Scary Metro Ride Home

Tonight coming home on the metro about 8:00 I had an rather unsettling experience.  I could hear someone speaking very loudly and than a series of loud bangs. Soon I see what it is all about, a very large, very upset man is walking through the metro cars yelling and slamming shut all the vents at the top of the windows.  He is either drunk or deranged, perhaps a bit of both, to judge from his appearance.  He is strangely dressed with all sorts of things tied into his hair and his pants appeared to have not much of a bottom in them, his bottom was quite visible.  To make matters worse he stepped into the area between me and the passengers facing me and almost fell on the lady beside me!

I was worried he was going to stay here, but he moved on, slamming more window vents. Everyone looked a bit upset, people were looking at each other with raised eyebrows or other facial expressions that clearly showed they did not like the situation.  A few minutes later he is walking back the way he came from, still slamming windows, as some people had opened them after he passed by.  This time no one reopened the windows!

He disappeared towards the back of the train and then a whole lot more people got on, so I figured he would not be able to make his way back to where I was sitting.   This is honestly the first time in Paris that I have felt uncomfortable, or worried about a situation.  In hindsight, I think the best thing to do would have been to get off the train and wait for the next one, but I was rather shocked by the situation and didn’t think of this until after it was all over.

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I did do some drawing on the metro today, but wasn’t able to do any after this incident.  I actually got a terrible headache, just the stress of it all I guess.

Then when I arrive at the metro station at the end of my street there are a whole lot of metro security and they are in a semi-circle around a man who is wearing an old jacket that says ‘Security’ on the back.  He has a very big muscular doberman and it appears that he wants to take the dog on the metro?  Not exactly sure, but the dog is wearing a muzzle and he is getting agitated, as is the man, who appears to be trying to explain something to the metro police.  The man ties the dog to the exit booth, so the metro people have to open a special gate so people don’t have to go through the booth.

I decide that I need to get home and shut the door on all this!  I even checked the internet to see if it is a full moon, but it isn’t, so can’t blame it on that.

There is a soccer match on tonight that Paris is playing in and they appear to be winning as there is a lot of cheering and noise periodically.  I couldn’t figure out what all the noise was about but when I went out to get a few groceries I saw a bunch of men standing outside and inside the cafe on the corner.  I go see what they are watching on TV,  turns put to be soccer, and I ask who is playing.  A man tells me, and says Paris was up by two points.  That was almost an hour ago and there is still lots of noise every now and then so I assume they are still in the lead.

Anyways… I attended two life drawing sessions today and then went for drinks with my two new friends and met a friend of theirs as well.  This gentleman is an American who came to visit Paris with his wife for three months and is still here, more than a decade later.  That seems to happen to people when they visit this city!

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Here are a few of my drawings from today.  The first model was older, probably at least my age, and very thin, so interesting to draw.

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I could see bones and musculature very clearly, so I concentrated on trying to sort those things out, especially in the neck and collarbone area, trying to sort out the shapes and shadows in this area.  They are over emphasized a bit in these drawings but I was concentrating on a study of bones and muscles.  This model was wonderful for that.

 

Our second model was rather voluptuous, so quite a contrast from the first session.

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Sorry for the long rant about the trip home, I think I just needed to talk about it.  Thanks for listening.

 

Sublime to Strange

Earlier this trip I visited Giverny, so I really wanted to see Monet’s water lily paintings.  The metro stopped at the Concorde Station, which has walls covered with the text of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, one letter per tile, no punctuation or spacing between words.  I knew about this see this, but wasn’t sure where it was located, so it was a nice surprise to find it completely by accident.

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I headed off to the Orangerie today and although there was a bit of a line it only took about half an hour before I was inside.  I was going to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat before taking a look at everything but was surprised to find that there were no facilities here for eating, or even getting a tea or coffee, so I was out of luck.

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There was a special exhibit of Emile Bernard’s work so I headed there first.  No photographs allowed in here, but there were eight rooms of his work and it was an excellent collection.

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The permanent collection also featured Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani, Derain,  Laurencin, Rousseau, Utrillo and Soutine.  Unfortunately most of the Modigliani’s were not available for viewing today.  There was  a hallway full of Renoirs!

