The weekend was rainy, and I had a lovely time anyway. I went to the market to buy my favorite tomatoes, and then I had tea in my favorite cafe right next to it, which has a totally fun Art Deco mural inside. Just as I was finishing up, the heavens really opened, so I settled back in and did a second, quicker drawing.
I had a lovely, unhurried day yesterday. I painted all morning at the house, working on the still life show again (colored macarons are totally fun to paint!), and then I just walked out into the city and followed my nose for the afternoon and evening. I went into St. Eustache, which I’d walked past for years, and enjoyed doing two loose sketches in my bigger sketchbook there. I kept the palette super simple and just used French ultramarine blue and burnt umber, mixing all the grays from warm to cool between those colors.
Then I walked on to Ile de la Cite and found an adorable bicycle crepe stand, complete with stove going, at its tip. I got a crepe and sat on the bridge to eat it. By the time I’d finished, I wanted to sketch the view I’d been looking at.
I ended up having dinner at my very favorite place here, with the most delicious yellow curry you can imagine. I got a sidewalk table, drew as I ate, watched the world go by, and had three different people tell me “bon apetit!” as they walked past. Just lovely. I brought the rest home for my dinner tonight, catching the metro home after I’d finished. It was a lovely day.
I went to call on Notre Dame the other day. I had drawn and painted her so much in my early trips to this city, and watching the news about the fire really gutted me. I’m grateful it isn’t worse, and I’m also hoping more damage doesn’t come with further collapse. Recent news about lead poisoning have halted the work, and the summer heat took a toll on the already damaged building. There is scaffolding holding up all the flying buttresses, and the nave windows, except the huge rose ones, are gone. I think they’ve been removed instead of all of them damaged, at least I hope so. It’s disconcerting to look through the side of the nave and see sky. I walked all around, up the north side just along the church and then over the Ile St. Louis, where I did this sketch, and then on around the south side looking from the Left Bank. I process things, and also look more closely, by drawing, so here is my sketch, which tends to fall into the recent category of “reportage sketching.” I’m also adding a couple of photos below once I got around to the south side and a little closer, for anyone wanting a better look at how things stand now.
I totally lucked out this weekend and found a teapot in an antique mall from Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The studio is owned by the family of Walter Anderson, one of my absolute favorite artists. He did designs for them as well as doing his own work. I have a few of their wine glasses and had recently been dreaming of a teapot and thinking of taking a trip down to the coast. Then this one appeared. It’s got a stylized spout, and I wish I knew how old it is. Beautifully it matches my very favorite tea cup and cream pitcher from Paris, which are also happenstance matches from different “brocantes”, my favorite French word. It means a second hand sale place, anything from a fancy antique shop to a flea market to a yard sale. It has the mystery and excitement of treasure hunting about it, and I love that the one word spans that whole spectrum.
I needed a quiet morning today, so I did a little printing, a little journal writing, and I also painted my new teapot as a celebration.
Here are a few photos of Walter Anderson murals in Ocean Springs. I’m still longing to get back down there.
Paris has a surprisingly hot old time music scene, and I'm lucky enough to know several of the musicians there. Camille had invited me to go see some of her friends play, and I had a ball my next to last night there. Admittedly it was my crowd of folks, but it was also lovely to be out in a cafe (well, "Irish pub") and know five people. In Paris. It's good to feel I'm getting a set of friends there.
The band was great. The main pair happened to be Americans, though John Matthews has lived there for ages, and Ilon Moss did for a good while. They had the serious pipes to belt out a bunch of songs, unmiked, into a crowded bar. I was impressed. The bass player and guitarist (who also rang out some great Cajun songs) were French. It was such a fun evening.
I had a lot of things going the last week in Paris and didn’t get up the last sketches. I do still want to post these paintings from Auvers, though. I went back a second time because I wanted to paint more (and bigger) in the fields and because one special tree called me back, which will surprise no one who’s known me for very long. I took my bigger sketch book the second time (9x12”) and enjoyed being in the country a bit and did several watercolors in that same area where Van Gogh painted the crows over the wheat field.
This tree, arching over a narrow path, is what really drew me back. I did several different versions, and I never got it quite right, but I sure enjoyed trying.
After I’d painted a bit, I walked down to the other end of town to see Dr. Gachet’s house. Mavis and I hadn’t had the time and energy the week before. I’m so glad I did. He was an amateur artist as well as a doctor, and Van Gogh moved to Auvers to be under his care. Dr. Gachet was a friend of a number of artists, and he had two printing presses, one of which (the one Van Gogh actually used) is still in the house, and I was thrilled to see it. I had a lovely conversation with the docent, who is also a printmaker, as it turns out. We talked art about 25 minutes, all in French (she was patient with my mistakes, but I was proud of myself to have such an extended conversation, even with grammatical missteps). Once we got going, she was kind enough to remove the rope blocking the stairway and take me up to the attic art studio. Cézanne had painted there and had made Dr. Gachet move the skylight from the southern side of the house to the northern one, so there would be cool, steady light for painting. It’s a lovely space, and it was special to be there. I always feel humbled standing in the spaces where great artists have painted, and I always enjoy seeing other people’s work spaces.
Agata took my photo up there, and here is also the printing press. Just a gorgeous piece as well as art making magic.
The garden at Dr. Gachet’s is a lovely place. Small but quiet and with view out across tiled rooftops. Van Gogh had painted Gachet’s daughter there, and I found a bench in the shade to sit and enjoy the view, and I couldn’t resist painting as well.
It was a great day. I was exhausted when it was over, from travel plus five watercolors, but I was so delighted that I got back to spend more time there. It’s only an hour and a half from Gare du Nord, so it’s an easy day trip from Paris for anyone who has the extra time.
I had been wanting to get to Auvers for a while, the town where Van Gogh spent his last few months, and my friend Mavis kindly accompanied me (and guided me through the mysteries of the suburban train system). It was a powerful place to be. Vincent and his brother Theo are both buried there (thanks to Theo’s generous wife who decided they should be together), as is the church that Vincent painted which I had seen in the Orsay. We spent most of the day there, wandering and looking and sketching. From the graveyard you can walk out into the fields where Vincent painted his late masterpiece of the crows. It’s a gorgeous spot, and I sketched it in my journal, just for the thrill of being there and also because after so long in the city, it was marvelous to be in actual countryside again.
The church was covered in scaffolding as they retile the roof, but I had to sketch it as well.
I also fell, not surprisingly, for a tree, just near the site of the crows. I sketched it once and then went back the next week (I’ll post these after) to paint it again. Mavis and I also went up to the small room where Vincent lived and then died. It was a bit of a crowded tour, but I got in the room before most of the group did and was able to stand in silence for a minute and also take this photo. It was a moving place to be.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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