Friday, June 18, 2010

The model vivant (The live model)

We had worked late in the studio one evening during my recent workshop. So the next morning I slept in a little later than usual. I was still groggy while getting ready when I heard Kippy calling my name from outside. I rushed to the window, bent over the second floor balcony to hear better and she said, "It's OK now. Everything's fine."
"What's OK?"
"It's all OK. I've talked to her."
"What are you talking about? Talked to Who?"
"Zee model vivant."
Oh dear.

Zee model vivant was tall and slender, dark and fashionable, commanding in presence. She has been modeling in Paris for over 20 years for art schools, independent artists and commercial photographers. No doubt, she has some stories to tell. "I'm looking for Degas type poses, nothing fancy, simply a woman grooming herself. Maybe even Toulouse Lautrec," I had told her. She knew exactly what we were wanting. I placed a boudoir chair onto the model stand and told her go go ahead and get comfortable, I'd work with the lighting. She sat. And bounced off the chair as if she had been stung. "NUH! I can not seet in zis chair!"
"Because eet does not feel right. I can not feel zee pose in eet."
"OK, well, then let's try this..."

The day wore on with me making suggestions and "NUH! I can not do zat pose, I do not feel it. I can do ziss.." By the end of the day, she was extending her long leg above her head, "..and I can do ziss, and I can do ziss for you...and I deed ziss pose for..." So zee model vivant posed in cabaret fashion, stradling chairs, extending pointed toes, wearing her top hat.

The morning I was called to the balcony, there was to be a photo session between one of the students and zee model before breakfast. But zee model said it was too chilly. Thus ensued a talk between Kippy and zee model.

La Bonne Etoile

Now that I've caught my breath, I have to talk about La Bonne Etoile.

I'm naturally scared of everything. So it was a big step for me to go to France all by myself. But Kippy prepared every detail for me and all the artists who attended the class. Kippy, an American artist who has lived in France for over 10 years, and Jerome have turned a 250 year old farmhouse in the village of Fontaine-Fourches into a beautiful, cozy home with room for 8 guests. Lunches on the patio, elegant dinners at the dining room table, good French food and wine, excellent company, a lot of laughing, all while surrounded by the beautiful French farmland and wild poppy fields. La Bonne Etoile is about an hour from Paris and a half hour from some incredible medieval sites. Kippy and Jerome made my first visit to France all that I had hoped for. If you're looking for a place to take an art workshop (if you're interested in attending mine next year, let Kippy know so she can keep you on her email list) and experience France with all details handled for you, look here:

Our last day

Wednesday in Paris. Our last day. MerryLeigh and I spent most of the day getting lost in the Louvre. Really. If you were there, you probably saw us huddled in every corner, sitting on every bench, turning our maps this way and pointing that way, or turning our maps that way and pointing our fingers this way. We could never figure out which floor we were on. And we were there for hours. But we made our way through it and saw our favorites. ML had to see the Mona Lisa. I wanted to see Vermeer (not much of him to see there, I'm sad to say). Loved the Dutch painters. We did make our way down to the lower level and wander around the medieval remains of the original structure. Totally cool. I'm glad we went, probably won't ever do it again. I found the Musee D'Orsay so much more enjoyable. Lunch at a creperie, shop at a fromagerie for gifts, hope they're not confiscated at customs.

Later in the evening, a frantic clean-up of the apartment, wash the sheets, write a thank-you, contact a taxi via skype (in my broken French--but they understood) because we have no phone, up at 4:30 a.m., out on the street at 10 til 5. Taxi waiting, we rush to Charles DeGaulle. A kiss-kiss, as the French do, to MerryLeigh, she's on a later flight. I'm in the air at 7:30.

I'm home now, fromage intact, after a harrowing day. The harrowing part was arriving in the Atlanta airport. What an affront, to be yelled at continually by the security personnel after having had such a gracious time in France.

