I'm doing a mix of watercolors for my fall show and journal sketches. In love having a journal of the trip, so it's worth the time that way. I've also found myself making prints from images I wouldn't have thought of for finished art because I have a sketch I like in my journal that keeps calling to me.
I've been sharing the more finished work here lately, so here are a bunch of journal sketches from the last few days.
I've been in and out of this museum a bunch since I bought an annual pass. I'm greatly enjoying getting my money's worth out of it. I tend to pop in for one section or another, do a sketch or two, cruise by a favorite painting or two, and go do something else before wearing down. Today I did a sketch of the actual building (above). Here are some of the recent painting studies.
I adore how many paintings there are of women with their dogs. One reason I love this place, I'm sure. There's one room that has three by Vuillard alone. Many are small dogs, but I totally fell for this lovely large one.
Here's a delightful, loose Cezanne with a man and a dog. (I promise im not choosing these paintings purely because of the dogs.)
One of my favorite spots is the art nouveau section tucked away in the back corner. I've really fallen for Vuillard here, and there are lovely Rodins, a stunning Klimt, a Munch, and some beautiful Scandinavian art. As well as some stunning furniture, including this chair with bunny arms. I so want it!
The place I'm staying this summer is quite close to Luxembourg gardens, which is one of my favorite spots in Paris. My sister who used to live here talked highly of it before I came, and it is more peaceful and with many more books to retreat into that the very public Tuileries. It's also more visually diverse, so I'm enjoying spending more time there.
Technically speaking, the fountain above isn't part of Luxembourg, but it's on a spit of park that extends directly south. If parks and roads didn't change names every block, it would be part of the park.
Today I also did a couple of quicker, smaller sketches to try out some new ink. I found a lovely 19C art supply store near the gardens and finally bought a bottle of brown ink for my fountain pen. I've been wanting to try it a while, and with all the ochres and browns in Paris, this seemed like the moment.
After a full Monday off, I dived in on Tueaday and did two exhibition watercolors (as opposed to journal sketches). The first was a funky cafe in the neighborhood that caught my eye on my first trip here. It was a fairly complex scene and took a while, so I was happy I'd found a cafe table in the shade across the street to paint at. When I was finished I did a quick journal sketch of my tea things. They had a delightfully deco set.
I walked on to Luxembourg gardens and had lunch there while sketching the next scene. The clouds moved into a nice formation, so I set aside lunch temporarily to catch them before they moved.
With two paintings done, I treated myself to a nap before going to see my friends play music. I sketched there too, of course.
I didn't really do them justice this time. Here's what they really looked like. I can try again next Tuesday.
I had a busy few days on arriving this time. A friend also happened to be here who had never been to Paris before, and it was neat to get to walk with her and see the city through her eyes for a bit.
Then Sunday she was at the Tour de France, and I'm not fond of crowds, so I hung out with my musician friends again and did a couple of quick watercolors while they played. Above is Hotel de Ville and below is Notre Dame.
Both of these are a little smaller than my regular pad (6x8") and on hot press instead of cold press, which plays more nicely with pens and washes. I'm still trying to do some more sketch quality pieces as well as the tighter finished paintings.
Then walking home the evening was beautiful, so I stopped in Luxembourg gardens and did a quick journal sketch.
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to go out on the weekends and hear my friends play music. Rene is an American who has been making a living in Paris as a musician about 24 years, and Stephen is from the north of England, here about as long. They both play with multiple people, but I love Stephen's marvelous bass playing added to Rene's wide mix of songs, and it made me happy they were playing together this weekend.
And not only together, but at my very favorite market, the Marche d'Aligre. Funky and off the beaten track. I scored a table at the cafe just behind them on the corner, had mint tea, and settled in to paint. (Above.)
The next day they were at the Bastille market, a much bigger and bustling place. My favorite soap maker (I get the fig and raspberry scents) goes there, so I got soap and also hung out to sketch. Sadly, after doing a couple of sketches of Rene I was pleased with in the spring, I am back to making him look like a muppet. He's very nice about it, though. And I am pleased with that recent print of him and Dede, so hopefully I can do some more in that vein while I'm here.
