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.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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