Thursday, April 30, 2009

Le Cafe

For those of you who aren't sick and tired of my posts about my visit to Paris, you must be either (a) my greatest most loyal fan, or (b) my mother-in-law, or (c) both of the above. (!)
One last thought, IF I ever get to see Paris again I will bring a better sketchbook with colored pencils, or watercolor pens. I will need thicker nicer quality paper (maybe some paint) and more time to be alone with all the places and treasures that I want to see. 
These sketches that I have posted were all done in a little book that I could tuck in my bag and pull out in a hurry, and all I carried was an ordinary pen and pencil. Most of the time I used a ball point pen for the fastest draw.
I look at some of my favorite artists who also blog, (James Gurney) and their travel sketches and I am inspired to travel more and paint more. Mine look like  messy hurried sketches  without enough detail and observation to me now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Another amusing facet of drawing in public is not just the people watching, but listening to what they say. 
While here in the Royal Palace gallery in the company of Aphrodite of Milo I overheard this; "You look much  prettier naked than her. And you've got arms!" Guy smirks, girl blushes.
So many tourists from all over, speaking every language, wearing every form of dress. Some pause, check off the list, move on fast. Some look tired and bored and yet others are  excited to see all these monuments, and reach finally a life long goal.
Finally, they all have to pose too, and get their photo taken with this graceful lady.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The mighty Louvre

Le Grand Louvre is the world's largest museum.  
I read that it might take 9 months just to glance at every piece of art. I visited twice this past month, the first time with a tour group and the second time by myself with the luxury of standing in front of anything I pleased for as long as I wanted.  If I ever get another day like that, there is so much more I could have seen.
 I stopped in the gallery with the Venus de Milo and just couldn't leave. I drew her again and again. 
Life drawing from a perfectly still model! Although the crowds of people continually standing  in front of me snapping photos  blocked my view.

Monday, April 27, 2009

All the other tourists

While sitting in the Musee de l'Orangerie on comfortable benches placed just for optimal viewing.
These are fast gestural sketches of the parade of people who stood in front of me and provided a constant source of amusement and very natural live models. 

If you want to see these pages larger- just click on the art and it will appear in  large pixel glory, and fill up your screen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Looking at Monet's water lilies

In the Musee de l'Orangerie.
The correct title for this series of eight huge paintings is Les Nympheas.   Monet designed the rooms in this building to display them himself.  These are huge canvases that wrap around oval shaped rooms. Ethereal shades of pink, violet, and cobalt make the water lilies appear as if they are floating on the canvas.
I had a rare quiet day all to myself with plenty of time to really look.
I sketched and took notes, what colors are these? How did he make these transitions?
And why does it come together so completely when I sit at a distance, and yet look so abstract, gestural,  and exciting when I get in really close?
And can you guess which tourist is me?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Gates of Hell

I  returned to the garden of the Musee Rodin to sketch this immense bronze sculpture again. Last year when  I had my first opportunity to visit I sketched the statue of Eve, and blogged about it here.
This time I gave the figure of Adam my attention.  I have found that drawing a great work of art is the best way to look hard and appreciate. And, as a side benefit, the gardens with the French formal landscaping and many famous sculptures are so peaceful.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our guide to the Sainte-Chapelle

This gentleman  abruptly told me to stop drawing him!  He was about to give a tour of  the Sainte-Chapelle and I offended him by sketching away as he was speaking. Then of course, I don't speak French!  But I got the message.
If I ever go back to Paris, this is first on my list of must-return. The stained glass windows sing, for this is Gothic architecture in perfection. I wish to go back to sit alone quietly absorbing the beauty.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A little blue

Another small study of the blue scilla. These are tiny flowers, about as big as an american dime. To observe, I had to  get in really close almost touching my nose to them.
This title has nothing to do with my frame of mind!  I am in a great mood, excited about color and paint and nature.


