I've been continuing the self portraits here, in a range of ways. Above are my feet as I sit and play banjo, feet propped on the balcony and watching the world below.
That one made me want to paint my banjo spot too, just for happiness.
Hands down the best quote of the trip has been the startled guy at the bus stop after I materialized next to him in my completely silent boots. He blurted out, "You could be BATMAN!" I had to do a sketch to commemorate that moment. Who doesn't want to be batman?
I am still chasing stars this trip, and I happened to be walking past St. Chappelle when it was five minutes from opening and the line was quite manageable, so I went in on impulse. I had seen it three years ago when it was still being restored, so one whole side was blocked off. It was gorgeous to see the full array of windows open to the light. They even had chairs, so I could sit and paint comfortably. A luxury.
I love the floor tiles as much as the windows, and in one magic moment magic moment, I looked down at one floor tile and saw my beloved first dog Dougal. He was the most utterly joyful dog I have ever known, and if I was down, I would take him to the park and watch him frolic with butterflies. He was a long, lean, red Doberman shelter guy, completely unscarred by his precious life. I always called him my angel because he taught me to notice and appreciate the everyday delight. I absolutely love that there was a Dougal in Medieval times as well. Maybe he really was an angel.
I was a little drawn out by then, but I also loved the whimsical carved animals on the west door portals. What a stunning place in so many beautiful details. (Not to mention a stunning rose window based on Revelation, which always sparks my artistic imagination.)
The skies have been amazing here. Both the real ones and the painted ones in the Orsay. I wrote earlier about the Redon portraits with fantastical clouds as backgrounds, and the magical realism is still speaking to me. I've always loved Redon, but that's never been my style. I decided I just had to try my own cloud portrait, though, having already done a starry background one after the Van Gogh portrait I love in the Orsay.
I'm not sure where, if anywhere, I'll go with this series, but it feels really good to get outside of my regular work and have the time and creative space to try something new. It's a huge gift to get away from the business side of things (packaging, framing, shows, deadlines) and have time to purely create art and listen to the voices inside. I'm so grateful for this chunk of creative time in Paris. And having the Orsay as a neighbor has deeply enriched the experience.
I might be almost done, but no promises. I really have enjoyed this simple shape rising above the city and against the sky. I'm also enjoying the challenge of finding visually new ways to portray it.
Here it is with my regular Saturday market.
I spent a lot of the day painting in and around the market, in fact. Here are two journal sketches.
I've spent a couple of really lovely cloudy afternoons in the Musee d'Orsay lately. I absolutely love doing small sketchbook studies from paintings that move me. I use my tiny mint tin watercolor kit and a water brush to keep from having an open cup of water in a musuem. It's let me really paint from the art, and I'm so grateful.
Above is Whistler's portrait of his mother. I'd seen reproductions and spoofs of this piece for years without really paying attention to it. Then I came around the corner, and it absolutely gobsmacked me. So powerful in person.
Below is a quite large Maurice Denis. I love the composition and how the ground spreads out toward the viewer, giving you a birds eye view and inviting you in.
This is one in the surrealist section, where I spent most of my time the other day. I had to go back and paint it today. It's by Alexander Harrison, born in Philadelphia and died in Paris. This one really struck me for its quietude.
Here are a couple of others I did earlier that didn't fit with my cloud or nocturn posts that I put a couple of studies in. The first is the third Odilon Redon study I did. I love his ethereal, otherworldly pieces. Similar to Chagall, but much more lovely to my eye. This one of Caliban seemed whimsical and appealed to my Shakespearean upbringing.
Finally here is a Vuillard. I've really fallen in love with him during my time at the Orsay. This is a quite large tempera painting that was done as a decorative panel for a tea room. I love the sketchy indistinctness of it, as well as the glowing sense of light in the original that I didn't manage to capture here.
I went out sketching with Paris based Urban Sketcher Yves Damin today. I love that this group brings people together. Yves wrote it up so nicely for the facebook Urban Sketchers group that I'm just going to quote him here.