I got myself a yearly membership to the Orsay, delightfully called a Carte Blanche, this spring, knowing I would be coming back for another chunk of time. I am really enjoying being able to duck in and out. I met my friend Carol there yesterday and did a bit of sketching while she looked around.
I sketched this Monet (not really getting all the colors right) because I liked the gentler value contrast in it. I had an idea for a lighter overall print of my
park just before I left, and here is Monet painting his park in lighter colors as well. I wanted to spend a little time looking deeply.
I've been thinking about trying to slow down a bit in Paris. I was going flat out before I left and will have several months of the same this fall when I get home. But it's hard for me to ease off that much. I wrote two pages' worth of what I hope to do here in my journal.
I did do my first watercolor on Friday, my first full day. I was afraid the window display might change, and I love how it coordinates with the door and street signs. But the arrival of my friend Carole has slowed me down. We had a lovely long walk and dinner last night at my favorite creperie. Today I'll hear Stephen and Rene play music at my favorite market and then meet Carole for some more exploring. It's nice to have some friend time to ease into a long trip mostly on my own.
I got to Paris today and started out right, settling in with tea. I had started the journal on the plane with a simple sketch of a new print of the Greensward (hopefully a companion piece to the phlox) that I woke up with. I figured if I put it there, I would still remember it when I got home after a bunch of other art.
Then in a effort t stay upright, I went out walking and got some lunch to eat on a park bench.
I also walked a loop and visited a couple
of my favorite spots -- Luxembourg gardens (specifically the statue of Genevieve) and the Musee d'Orsay. I got myself a "carte blanche" when I was here in the spring and plan to use it a lot. And, as one friend pointed out, how often are you given carte blanche anyway??
I had a pretty knee jerk reaction to the Brooks placard I read yesterday. I still think it has a dismissive attitude to landscape painting, seeming to suggest that the work has to be extraordinary to overcome the genre. A couple of people on fb asked for a fuller context than the phrase I quoted. Here is the relevant paragraph:
I do still think it's a bit dismissive of landscapes, seeming to say that to be a success, a landscape has to transcend the genre. But I got a lovely letter back from Emily Neff, the new head of Brooks, and she assures me that they greatly value landscapes and also that Veda got to read the text panel before it went up, and that she was pleased with it.
I had a bit of this discussion with Matt Matthews, a seminary prof at Memphis Theological Seminary, where I'm artist in residence, and a landscape photographer in his own right. He sent all kinds of reflections that are way above my level of discourse, but what really resonated with me (as he was speaking about modern art trends) was this:
"Modern art often regards the idea of beauty itself as suspect -- a bourgeois sentimentalism amidst the real world of alienation and pain. Or when it does acknowledge beauty, it sees it not as an inherent property of things but as something generated ex nihilo out of the artist's inner world. Again, I don't accept the implicit assumptions here. I think beauty is real, objective, and part of the structuring of the universe. Artistic skill is used to intensify and witness to this inherent beauty. Finally, it assumes beauty is there solely to give us pleasure. While pleasure is surely at the core of aesthetic experiences, there's far more. Beauty transforms us (especially over time), opening is to a different form of comprehensive awareness and a different way of relating to all of life. I believe this transformation involves ego abandonment in which the hegemonic self loosens its grip of control on the world and is brought into a relationship of interdependence, delight, and honoring the "others" that we encounter.
"To cast this in theological terms, beauty is Logos let loose in the world, aesthetic experiences accumulate to disrupt our idolatrous drive to control and manage the cognitive domain, and artists are witnesses pointing to and participating in beauty."
My calling has always felt, in part, that it is to wake people up to the beauty around them that it is so easy for all of us to take for granted, in the hopes that we will also be moved to be good stewards of that beauty and the earth we live on. I love Matt's idea of beauty as transformative and artists as witnesses to it and participants in it.
You can see Matt's own photographic beauty here.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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