Life Drawing Class, El Rastro Market and a Bullfight!

Saturday, October 10

I finally found a life drawing class in Madrid.  It was difficult, there were no Meet Up Groups, and the schools didn’t seem to have anything, at least anything I could find.  Mind you, most of the information is in Spanish…

One minute quickies.

imageI went to Carmen La Greiga’s studio this morning. Carmen instructs and the class had a ‘Edvard Munch’ theme so our drawing assignments were related to that.  Most of the instruction was in Spanish although Carmen translated for me quite often.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure exactly what was wanted so then I just did my own thing.image  Combining three poses into one composition.image

Carmen introduced me to several of the other artists and they all made me feel very welcome. There were people from all over the world who have come to live here. Madrid is much like Paris that way, it seems to attract people.  Carmen has a lovely little studio, is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable instructor and also teaches life drawing for children, which I think is wonderful.  If you are ever in Madrid and want to draw, check out

Bob went off on his own to explore the Real Madrid Soccer Stadium while I was at my class, but the admission lines were very long, so he came back to meet me after my class, which was actually much longer than I expected. Carmen does a very nice critique of each person’s work at the end of class and that took over an hour. Bob and I met up in a little park near the Prado, I ate a very late lunch and we decided we would head home early for a change.  Funny, we both saw this strange vehicle today, the riders peddle sideways but it goes forward, and then there were those blonde wigs? No idea what it was all about.image

On the metro I spotted this Michael Jackson wanna-be, complete with make up and a white glove tucked into his belt.  I do love the metro, such great people watching!image

Sunday October 11

El Restro is a famous Madrid flea market whose origins date back to Medieval times.  It takes place every Sunday so that is our first stop today.  The streets are teeming with people everywhere we look.  The market stretches for blocks with booths set up on both sides and sometimes even the middle of the streets.  We wander and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells and even do a little souvenir shopping of our own.image  You can have a bull fighting poster with your name as the matador printed as you wait.imageWe had lunch near the flower vendors and then headed off to Plaza Mayor, a popular gathering spot in Madrid.image

The Plaza ( which by the way is pronounced platha, there are lots of ‘th ‘sounds in Spanish, gracias is actually pronounced grathius!) is packed with people and street vendors and has interesting buildings around it, but half of them are covered with scafolding right now.  We find an information booth and we are told we need to head to the Bull Fight Arena right away if we want to get tickets.  So a quick metro ride and soon we are at Plaza de Toros and the Las Ventas Bulll Ring.  Here is a scale model of the arena.image

Yes, we are going to see a bullfight! I have mixed feelings about this but we have decided that it is something we should do at least once while we are in Spain. The tickets are very reasonable, only 12.60€ each gets us tickets in the fourth row. We were asked if we wanted first row tickets but I didn’t think I wanted to be quite that close to the action!imageBob looks up Los Novilleros, which is the event for today and Google Translate comes back with ‘chopped heifer’.  We hope that something was lost in the translation!  Soon enough the spectacle begins.  The banderilleros warm up, practicing their flourishes and moves with their capes. I am surprised that they are not red.  Turns out only the Novilleros or Matadores have red capes.imageThe Picadores enter the rings on their very large horses.  They are draft horses as they are large and strong enough to withstand the bulls’s charge.  We are  surprised to see that the horses are actually blindfolded during the bullfights.  There are definitely things I don’t like about all this.imageThere are three Novilleros fighting today, these are bullfighters that are still in training as I find out later, and they are fighting bulls who are not aggressive or fierce enough to become ‘toros’.  These bulls are three years old, not five and the young men fighting today are all 22 years old!image image

I take a lot of pictures, about three hundred! I think that helped keep me at a bit of a distance from it all.  Looking through the camera seemed to blunt the reality of what was happening in front of us.  Much of the action was in fact right in front of where we were sitting.  I am very glad we decided against the first row seats!image

There are some tough parts. There is definitely blood, and one of the bulls sank to his knees and had to be coaxed to his feet for the final few passes and the Estocada, which is a final quick sword thrust between the bull’s shoulders and through the heart.  If done correctly it results in a quick clean death.  However, remember these are matadors in training so it wasn’t always quite so quick. In that case, there is the Descabello, which is a shorter sword that is used to sever the bull’s spinal cord, which kills the bull almost instantly.image image

It is brutal, but it doesn’t last very long and I wonder how many animals suffer for just as long, or even longer at modern slaughter houses or when they are wounded when hunted?  The bulls have a very good life up to the time they enter the bull ring, and then a half hour later it is all over, or maybe I am just trying to justify the experience?

I tell Bob that something is going to happen, the air feels absolutely electric, and sure enough a minute or so later the bull tosses the matador into the air.imageHe is pinned to the ground and it takes what seems like a long time for help to arrive and distract the bull.  The pictures are  blurry but maybe that is for the best.imageAmazingly, this young man gets to his feet and continues the fight, even defiantly turning his back on the very bull that just tried to kill him!  These men are either very brave or very crazy!imageThis was the last fight of the night, the arena empties quickly and we head for home.  It was almost ten by the time we got home and have some soup before bed.  We have to find a way to avoid these late night suppers!

