A Peek Through the Big Blue Doors



Another great model today.  I still haven’t spoken to very many people during these life drawing sessions, but I am on a nodding and ‘bonjouring’ level with several of the regulars. There aren’t many English speaking people here, or maybe they are like me, just not saying much.  I did have a little conversation with a woman the other day.   It was her first time here, and between my French and her English we managed just fine.

imageActually, other than the normal social niceties, the pardons, and merci’s, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation happening.  Everyone is pretty focused on their drawing, and most people tuck their finished drawings away at break time, so there is not really an opportunity to make a comment on their work and strike up a conversation that way.


Life drawing is really almost a form of meditation, there are no thoughts about anything other than being in the moment, seeing and reacting to what you see.  In a way it is important to stop thinking about what you are doing and just let your eye be connected to your hand.  The brain can get in the way, telling us what we think we know rather than letting us see what is actually before us.

This is one of the biggest problems people have when they begin to draw.  They will draw what they think something looks like rather than really looking and seeing what they are looking at. Once a person really learns to see and draw what they see, they will begin to improve their drawing skills quite rapidly.


The drawing sessions have a schedule for poses; the noon class has 3 x 5 minute poses, + 2 x 15 minute poses,  repos ( rest) for 15 minutes, 2 x 20 min, repos 15 min, 2 x10 min + 5 x 5 min.  I do kind of miss the fast 2 minute warm us we usually start with back home, but getting used to this routine.

As I was getting ready to leave, the model for the next session arrived and I was so tempted to stay for another three hours.  I decided to head for home, as I plan on doing both sessions tomorrow. There is a male model the second session and there aren’t many male models. Only four for the whole month; I missed the first two and there are only two more sessions with a male model, and one is  tomorrow.  I’m curious if this is because most people want to draw females, or if there is just  a shortage of men who want to model?


This is my favourite Metro line, the M4.  It takes me to my drawing class in about a half hour.  The only reason there is no one waiting is because the train just pulled away.   Notice on the board, that another one  is due to arrive in just one minute!  I am still amazed at the efficiency of the Paris Metro.  This morning the train was absolutely jam packed for the first five stops, standing room only, and squishy standing room at that! Some people needed to step off the train so that the doors could close; it was quite the experience. We are so used to a bubble of personal space around us, and that is certainly not the case on these packed trains. My face was inches away from several people and somehow it was OK, everyone is very polite and of, course, everyone is in the same situation.

imageTaken through the window on  the M2.  All the stations have brightly coloured chairs.  Usually there is a big advertising poster on the wall, but this station had graffiti, which, by the way, is absolutely everywhere.  Most of it is just vandalism, but I have seen some rather interesting graffiti that would be classed as street art.   I’ll post some of that another time.


And, this is where I do my blogging.  I do have a table and chairs but the bed is very comfortable, I can see out the windows, and rest a bit at the same time.  I am also have on my ‘wash and wear’ top.  I only brought one short sleeved top, thinking it was fall and that I  am usually too cold rather than too warm.  Well, today it was 28, like 33 with the humidex!  It has been way too warm to wear long sleeved tops, so this one gets rinsed out every night.


An Interesting Model

I attended another life drawing session at noon today.  Quite a different model from the one we had yesterday.  Not exactly sure how to describe her, perhaps ‘earthy’?  She made me think of some of the descriptions of models from the Impressionist’s time, many of them were dance hall women, or women of the street.  She had that bit of crudeness to her, an awkwardness almost, and she scratched and shifted her body about in a way that most models do not. Even her wrap was rather tatty and not all that clean, and she wore big black boots with her flimsy sarong wrap during the breaks, quite the combination.  Interestingly, she also seemed to be carrying on some sort of quiet conversation with herself, and would make rather strange facial expressions, as though in response to someone or something. She was certainly interesting to draw though. The first drawing is a 20 minute pose, the other three poses were 5 minutes each.

image image

These stone steps at the Académie have seen countless footsteps over the years, wearing the stone away.  I love this evidence of the past and all the artists who have been here before me.


I didn”t have the best drawing session today though, my body has been giving me a bit of grief and it was being particularly bad today.  This morning I found an osteopath who speaks English, with the help of the internet. I used my new phone (for the first time) and made an appointment with her for later today.  She was very nice, and has her Canadian citizenship, as she lived in Canada for ten years before deciding that she missed Paris and her friends and family.  She worked on me for about an hour, so I am hoping to feel better soon.   I will likely go back towards the end of the week for another treatment.  I would love to be able to do two drawing sessions back to back, but have not felt up to doing so yet.

Coming home on the train from Giverny the other day,  I actually got up the courage to draw one of my fellow travellers.  The guy sitting beside me kind of watched what I was doing, and gave me a little smile when I finished. image

The train ride was very smooth and quiet, a nice way to travel.  While waiting on the train platform in Giverny,  one of the high speed trains came flying by, and I do mean flying!  It made me and several other people jump. I didn’t even hear it approaching it was moving so fast and by the time I figured out what it was, it was out of sight!  Wow!  I can’t even imagine travelling that fast.   It was mind boggling, and there certainly was no chance to get out my camera for a picture!

I want to draw on the Metro too, but it is bumpy, and very busy, so I haven’t been brave enough to try.  It is amazing how many people ride the Metro and how often the trains run. The most I have had to wait was three minutes, when I had just  missed the previous train. Imagine, a train runs every two or three minutes on every Metro line in the city, and they are all full of people!


Back to the Académie

image We had a fantastic model today!  What a difference a model can make to the feel of a class.  This lovely lady had such positive energy and beautiful poses.  It was easy to see that she took this job seriously and that she enjoys modelling.  I hope she sets the standard for Parisian models.


Waiting for class to start.

imageEasels and stools, supposedly the originals, the pot belly stove is for sure.  I think the studio must get quite cool in the winter, the back wall Is very cold already.  I was leaning up against it the first time I went and had to move; it was way too cold.

I desperately wanted to stay for the second session from 3:15 until 6:00, but I was just too tired.  It can be a tad frustrating having a body that needs more rest than I think it should.  I did buy ‘une carnet de douze séances’ today, this is a pack of tickets for twelve sessions. It is certainly much more expensive to draw in Paris than at home.  At Harcourt House I buy a yearly membership for $25 and then a three hour drawing session costs $8.00!  I alway thought that was a great price but I truly did not appreciate just how wonderful it really is.  A package of twelve sessions here is 170€, which works out to $20.50 Canadian per session and a regular drop in session without a ticket is 18€, or $25.75 Canadian.

Here are a couple of sketches from today.  The first is a five minute pose, the second a twenty minute one.

image imageI stopped in to an art store across the street from the Academié, but just had a quick look around and decided I had  better head for home.  They had a good deal on some Canson papers in case I decide to work larger.



There were also some very nice Japanese watercolours in the window, but they were very expensive.  The set with the twelve large pans is 282€!

It was so nice to come home to soup in the fridge and cooked apples for dessert.  I definitely pays to do a bit of prep work every few days.



Académie de la Grande Chaumière

I went to my first drop in life drawing session today at the Academié de la Grande Chaumière. The Academié was founded in 1902, and nothing much has changed in the studios since then, the original easels, stools and pot belly stove for warmth are still there.  No cameras allowed in Life drawing studios but I snapped this quickly before the class started.  I’ll take more the next time I am there.

imageIt was quite amazing to be drawing in this historical studio.  Modigliani, one of my favourite artists drew here often, who knows, maybe sitting on the same bench as I was.  The benches and stools are terribly hard on the bottom, perhaps I need a little pillow! Unfortunately the model was quite uninspiring. She was nice enough but had no energy and quite boring poses.  Quite a few people left halfway through so I am hoping this is unusual; but you know it didn’t really matter, it was still a great afternoon.  I’ll post pictures tomorrow as I need daylight to take the best photos of drawings.  They are a bit hard to photograph, scanning works much better, but alas, no scanner.

Thanks to my dear friend Christine, I now know how to access the French key board and add accents. I didn’t know that they do not use the same letter arrangement on their keyboard as we do. Good thing I don’t have to use a French computer, way too many typos would be happening.

