling myself that one full watercolor a day will be enough to give me the show I want to have of Paris this fall. Given the chancy weather, I'm not always able to do more than one. Yesterday's painting was a little further down my way to town, but still on the Rue du Montmartre, so I'm lumping it in as a neighborhood piece.
I am loving being able to paint in Paris, but I will say that some pieces are easier than others. The morning light really grabbed me for this one, but it was a challenge to finish. It was a fairly busy street right at, apparently, delivery time. So van after large van parked illegally in front of me, blocking my view as I worked. Coupled with sun that kept disappearing when I COULD see, the light in this is not quite as steady and consistent as I would like. It wasn't the most "romantic painting in Paris" moment that I've had, but there have been some lovely ones of those too this trip. All things considered, I am not unhappy with how this piece turned out. Some days that's truly all you can ask for.
It was cloudy and cold most of yesterday, so I was late getting out. Watching snow flurries through the window took away the bit of guilt I had been feeling about my lazy day. But late sunshine and the promise of music lured me out. I walked downtown to stretch my legs, did half a piece in the Place des Voges before I lost the sunshine (I'll go back and finish it soon), and wandered over past the Bastille to see Rene Miller play at La Fontaine, his regular Tuesday cafe gig.
The French are a hardy lot. We sat outside despite a high temperature of 40 at best. Those big patio heaters only go so far, but helped. Rene sounded great, and I had fun sketching.
Today was beautifully sunny. I did a watercolor of Sainte-Chapelle that I had been wanting to do. I hit the used bookstores for my traditional two thirds through the trip and running low on reading matter run, and I had tea with Audra and a friend of hers who will let me cat sit for her this August on the Left Bank. Delightful.
It was a lovely, long walk home from Montparnasse Blvd. to the northern periphique. I stopped partway on my favorite bridge over the Seine and did a quick sketch of the changeable sky. Such a good day.
Here is my favorite photo from the evening. I wish I could have captured that feel in the sketches.
It was cloudy and damp again today. I did a morning piece sitting inside a bakery I found a rare one with a table for customer, and it was charming enough to paint. A double win.
After lunch and tea to warm up again, I went downtown to L'Orangerie. It's a sister museum of the Musee D'Orsay, mostly known (and rightfully so) for it's two rooms of enormous wraparound Monet waterlily paintings from late in his career. It's stunning to walk into those oval rooms and be completely surrounded.
There are handily benches in both rooms, so I could sit and sketch easily. It was such a treat and an honor to be able to do that. The first one was more a sketch of the room as a whole, and the second is a more serious copy of one of the panels. I love the few light blossoms floating in a complex darkness.
After sketching my way through the museum, I circled back to the beginning, where I had spotted something I wanted to do a fuller painting of. I drew standing there and made a couple of notes. I also did quick watercolor on site to get the subtleties of the sculpture itself. But on the bumpier watercolor paper, and working larger, I wanted to get my real brush and watercolor kit out instead of using the admittedly nifty brush pen that I use for quick sketches. So I went outside and sat under the tree in the painting and finished the rest of it, right then so I wouldn't forget.
Afterwards I walked through the gardens as well and found myself painting Eve, as I always seem to when I go. I'm not sure why she draws me so strongly, but she does. I was back to the fountain pen, tiny watercolor set, and quick and easy brush pen for this one.
Thursday morning I painted in the neighborhood since I wanted to paint my "local," Le Renitas. I had a lovely meal here last year. I liked the neighborhood sketching since it let me go home for lunch and tea and then walk downtown after.
I painted in the Tuileries in the afternoon. I've been thinking a lot about park spaces since we in Memphis are currently fighting our own city government to protect my beloved Overton Park. It's both good and bittersweet to see how fierce the French are about protecting their public spaces.
After painting I went back to the Musee d'Orsay for the evening hours. I was blown away by the five versions of Rouen cathedral in a row. Monet rented a shop window and painted I don't know how many versions at all times and weathers. I had just seen two in the Boston museum and loved them.
I had a Monet evening, also doing a sketch of his large, spectacular painting of turkeys. Something about the light and color and scale always makes me think of Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which is amusing with the different subject matter. It's one of my favorite Monets, and I decided I was due to spend a little time looking at it closely, which for me usually equates to sketching it.
I had hoped to see the full moon rise over the Louvre afterwards, but there was a solid low bank of clouds, and the evening was fine, so I ended up just walking beautifully home through the warm streets. It was a delightful day
I went to the Musee d'Orsay this afternoon. It's a lovely old train station building, is less of a cattle call of traffic than the Louvre, and has a lovely collection, if more modern. I did a little sketching, as I tend to do in musuems. First was a charming Bonnard of a woman with her dog, their heads charmingly close together. Then two of the 15 panels Redon did for a rich patron's dining room. I love the room where they show several of them together (not all of them are on display, sadly).
Finally I sketched a Vuillard portrait of a couturier. It reminded me of all those Rembrandt portraits of guild masters and important men sitting at tables with symbols of wealth and power and the tools of their trades. I loved seeing a successful, creative, powerful woman also immortalized in this genre. And the piece is so beautifully painted.
A very kind woman took photos of me as I was sketching and then took the trouble to send them to me. Here's what a traveling artist looks like for much of almost any trip....
I am finding myself fascinated by the trees this trip. No one who follows my art will be surprised about that. There aren't that many trees in Paris, comparatively, but there are some lovely ones. I was on my way to paint St. Chapelle this morning but got lured off my path by this view instead. And then I treated myself to an afternoon at the Musee d'Orsay instead of doing more finished watercolors. I'll put those sketches up in another post.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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