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Some of Picasso,s earlier works.  The Orangerie isn’t a huge place but it still took a while to see everything, and then I went to view Les Nymphéas.  No photos in here either.  I tried a sketch to get a feel of the size of these paintings but it wasn’t very successful, so I sneaked a photo from the entry to one of the two galleries. I am going to have to practice some architectural drawings, not having much success with them at all.

imageMonet designed these galleries himself and I couldn’t imagine these paintings  displayed any other way.  I knew they were huge works and I have a beautiful book at home with great close up views of the paintings but I was certainly not prepared for the impact of actually being in their presence.  There are seats in the centre of each gallery to sit and contemplate, and I certainly did that.  This a monumental work.  I could picture Monet painting these canvases, and there are so many layers of paint that the surface of the paintings are actually quite heavily textured.  Looking into the layers of paint was much like looking into the dark reflective waters of lily pond at Monet’s Giverny.

I planned on going to the Louvre for of a couple of hours but on the way there were a lot of people milling about near some big white tents.  So I went to see what it was all about.

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This is Fashion week in Paris, a very big event, and a fashion show had just ended.   The attendees were leaving and posing for photos.  There are photographers with huge lenses everywhere, it was rather chaotic and surreal.

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I have no idea who the lady in the black coat is, but she generated a lot of attention and was pretty much mobbed by professional looking  photographers who seemed very pleased to have taken photos of her.

There were the certainly lots of very beautiful people and then there were some rather strangely dressed people as well.

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And, perhaps one of the strangest of all!  He posed for a lot of pictures and seemed very pleased with himself.

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By the time the crowd was thinning out it was too late for the Louvre, so I found a cafe in the Jardin des Tuileries and ordered a salad and a pot of tea.

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It was good, but it was also 21€, which is thirty dollars Canadian!  Having my own little kitchen and preparing meals has certainly saved me some money!

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Stopped for one last photo on the way home beside one of the dozens of big tents erected for Fashion Week.

Parc Des Buttes Chaumont, Organ Recital and the Marais

This morning was slow and relaxed as I was a bit tired after yesterday’s drawing class and the evening at the ballet. I finally got myself out the door after noon and set out to walk to the Parc Des Buttes Chaumont which is a 25 hectare park in the 19th arrondissement. imageIt is a beautiful place, and although it has many man made features this park does not feel as though it is in the city. Most of Paris’ parks are carefully manicured, laid out geometrically and have paved or gravel surfaces with benches or chairs. There are not many parks that actually allow people to walk or sit on the grass, which I found strange at first, but when I once I thought about the density of population in this city and realized how many people use the parks I realized that this is a necessity, or the grass would be trampled and dead.

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The Parc des Buttes Chaumont, however, is a  park that welcomes people onto its many grassy hills. There were lots of people out enjoying the warm day. I saw everyone from individuals relaxing, sleeping, reading, or playing the guitar, couples having a romantic picnic complete with a bottle of favourite wine, families enjoying the sun with their children to large gatherings of family and friends, sharing a meal and visiting in the sunshine.

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Because it was once a quarry there were lots of hills to climb, including one up to a ancient looking little structure on an island which is also the highest point in the park where it’s main attraction can be found, the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy.

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Sacré Coeuer is visible in the distance from here and there is quite a good view.  If you are interested, Wikipedia has a very interesting write up about the history and construction of the park.

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There are also a couple waterfalls, and a swinging bridge that crosses the man made lake to the island, and lots of flower beds which have signs describing what is planted in each bed. I spent a couple very pleasant hours wandering about and then decided that I should go to St Sulpice for an organ concert at 4:00.  The organist was from Thomas Dahl, from Hambourg and the music was incredible.

imageI sat with two Susan’s, one from California and one from Newfoundland who were two friends spending a week together in Paris. They had both been to Edmonton and St. Albert, which was rather surprising.

imageThey were sitting in a special area with comfy red cushions and they made room for me to sit beside them. It was much more comfortable than the chairs that are used for the congregation and guests visiting the church. I was sitting in the raised box at the back of this picture, right in front of where the white statue is located.

