Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bonjour from Paris!

First of all, yes I am alive! Not to mention I am completely living out my wildest dreams!!! Let me tell you all about the past 9 days of my life!

So I arrived in Paris last Sunday. I had a kind of a rough start. My flight was delayed and my class and professor left me at the Charles de Gaulle airport :(. Let me tell you there is nothing more frightening than being alone, lost and a non French speaker in one of the biggest airports in the world! 4 hours later, minimal tears and a 60 euro cab later I made it to the hostel. Yay!

Our first day was lost in a blur of stress and jetlag. But the second day we were up at 4 am partly due to the excitement of being in Paris and to our unacclimated body clocks. We had a scavenger hunt around the city. Michael (our professor) basically gave us our metro passes and sent us through the turn style to figure out the metro system. It was rough and ended in a test of my map reading skills and a 5 mile walk in the snow. It was 17 degrees! I was sure my feet had frost bite! That night we had a soirée back at the hostel with some snobby kids from some fancy art school in the states. We were supposed to mingle, but I spent the entire time feeling very sick and pretending to drink the nasty wine they gave us. I ended up spending the rest of the night throwing up over a dozen times (my poor roommate)! I think it might have been food poisoning or the flu or stress or a combination of everything. Whatever it was, it was zero percent fun. The next day was the d’Orsay and I was in no condition to love art.

Wednesday was our scheduled Louvre day. And there is nothing like a promise of great art to get you better fast! The Louvre was better than I could ever imagine. I don’t think I can even explain my elation! Michael literally ran us through the Louvre in the morning. I was almost in tears as we mall walked past these famous works I have studied in art history class. French painting was my favorite section and we did get to spend sometime there. We went to a Richelieu Café and paid so freaking much for some of the best soup ever (see Ma I mentioned the art before the soup). We then sat in the French sculpture section for 3 hours drawing sculptures. People kept coming and looking over my shoulder and giving me weird looks. Hello haven’t you seen someone drawing before?! But there were people sketching all over the Louvre. Ahh I loved it!

Thursday I think I almost died of dream fulfillment! We were invited to the art school where Degas, Van Gough and Delacroix studied and taught, Les Beaux-Arts. Seriously no one goes to this place, but Michael had a friend who was a friend of the professor. We got to sit in on a figure drawing class. For those of you who don’t know, figure drawing is a study of the human body using nude models. It is not weird, it is a anatomical study of the human form as a frame that is essential to understanding how clothes hang on that frame. The class started and the students took their places around the models at huge chalkboards surrounding the room. The time started and they drew as fast as they could and just erased their work when the were done. The students that came in late had to climb a little ladder up to a balcony where they sketched the models from above. There were some empty chalkboard space and the professor asked if anyone from our class wanted to sketch. I said OF COURSE and dragged Mackenzie up to the balcony with me. I tried really hard, but the odd perspective, nerves of being in front of the class and my limited knowledge of human anatomy left me feeling inferior to the beaux-arts students. Ahh you don’t even know how awesome it was to be in that classroom!

Friday was a free day and we went to the Eifel tower. Meh. It was cool, I guess. Lots of tourists and overpriced food. But you have to go right? I wandered the streets and bought a hot dog. I did some sketches and found a nice bench and begrudgingly did the expected and totally cliché Eifel tower sketch.

Saturday we went to the flea market and I learned to bargain aggressively. I bought a vintage Parisian dress and three scarves. We had some weird encounters with strange French men who liked to call us “baby”, but it was overall fun and a totally new experience for me! The girls I was with wanted to go to what we began calling “the button store” at the Les Halles metro stop. It was a very cool notions- yarn-bead-button-ribbon collection of a store. We found a cute hole in the wall café and the girls made fun of me for ordering French fries.

Sunday was Versaille! We took the metro to the RER train out of Paris. It was a 30 minute ride (just enough time for a sketch!) This was probably my most productive day of sketching! Before we went in, Ashley and I sat on the cobble stone outside the gate and did sketches. Tourists started crowding over us and taking our picture. Silly, silly! We did the whole audioguide tourist thing for about half the museum and then got caught up in drawing in a room near the hall of mirrors. 3 hours later we realized that we were starving and ran through the rest looking for the sortie! We found the best little Greek Café in town (which was a total surprise since nothing is open on Sundays here! My vote was on McDonalds, but Mackenzie would not allow it). For 6 euro we had the best chicken sandwich pita deals and spent another 2 hours drawing. We rode the RER back. In the lobby that night we finished our drawings at the bar and met some people from RISD who seemed interested in our endeavors. They were mostly interested in Ashley and then it was awkward because we were with our professor.

Monday we did a sketch crawl with Michael through the city. We went to Cluny Museum and I drew a drinking cup with chicken feet. Not my favorite museum. We then went to Notre Dame and sketched. The darn Bosnian gypsies are so persistent and annoying! I was painting outside and every 3 minutes a woman did the whole “you speak English?” ploy. We followed Michael through the streets like Madeline. Single file that is, he is not nun like in anyway and there was no yellow hat involved. (Speaking of which, C-line remember when you re-gifted my Christmas present?) We went to the Picasso museum. It is so cool to me to see his paintings where he obviously understands the human form and can do accurate, real life representations, but he purposefully chooses to distort and simplify the form. We ended at the Pompidou, the modern art museum. It was a little too much class for one day and we stayed for 20 minutes before we left for home.

Yesterday we went to d’Orsay and did the whole postimpressionism and impressionism thing; Luncheon on the Grass being our main focus. We also looked at different styles of portrait paintings. Some of these paintings made me feel a lot better about how my watercolors are coming out. We then went to the Rodin museum and saw famous sculptures like The Kiss and The Thinker. I tried a watercolor outside because it is a lot warmer this week. I was so wrapped up in my painting that I didn’t even notice that is started raining. I took a reference shot and ran to the little café at the museum.

Today we went to the Louvre again and sketched more statues and copied one Dutch and one French painting. We went to l’Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies. Tomorrow we are going to a street market to work on our one point perspective drawings and outdoor watercolor.

I hope all is well at home! I am exhausted and creatived out! I am having such a good time and miss you all dearly!


  1. NICKERS!!!!! I have been checking this religiously twice a day to see how you are- (its even bookmarked on my page!) and finally I can paint a picture (no pun intended) of you in Paris. It sounds like you are TOTALLY having the time of your life!!!!!! 2 things: 1. sorry I regifted your movie =[ and 2. you found a hot dog there, leave it to you! I am dying to see some of these sketches. I talk about you all the time to people here bragging about your skills. I can't wait to skypay your face and finally hear your voice. I miss you everyday! love you-- C-line

  2. Hi dosh!

    This is so exciting! Leave it to you to get sick in Paris... meh... but I hope you are feeling better. The museums and sketching sound amazing. I love how you are getting annoyed with snobby American tourists already! Maybe you will be able to convince them all that you are really a French troubador who just happened to learn English really well. I will have to thank McKenzie for helping to curb your McDonalds addiction--- really dosh? You've been there like 10 days. Well, I am excited to read your future posts and skype soon! Love you!

  3. Its good to hear from you! About time you updated this thing dear. It seems like you are having an amazing amazing time in Paris, and are having almost an art overload. But you would.

    Talk to you soon.

  4. You are on top of the world girl! Watch out for those French men that call you baby. Remember that "voulez vous couchez avec moi,se soir" is not a good phrase despite the popularity of the song. Keep on sketchin'. Can't wait to see your masterpieces. Grandma says keep an eye out for Van Gough's ear while you're in France. Ha. J'adore vous. Ma