Another song title from Joni Mitchell, but I am thinking of this one; 
"Blue on blue
Sky's in your eyes"
I picked a handful of the scilla siberica from my front garden. I wanted to paint the intense blue that has fascinated me recently.
 This little sketch was made just minutes ago. I set a few blossoms down on a white background to study closely, they are very tiny. Separately, they have many variations of pale blues, deep cobalt blue, and violet. But when thousands of them bloom across the grass, the magic of bright spring blue happens.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Learn to speak French

I can't speak French, and I don't understand what I hear either. I am trying but I have so far to go yet. 
These two young woman have been studying French in high school and  practiced courageously while we traveled. I admired their effort!

Rainy evening in Paris

Tables are placed in the front of the restaurant facing out so that you can watch the street. I felt like I was a character in a movie, something romantic, in this lovely city.
I don't intend this to be a travel blog, but if you want to know, I was sketching this evening while  waited for my group at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter right next to the University Sorbonne.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Travel companions

My daughter is brilliant, fluent in English, Spanish and French. And she knows Paris as well as her own hometown back in Illinois so I couldn't ask for a better traveling companion. My only gripe is that she is wearing my new pink scarf that I had just spent 5 euros on and won't give it back.

I was a free ... in Paris

I was a free spirit in Paris!
In the words of Joni Mitchell , 

"I was a free man in Paris

I felt unfettered and alive

There was nobody calling me up for favors

And no one's future to decide

You know I'd go back there tomorrow

But for the work I've taken on
If l had my way

I'd just walk through those doors

And wander
down the Champs Elysees
Going cafe to cabaret..."
A wonderful gift of travel to Paris in March and my sketchbook  is nearly full.
I have lots of sketches to share in the next days.
This drawing I made while sitting in a cafe on Boulevard St-Germain while sipping a teeny cup of strong coffee.
I thought I asked for it "american style" but it did not resemble my usual mug.
Good caffeine jolt, but expensive.  So I got out my sketchbook and tried to make it last.
You can see the entrance to the Metro here and enjoy watching the bustle of street life.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Man in Paris

I don't think this gentleman knew I was sketching him. I tried to be sneaky and look at the street scene most of the time. 

The intense colors of Spring

Gobsmacked ,my new favorite word, describes my reaction to our first spring days in Chicago.
I looked it up in a British-American dictionary; "surprised - taken unawares or suddenly and feeling wonder or astonishment". 
Those intense moments of color surprise and delight every day  as grey winter creeps away.
My front yard is  carpeted by these tiny cobalt blue blossoms. I finally figured out that they are called Scilla siberica and that they sprouted from miniature bulbs that I planted a number of years ago (and forgot). Now they are brilliantly naturalizing their way across the lawn. 
I am about to start a very large painting of lilies from the latest Easter week. I always end up with lots of lilies in pots in my studio during this week in the spring. The rooms smell wonderful and I am so inspired to draw from the live models surrounding me.
This shade of blue, with a hint of purples makes me want to create a theme with this color for this next painting.  I will be posting as I paint.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In the Beginning, God Created...

And this is how I illustrated that incredible statement. 
In the Anglican tradition the Easter Vigil service is the most exciting and dramatic celebration of the year. The Vigil begins in the dark with the lighting of the new Pascal Candle. Then, Scripture readings and music retell the story of The Bible and salvation. The banners were raised one by one with the reading from each verse from the first chapter of Genesis. 
 I love the part where it says "And God saw that it was good."   "And there was evening and there was morning, the first Day".  It reminds me of (my favorite books) the C. S. Lewis Narnia series, in The Magician's Nephew where Aslan is creating Narnia by singing the stars and trees and creatures into being.
 After the readings, and a sermon, and baptisms, and Communion, the Alleluia! is shouted and sung and a sheer scrim with Alleluia! sewn beautifully by another artist was lowered in front of my banners. It was a joyous celebration and all the art and flowers continued into the Sunday morning services.
My photo above was taken at the end of the Saturday night service.
These are close ups that I managed to get on Sunday morning before we took it all down.

