I'd been looking through the window at the neighborhood cheese shop as I walked past, wanting to draw it. The other day was cloudy, and it didn't need a lot of sunlight to sketch, so I stood outside on the sidewalk and drew standing up. I'm still learning how to do that efficiently and well, but a jacket pocket of just the markers I needed helped.
It's a busy scene, and I'm not sure it worked great, but I had to try.
Then I headed for one of the indoor covered Victoria passages, hoping it would be warmer than outside. It wasn't, but I still had fun sketching in there.
Then on the way home I ran into a group called Jingle Django, playing Django Reinhardt style jazz. They also danced around while they played, which made them tricky to sketch, but I had to try. I also got their cd. Really good music and a nice end to the day.
I got behind again posting photos because of the time change. I kept getting home after dark and not being able to take a decent snapshot of my sketches. I'm also looking forward to the scanner at home, but this is as good as it gets on the road, and it's fun to post while it's all fresh.
I had a great Saturday. Rene Miller played with Dede Macchabee at the Marche d'Aligre. It's a neat old street market. Half food and half brocante, or flea market. I scored a table just behind them at the cafe and painted while drinking mint tea, made with real mint. One of the lovely treats here in Paris.
My cousin Jonathon Gilmer, currently at university in London and over for the weekend, came to the market to join me and listen. Afterwards we walked through the center, had falafel at one of the walk up stands in the Marais, and ended with hot chocolate from Angelina's, one of my favorite treats here.
Sunday I went to St. Sulpice. It's the church where Faure and Widor both played and composed for the marvelous organ. They usually have a half hour organ concert open to all between masses, but there was an extra long service going that morning, so I had to content myself with sketching the lions in the fountain outside instead.
Here's how the page looks together. I kind of like the effect, even though they're facing different directions. It's been fun to play with the sketchbook and see what works and what doesn't.
I did a sketch walking home in my neighborhood. This is Stabilo pens with water wash, markers on top, and watercolor in the sky. Probably my most mixed media attempt. I'm going to have to try more of these.
Sunday was a glorious day here. Between the weather and just having too much fun with my sketchbook, I've only done a handful of finished watercolors this trip. I decided to do one of the Louvre to start the morning off, before the plaza got too crazy.
In other news, I discovered that a bakery halfway along my walk downtown (an hour or a little more, depending on where I'm heading) had the brilliant idea of joining pain au chocolat with an almond croissant, so now I don't have to choose. I ate that with a little tea as I sat on the edge of a fountain and considered my composition options.
Then I walked across the Seine to the Luxembourg gardens. I had really enjoyed painting some of the statues here last year, and I decided to revisit some of them with my sketchbook in a different style.
It was packed on a Sunday afternoon, and once again I enjoyed seeing everyone out, gathered together, and enjoying life.
I did an overview of the scene just for fun.
I finished by painting Sainte Genevieve, the patron of Paris. There's a lovely set of statues of strong women in history, most of them from the first millennia AD. I may need to go sketch more of them.
But the sun was out, I was tired, and so I decided to be utterly Parisian and just soak it up through my shoulders (and three layers) a bit before walking home. I had a beautiful time just sitting there and letting myself be happy.
Two things I love about Paris are the art and the sense of full life and carnival right out on the sidewalk. In America, I'm a lonely pedestrian when I walk. Most of us are invariably sealed individually in our separate cars. In Europe, everyone walks, and life happens out in the street. Just this weekend, I've walked through markets, street markets, an art fair, multiple musical concerts, and past one steam punk performance art tricycle with whirligigs and dragons.
There was also a circus tent set up in Abbesses for a puppet show. The ticket was crazy expensive, or I'd have seen the show too, out of curiosity from my teenage puppeteer past, but I settled for painting the tent as a perfect metaphor for the street fair carnival.
I walked on up and over the hill of Montmartre with Sacred Coeur, and back home for an eclair.
Art being the other thing I really love here (I also should add food as a third in that triumvirate, after that eclair sketch), I was delighted that the timing worked for me to be here in time for the Hokusai retrospective at the Grand Palais. Having hit Matisse just right in London over the summer, I'm feeling remarkably lucky lately.
