I'm slowly scanning in at least my favorites from my sketchbook, so I thought I'd write about my last day. I had finished the work I needed to do there (still lifes for my September show and sketches for a graphic essay I'm planning), so I treated myself with another beautifully quiet morning at the Orsay and lunch at one of my favorite bakeries. It was amazing (and emotional) to stand with this self portrait by Vincent for 45 minutes, practically on my own. Two couples came through, saw it, and left. Otherwise it was just Vincent and me. Usually this piece is five people deep with everyone trying to take selfies. I felt so privileged to spend this quiet time with it. I've been thinking about self portraits a lot, had been doing some of my own (an annual Paris occupation for me) and had already done my study of Berthe Morisot's stunning one. I couldn't catch Vincent's likeness, and the background got a bit too dark, but it was wonderful to look at it deeply as I did the copy.
My friend Beth Rowlett so kindly made me a watercolor kit especially for this kind of sketching. It's attached to a wristband with heavy velcro, so I don't have to juggle the paint box as well as the book and water brush when I'm standing up in a museum. I like to sketch from a bench when I can, but there aren't benches everywhere I want to draw. You can see that I use the left side of the page to test colors or blot my brush as needed.
I also did a copy of a Bonnard painting. One of many things I love about the Orsay is that it has an absolute host of paintings of women and dogs. This one is completely charming, with their heads so intimately together. It speaks of the love in that relationship, and I was missing Mr. Darcy. I'd meant to copy it two or three years ago but hadn't gotten around to it that first summer of spending time here. Then it disappeared. The Orsay rotates paintings regularly. So when it reappeared this summer, I knew I had to take the opportunity.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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