I've got a new work buddy. His name is Mr. Darcy. I lost Merlin back in May, and I've been traveling too much to be able to adopt a new dog. I had planned to wait until the middle of fall, but I'm a fan of the Friends of the Memphis Animal Shelter on Facebook, and they post photos of adoptable dogs. I got lured out, and I fell in love. He's about a three year old boxer mix who weighs 80 pounds. He was so calm and dignified, and he just sat quietly next to me on the sidewalk as we got acquainted. He's going to be an easygoing companion to take out when I go painting.
My life feels so much better, just immediately. I can walk through the Old Forest every morning. I'll go with a companion -- Dad, girlfriend, or dog -- but not all on my own. And I love walking in the forest every day. I've been walking the golf course part of the park regularly for some years now, ever since Merlin got too gimpy to go, and I'm delighted to be back in the actual forest.
Mr. Darcy also keeps me company while I work at home on my own. Below on the right is my view just now, looking down at him from my chair by the computer. And I get a marvelous greeting when I come home. Rescue dogs are so loving.
I've been wanting to do some larger, more saturated, looser works from my small Paris watercolors, and I've been having trouble. I love subtractive monotypes (roll ink in one color and just carve out an image), but I wasn't doing well with the additive (painting in multiple colors on a plate and then printing). The top is my latest experiment with those. I still can't keep the ink wet enough to print the whole painting, and the results overall just look way too loose and unprofessional. I love the texture but can't control the process well enough to make the art I want to.
So now I'm trying just painting on paper with acrylics. I want something that I can show the paper through (so oils are out), and I'd like something fast and spontaneous. I used the same image for comparison and tried the second piece. I'm more happy with the results, though I miss the softer texture of the printmaking, and I think I'll try some more. I can also work a bit bigger, since I'm not limited by the size of my press.
I met Robert and Marie-Claude Diebolt one day while I was out sketching the Musee D'Orsay. They stopped to see my painting, and it turns out that Robert is an artist as well. It was lovely to have a talk about art and media and urban sketching, and Robert took a couple of photos of me working that seem very much to embody urban sketching. It's fun to get to see myself working through other people's eyes occasionally. And Marie-Claude and Robert made me feel very welcome there in France. It was a lovely interlude in my trip, and I appreciate Robert following up and sending me these photos.
I came home from Paris with a lot of detailed watercolors, and I'd like to do something a little looser, more saturated, and bigger with some of them. I saw an exhibition this week of oil monotypes, and it made me want to do monotypes again. I seem to do them in spurts every few years or so.
Monotypes are prints that don't have a carved plate, so you only get one (hence the "mono"). Many people work directly on plexiglass and then run that through the press, wipe it clean, and do another one. I've done ones where I roll out ink and then draw into and wipe away highlights from that solid dark. For this series, though, I'd like to do some where I paint (additive instead of subtractive, in the official lingo). That seems to require a different sort of ink, however. I did a few tests with my Daniel Smith water soluble relief ink, which I use for block prints.
It wasn't really transferring well, though. It was both too stiff to paint with, and it dried too quickly. I tried just a couple, but only half the image came through. I did have fun painting on top of what I got with more of the ink.
Today I did some research in both old class notes and (most helpfully) Julia Ayres book Monotype. It's a comprehensive and step by step book that I've used over the years.
I decided to try acrylic paint, since I could get it locally right now while I'm thinking about the project. My first attempt was too watery -- I don't think I blotted the paper sufficiently. I kind of like some of the effect, though, and I may play with painting on top of this one.
The second one came out better, though still pretty ambiguous in the figure. This is from a sketch of Rodin's Eve. Again I'm thinking it would be nice to do a little more definition on top of the monotype. Maybe pencil or charcoal. I'm going to have to do some more experiments.
My last one came out best. I'd still love a little more definition, but I really like the spontaneity and the color saturation. I'm going to get a couple of bigger sheets of plexiglass so I can have a real contrast between the size of the watercolors and the size of the prints for my December show.
I keep information on each print (paper size, edition number, etc.), but I don't often write up a report on a day's work. Today, however, I wanted to remember what I'd tried and what had worked, so I wrote out a page in my printmaking notebook to remind me. I'm really enjoying the brain fizz of trying something new. It's a great feeling.
More from Luxembourg Gardens
I spent one of my last days back in Luxembourg Gardens. It's such a lovely place, and I really enjoyed painting there. I especially had fun with the juxtaposition of statues and trees.
This view is on my walk home from the city center, and I fell in love with the late afternoon light. Often by this point in both the day and the trip home, though, I'd be too tired to stop and paint. I'd just pick up bread in my favorite bakery across the street and keep going. Finally, though, I got there with time and energy to paint.
I also did a second small and quick one for Dune, my four year old roommate (once my hosts got back from Italy). He loves Sacre Coeur.
Hotel de Ville
I painted the grand, frilly Hotel de Ville three times yesterday. My favorite band here was playing on the Ile St. Louis bridge, which was perfect for me. Lots of sunshine on a chilly day as well as good views to paint.
I started out painting two of the whimsical knights along the roofline. They remind me so much of Alice in Wonderland. I wonder if Tenniel ever saw them.
I also painted the guys playing again.
And I ended with another one of Notre Dame. The sky was lovely, and the music was even better. Nice to have good views at the same time.
I had a great time painting statues at the Luxembourg gardens, and I continued around the Louvre and in the Tuileries.
I've realized that I also have barely painted the Eiffel Tower, which most people think if first when they think of Paris. So I managed both a statue and the Eiffel Tower.
The skies have also been wonderful. The sky plus this statue on a corner of the roof of the Louvre caught my eye. I love this statue. My first sketch in Paris was of it. I just keep coming back.
While I was painting the angel, this lion caught my eye as well. There's such a wealth of things to paint in Paris that I could plop down almost anywhere and be occupied all day.
And then there's this one of the canal. I did it a few days ago when I was too busy to get a blog post up, so here it is. I had walked to a different quadrant if the city to meet a new friend for lunch, and I was glad to get out of my Louvre groove and see a little more of Paris.
I've spent two full days painting in the Luxembourg Gardens. My sister Deirdre who lived here for a while strongly recommended the place, and I have really enjoyed just taking a picnic and a book and painting and resting a bit on between.
I couldn't resist these sycamore trees.
I've also been enjoying painting statues. I've done several smaller watercolors of just a single statue. These are 6x8 instead of 7x10.
I had an only halfway intentional Sabbath. I somehow managed to forget my main watercolor book today, which left me with only my panorama one and a small one. I had one panorama I knew I wanted to do, but I was having trouble spotting others today.
I decided to do a few smaller ones instead. I started with a statue I spotted yesterday.
I checked my mail at lunch and found that the street musicians I'd met last week were playing today and decided to go see them. I did this small one while listening to them.
But mostly I was having a ball and just took a slow afternoon to hang out and listen to them. Here's a small video clip I took. Rene is from Louisiana and sings authentic blues, and Stephen is from Lancashire. Unfortunately the camera in the phone doesn't seem to be picking up his marvelous bass playing very well. More slap than bass, sadly.
I also did a couple of quick ink sketches of them in my journal. I'd done a watercolor of them a couple of days ago.
Then on the way home a couple was doing utterly beautiful tangos in the shady square in Abbesses. I settled in and watched for half an hour is so. Again the camera in my phone wasn't coping well with the shady light, but you can get an idea from this.
One thing I love about Paris
Is all the life right out on the sidewalk. this city is made for pedestrians, which is
perfect for me, and on the weekends it's like a street fair. Musicians everywhere. Lovely.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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