Monthly Archives: October 2013

Voici Paris

Swan, Seine and Notre Dame early in the morning.

Swan, Seine and Notre Dame early one morning in April 2013.

Yes, Paris is a tourist trap.  Join the crowds in the most famous areas and it is anything but romantic.  You’ll be jostled, approached by scammers and people wanting to sell you cheap junk, maybe even pick-pocketed.  Did you know that there is another Paris? I found it.  This other Paris is peaceful, poetic, inspirational and while not exactly silent – almost.  How do you find it?  You get up early.  Those same areas which are vile at the height of the day are fresh and gentle early in the morning.  At this time of day you WILL find the Paris of your dreams.

Man cycling on rue Saint Jacques before dawn.

Man cycling on rue Saint Jacques before dawn.

rue de l'Echaudé under a gradually lightening sky. I have drawn this area many times. It is my absolute favourite street in Paris. Saint Sulpice is in the distance.

rue de l’Echaudé under a gradually lightening sky. I have drawn this street several times. It is my absolute favourite street in Paris. Saint Sulpice is in the distance.

Woman and dog on a morning walk.

Woman and dog on a morning walk.

Later in the day, peace reigns but you have to be a bit creative in finding it.  For instance I love to walk by the Seine.   Divine views – with peace – may be found in the 5ème (the Latin Quarter).  A gorgeous morning’s walk starts at Jardin des Plantes.  After admiring the plants of this impressive garden, a short walk takes you to the Seine.  There, the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air (outdoor sculpture museum) is situated within Jardin Tino Rossi.  This free sculpture garden beside the river is almost empty of people.  Barges steam by on the Seine, the odd person walks a dog, fishermen fish, birds sing.  If you want to rise above it all – for free – you can go to the nearby Institut du Monde Arabe at 1 rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard and take the elevator to the viewing terrace.  Stunning views are all yours. You may see one or two other people up there or you may be quite alone, as I was.

A view of Notre Dame from Institut du Monde Arabe.

A view of Notre Dame from Institut du Monde Arabe.

View with Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice from Institut du Monde Arabe.

View with Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice from Institut du Monde Arabe.

Two other free and queue-less views over Paris are those seen from the roof terraces of  Galeries Lafayette and Printemps (Maison) department stores.  The Galeries Lafayette roof terrace closes when weather is really bad however Printemps is open as long as the shop is.  A café is on this level of Printemps.  It is called “Café Déli-Cieux”.  You don’t have to eat there to see the views.  You can just discreetly walk through to the outside area.  I bought myself lunch and oh how I enjoyed it as I sat by the window watching the clouds rush over Paris.  Then I went outside for lots of photography.

Stormy skies over Eiffel Tower as seen from the rooftop terrace of Galeries Lafayette.

Stormy skies as seen from the rooftop terrace of Printemps.

A view from the rooftop terrace of Printemps (Maison) store, level 9.

Sacré Coeur view from the rooftop terrace of Printemps.

I’ve read that as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are so close to one another, the views are almost identical.  I disagree.  Both are worth visiting as the vantage points give you quite different viewing experiences.  However if I only had time for one, I’d choose Printemps.

A pair of swans on the right bank on October 25th 2012.

A pair of swans on the right bank on October 25th 2012.

Another tip for receiving the spirit of Paris is to be a slow visitor; meander and linger.  I spotted two swans from the opposite river bank.  It took me a while to cross the bridge but they waited for me.  When I got a few metres from them I got down on my haunches and ever-so-slowly sidled down the cobbled path so as not to startle them.  I didn’t care what I looked like doing this! I must have sat with them for about 45 minutes.  It was sublime to just be: me and the swans.  The interlude I had with them was a highlight of my trip.  The world raced by on the quai above but down by the water’s edge it was blissful.

Here are a few more photos from my Parisian walks.

The conversation.

Café scene in Saint Germain des Prés; deep in conversation; or, as my father used to say, he’s ‘giving her a line’.

Dining with dog.

Café scene in one of the 19th century covered passages scattered around Paris.   This one is Galerie Vero-Dodat.

Self portrait in an art shop window.

Self portrait in an art shop window, Musée du Louvre behind.

rue du Petit Point before dawn.

rue du Petit Point before dawn.  Saint Severin in deep shadow on the left.

early morning on the Seine

Looking towards Grand Palais around 8 a.m.

last sun from Pont Neuf looking towards Hotel de Ville.

last sun – from Pont Neuf looking towards Hotel de Ville.

Two girls admiring their purchases on Pont Neuf.

Two girls admiring their purchases on Pont Neuf in the late afternoon.

Approach of a spring thunderstorm (April 2013).

Approach of a spring thunderstorm in April.

Thundery skies over the Seine, April 2013.

Thundery skies over the Seine and Conciergerie, April 2013.

Orchid shop (with reflections) at Place Lépine.

Orchid shop window with reflections at Place Lépine.

Paris grunge at Les Halles.

Paris grunge at Les Halles.

streetscape within a painting. I pointed my camera through a gallery window and focussed on the street but through an abstract painting on the gallery wall.