I love people watching here, and wish I had a camera built into my glasses so that I could snap pictures of the interesting people I see!  I took this one of a lady dressed all in red through the Metro train window after I got off, and she looked up just after I snapped the photo; our eyes met and she smiled.

imageThis fellow was practicing his skills beside my neighbourhood skate park.  I stop there every night on the way home to watch for a while.  I love the way the older boarders encourage the little ones, and some of them are very little, maybe five or six years old.  There is also a protocol for whose turn it is next and there is a lot of encouragement and congratulations given when someone pulls off a good trick, even for the little ones.  I am starting to recognize the regulars and I hope they are getting used to me watching as I would like to sit and draw them one day.

imageSkateboarding is very popular here, and it is quite common to see a boarder or two, or three, flying down a hill in the middle of the road with all the cars!  All ages too, even some grey haired oldies.

imageI went to the Louvre for a couple of hours before I went to life drawing, but only did one very mediocre drawing of a sculpture.  I think it will take a couple of times to feel comfortable drawing here, and to figure out the best places to sit. There aren’t too many benches or chairs placed in good positions for viewing pieces for drawing, and the marble floors are very hard.  Hmmmm, maybe I really do need a little pillow?

I saw this window display yesterday.  anyone want to buy a machine gun, or maybe a hand grenade?  Certainly not something I would ever see back home!

imageThe sun was shining on my apartment building when I came home. I am on the fourth floor, (called the 3rd here).  It is the apartment with two flower boxes on the windows, two stories above the top of the truck. Take note of the graffiti on the delivery truck, a very common sight.

imageI was really tired coming home tonight.  I do love the Metro, most of the trains arrive every three or four minutes and quickly whisk you away to your destination, such an easy way to get around a city.  Sometimes entertainment is even provided, as with this ‘oom pa pa’ group.


I made a yummy supper wrote my blog post and I am off to bed.


Luxembourg Gardens and St. Sulpice

Today was lovely, 22° and sunny with a light breeze.  A great day for exploring and wandering about Paris.

I took the metro all the way to rue de la Grande Chaumiere which is where the life drawing sessions I want to attend are held. Turns out it is just around the corner from a metro station and it is very easy to get to, just one train all the way from the Gare de l’Est, which is about a ten minute walk from my apartment. I love the metro, it is easy and fast and offers such great people watching.  The Academie was closed so I didn’t get any more information, but I will try to attend one of their sessions soon.

I decided to walk back and see what I could see, only there is so much to see that I barely knew where to look next.image

I stopped to take a picture of of some brushes in a shop window that does art restoration along Boulevard Montparnasse and then headed towards the Luxembourg Gardens.

imageFountain at Place Ernest Denis

Oops, a bit blurry.

At Place Ernest Denis I found a great fountain with horse sculptures that caught my attention.  I decided to draw, and settled down in a quiet corner, but soon the park was full of children playing after school.  They were curious but didn’t approach until one brave little boy came over to see what I was drawing.  I was then very quickly surrounded with about twenty children who wanted to see my sketch and asked questions and told me things, not all of which I understood.  One little girl very knowingly said, “ah, vous etes Anglaise”, after I said something in French.


After finishing my drawing I strolled through Luxembourg gardens, remembering the last time I was here with Bob.  We had a picnic on the grass just as so many people were doing today. Picnicking, reading, talking, playing cards, I even saw one man repeatedly lick his girlfriend’s foot!  Not something you see everyday.



imageParisians love their gardens and green spaces, I can’t believe how many people are out in them everyday, and the flowers are amazing.

I stopped to visit St. Sulpice, a very grand cathedral, and there was a little white heart on the ground just outside the door that seemed very welcoming,


I am truly in a state of awe when I visit these cathedrals.  I touch the stone and wonder about all the people who have been here before me, perhaps touching this exact spot.


Then I turned around and saw this….


It was in a little side chapel called the Chapel of Holy Angels, that had three large Delacroix paintings, painted between 1855 and 1861.  Just below one of these huge paintings there was a chair, illuminated by the late afternoon sun and it felt as though, just perhaps, an angel was present.