I fell in love with an exhibition of Japanese mid 20th Century prints at the Art Institue a couple of years ago. These prints are called Shin Hanga, and they are still my favorites, though they are much less well known than the 18th Century floating world era of Hiroshige and Hokusai. But the Hokusai show was breath taking. Lots of it was pen and ink as well as his well known prints of Mount Fuji. I loved seeing his work in hand drawn books, since I'm having such fun with a sketchbook this trip. It was nice to see books as a major art category.
I sketched in line outside waiting to get in, and then I did small sketches and took notes in the exhibition itself. The rooms were quite dark, to protect the delicate works on paper, and there was a huge crowd, so it was challenging to work. The notes are less legible than would be ideal, but these pages give you an idea of what I typically do in museums. I can't reproduce paintings, but looking at something long enough to draw it helps me remember it better and also deconstruct the composition or other elements I'm drawn to. It's a great learning tool.
I walked to Notre Dame this morning because I hadn't really been there yet, and it's a place I really like. Specifically, I like the garden along the side and behind it, but there was absolutely no line to get in (it being an October midweek morning), so I seized the moment.
I'm always drawn to stained glass and then unhappy with how I capture it, but I had fun sketching the lady chapel anyway. And I've been challenging myself to draw in pen and marker this trip without using pencil first. It's making me think harder. And sometimes draw worse. But the perspective here worked out not too badly.
I did a couple of more quick ones inside. I'm not theologically a fan of Marian worship, but she did look lovely against the blue banner.
Then I headed outside and saw this sky...
I tried sketching Notre Dame from my favorite spot, along the side, but here's where not laying it out (at least basic placement) with pencil first came back to bite me. I lost a central element to the center of the page split. Live and learn....
Finally I had my tea and almond croissant in the garden at the back and sketched the fountain that I always seem to draw or paint when I'm here. It's a lovely spot, quiet and under the trees. It also had marvelous amenities for the traveller --- wifi and (most importantly) a bathroom.
Memphis has got me spoiled in that department. Every public business is required to have a public bathroom. Here in Paris, most of the businesses I go to (bakeries and shops) do not. The cafes do, but tea is twice as expensive as coffee (generally upwards of 4 euros), and I don't want to have to pay that to justify using their bathroom. So periodically an embarrassing amount of my day is planned by figuring out where I can go to pee and is there somewhere near there that I might want to paint. Not ideal, but there it is.
The weather was a little better today, and I managed to do a second full watercolor. I'm having a great time sketching, but I'm also trying to do a few more exhibition pieces for a spring show while I'm here.
But it was freezing! I got chilled painting and actually waked back for lunch, which I almost never do, to get warm and have tea. I sketched my lunch while I warmed up.
Then I went back out and sketched Vincent and Theo's Paris home. It's rift across from the store where I buy my muesli, and it never fails to make me feel like I'm on hallowed ground.
I'd been wanting to go sketch in the cemetiere du Montmartre as well, but it's often closed by the time I hike back out to this neighborhood. Since I was staying closer today, I decided to take that opportunity.
The cemetery goes right underneath a road bridge and out the other side, which I think is incredibly cool. I walk over that bridge and look down part of the time on my walks home.
I quickly sketched a couple of tombs and inscriptions as they were getting ready to close.
Finally, since I'd had such fun doing lunch, I sketched my dinner as well.
I walked some different places yesterday. Truthfully I was looking for the bakery where I found fig bread last time I was here, but I seem to have misplotted it on my map. I'll have to do a little more research.
But I saw some new sights, including the funky sculpture above and the equally funky bad relief of a naked woman on the side of an apartment building below.
I really liked the architecture of the building, and the sun came out after I'd done the black and white, so I decided to stay and do a quick second one in color.
Then, of course, it started pouring, and the day became less productive. I took shelter in the Galleries Lafayette department store and sketched from their cafe window out into the grey city. Got the Eiffel Tower a little wonky, though.
The weather was better walking home, so I stopped and sketched a fountain at the end of a cul de sac that I always admire. It feels like a welcoming place tucked away out of traffic.
I ended with a quick sketch of evening clouds from the window. It was a good day in spite of squalls, and I enjoyed seeing some new spots.
