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.


  1. My comment on your Paris Edibles page must have gotten stuck or lost somewhere, so I'll just say here... that in that sketch, you brought such a sense of fun to the page, and in this one, you really captured the opulence and the golden-ness evident in your photos. What makes them even more amazing is know how tiny some of the elements are! The garden on this page is beautiful!

    And congratulations on being invited to scout out Sweden for a workshop! What an opportunity!

    1. We leave tomorrow! I'm all packed and ready to go. I'll try to post some pics on Facebook while I'm there.

      And thanks for the sweet comments about the sketches. Glad you're enjoying them.

  2. Wonderful! What crowds! So pleased you braved them and had a taster of the place. I think the French are going 'gold' crazy.... they have even gilted the fountain statues!!lol
    Lovely to see it as it is now, thank you for sharing.
    Love the small view at the bottom of the page.... wonderful detailing.

    1. It was an awfully small space for such a detailed scene, but I think it worked!

  3. Fabulous photos. Your sketches and paintings must take you back to a beautiful place on a beautiful day!

    1. That's why I enjoy finishing up my sketches after the trip. I get to enjoy it twice!

  4. It is great to catch up and see your journal pages of your trip to France!!! I'll be back to see more.

  5. loved these - definitely artists licence on the palace - it captures the essence of the place esp with the purple and gold!


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