Monday, November 10, 2014

France, California, and New Hampshire

So here we are in our Paris apartment, an Airbnb. A fifth floor walk up. (Fourth floor in European terminology, which starts at ‘ground’.)

 I am drawing from the window of the upstairs loft looking out over the rooftops to a gilded statue atop a column at the Place de la Bastille. (The column is named the July Column and commemorates the fall of King Charles X and the beginning of the reign of King Louis-Phillippe in 1830.)  Quite visible from afar, it was a handy landmark to help us get back to the apartment after going out for walks. The gilding and lighting were beautiful.

We never did procure a map of Paris, and we got lost and disoriented in the maze of streets several times a day. But it gave me a lot of chances to practice asking directions. Bar staff are the most friendly.

It is warm, sunny, and the end of September. You’ll see my new supplies and tools in the photo below.

What fun my new tiny Koi water color set is. I practiced a bit with it before I left the U.S., but this is the real deal, Paris rooftops. My brush has a water reservoir so I can go out onto the streets without any water cup to dip the brush into. It even washes out easily when it is time to change colors. Magic! I can hold the water color set in my hand, and the sketchbook rests on my forearm. No need for a third arm!

It is unusually sunny for Paris. Basically I ignored the shadows.

 Next, I went out on the streets, a block away, to the Sunday market. The passageways between the rows of stalls were narrow and crowded. I had my back against a pole, and so a close up of the sausage seller was going to be it. I chose to sketch this guy, out of a hundred equally compelling sights, because I had drawn a sausage stand way back in 1966 when I was a student in France. You can see that drawing and others from that same time at this 2011 blog post.

No one noticed that I was painting. Or they didn’t slow down or care. I was very focused on what I was doing anyway. I love signs in markets, patterns and repetitions, and color. So I was a happy camper here. The signs say, left to right, Gold Medal winner, plain small sausages (the width of crayons), plump round sausages in string, and spicy Chorizo. Saucisson is a dried sausage that people take on picnics and hiking.

And yes, I showed my sketch to the seller. He grinned even more broadly.

 We took a walking tour of the Île de Paris, the island in the River Seine that is the site of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. It is not a big island, but we walked quickly for two hours, and now it is over and we are resting on a bench and munching on our sandwiches. These people were not really in a line but milling around in front of the cathedral trying to decide if they wanted to stand in line.

My favorite figure is the standing woman in orange with the black legs.

The weather was so fine, we decided to take the Métro to the Sacré-Coeur church on the hill in the Montmartre neighborhood. You can see a wide panorama from the top of the hill.

 But we walked onwards, sniffing out, literally, a crêperie. We needed a couple of crêpes to keep up our strength. Just after I finished mine and got the sticky residue of Grand Marnier liqueur off my fingers, this bride posed in front of the bakery across the street. For about ten seconds!

 One snap by her photographer and she and her groom were off down the street for more posing. But, I snapped it into my memory!  I drew the
bakery first and then fit her into the space.

One morning I went out on my own wandering the neighborhood with my art supplies. Very close to our apartment I spotted this window of tempting classic French pastries.

Several people did notice me this day, and one man gave me an encouraging ‘formidable’. That is high praise. Those strawberries looked so fresh.

The square is called La Place Des Vosges, built about 1604. All four sides of the square, located in the Marais district, have matching façades, arches, and trees pruned into a severe rectangular shape. It is very harmonious and beautiful. Under the arches are swanky shops and galleries.

 We sat under the trees and enjoyed our cones of three gelato flavors.

I wanted to draw the three people sitting on the grass, sunning themselves, because when I lived in France no one was EVER allowed on the grass. There were signs everywhere stating emphatically “Défense de marcher sur le gazon”. It seems France has relaxed. On this warm day, most people did choose the benches under the trees. 

Another change that we observed was a relaxed attitude toward eating outdoors, which authorized us to consume those delightful sandwiches while sitting on a bench outside of Notre Dame a few days earlier. Take-out (à l’emporter) has arrived in France. This might be old news as I haven’t been to France since 1998.

After four days in Paris, we got a high speed train to Strasbourg in Alsace, and then drove to our rented house in the village of Bergheim. This is our charming courtyard, looking through the gate to a red house across the lane. 

In Alsace, many or most of the ancient houses are painted in bright colors. Besides red, we saw orange, yellow-gold, green, blue, purple, and lavender. And most of them had huge window boxes with overflowing colorful flowers.

The buildings in this town date from the year 1300 onwards.

The drawing above is the central part of the courtyard gate. The extremely ornate design in wrought iron includes grapes, leaves, and tendrils. It was too complex for the courtyard sketch, so I simplified it there to focus on the red color.

On our way to the city of Colmar, we stopped in one more little village on the Route Des Vins, or Wine Road. 

 This is Kayersberg, and the middle house is the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), theologian, philosopher, physician, organist, and medical missionary in Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his book Reverence For Life.

The museum on the right was closed for a long lunch, so we merely peered into the windows.

At a welcome luncheon we met a couple of other Americans staying in the nearby village of Ribeauvillé. After a little conversation with them, I asked them if they would like a free art lesson, since they had brought art supplies with them and were concerned that they might be experiencing artist’s block. 

They chose this view of a stone staircase behind their apartment. In the far background is a steep hill vineyard ready for the harvest.

I did this sketch as a demonstration. The shadows of the arch are nice and do make a good pattern on the mossy reddish steps.

We met again two days later for a follow up lesson and again in Strasbourg where they reported enjoying keeping up their art journals, and drawing every day. They were kind to tell me that I give good lessons.

Alsace abounds in half ruined châteaux, or castles. This one is Château de St. Ulrich, looming above Ribeauvillé and built in about 1300. It was quite a distance away on a hill top, but I used my built in eyeball zoom lens.


And back to more images from California, if you can stand the jolting transition. I plan to eventually post all the ones I did on my visit in August 2014. And there will be plenty more of France too.

I have been the Southern California flower market twice now. For two dollars, anyone can go in, wander, and buy more flowers than they need. The scent is heavenly.

The employee is able to wrap roses while sleeping.

Sunflowers in a plastic bucket.

This is the view opposite the flower market. I like the colors.

Another highly decorated building in the Arts District in Los Angeles. I have never seen anything like this, which pretty much always means I dig out my sketch pad and tools. The swirly patterns are just that. They do not spell out words. I would think the idea is to depict a sense of energy.

And for last, a drawing done in New Hampshire, out of our window looking east. The valley sometimes fills with mist, and on this day a big wide bright rainbow shone against the hill side. I shouted to my husband to look out the window at the ridge, but it was gone that fast. Except in my memory. And now on paper.