"Dear fellow sketchers, here is the kind of a fantastic meeting between sketchers : last week as I was rollerskating through Paris (my favourite way to travel though the city ;-), I spotted a young lady sketching on the pavement around Montparnasse. I asked her if she was a urban sketcher and she replied "yes" enthusiatly. Her name is Martha Kelly and she is coming from Memphis, Tennessy. So I contacted her a bit later and organized with her a morning a sketching session, just her and me around St-Germain-des-Prés. We showed each other sketchbooks around a cup of coffee (strong black tea for Martha to be precise ;-) . Then we decided that it was enough chatting, and time to work ! So we came on the Pont des Arts which give an amazing view above the river Seine. Believe me or not, I had forgotten my watercolor set ! Never mind, Martha kindly shared her painting, so we sketched together, chatting nicely about how it is to sketch in the USA or in France, about our lives, our techniques, and so on. It was a very nice morning, emulating. That's what is really cool about Urban Sketchers, isn't it ? And, would you guess what I did after this sketching session ? 30 km of intense rollerskating through Paris ;-) lol !"
Here is Yves's sketch from the morning. You can see more of his lovely work at www.lexposition.fr
We started a second sketch together, but the rain caught up with us. I finished it later in the afternoon after I spent the rainy period in the Musee d'Orsay.
I've been a little fascinated with nocturnes lately. They truly don't fit my morning schedule self, but after doing the moonrise through my window the other night (at the bottom of this blog post in case you missed it earlier), I got out to the Louvre at dusk to paint. Besides flagging energy level, there is also the technical difficulty of painting in the dark. It helps to know your way around your palette, but some of it ends up being guess work. I put the sky in later, using my out-the-window sketch as a guide, but I did the rest on site. I also did the quick little sketch below while I was out there. It was a fun evening.
More recent work that you might have seen but that fits in this category are my star filled self portrait, sitting here in the apartment I'm house sitting, and the museum study I did in the Orsay.
I've done several themed entries that some of my recent work didn't fit with. So here are some of the other things I've been doing that didn't match a blog post. Above is Notre Dame, of course. Below is a bookstore in Place Colette that I painted while listening to Rene and Stephen one afternoon.
Speaking of Rene:
Plus a page of our Tuesday night regulars.
Skies are truly calling to me this trip. I've been painting them myself but also looking at the way other people paint them. Of the five studies I did in the Orsay today, three featured skies. Above is Henry Tanner, 1905, Christ and his disciples on the road to Bethany. The combination of tree plus moon got me. I wish I'd been able to replicate his deep purple-y blue of the sky.
I spent most of my day with the surrealists today. I've loved Rodin since a show of his I saw as a teen, though it's never been the kind of art I do. For many years I was a pure landscapist. But I've been feeling drawn to having more narration in my work the last few years, and I love the mystery of Redon's paintings. The way he captures deeper truth by taking liberties with the surface truth. That's a bit of how I felt with the self portrait I did against the stars recently. Here Rodin is using clouds as a backdrop for two portraits, the way Vincent used stars.
I love the one of the boy best (I'm guessing his son by the name), but I was struck by the very realistic woman sitting in a demure armchair with carefully rendered embroidery juxtaposed with the fantastical sky. This feels a bit of what I wanted to do in those recent self portraits. Since I'm also doing so many cloud studies recently, I may have to try my own one of these as well.
I had already warmed up for the Orsay, unknowingly, by doing another cloud study over breakfast this morning. It's a skies sort of day.
I promise I'm painting other things too, but this is a quick blog subject for today as I'm on my way out to visit the studio of a linocut artist here whose work I've admired in our Facebook linocut group for several years.
I have been enjoying this series, keeping an eye open as I walk the neighborhood for different places Montparnasse peeks over the rooftops. I'm also enjoying doing this series a little smaller and looser than some of my watercolors. The bottom one was drawn in ballpoint instead of my more usual pencil.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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