You can't see the whale in these photos, it is covered by the letter a at the end. An unexpected bit of humor came when the fifth banner was raised with all the birds and fish. The whale is stylized and cartoony cute but I didn't expect a huge laugh to occur in the congregation at that moment. A public laugh at my art, how funny!  I loved it.

Process of creation

The past week has been an intense time of creating and then celebration of the final work of art. I thought a lot about creation and the process that we went through.  
This is not about the process of creation with a capital C.  I  give the glory to God of the Process of Creation. 
The six banners that I was in charge of producing for our church celebration of the Easter Vigil were pretty much painted in just six days. Not really enough time, but that is how it had to happen. I began sketching them out and measuring the 5 ' width by 12 ' length here at home in my studio and across my entire living and dining room ( I pushed or removed all the furniture).
 I had a couple of days to use our church hall to paint on long tables, using big jars of acrylics from a hobby store. I haven't ever painted anything this large and it took some learning to mix the colors and figure out the size of brush that worked best. I ended up favoring a 2 1/2" house painting brush. 
During this week I had lots of help from volunteers and family members for which I am very grateful. 
Wednesday night I had to move everything, wet banners and bowls of paint mixtures back to my house to finish because the church hall was being used for Holy Week services!  All the work had to be finished and ready to hang by the end of Friday night as the work team had to set up for the Saturday night service by midnight Friday night. It was a frenzy during the day on Friday! And then, it was all over, I couldn't do another thing about it.  As the artist I suffered some misgivings when I lost a bit of control over how the final product looked. It wasn't quite what I would have envisioned at the end. Another valuable learning experience.
It was a truly joyous moment in the church service when the banners rose with the readings from Genesis that evening. I enjoyed the reaction from the congregation immensely.
How rarely does an illustrator have a big audience to respond noisily and enthusiastically to her work?  

Now it is Monday morning and I have to clean up my studio and a huge mess. This mess is so colorful I took a picture of it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And, finally, Alleluia!

The Lord is Risen, He is risen indeed.
I painted this in March of 2006 as part of a series of easter lilies. This one is 60x48, almost as large as the banners I just finished. I have some new unfinished canvases of more lilies that I hope to complete soon this year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Days of Creation

This is my color sketch which I gave to the Visual Arts committee. We all became very excited about how cool it would look as part of the Easter Vigil service as the scripture from the first book of Genesis would be read, and each banner would lower to make a complete visual. 
(However many days God actually spent Creating our Universe is not my concern here, for the sake of Design I have six days and six banners to illustrate a very big subject!)
In the following weeks of enthusiasm, fabric was purchased, and the banners were constructed and sewn by many helpful hands. Six giant bolts of lovely white denim were delivered to me last week and I began some long days of creative intensity. 
I have had some very willing and talented volunteers to help me paint. And the work is still going on today, I still have all the fish in the sea and birds in the sky to draw right now. My feet and legs are very sore from standing and painting for 12 to 14 hours a day.
Future posts to come showing progress and finished project!

Creativity, Creation, Creator

Well, folks, I am back. I haven't been here to record in my art journal for a month. And I have so much to share! March was so busy ; a nice big illustration assignment came in with very quick deadlines; then a trip to Paris! as a chaperon with a high school student French group; and now, during Holy Week I am painting six huge banners for my church to use on Saturday night for the Easter Vigil service.
Yes, three days away and a very short deadline indeed.
How did I get myself into such a tight corner? Not unusual at all for me. Way back in February I agreed to be on the Visual Arts committee, but I have never been a good committee member. I usually sketch and doodle during meetings and as this meeting about Easter week proceeded I began to scribble away on the back of the handouts. We were discussing the Scripture readings and talking about the Genesis chapter 1 creation account. As I listened, inspiration struck me and I am posting here my scribbles that became the six huge banners. Tomorrow I will post my color sketches.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."