I got totally, crazy behind here. I went straight from jet lag to another intensive week of work (even more intense than usual) at Cape May. So please forgive the dead air
I want to just post my last few sketches from France. I spent one day up on the hill of Montmartre. My hosts' home is just past Montmartre from the center of town, a very regular Parisian neighborhood, so it's always a mental shock to climb the hill that is so close and wade suddenly and unexpectedly into a throng of tourists.
But it's a cool neighborhood with a different look than most of Paris, and I had fun staying closer to home and painting what it had to offer.
I spent my very last day downtown. First I settled in with a cup if tea at the Place St. Michel and painted a cafe across the way.
Then I went to find Rene, who had told me he would be playing music on the bridge between Notre Dame and Hotel de Ville. I settled on a bench and painted the available scenery while listening to him play.
Fittingly, my last sketch of the trip was of Rene. It was a nice bookmark, because the first one of the trip was also of him. Also fitting because he and Stephen between them made me very welcome and were excellent company for me during my solo stay. Thanks to them both for the welcome.
Just for fun, here was the first sketch of the trip.
My next posts will be back stateside....
I spent one afternoon painting down by Notre Dame. It had been my favorite subject last year, but I hadn't painted it this year at all. I wanted to see how it would look with my thicker, more layered approach to watercolors that really took hold during my England trip earlier this summer.
I wasn't able to paint much in the mornings that last week. Mornings seemed to be socked in, but the sun would break through (still with rainy periods) in the afternoon. So I'd linger with my tea, book, and banjo in the mornings and paint in the afternoons.
The second watercolor is the bridge from Ile St. Louis (just behind Notre Dame) looking back to the Right Bank.
It was latish, and I was going to head home after two, but I walked past Notre Dame again and couldn't resist the blue skies. Nice to be able to linger and paint at will. That's the fun of traveling by myself. (There are other lovely compensations for having company.)
I'm waking up in Chicago after getting stranded in my way home last night. Hopefully my suitcase will be waiting for me in Memphis. Now is a good moment to suggest that fellow artists who travel always carry their art home in a carry on. I may add an extra pair of underwear after this, though I'm feeling quite lucky to have all my sketches, my toothbrush, contact stuff, and tea bags with me. And a hotel room provided by the airline.
I had a whirlwind last few days in Paris, so I'll post the last few paintings now that I'm stateside.
The second week in Paris saw me swapping my sunglasses for my umbrella and back again every half hour or so. The iffy weather made for some fabulous skies, but I lost count of the number of times I was interrupted in the middle of a watercolor or sketch by rain. That was the case for two out of three of this particular afternoon's sketches.
In fact, you can see authentic Parisian raindrops in the sky of this last one. It started raining quite hard, and I didn't get to work as long on this one as I would have liked, but mostly I managed to do the work I wanted to in between showers.
I'm hitting my stride on watercolors. I had several requests last year for paintings of the Eiffel Tower. It's off a bit by itself and isn't anywhere I get to often, but a sunny day made me think I should revisit it.
I got out of the metro and first saw Les Invalides with its wonderful conical topiary and the morning light playing across the facade, so I painted it first, since the light effect would be fleeting.
I painted the Eiffel Tower from the same spot. I really like the topiary, and also I was settled comfortably on a wall with my paints already out.
I once disappointed someone with a romantic notion of painting who asked how I choose my painting spots. My answer that first I check the shady and/or comfortable spots and branch out from those only if necessary for the view I need was clearly not what the questioner had in mind for the artistic process. I've definitely done my time hunkered on rocks, in direct sunlight, even (for one marvelous scene in Greece) right next to the public toilet with all the smells that go with such a location, but comfort and convenience are a good place to start.
I passed a bakery as I walked around to the park that houses the Eiffel Tower. Many of them here have small quiches and tarts that they will heat up for you to carry into the nearest park. I love that. So I treated myself to a salmon and spinach quiche to go with my apple and had a very Parisian looking picnic before painting again.
I finished the last piece as rain started to come down. I've lost track now of how many sketches have been interrupted by rain, but I may well be into double digits for the trip by now. I did the last bIt under my umbrella and packed up huddled underneath a sycamore.
Then, of course, I needed sunglasses for my walk home. Every half hour I seem to switch between my umbrella and my sunglasses. It makes for occasionally challenging painting conditions but really marvelous skies.
I've had a social few days, so I'm behind on my blog. After thinking I would move mostly toward watercolor again, I spent Sunday just doing pen sketches. The weekends are great street music days, and since it was the only weekend that Stephen is in town to play with Rene (during my trip, anyway), I decided just to sit back and enjoy the show instead of trying to do serious work at the same time. He's an amazing bass player. I wish I were good enough to learn from just watching him. As it is, I just enjoy and marvel.
It was also rainy in spurts, so they'd play a while, and then we'd duck into a cafe for a bit to take cover. Not great painting conditions. So I did a few marker sketches because I just can't help myself (I loved the image of them playing in the Marais in front of a big mura,l) but mostly I just had a good time.
