Friday, July 31, 2015

Impressions of France part 1 Paris!

'Paris Along the Seine'               8x10             pastel               ©Karen Margulis
It was an epic adventure. I've been home a week now and starting to digest it all. It is going to take some time. The first thing I did was put together a book of my daily Facebook photos from the trip. I used and I will share the finished book here when it arrives. Next I unpacked the paintings I did on the trip. I  displayed them in my studio so I can enjoy them and be inspired by them. Then I downloaded all 3600 photos onto my iMac.

The next thing on my agenda is to review my trip day by day. I would like to write about each place visited and paint from my studies and photos. I did this last year after my trip to Iceland and I am glad I preserved the memories while they were still fresh! see my Iceland story here.

I will be posting my stories and paintings from this adventure here over the next month or so as they are written. Today I invite you to Paris.

The favorite way to sightsee in Paris!
Paris, France...the City of Lights. It had been 25 years since I visited this city. I was in high school and in love with everything French. When I found out that Stan Sperlak and his Painter's Passport group would be going to France, I knew I wanted to join them.  It was time to return to France this time with the eye of an artist. I was thrilled when Stan offered me the opportunity to join the group as a guest instructor.

My arrival to Paris was not the best way to start a trip.....well it actually did start with a trip! The shuttle bus dropped me off blocks from my hotel and the wheel of my suitcase got hung up on the cobblestones sending me sprawling into the crosswalk.... Skinned knees and bruised I somehow found my way to the hotel where the group was waiting. read the post from the first day here

We were only in Paris for one and a half days before heading to Normandy but we sure did fit a lot into that time. The arrival day was jam packed with sightseeing and pastel shopping at the Sennelier store and the Maison du Pastel for Henri Roche pastels. We stayed up past midnight enjoying dinner overlooking the Seine.

My Impression of Paris.....I loved the Seine. It is what I remember most about my time in Paris.

A couple sitting on the banks of the Seine. What is their story?  
We began the adventure after our group meeting at our hotel...Villa Mazarin. (excellent) with a tour by Stan. He had arrived a few days early and knew the ropes. He bought us all two day passes for the BatoBus. These were long flat boats similar to the famous Bateaux Mouches boats that tour the Seine. These  boats were like a taxi service. They went up and down the Seine in the area of the major attractions. You could get on and off as much as you wanted. It was the perfect way to save some steps when sightseeing.

But for me the BatoBus was an attraction itself. In fact it was one of my favorite things about our time in Paris. As we cruised down the river there was something to photograph everywhere I looked. I was especially fascinated by the people along the river. People where everywhere....sitting, walking, sharing wine and picnicking. People in boats. People on bikes. People with dogs. As we passed them by I imagined their story. Did they live in Paris? Were they in love? What was the story unfolding in front of me?

I could have cruised up and down the Seine all day writing stories in my mind and capturing photos for my memories.

Today's painting is a studio piece from one of those photos. It is 8x10 on Pastelmat
Here are a few of my photos from my time aboard the BatoBus

Under the Bridge

The Eiffel Tower from the Seine

Now here is a story!

Under the bridge we go

Early evening along the Seine

Part 2 The People of Paris

'Paris Break'             7x10              pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $125
 It seemed as though we walked for miles. In fact according to my Apple watch I did walk for 10 miles during the short time we were in Paris. Walking in Paris was a feast for the senses. The colors, smells and sounds brought the city to life. I wanted to capture it all and put it in a bottle.

I have to be content with my memories and the photos I was able to take. I imagined myself on a photo safari. We were moving fast so I had to react quickly. A click here and another there as we briskly made our way through the crowds.

detail of painting 

I wanted to take photos that captured the flavor of Paris. I wanted to capture the essence of what Pais was about impressions of Paris. Once again I found myself enthralled with the people. Riding the BatoBus introduced me to the wonderful sights of Paris....Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tour. But I found myself focused on the people lining the banks of the Seine (read part 1 here)

As I walked I noticed the people. So many people and at all hours of the day. Busy people, people laughing, kids playing ball, dogs playing ball, people relaxing at streetside cafes. The people were interesting and colorful. They filled the city and gave it energy. 

The buildings formed the landscape of the city and the people were the spices.
 I wanted to paint them.


But we were on the move and so I could only take photos. I held my camera discreetly against my side. I kept it turned on and when I saw an interesting scene I clicked the shutter. I didn't want to be obvious and I didn't stop or slow my pace. Did I get any good photos? Not many. I got many photos of feet!  But I got enough to remind me of the flavor of Paris. They will inspire some fun paintings!

Here are a few photos of my quick walk around Paris.

connecting....just not with one another

We had a fun evening at this cafe

Dogs are welcome

evening shapes and colors

 About today's painting: I printed one of my photos and took much liberty with it. I used a piece of gray Pastelmat paper. My goal was to simplify the clutter and leave out the things that weren't necessary such as the men walking in front of the cafe. I also didn't want the figures to be detailed. They are simple shapes....suggestive of people without putting in too much detail.

the badly reproduced photo that I used for todays painting

Part 3 In Vincent's Footsteps

'In Vincent's Footsteps'              9x12            pastel                ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $150
It was a stop I will always remember. I knew it would be an interesting stop but I wasn't prepared for the emotions I experienced. We were up early to load up the vans for our departure from Paris. Instead of heading straight for Normandy and our home base, Stan had planned for a special detour for us.

The anticipation built as we made our way through the Paris traffic into the French countryside. The sight of the famous wheat fields made me smile. I wanted to stop and walk in those fields. I would have my chance later in the week. Today our detour was to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise.

close up detail with a hidden surprise

Auvers-sur-Oise (say ovayers sur waaze) is the village outside of Paris where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life. In the wheat fields of this village Vincent shot himself, succumbing to his wounds two days later in his room in the Auberge Ravoux.

We came to Auvers to pay our respects.

It was very quiet here. Only a few people walked the streets.  It was peaceful compared to the bustle of Paris. There were flowers everywhere. Hollyhocks and climbing roses graced the buildings. There were paintings to be made everywhere. Van Gogh painted 70 paintings in the short time he lived here. I can see why.

We walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh. We saw the subjects of some of his most famous works. We walked down the path that he must have walked every day to and from his room and out to the fields carrying his easel, paints and canvases.  The village appeared as though it could have looked the same as when Vincent lived there. 

We took the short tour of the Auberge Ravoux. Vincent stayed in room number 5 at the top of a narrow creaky staircase. It was small. And spare. You could feel the loneliness.  Next we were ushered into another small dark room. We were shown a film about Vincent's days and last days in Auvers. And then it hit me. How very sad it was to be so misunderstood yet to be able to create so much beauty. It was incredibly moving.

After the tour we made our way down the main street to pass the church and head up into the wheat fields and the cemetery to pay our respects. It was my first close up view of the wheat fields. They were in various stages of growth from new to downtrodden. I was inspired to paint them all. I could see why they excited Van Gogh.

I would have my chance later in the week. For now our visit was over. The mood was quiet as we loaded into the vans for the remainder of the drive to Meuvaines.  It is a detour that will stay with me and inspire me.

Click here for an interesting page on Auvers-sur-Oise.
For Part 1 of my trip report click here. In June I spent 10 days with Stan Sperlak and his Painter's Passport group on a workshop expedition in France.

Part 4 The Haunted Manor

'Laundry at the Manor'            6x8             pastel              ©Karen Margulis
It would be our home for the week. It was better than any grand hotel. Maybe it was a little rough around the edges but it oozed character. The Manoir St. Paul will forever remain in my memory....for many reasons. Manoir St Paul is a large manor home constructed in the 18th century. It was large enough to comfortably house all of the artists in our Painter's Passport group with room to spare.

The Manoir St Paul. My room is the window on the top left
The house was full of nooks and crannies. The nooks and crannies were filled with an odd assortment os stuff....a military hat collection. Old trunks full of costumes. Bookshelves filled with books in French of course. China cabinets with very old china. Lots of stuff to explore. 

The house was old and it looked as though it had seen a lot. The stone steps were well worn. I imagined the many footsteps that went up and down these stairs. There were 38 steps. I know because my roommate Elinros counted them. We were on the third floor....up these stone steps and some very creaky wooden steps. It was always a good idea to bring everything needed for the day down to breakfast!

The back of the manor opens up to a large field and pastures
The house was interesting to say the least and the grounds were even more interesting. There was a large courtyard filled with roses and calla lilies. There was a greenhouse and and a big garage full of more odd things. And there was a wonderful little laundry house. I'm not sure what it was used for originally  but it now housed the washer and dryer. I found this little house to be most interesting. Especially in the late afternoon light. (which by the way happened around 9:00 pm!)  This little house just glowed. I chose to paint this little building a few times.

The best thing about Manoir St. Paul was it's location in the wonderful little town called Meuvaines. Meuvaines is in Lower Normandy. It has a church. That's about all. There are a some homes and lots of pastures full of cows (and bulls). All is surrounded by wheat fields. Miles of wheat fields. I loved Meuvaines!

Welcome to Meuvaines!

The view of Meuvaines from one of the wheat fields. 
 There is something else about our home. We weren't the only ones living at the Manoir St. Paul. In the beginning of the week we joked about it. It sure looked and felt like it could be haunted. But as the week progressed it became clear to many of us. We were not alone.

We heard her several times. Elinros heard her one night. She told me she spoke to her and that the spirit was a good spirit. The next night I hear humming.  Everyone was sleeping though. Pastels were moved mysteriously and window shutters slammed shut with no wind. Oddly I wasn't afraid ... even up in the attic room. Perhaps she was an artist.

Staying in a haunted manor certainly added to my experience in France. It was a great week here and I will share some of our adventures in the next installment. And by the way, this would not be my last brush with spirits on this trip.

The only photo I have of my room. One of the artists checks out our view.

The view from our room. In the distance we could see the sea...the English Channel.
 If you would like to see my video tour of our manor home, check out my Youtube video. Click here.

Today's painting is 6x8 on watercolor paper with orange toned pumice surface.

Part 5 The Cows Next Door

'The Cow Next Door'           5x7         pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase here $95
***Note...if you got an earlier post with an ad or link don't click on it! I was hacked! I apologize!**

There was a certain fascination with the cows. They were exceptionally pretty cattle and very photogenic. But more than that I think it was the magical setting that made them so appealing. We all fell in love with the French cows of Meuvaines. 

We were surrounded by pastures and wheat fields. It was the ultimate fairytale bucolic setting. Old stone and stucco farmhouses on quiet dirt lanes that led past the meadows filled with fat and happy cows. No matter what road you chose you would see them and hear their moos and bellows and snorts and grunts. Cow sounds along with the buzzing of bees made up the soundtrack for our week in the country.

We didn't want to leave our cows. Like them, we were quite content staying near the Manoir St. Paul.

They posed for us!

'The Cow Next Door II'             5x7         pastel          $95

Kathryn makes friends in the back pasture

Curious Cows

After observing them for a few days and taking many many photos, I was compelled to paint them. Painting cattle en plein air can be a challenge. They don't often stay still long enough. It becomes a matter of capturing their gesture. I worked quickly and blocked in the large shapes with a dark value. I then quickly moved to a middle value and finally the lights. I painted the background last.

It was simply my impression of the cows in the meadow. I could have painted them all week long!

'The Cows of Meuvaines'   5x7   plein air pastel    $95

Not all of the cattle were sweet and gentle. There were several pastures that were home to some very large (in every way) bulls. Several of the artists in the group had some close encounters with one bull in particular. His pasture was next to the church. It was the ideal location for painting the church but the bull made that a dangerous proposition.

Watch out Stan! This bull means business!
 I probably took over 100 photos of our cows. Yes there was a fascination with them but they added the spice in a very peaceful and beautiful landscape. They will certainly be the subject of many more paintings.

Early morning frisky cows

 Today's paintings are 5x7 on Sennelier LaCarte paper with a mix of pastels, mostly Terry Ludwigs. Visit my Facebook page on Thursday to see step by step photos of the paintings. Be sure to 'like' the page while you are there!

Part 6 Dancing in the Wheat

'Dancing at the Edge'               8x10               pastel            ©Karen Margulis
 I wasn't really expecting wheat fields. I was hoping for poppies and flax and maybe even some canola fields. In the end the wheat fields won me over. Our home in Meuvaines France was right in the middle of rolling wheat fields that seemed to go on for miles.   Stepping outside the manor you could choose any direction and within a few steps you would be in the midst of the magic.

How can wheat be magical? Individually they are as interesting as any flower. But there is more to it as I discovered on my daily walk through these fields.

See for yourself. Have a look at this short video clip taken on one of my evening walks. Listen to the wind and watch the wheat dance.

It wasn't just the wheat that was magical. It was the setting and the light. Every time I set off down the dirt road leading up through the fields it was different. The light was special. Sometimes the wheat seemed to glow with the evening sun. It is interesting to note that the magic hour in June lasted for hours. The best light was in the evening after dinner. The best time for an evening walk was around 8:00pm. The sun didn't set until around 10:00! Our evening walks became something I looked forward to. 

Just outside our door

This is a tree with character!

Walking up the gentle hill we would pass a large area of Queen Anne's Lace dancing at the edge of the wheat. (the subject of today's painting) Then we passed a lone tree, a sentinel on the way to the top. I took many photos of this very interesting tree.

At the top of the hill the dirt road intersected with a paved road. Within a mile this road would take you to the beach. The view from the top was unexpected and breathtaking. Perched above the village and our cows we could see for miles. In the distance the sea beckoned. It was amazing!

The sea in the distance

Of course, being in the middle of this magic inspired us to paint the wheat fields. I set up at the edge of the field to paint several studies. This experience only clarified the experience. I was officially in love with wheat!

I did discover a few lingering poppies. My poppy fields would come later in my journey.

Painting notes: Today's painting is on Uart 400 with an alcohol wash underpainting.