I just came back from my first trip to Paris a few weeks ago.
I loved the fact that there are no high-rise buildings here. I walked most of the days either on the cobblestone path next to the river and in the narrow alleys; from museums to gardens and to other attractions. These narrow alleys reminded me of Kathmandu.
Walking in Paris and finding various restaurants, crepe stands, churches, souvenir stores, and unique shops were very exciting. I felt the atmosphere to be diverse and energetic yet more relaxed compared to New York. People were either walking or enjoying sitting in a café with drinks and food. Nights in Paris were even more enjoyable and beautiful with street lamps and lights on bridges and buildings. It was romantic.
I spent most of my days looking at artworks in different museums. At the Museum of Montmartre, I enjoyed looking at old pictures of the place and artists who lived and worked there in the last century. Louvre was overwhelming with large collections of beautiful pieces from the Renaissance to the early 1900s. I saw more contemporary works at the Museum d’Orsay, Museum l’Orangerie and Museum of Modern Art and was happy to discover a few more French artists that I had barely known in the past such as Maurice Utrillo, Suzanne Valadon, Eugene Carriere, and Andre Derain.
Looking at beautiful artworks in the day and walking in narrow alleys in the evening fueled my energy to paint. I started paying more attention to the buildings around me. They have various tones of beige with decorated black wrought iron balconies. Windows are large and some have their own little balconies and shutters. The restaurants and storefronts on the bottom have colorful doors and signs. However, rooftops are the most exciting part. They are of significant height with dark colors such as brown and green, containing clusters of red chimney tops along with other interesting structures – antenna, small stairs, … etc.
I used to assume the drawings of buildings in Egon Schiele’s work very exaggerated. Now that I have been in Paris, I realized they are much closer to reality. The architecture here takes on a persona; buildings looked as if people wearing beige uniforms with colorful bottoms and cheerful hats with feathers.
A particular structure caught my attention while I was looking for a place to paint – conjoining yellow and green buildings sandwiched between two taller buildings. I faithfully drew the structure capturing the diagonal rooftops and half open windows. At the end I excluded everything around it except for a street lamp. The few watercolors I brought served well for this small painting.
I was lucky to squeeze in one more painting before the trip ended. Although there were many paintable places, I chose an alley with a surrounding open space. Slanted walls, varied heights, and dark red gothic windows made this place more exciting. I simplified some of the architecture. I removed all the windows from the building on the right. I then threw in a window with shutters which reminded me of Bonnard’s painting “Two Dogs in a Deserted Street“. It was slightly open which made it even more interesting.
I wanted to spend some more time editing these work. However, I found watercolor to be less forgiving than oil. Although these work have some illustrative quality, I decided to keep them as they are. In the near future, I am going to paint in oil based on these two watercolors and other inspirations from this trip.