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The concert was about an hour long and I tried to draw part of the cathedral while I listened to the music, but was not very successful. I think buildings are more difficult to draw than people. At one time you were allowed up the stairs to watch the organist playing but this is no longer allowed due to security measures. A pity…

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Next stop was the Marais. This was the area where I had first reserved an apartment, it was behind the red door in this picture, but the reservation was canceled because one of the neighbours was having some ‘mental’ problems and the owner was not comfortable renting her place until things got settled. I actually think that I like the area I am in better. It is further out, but it is a real Parisian neighbourhood.

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The Marais has become a tourist attraction, lots of shops and bars and tourists everywhere. I went into one store and the clerk didn’t even look up when I entered. In ‘my neighbourhood’, I am greeted with Bonjour madam, and a smile.

imageThe Marais has also become a centre for gay tourists and residents, which made for some interesting sights.
imageI made a friend though.  This little girl ran away for her mother, whose arms were full of groceries.  I stopped her and told her to go back to her mother, and actually did this in french without thinking too much about it at all!  She ran back to her mom but turned around to look at me, so I waved to her.  We then played peek a boo and waved to each other for several minutes.

I headed home for supper and a FaceTime chat with my son at eight. I must say that I love how easy it is to stay connected with family and friends while travelling.

Drawing In The Dark

Today was a very full day.  First I went to a four hour life drawing class at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

image imageMy drawings at the Académie were kind of hard work today. As is often the case when I have a day like this, the quick five minute poses turn out the best. I horribly overworked everything else.

I hurried home after class, and had a half hour to put my feet up, grqb a bite to eat, and get ready for the ballet.

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The sun was starting to set when I arrived and the light was catching the golden statues on top of the Opera Building. There are always a lot of people milling about, taking pictures, or just sitting on the steps soaking up the atmosphere. It was pretty neat getting to walk up to the big front doors, gain admittance, and walk up that grand staircase.

imageIt wasn’t all that easy to find my seat.  Turns out it is behind a locked door with no door knob, that needs to be opened by an attendant.  I am sitting in a beautiful red plush box seat!

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That was a surprise.  I knew I had a railing in front of me, but I assumed it was just a wooden railing because there would be a walkway in front of it, or something similar. I feel rather regal, I must admit. I wonder who else has sat in that very same seat over the years?

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The painted curtain rises to reveal a red velvet looking curtain.

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imageThe Opera Garnier,  also known as the Palais Garnier,  was completed 139 years ago in 1875, and is now the home of the Paris Ballet.  It holds about 2,000 people and is pretty much sold out most for every performance.  I was very lucky to get such a good seat the day before the show, there were only a few seats left.  There are benefits to travelling solo!

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The Chagall Mural and crystal chandelier are stunning!  Actually the entire place is stunning.  The pictures don’t do it justice at all.

I took my pen and sketchbook with me and drew in the dark.  I couldn’t see a thing so I had no idea what I was doing until I could take a look when the lights came on at intermission.image

The first half of the performance was very traditional so there were often dancers posed in the background for a few seconds, which made it a bit easier.  Although I was fairly close to the stage, about a third of the way from the stage, the dancers still looked  still fairly small.  I am so glad I didn’t get a  seat further back.  Sometimes during this performance all the dancers were on stage at  the same time, quite the spectacle!

image The second half of the performance was very contemporary, and the dancers didn’t stop moving for a second! I was pretty sure these drawings were just going to end up as scribbles, but I think they actually still give the feeling of dancers.

 

imageIt was a great evening, watching the ballet and trying to interpret what I was seeing on paper, in the dark!

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The Opera Garnier  was very beautiful by night.  I think I am going to have to take a bus ride at night just to see the lights of the city.

I also managed to do some more metro drawing today too, but people kept getting up and leaving.

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I was a bit nervous about taking the metro home so late and thought for a while about the best route to take, but it was quite all right. I didn’t get home until 10:45, definitely the latest I have been out so far.  I may even try going to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night, now that I know I can get myself home after dark!

Guess Who is Going to the Ballet?

Nothing really went according to plan today.  I went to the Opera Garnier first, as I wanted to do a self guided tour of the building.  It is supposed to be amazing.

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When I got there, I noticed a message board saying that the auditorium was not available for viewing, so I decided I would have to try to come back another day.  Then I started thinking, decided there must be a performance and went to the ticket booth to see if there were any seats left.  I got a seat for tomorrow night to see the Ballet! It is a Harold Lander, Wlliam Forsythe production. (If there are any ballet aficionados out there).  Here is the blurb if you are interested. 

“Etudes transposes a dance class to the stage. Conceived by Harald Lander who was a choreographer, ballet master and director of the Opera’s Ballet School, this ballet can be seen as a manifesto of classical technique, of its purity, rigour and exactingness. In contrast, two works by William Forsythe, created especially for the Company, shed new light on this academic heritage, deconstructing and reconstructing its vocabulary. In Pas./parts and Woundwork, the choreographer shakes up the codes and boundaries, pushes back the limits and accelerates the pace. Three fundamental works from the repertoire that interact with each other, contributing to the study of the history of a technique which continues to evolve both as an intellectual discipline and as a living art form.”

I purchased  a mid-priced ticket, 77€ and my seat has a railing in front of it, so hopefully I will have a good view.  That accomplished I decided to head over to L’Orangerie  to have a look at Monet’s paintings but on checking the time I realized I would only have an hour or so inside before it closed and I didn’t want to feel rushed, so decided to take the metro to Notre Dame and maybe climb the tower.

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I stop to listen to this fellow and do a quick sketch.  When I showed it to him he was very pleased, he thanked me several times and asked if he could take a photo of the drawing.

Soon I arrive at. Notre Dame. The square in front of it is jam packed with tourists, including me!

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Notre Dame in the setting sun.  Well, the line up for the climb up to the towers was very long and it had been cut off for the day.  Maybe not a bad thing as I am fighting a cold that started yesterday and it is over 400 steps to the top!

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I love gargoyles!  Part of the reason why I want to do the tower climb, is so I can get a closer view of these curious sculptures.  I wander through the gardens behind the Cathedral, take a couple of pictures and decide to go inside.

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There was a bit of a line but it moved quite quickly, and soon I was gazing at the magnificent pillars, arches and stained glass windows.  A mass was just starting so I decided to stay for that.  A lot of it was sung by a young woman with the most amazing voice.  At first I thought it was a young boy singing, but when ‘he’ walked by I realized that it was a young woman.  I only understood a little bit of the service, but it really didn’t matter.  Sitting quietly in this place of worship during a service was a very special and beautiful way to experience Notre Dame.  I did a couple quick sketches in Notre Dame but I was quite far away, so…

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By the time the service was over I decided I needed to go home, which turned out to be a bit of an adventure.  I found the entrance to the Metro without too much problem but after only a couple of stations, there was an announcement and everyone got up and off the train, which then reversed and left the station!  I had no idea why this happened but managed to catch the words Barbes Rochechouart in the announcement, which is the name of the station I transfer at to get home.  Turns out there was a suspicious package so the line was shut down.  I figure out an alternative route and after two very packed trains I am home.  I am hoping for a bit better rest tonight, as I have a four hour drawing class tomorrow and then have just enough time to come home, eat, change and go to the Ballet!

Three Models Today!

This afternoon was challenging.  I had a tough time drawing the first model, she was doing a great job, I wasn’t.  It took up till the last couple poses to figure out how to draw her. The same thing happened the other day with the muscular male model, some days drawing comes easier than others.  You can see what I mean, the one drawing below didn’t work well at all.

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I tried colour washing a page and using some pastel on it but ran out of time. I’ll try it again,  and it made me realize how much I miss working with pastels. That will definitely be on my list for when I get home.

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The second session was with two models.  I like life drawing with two models, their interactions help figure out proportion and limb placement.  I don’t know if these two had worked together before or not, but they really didn’t take advantage of that aspect of working together.

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There were a couple good poses but many of them were a bit static.  I ended up just drawing the male model for a couple of poses, the light was good for seeing muscles in his back, so that was my focus. Backs are hard to draw, they tend to be big rather flat expanses without a lot of detail, the lines and shapes meed to be just right to capture the ‘feel’ of a back.  Not always easy to do but I was finally happier with a couple of my drawings.

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I drew on the metro again today.  It is getting easier to do, some times the person sitting beside me watches, but they don’t say anything and they aren’t really obvious about watching me.  I am usually concentrating so hard that I don’t really even notice.  I have to be careful though, I almost missed my stop twice when I was drawing!

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These lovely tomatoes were at my fruit and veggie store.  Hard to decide which ones to buy.

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I have had a couple bad nights, I wasn’t able to get to sleep until after 3:00 last night, but at least I didn’t dream about dead people or bones or cemeteries or….

Hope to do better tonight, it isn’t much fun being so tired.

Montparnasse Cemetery and the Catacombes

An interesting day but also a day of of reflection.  I walked to the Gare de l’Est and caught the number 38 bus which took me all the way across Paris to Denfert Rochereau area.  This is a bit past where I go to draw and is the location of the Paris Catacombs.  There was a very long line, down the block and around the corner.  I ask one of the attendants, in French, if the line is better in the afternoon, and he tells me to that 4:00 is good so I decide to go visit the Montparnasse Cemetery first.

It is smaller than Pére Lachaise, where Bob and I visited several years ago, but it is still very large.  I spent a couple of hours just wandering about, taking lots of pictures.  I was hoping for angel pictures but there were very few angel statues.  That kind of surprised me.

imageThe cemetery is such a mix of old and new.  There are lots of the little house like structures that are very old, and sometimes right beside one of these there will be a modern tomb, where someone was very recently buried.

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There was a funeral today, the hearse driving slowly down one of the cemetery roads with a very old man in the passenger seat, and the mourners all walk following the hearse.  I wondered if it was his wife that died?

imageIt actually was the small personal touches that affected me the most.  A group of angel figurines on the tomb of a young boy named Luca who was only here for eight years, and flowers left on a tomb, even though the last person buried there was in the early 1900’s.

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I wonder about the ‘sepultures’, the little houses, some of them are so old that their doors are rusted shut, and the insides have not been cared for in many many years.  Who still has the keys to all these doors?  Does anyone come to visit anymore?  I wonder about the stories behind these tombs.

imageMany of the tombs or sepultures have several people interred in them, quite a few I saw had ten or twelve plaques with names and dates.  These tombs have been in families for hundreds of years.   There is no grass here, the plots are side by side with just enough room to walk between them, just as densely populated as the rest of Paris!  Some of the tombs are so old they have moss growing on the them and their words have been obliterated by time.

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I look for the tombs of some famous people, but no luck other than this one.  I tried to find Brancusi’s but it just wasn’t where it was supposed to be!

I had a bit of a picnic here, some tea and snacks and sat for a little while.  I saw a young man enter the cemetery carrying a big bouquet of white flowers. He stopped to fill a watering can and then headed down one of the cemetery roads.  Was he going to visit the grave of his wife, or mother, or perhaps even a son or daughter?  Seeing him made me feel quite emotional.  Cemeteries tend to put one in a pensive mood.

But then there were the tombstones that made me laugh!

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The only inscription was ” Il fait son choix d’une anchois et dine d’une sardine”. And was signed Berdal.  As near as I can make out, something like ” He made his choice of anchovies and dined on a sardine” The really funny part was when I walked around  to the other side to see if there was anything else written.  What does this look like to you?  I know I have been drawing the nude model a lot, but am I the only one who sees breasts?

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This one was quite strange.

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And then there was this fellow in bed with his wife and child!

I headed over to the Catacombes around three but there was still a long line so I wandered up and down a few streets, just looking at all the shops and people.  I have no urge to actually do any shopping, peering in windows Is quite adequate, at least for now.

I decide to get in line at 4:00, and although the line is considerably shorter than it was at noon it still takes 45 minutes before I am at the entrance.  I chat with a couple of guys from Georgia, who are visiting Paris for a birthday as well, while waiting and the time passes fairly quickly.

It is pretty hard to describe the Catacombes.  After walking down 130 steps and through long galleries I reach the ossuary.

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Although I had seen pictures and read a bit about the Catacombes, they really didn’t prepare me for the actuality of corridor after corridor and room after room of human bones, stacked on all sides, deep beneath the streets of Paris.

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I used a an attendant’s chair to take this photo.

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A barrel shaped pillar made of bones.

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Over 150 cemeteries in Paris and the surrounding areas were emptied and the bones brought here.  At first they were just dumped in huge piles, up to 11 meters high but they were later organized into the displays I saw today.