I think I might be a groupie at this point, but they really treat me like a friend and make me feel very welcome here, which is lovely. And they're interesting guys as well as talented. We talked about Shaker theology, early 20th century music, banjos (of course --- four out of five people at dinner last night played the banjo), accents, travel, and touring and who knows what all at a small dinner party last night. Stephen cooked for all of us --- Rene's niece was in town, plus another traveling musician and me, so I had a delightful evening with all of them.
But the sun is supposed to come back out today, and if so, I plan to make good use of it.
Oh! And this pedaled by while the guys were playing. One thing I love about Europe is that all of life, a whole carnival, is out mingling on the sidewalks. In America, people are mostly sealed individually inside their cars, which takes away so many possibilities for joy and interaction.
I moved back more to watercolor the last few days. It was raining off and on Friday, but I manages to find a couple of protected enough places to paint. One was the Carnavalet museum garden, where I could be under a covered walkway with a great view of the mix of formal boxwood with kitchen garden plants --- tomatoes, beans, and cabbages. Utterly charming.
I also went back to paint the fountain at the Place des Voges after doing a couple of marker sketches there earlier. It was drizzling slightly, but the thick tree arbors there gave me plenty of protection for painting.
I included a halfway done picture of this one. It shows what has been so hard for me about watercolor. For years in pastels and even in oils, I could do the entire background in the dark colors and then just pull the white of the fountain on top.
With watercolor, I have to be very conscious right from the beginning about where the water is and leave it completely clean as I'm working. It takes a lot of concentration, and there's no real recovery from a mistake. But I'm having fun with the watercolors, and their compactness is just marvelous for traveling, so it's been worth learning the mental shift.
On Saturday I had the marvelous treat of hanging out with Rene Miller and Stephen Harrison as they played music all afternoon. They set up just beside a Left Bank cafe, and I scored the table right next to Stephen and his bass. So I had the comfort of a chair and table to work at while I listened to the guys play their excellent music. A perfect afternoon. I did one longish watercolors and a couple of quick sketches of the guys playing.
This is one of my favorite places in Paris. It was Rodin's home, and he left it to the state for a museum of his work. There's something extra special being in the space where an artist actually did his work.
Plus there's a lovely garden, dotted with his sculptures, where I love to draw when the weather's nice. This was definitely an inside kind of day, but I still had a great time.
These are all Stabilo pen sketches. I'm trying the pens without using any water for wash.
Then I switched over to my Lamy fountain pen plus the Pentel brush pen that has a lighter, warmer black (really a grey) ink.
I love the flourishes in the house itself and how the sculptures look in that setting. This sketch has a little more of the house.
I also took a selfie there, along with the Prodigal Son sculpture I'd sketched earlier.
Here's the main hall. I'm totally tempted to do a block print of it. I love the black and white tiles.
And an Edvard Munch painting of Rodin's work, in the garden of a mutual patron. Two artists I love in one painting. Perfect.
Ok, I'll stop now. But it's my favorite museum in Paris. Please go if you have the chance.
There are a series of covered passages with shops and restaurants and tea rooms in Paris. They were built in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and they remain private roads with private owners but are mostly open to pedestrians. This one, Vivienne Gallery, was built in 1826. I love the vaulted window roof, the mosaic floors, the architectural curlicues.
It's also a great place to head on a rainy day, which is what happened with me yesterday. I had a slow start, but when the rain slowed to drizzle, I took a long walk and ended up here to paint.
I'm using part of this trip to Paris to try to get the hang of marker sketches. Tom Pruett has been posting his on the Memphis Urban Sketchers blog, if you'd like to see what's inspiring me. (I don't think I can include a link doing this on my phone the way I would from my desktop at home. A google search will come up with it.)
I'm having only limited success so far getting the effects I want, but it took me a while to get the hang of watercolor too.
Above is the Seine. Below is the Bastille monument sketched after making my busking debut at the market nearby. I played my banjo for an hour and a half and garnered 4.50 euros plus one indecent proposal. I never thought If art as a solidly reliable day job, but I guess everything's relative. I had fun, but I feel lucky to be doing this instead.
I tried busking again and earned 10 euros in the same time in the Marais district. Then I bought myself a gelato, sat in the Place de Voges, and did two sketches of fountains.
To make all other sketchers feel superior, I'll include this one, which is not at all what I had hoped. And which may be the reason I mostly switch back to watercolor for this trip. But we'll see.
While I was sketching at the Marche d'Aligre the first morning, I met not one but two urban sketchers, and it so happened that the Paris group had a meet up the following day.
I had met up with them when I was here last spring, and it was fun to get to go out with them again. We spent the afternoon drawing in the Luxembourg Gardens, and I took my full watercolor kit for the occasion. I loved the light filtering down through the trees, and it was fun to sketch a little, chat a little, sketch and chat some more.
My jet lag caught up with me before the final meet up (not till 6), so I headed home because I had a long way to go. But it was fun to have such a social weekend right off the bat.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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