The day was glorious, so I decided to keep going to one of my very favorite spots in Paris, the Rodin Museum. I'm saving the museum itself for a rainy day visit, but I decided, in a fit of optimism, to buy an annual pass for the gardens. Oddly they don't have one for the museum itself. I hope to be back to house sit more, and if not, it was a very modest amount (15 euros) to support a museum I love.
On the way, though, I stopped and painted on one of the bridges over the Seine.
While doing that second sketch, I met a lovely woman who was sharing my bench. She lives just by the museum and talked about how magnificent it is to wake up to the dome of Les Invalides. We chatted a good while. She was patient with my French and enjoyed looking at my sketches.
I loved meeting someone who wanted to talk for a bit and make me feel welcome. It's still hard here to just chat with people. In fact, she asked if I had had trouble making friends, and I had to say yes, very much so. I've been lucky to make a couple, neither one of them French. So it was nice to have a chance to practice my conversational skills, and I greatly enjoyed talking to her. Talking to people around me is one reason I enjoy traveling solo. I get to hear more about everyday life in the places I go.
I did a few more sketches in the garden and walked home happily, calling it a day. The loveliness of my day was capped off when my favorite bakery was still open on a Sunday evening, and I could get my favorite chocolate and pear fondant. A perfect ending.
Sunday was sunny and warm, and the weather forecast is not promising for the next few days, so I spent the day outdoors in two of my favorite gardens. I started earlyish in Les Tuileries to beat the crowds (and get a chair more easily). It's right in the center of things and a bit touristy around the edges, but there are spots and views I just love.
I painted at first right by the touristy bit. I'm usually a little put off by the vendors who line up at the narrow spots and try to sell trinkets to tourists. But that day one came over to admire my sketch, and we chatted a minute or two. I was completely surprised when he reappeared as I was packing up with the painting below. As a gift. Just because I'd chatted and smiled and he liked my work.
I'm going to try to remember to be kind the next time I'm a little uncomfortable around anyone. People really are largely kind. I think I'll hang this as a reminder in my studio, near the luggage tag written by the porter in Greece who reunited me with my backpack and refused to accept a tip. And with the rug the groundskeepers innTurkey gave me to sit on when I paint. So many people have surprised me and shown me kindness on my travels.
I also really love the green chairs. I'd had them in mind to sketch for this trip. Several of the bigger Parisian parks have these chairs sprinkled around, and they charm me, as well as being hospitable. I wish we could do this in America, but I'm pretty sure they would walk off. It helps that most people in Paris are on foot instead of driving, and carrying one of these any distance at all would be a total pain.
I walked on down the park to the place where I sit most often. The sculpture is questionable, but I love the square of trees surrounding it, and this particular spot is just opposite Angelina's, which sells the best hot chocolate in Paris. I buy mine and bring it here to savor.
I must have sketched a lot. Weebly wouldn't let me upload my post with all of them, so there will be a part two to follow.
I spent Monday morning exploring the slightly unreal feeling world of antique markets just north of the expressway loop from where I stay here.
I had gone last time and only scratched the surface. On getting directions from a kind shop keeper with some letterpress type, on my second visit I dived into a tiny alley and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, I found a whole, expansive, unexpected world. There are rows and rows of, basically, storage units, but each is an individual shop that can open (or not) at the will of the owner. Like the Istanbul bazaar, there are also cafe and other amenities tucked in, though I didn't see a mosque.
I wandered and looked a good while, bought one nifty letterpress "m" to use on posters or cards, and did one sketch. I may return next Monday for more drawing.
This time, in addition to the one market I already knew about, I was told to try other entrances off Rue des Rosiers (not the one in the Marais). Apparently there are many of these surprising places that somehow fold space. The one below was far grander than the first one I found, and somehow not as charming (or as affordable), but fun to walk through.
Many of the dealers specialize in certain areas only. One guy was selling purely coffee equipment --- pots and old grinders. Others only had clothes or prints or old tools.
One only had Carosel horses.
I wouldn't say this is up there with seeing Notre Dame, but it's an unusual and charming bit of Paris for anyone heading this way with enough time to get off the beaten path a little.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get studio email updates from Mr. Darcy and me.
To subscribe to this blog, by email: