My friend Jill and I went to Giverny her last day here. I hadn't been before, and it was stunning. My dad has been telling me I needed to get there, and I'm glad I did. It's always powerful to stand in the spaces artists you admire have painted in, and seeing Monet's home so beautifully intact gave me a further feeling for the man. One tremendous surprise was his collection of Japanese prints hung all over the house. The Impressionists were the first group of painters who had access to the exquisite woodblock prints of Hiroshige and his contemporaries, and it made a huge impact on their art. Getting to see the specific prints Monet lived with and was inspired by was enormous for me.
We didn't have a huge amount of time, and it got flooded with people as the morning went on, but I did have to do just one sketch of the beautiful colors he used in his home. I now want a yellow kitchen. I'm adding in some of my photos too, just to show the beauty of the place.
I've been hanging out in museums the last couple of days sketching, which is always a lovely way to spend time. I sketched paintings at the Orsay, and even though I was with friends at the Rodin, I couldn't help doing some quick gesture sketches there of the Burghers of Calais. I have been unable to look at Rodin without sketching since high school. Something about his work makes my fingers itch to draw.
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is hang out with my friends Rene Miller and Stephen Harrison while they play. Rene is from Louisiana and plays masterful slide blues on an old metal resonator guitar, but he mixes in all kinds of other songs as well and always makes them his own. I so admire that about his performances. He's also been playing on the street here for 25 years or so and is an unflappable master of accepting all kinds of odd happenings and weaving them into the show. Stephen is a fabulous bass player (touring with various folks as well as playing with the orchestra here), and he joins Rene when he's in town. They're magic together.
This past weekend they were set up on the bridge by Hotel de Ville, and I spent chunks of both days sitting out on a park bench and listening and chatting with them and watching the people watch them. And sketching. Of course.
I was using a Pentel dark, smallish brush pen. I've been wanting to work on my people, since I'm enjoying the idea of more illustration, so I did a ton of gestures sitting out there through the Sunday midday.
I was also kind of fascinated by their shadows extending towards me and did a couple of quick watercolor sketches, one with the bridge railing in it and one without.
I got used to showing Mr. Darcy's trip this spring by drawing him doing different things. I'm not being as organized about it, but I'm also enjoying drawing myself in bits of my own trip this time. I've been looking at all kinds of paintings of women "a la toilette" in the Orsay -- by Morisot, Degas, Cassat, and many more. It was a popular theme, and I absolutely love the tiles in the bathroom here, so this morning I decided to have a go at doing my own version. I'm also still working on getting better at people, and I'm a willing, free, and available model for myself.
This evening at dinner I also wanted to remember a sweet moment from my long walk home. I stopped in a bakery I like but don't go to often enough for them to know me, and I asked for the smaller version of the pain au chocolat. The baker, bless him, seemed to think that I needed fattening up and added a mini croissant, "un petit cadeau," to my bag. That kindness made me smile for blocks, so I did a sketch when I got home.
Here are morning and evening sketches done a couple of days ago. I'm looking at more art and making less this trip, at least so far, but it's nice to have something in my journal each day. I'm also still working on desk work -- self portraits here in the apartment and a bit of Mr. Darcy. It's nice to be able to play here and not feel like I need to create a whole show to bring home with me. I like having free time in an inspiring place to simply do whatever wants to come out at the moment.
I've been having quiet mornings and walking to museums in the afternoons. Today was the Orangerie, which had an exhitbition of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works from a collection in Tokyo that was well worth seeing. Then I couldn't resist going upstairs to the rooms with the enormous, all encompassing late water lily paintings of Monet. It was crowded, but I still love sitting in those rooms. (The back room is never as pushed as the front one.) And I always want to sketch. Today I didn't even try to get any details of the paintings. I just did a quick sketch in the general palette, which happened to match the French ink I just bought. It was fun to go for the impression. I had done more precise work this morning, working on the Mr. Darcy book, so it was nice just to surf art and sketch loosely for the afternoon.
I followed about the same pattern yesterday and went the Musee d'Orsay instead. I didn't even sketch inside, just a quickish view from out on the roof, yesterday being one of the rare and unpredictable days they allow people out to enjoy the stunning view.
The weather is overcast and chilly, and the light isn't calling my name for painting in a serious way, so I went to my favorite Saturday markets today instead. First to my local one for tomatoes and avocados and a small umbrella (necessary equipment to carry in Paris, though gratefully I didn't need it today), and then to the Marche d'Aligre, my favorite brocante, which is my favorite French word, meaning any second hand store or flea market or sidewalk sale. One word fits all for second hand goods. It's an alluring word. It was quite thin for August. The booth where I got my favorite teapot last year wasn't there. But I got another long sleeved shirt, which I feel I will need this trip, and I got my favorite mint tea, with a huge sprig of fresh mint and pine nuts floating in the top. I sat and sketched and wrote in my journal and generally breathed deeply and stopped moving for the first time in a long while. It felt good. I'm enjoying the quiet time to walk and contemplate here after feeling underwater with the church book project (marvelous though it was to be asked to do) for much of this year. Two weeks at home with multiple repairs and business to attend to followed it, so Paris, where all I have to do is feed cats and myself for the moment, is quite a restful change.
I also sketched on the way home. The city had taken an expanse of cobblestones off to the side of the Pantheon and erected benches, one of them with enormous gargoyles scattered down its length. One of the things I love about Paris is its creative use of public space. It continually plays with different options to invite people out into its spaces to mingle and enjoy. I love that, coming from the land of everyone being sealed up in their air conditioned cars and houses. It's hard to mingle in Memphis. So I sat to sketch a bit and then bought some Angelina's hot chocolate to drink in the park on the way home. Bliss.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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