Saturday, August 12, 2017

France Sketchbook - Day 3 - Versailles

The palace of Versailles began in the early 17th century as a modest hunting camp for King Louis VIII, but around 1661 King Louis XIV decided it just wasn't quite enough for him. He embarked upon a period of expansion that lasted 33 years, making Versailles the world's largest royal domain.

6" x 8", ink & watercolor in a handmade sketchbook with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

We took a guided bus tour from Paris, so we were able to skip the endless lines and get right into the palace.

I was feeling pretty smug until we actually got inside and saw how crowded it was in there, too. Look at this shot of the famous Hall of Mirrors...

People everywhere! In some of the rooms we were so packed in we could hardly move! It wasn't pleasant, but I still think it was worth it to see the over-the-top extravagance of the palace.

I took pictures of some of the many decorative motifs throughout the palace, thinking they might come in handy as border designs for my travel journal. This one would be fairly simple to draw...

This one would be a bit more challenging....

and this one would be just plain crazy to attempt!

King Louis dubbed himself "The Sun King" and his double-L monogram is EVERYWHERE in the palace. It was kind of fun trying to find it in the elaborate carvings and moldings on the walls, doors, ceilings, and furniture. And now it's in my sketchbook, too!

Hey, maybe I should appropriate the double-L for myself. What do you think? :)

Every now and then during the tour, we would pass an open window, and I would lurch toward it gratefully, taking deep breaths of fresh air and looking longingly at the blue sky and gardens awaiting me....

Crowds pressing in on all sides made me feel a little panicky, so it was such a relief when we finally finished touring the palace and made our way outside. The formal gardens were spectacular...

I don't know how I managed to capture this view in a mere 1-3/4" x 5" space!

Click to enlarge

It was impossible to sketch onsite due to the crowds and time constraints, so I saved a page in my sketchbook to journal about the tour later. I tried to capture the feel of the place in the limited space I had by choosing to draw the monogram, a view of the gardens, and a small vignette that shows two buildings and the Gate of Honour that welcomes visitors to the palace.

Can I call the crookedness of the building "artistic license", or do I just need to admit I messed up? :)

My one page of sketches isn't a comprehensive representation of Versailles, but it's enough to jog my memory. With sketching, you can't draw it all, so you have to pick and choose your favorites.

The fountains at Versailles used cutting-edge 17th century technology when they were built, and they still impress visitors to the palace today....

but look at the Orangerie - isn't it spectacular? I think it was my favorite spot in the gardens.

Can't you just imagine courtly gentlemen in waistcoats and breeches escorting oh-so-elegant ladies in bustled gowns around the Orangerie as Baroque music plays in the background?

Touring Versailles gives you a better understanding of the huge disparity between the lifestyles of the peasants and the court in 17th and18th century France. It's eye-opening to see the absolute decadence of the place and then think of how the common folks lived at the time. Revolution was inevitable.

I'm glad we took the time to visit Versailles and learn about the history of the place, but I definitely prefer sitting with my sketchbook, sipping a cup of cappuccino in a tiny mountain village in Provence...but that's a story for another day!

If you love to travel and would like to combine your love of sketching with a visit to far-flung destinations, I invite you to come along on my upcoming workshop trip to the Greek Isles. This 12-day tour will take us to Athens, Amorgos, Naxos, and Santorini - visit this page to learn more.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

France Sketchbook - Paris Edibles

Summer does get busy, doesn't it? We were away at the beach in Oak Island, NC, last week, and I barely had time to get the laundry done before I had to start getting ready for a two-day "Sketch It Now" workshop here at Summerhill this weekend. Then on Tuesday I'll be flying off to SWEDEN to scout out locations for a future sketching workshop! I know, it's crazy, huh? But I just couldn't pass up this opportunity - I promise to tell you all about it when I get back.

So, I haven't had much time to work on my France sketchbook lately, but I did finish this page that features some of the food I enjoyed during my time in Paris...

6" x 8", ink and watercolor in a handmade sketchbook with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

The title was roughed in with pencil when I first started the page, then I inked it later with a Pitt Artist's Pen, size S. I wrote the lettering with a single line, then went back and thickened all the downstrokes. After the entire page was painted, I decided to add some shadows to make the lettering a little more prominent. I used a small round brush and lavender-blue watercolor to copy the writing slightly to the left of the black ink lines.

After a long day of walking around Paris on Day 2, it was a relief to take a few minutes to sit down and have a cool sweet treat in the afternoon. And how could I resist sketching that clever ice cream spoon? The shape of it fit perfectly onto the side of the cut glass dish

That evening, we walked around our neighborhood in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and finally settled on having dinner at a Thai restaurant. It was late, and I wanted something light, so I ordered an appetizer of grilled prawns on a bed of seasoned grapefruit "pearls" topped with what I think were beet sprouts. They were the most amazing bright purple-y fuchsia color. The whole salad was served on a circle cut from a tropical leaf. It was all so pretty that I decided to sketch it to prolong the fun of this feast for the eyes.

The next day, after fighting the crowds at Versailles all morning (which I will tell you all about in a future post) we wandered around Paris for awhile and found an outdoor market surrounded by restaurants that all looked appealing, but, in the end, we all decided we could really go for a burger. An excellent choice - I don't know when a burger has tasted so good!

Our last night in Paris found us at a corner cafe just down the block from our apartment. I selected creamy pumpkin soup topped with whipped cream, bacon, and roasted chestnuts in a green pepper cup. I can't even begin to describe how rich and yummy it was. I had to try really hard not to embarrass myself by moaning with delight over every spoonful.

Our last evening in Paris felt like a celebration, so we all toasted the good times with an Aperol spritz.

One sketchbook many memories!
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