Now to my 400 emails (most of which are offers for viagra) and carton full of mail. Bills to pay, messages to return, daughters, sisters and Dad to call, catch up on some sleep. Tomorrow I start digging into my photos of France to paint. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunday in Paris: the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. We visited Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Modigliani. We went to Notre Dame. We walked to the Latin Quarter and bought souvenirs for people at home. We saw the Eiffel Tower, which glowed golden in the dusk. We chatted with other Americans. After dark, promptly at 11 p.m., the tower began to sparkle with flashing white lights. For 10 minutes it glittered in the dark, and we were dazzled as we sat on the wall that overlooked the Seine. We trudged our way back to the apartment at midnight, our bodies aching from walking all day long.

Monday in Paris: Kippy and Kathryn are gone. Merry Leigh and I have the apartment to ourselves. We are struggling to get our computers online. I had dinner with Meg, a student from my class, and American journalist living in Paris for 30 years. Her lovely apartment was 3 Metro stops away from where we're staying. I felt absolutely cool traveling the Metro all alone, making my way to unknown places. I won't mention how long it took me to figure out how to use the Metro ticket machine. I went through the line 3 times, and finally asked a woman to help me. I never would have figured it out by myself.

Tuesday in Paris: Merry Leigh and I travelled all day on the Metro (I'm a master at it); we finally made it back to the Musee D'Orsay to see the Art Nouveau section and revisit the Impressionists--my favorites-Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard. We found our way to the Carnivale Museum, hoping to see some medeivel architecture. Never found it, or if we did, we didn't recognize it. We stopped around dinnertime for wine and cheese, then headed home, stopping at a boulangerie for more bread, and at a market for wine and cheese.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Student work

It's been a whirlwind the past few days. Our class is over; everybody has dispersed.

On Friday we worked in the studio from 9 a.m until 10:30 p.m. Back to the studio Saturday morning for our last day of the class. For the first time, we were dragging our feet a little. We were tired. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, we put away our pastels, moved everything to the perimeter of the room, hung our work, set a table with wine and munchies and met the people Kippy had invited to the Vernissage. The students' work was plentiful and impressive. Here are some pictures.




Guests were gone by around 8, and we piled into the car for dinner in Provins, a 12th Century walled city, about 15 minutes away. I was enthralled with Provins, though it was very difficult to comprehend the history surrounding me. The city was built in the 1100's to host the great annual trading fairs, which linked northern Europe with the Mediterranean world. Remarkably preserved, today Provins is still a thriving city, with people living and working in these 900 year old houses. Provins is celebrating its annual Medeival Festival this week. The narrow streets were crowded with people in costume, Vendor booths lined the cobblestone streets, interspersed with tents, so vendors camped by their booths all week long. Young, old, lots of teenagers, all in costume. There were performers, typical of the time, reenactments, crafts, roasted pig on spits. I want to come back and see more. It'll have to be next year.

On Sunday I said good-bye to La Bonne Etoile and headed to Paris. Kippy and Kathryn stayed with me in an apartment on Sunday night. Kathryn flew home to Georgia Monday morning, My friend, Merry Leigh from Atlanta, flew in and joined me. We have 4 days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Empire of Death

The Paris catacombs were created at the end of the 18th century out of abandoned mines to house the dead; filthy conditions of Parisian cemetaries had been causing sickness. So all the remains in the cemetaries were transferred to the abandoned mines. Wikipedia says: "The removal of the bones began after the blessing of the place on April 7, 1786 and was continued until 1788, always at night, a ceremonial made up of a procession of priests who sang the burial service along the way borrowed by the tipcarts charged with bones and covered with a black veil. Thereafter, this place was used, until 1814, to collect the bones of all the cemeteries of Paris." Read Wikipedia's description of Paris' previous burial conditions. They were horrible.

We spent a good part of yesterday wandering through the dark underground tunnels on the outskirts of Paris. We climbed down a dizzying narrow spiral stone stairwell, which seemed never to end, passed through a long and twisting dark stone hallway, which seemed never to end. I got ahead of our group--I wanted to experience the catacombs in silence, without laughter and chatter. But the passage was so long, I was beginning to think maybe I had come to the wrong place or taken a wrong turn. After maybe a 20 minute walk through the dark tunnels, I finally arrived at a doorway with a sign "ArrĂȘte, c'est ici l'empire de la Mort" ('Stop, this is the empire of Death').