Thursday’s Drawings

I wish I could say I did my best drawings on my last session but I struggled for the first part of the day.  Our model was an older fellow and he was a bit fidgety which I found distracting today.  I switched over to watercolour washes and quick line drawings during the last few poses and it went better.



Our model in the afternoon brought props, which can be interesting but it can sometimes make drawing more difficult if they hide the neck and shoulder area.  She was a great model, no fidgeting or moving about at all.


And finally another set of metro drawings. The last few days the cars have been pretty packed so drawing was sometimes impossible. I had to be content with people watching, and there are always interesting people to watch on the metro, or anywhere in Paris, for that matter.




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.


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!


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.


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.



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


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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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…

image image

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!

Crazy Bicyclist, Break Dancing and Eiffel Tower

On the street outside my window is what I have come to think of as the drinking bench.  Everyday there is a group of men who sit and visit and drink wine.  Although drinking on the street and in parks is not allowed everyone seems to do it. Yesterday in front of Sacre Coeur there were even people selling bottles of beer to the tourists!


I went to a life drawing session at an artist’s atelier near the Eiffel Tower todayAnd the male model was excellent.  He held some very difficult poses.  I have been playing with watercolour gestures, not always successfully, but I think it has promise so I will persevere.  It is always difficult to try new things, it feels awkward and clumsy at first.  Even if it isn’t something I decide to continue doing, it still adds to my knowledge and understanding.  It is very easy to keep doing what I know works, instead of stepping into new territory, but I know I need to push myself in order to keep learning and improving.


imageThese are five minute poses, not many models would even attempt the one above.


Here is a photo of the studio. Nothing too fancy, but Claire provided tea which was much appreciated. She was instructing a class, and I was allowed to come and do my own thing. The students were quite interested in what I was doing and gave me some nice compliments.imageI decided to walk over to the Eiffel Tower, about a six block walk, and soon I could see it towering above the near by buildings.


It is difficult to comprehend just how big this structure is.  Soon I am right underneath, looking up.


It is a special weekend, les Journées du Patrimoine, with lots of buildings open to the public and events taking place all over the city.  It is very busy here today, the line ups for the elevators stretch right across the plaza beneath the Eiffel Tower.  There is an electronic sign flashing that says that the platforms are at maximum capacity and there is up to a 45 minute wait, and that is after waiting in that big line to get tickets!   Good thing I had no intention of going up today.

imageWhen we were here several years ago we were surprised to see military guards, somehow not so surprising today.  I have actually seen armed guards in several places, including the Gare de l’Est.

imageInterestingly, neither the police nor the military seem to do much to deter street vendors, who can be quite insistent, I discovered that a quick shake of the head and not making eye contact seems to do the trick.  This bunch is waiting for the elevator to come down from the Eiffel Tower, they then follow the people who get off, trying to convince them to buy an Eiffel tower of their very own.


I watched this guy operate for a few minutes, and saw a man lose a hundred Euro bill!  He was so sure he knew where the little ball was, and was quite shocked that he didn’t double his money, like the woman before him, who managed to pick the right cup several times.  I am pretty sure she was working with the fellow manning the cups.  I am surprised that people still fall for this.

imageI head across the river towards the Metro, and stop to watch some pretty amazing break dancers.



One of them invites a pretty young girl up on to the stage and is quite surprised when she pretty much matches him move for move!  Turns out she is with the Astana Ballet, which is a ballet company from Kasakhstan.  What a treat that was.  I ended up sitting there for more than an hour, it was all so entertaining.  One of the break dancers spoke to the audience in at least a dozen languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, German, Russian and more that I can’t remember.  He seemed to know at least several sentences in each language and even answered in the different languages when the audience members responded!


I also saw the craziest bicyclist ever.  He came flying, down a pedestrian street standing up on his bike, which was scary enough, but he then continued onto the main road which was part of an intersection of six roads !


And he did this repeatedly!  I stood in utter amazement and watched him perform this insane stunt at least a half dozen times.  No idea what he is thinking.  I am thinking he is lucky to still be alive!



Time to get home.  One last look back at the Eiffel tower in the setting sun and I head off to the Trocadéro Metro stop .


The metro trains were very busy tonight, but a young lady and later a man get up to give me their seat. I guess having grey hair has some perks!  It was almost 9:00 by the time I got home, the latest yet.  I am getting braver.

Six Hours of Drawing!

Stools and more stools, all heights from about 15″ to 48″.

imageI was able to stay for the 3:00 drawing session as well as the 12:00 one today.  Six hours of drawing and it went by so quickly.  Not noticing the  passage of time is a good indicator that a person is in a creative zone or space.  That was certainly the case today, it did not feel like I was drawing for six hours, the time flew by and before I knew it we were on the last pose.  I  didn’t even notice how sore my bottom was until I put down my pencil and brushes!  I will post some drawings tomorrow, it was dark by the time I got home and I need daylight to take pictures of drawings.

This interesting cage is in the corner of the little courtyard just outside the studio.  No occupants today.

imageI went to see the Osteopath again today, and I took these two pictures on the Metro going there at 6:30 pm, looking in both directions, before it got so packed that I couldn’t even get my arms up in the air to take another picture.  Yes, even more people piled into the train at the next station!


imageIt was almost 9:00 by the time got home so a long day but a very satisfying one.

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.


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.