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There are the bones of over six million people in these catacombes.  I spent almost an hour and a half walking past their remains.  It was impossible to not be deeply affected.  We all die sooner or later, it is one of life’s few certainties. Of course I realize that, but seeing the physical remains of six million individuals was staggering.  I think that is something I kept thinking about, that these are not just piles of bones, they were people with families and they each had a story, a life.  Now they are a tourist attraction.

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Most people were very quiet and respectful but of course there are always some who are not.  I even overheard one girl ask her friend if he had pen as she wanted to write her name on the wall, hard to believe how some people think.  Luckily he didn’t have one, although there was some graffiti written on a few skulls….

On  the way hime saw more metro police.  Not sure if something has been happening.  I didn’t see any of these police the first ten days or so I was here, but have been seeing groups of three or four and up to ten at a time every day since then.

 

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I am really quite tired tonight, both physically and emotionally as well.  I didn’t get home until after 8:00, it was a good day, just a different one.  This ended up being a very long post, but considering I took over 250 photos today it was hard to whittle it down.

imageI also managed to get some drawing done today, I drew people on the metro.  It is a challenge, usually there are just a couple of minutes to try to get them on paper, they are often moving and sometimes my subject gets up and leaves just after I begin to draw!

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Académie and LaRotonde

Two drawing sessions today, six hours. I decided to use some Derwent Drawing Pencils I brought with me.  The are softer than coloured pencils, look like conté a bit,  but they don’t smudge like conté.

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5 Minutes poses

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15 minute poses

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20 minute poses.  The model had a tummy that made her look like she was pregnant but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t.  Nice to draw in any case.

The male model this afternoon had a very muscular build but he was also very tall so he had extremely long legs and arms, broad shoulders and the tiniest waist.

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Very beautiful to look at but very difficult to draw.  By the end of the three hours I was just beginning to get familiar enough with his body to figure out how to get him on paper.

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I met two very nice ladies today, and we went for drinks after class to LaRotunda which had many copies of Modigliani paintings on display, one of my favourite artists.  Turns out this is quite a famous cafe, founded in 1911 and frequented by Modigliani, Utrillo, and Picasso, along with Hemmingway, and many other painters and writers.  Often when the poor artists couldn’t pay their bills  they would  pay with a piece of artwork.  My pot of mint tea was 5€, about $7.00 Canadian, but worth every cent.  It arrived on a tray in a silver looking tea pot, with an additional pot of hot water.  Very elegant and we sat and visited for almost two hours.  A lovely time.

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It was almost dark by the time I headed for home, so had to take photos under artificial light again…sorry,  not the best, but better than waiting until tomorrow to get it done.

Balzac and Beautiful Buildings

I went to the noon drawing session at the Académie and then decided I needed to come home afterwards for a bit of rest.  The weekend was busy and I have had a couple of restless nights so I didn’t have much energy today.  Here’s a 15 minute pose,  3 x5 minutes poses, and then a twenty minute one.

imageYet another great model.

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I am still feeling my way with the watercolour gestures, some work better than others, I think I’ll keep at it for a  bit longer.  I am working in a A4 sketchbook which is about 8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″, so the drawings I am posting are done on that size paper.imageWhat a treat, a new model every day. Tomorrow I plan on staying for both sessions as there is supposed to be a male model at 3:00.  So I will take it easy tonight, get organized for tomorrow, and hopefully get a better night’s sleep.

Here are photos of few buildings along the way to the Eiffel Tower. I love the tops of these buildings, they look so intriguing.  I wish I was able to see what the insides of the apartments up there look like.

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There was an outdoor exhibit of children’s art alongside a park, near the studio where I was drawing.

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This is a view of the Seine River from the Pont Alexander III beside the Eiffel Tower.  I do want to take a boat ride on the river before I go home.  I think I better start making a list, as I know I am going to run out of time.

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And then there is this very famous statue of Balzac by Rodin.  It is on the median beside the Vavin Metro station, which is the metro station I use to get to the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.  I passed it several times and didn’t even see it until a couple of days ago.

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One last photo.

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Did you spot the artist?  I always notice them but wonder how many other people do?