I was glad I was alone. It was of course morbid, but it was respectfully and artistically arranged, with quotations about death and life carved in stone thoughout the tunnels. Organized by originating cemetaries, It was much larger than I had expected, with 'occupied' tributaries going in many directions, all gated and locked, so you couldn't take a wrong turn. Toward the end there was a quotation, which made me glad I had walked it alone. The last line read, "The number here is nothing. In every crowd one is alone."

We also visited the Musee D'Orsay. A significant number of pieces are currently in San Francisco while the Museum is being renovated, so we only had 2 floors to explore. But two hours were not enough. I will go back next week. I had to run through the Art Nouveau section, my favorite period, and never got to see Vouillard, another of my favorites. It was a beautiful collection. Just beautiful. I'll need a good part of a day to really enjoy it.

Today: back in the studio. Hopefully we'll get to do some Parisian city scenes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Change of plans

We decided early this morning to stay here and work today instead of spending the day trudging through the rainy streets in Paris. Tomorrow looks like a better day. So as it rained or drizzled under gray skies all day, we got lots done in the studio. After dinner, we plan on going back up to the studio and work till about 11.

No travel pictures for you today. Instead, I'm attaching some of the pastels I've worked on from our photo shoots with Eva.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Sometimes it's past midnight before I make it up to my room, and most of the time that's after a long day and a few glasses of wine. So I can't blog. All I can do it flop into the bed.

Yesterday (Tuesday) we worked in the studio until lunchtime, then off to visit the city of Troyes (pronounced something like Trwah). I think this is the sort of place I've been longing to see here in France. Its history goes back to before the days of Rome. In the middle ages it was the place of an annual fair, where traders from throughout the western world would sell their silks, leathers, furs, spices, precious wood and silverware. It was a thriving town. The buildings we walked among were, if I understand correctly, built between the 12th and 16th centuries. There had been a fire in 1524; much of the city had to be reconstructed. We saw the Saint Urbain Basilica (1654), with it's incredible stained glass windows and gargoyle gutter spouts. We walked narrow cobblestone streets, almost gutters they were so narrow. It was difficult to comprehend the history and the lifes spent in the wonderful city.

Today: Paris in the rain. Skies have been gray almost the entire time I've been here. It's raining now. We've had a few sunny days, but for the most part, we don't leave the house withour our umbrellas.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A new class begins.

Never got a chance to write Sunday or Monday. Sometimes I can't get online for some reason, no connection to the internet. I also am not able to get onto Facebook because of my older operating system on my used laptop (I think that's the reason). So if I seem unresponsive to anybody, that's one reason.

I'll catch you up on the past 2 days.

Katherine (27, reminds me of my two beautiful daughters very much) arrived from the U.S. Sunday. Kippy puts people to bed for a 4 hour nap if they've traveled from the states. While Katherine slept, we went to to brocant: huge yard sales held in little villages all around--meandering streats with tents and tables full of household items, old furniture, clothes. I bought a few things which would fit in my suitcase for people at home (whom I'm missing very much). Eva returned from Paris to model for us for 2 days. She translated art vocabulary words for me to use for the new French students who would arrive Monday morning: sombre, moyen, claire, dessiner comme un carte de geographie, plisser les yeux.

Monday, I actually taught in French with my few newly learned words. I was so busy trying to speak French, I forgot to teach in English most of the time. At lunch, Eva was telling us that there are over 400 kinds of cheeses in France. Someone asked why so many? Jacqueline, from Versailles, answered, "Because we eat them."

Today, Tuesday, we will have a half day in the studio, a photo shoot with Eva, a trip to a local historical village for lunch and picture taking. Later in the evening more time in the studio to work from photos from our photo shoot today.

Wednesday, Paris again. The Musee D'Orsay. I can't wait.

Warren is still here with us. Asti is back home in Germany. We miss her here. She's written a beautiful post on her blog about the workshop (thanks so much, Asti):»Pastell-Blog«%29