A bit of street reflected in an art gallery window.  My lens was aimed at an abstract painting within the gallery.  I blended the streetscape with the painting.

Family at The Pompidou Centre. I love how in Europe people take their small children to art galleries and discuss art with them. I do not see this happen in Australia.

Family at The Pompidou Centre. I love how in Europe people take their small children to art galleries.  Where I live, art seems to be for adults only.

Finally, a message I endorse. Found on a wall in the Marais.

Life is Beautiful –  a message I endorse. Found on a wall in the Marais, possibly on rue Quincampoix.

Voici Paris This was the name of an exhibition of photographs at The Pompidou Centre in 2012.

Voici Paris
This was the name of an exhibition of photographs at The Pompidou Centre in 2012.  I borrow it for my post!

My recipe for Paris is – visit popular sites early in the morning before tourists get out of bed.  Later in the day range far and wide.  There is so much to explore beyond the obvious tourist attractions.  Voilà!

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On the Waterfront

"On the Waterfront" Coloured pencil drawing. 275 x 525 mm. October 2013.

“On the Waterfront” Coloured pencil drawing.
275 x 525 mm. October 2013.


The same day that I lay flat on the concrete in order to photograph a tern (which became the subject of the drawing “Just Landed’) I also photograped several seagulls.  It was extremely windy which is why many birds were taking shelter by standing at ground level rather than flying.

“On the Waterfront” has become the third drawing of my Fremantle bird series.  Putting a bird into the picture allows me to incorporate the industrial shapes and colours of a working port but not in a bland hard edged way.  It isn’t easy to get the compositions though.  First, I require a bird; second, it needs to be in the right position for me to get the view I want; third, somehow I have to visually navigate my way around three bridges which slash across the landscape of East Fremantle – annoying me very much!  In fact working on this series I now remember why I stopped drawing birds on the waterfront last time (several years ago).  While I rather like the old wooden bridge in this drawing, the newer traffic bridge looking across to East Fremantle is just plain boring.  Much as it is useful when I want to drive somewhere, it interferes with my river view!    You can see the lower level of that bridge in “Take Me to the River”.    I managed to censor most of it out of the drawing.

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Le Jardin de Claude Monet

Claude Monet's house and garden in autumn.

Claude Monet’s house and garden.

I invite you to click onto the photos and drawings to see the detail.

One of Monet's Japanese bridges.

The Japanese Bridge

Jardin d'Eau

Jardin d’Eau (The Water Garden)

Willows, lilies and bridge.

Willows, lily pads and bridge.

Exactly one year ago, last October, I visited Claude Monet’s house and garden at Giverny.  It was the end of October so the garden was only open to the public for one or two more days before its winter hibernation.  Hard to believe that it would soon be closed as the flower beds in front of the house were still riotous with colour.  I wrote in my journal, “I found the garden too much – like a feast of overly-rich food.  I probably got my best pictures outside the garden [in the village] because I could isolate elements and concentrate on them.  Inside the garden I just didn’t know which way to turn because it was a firework display of flowers all going off at once.”

"The Welcoming Cat" coloured pencil drawing; 285 x 330 mm. 2013

“The Welcoming Cat” coloured pencil drawing; 285 x 330 mm. 2013

"Interlude" coloured pencil drawing, 280 x 300 mm. 2012

“Interlude” coloured pencil drawing, 280 x 300 mm. 2012

Two drawings from that trip are of a small cat who trotted up to see me.  I was photographing rose bushes in Giverny, not far from le jardin de Claude Monet.  After she greeted me, she stopped on the corner to observe her surroundings.  Then she disappeared into the café just beside us.  “The Welcoming Cat” and “Interlude” are now framed and hanging on the walls at home, reminding me of Giverny in autumn.

In April this year I revisited le jardin de Claude Monet.  Having been there just before it closed for winter, I was back at the beginning of spring as it reopened.  This time I had Matthew with me and it was the first really warm and sunny day of the season.  We went to the corner café for coffee and cake.  I asked the owner about the little cat.  In my journal I wrote, “The man at the café said yes, it is their cat and the cat at the moment is somewhere.”  I thought this was a good description of the cat’s whereabouts.  Anyone who knows cats understands about ‘somewhere’ ie anywhere; for cats are independent individuals who go where they wish.

Vapour trails above Giverny in April.

Vapour trails above Giverny in April.

Enchanted April. Daffodils with Japanese bridge.

Enchanted April. Daffodils with Japanese bridge.

Daffodil fields in front of the house.

Daffodil fields in front of la maison.

Our guide, the debonair Oliver, told us that Monet chose Normandy over all the places he could live (for by the time he bought the property he was rich).  He required an area with soft light, the sort in which rain falls every second day.   Oliver followed up by saying that more alcohol is consumed in Normandy than in any other region in the world due to that same miserably consistent rain which Monet wanted for his art!

I have also been to the garden in mid summer (in 2005) when the water lilies are abundant.  At that time of year tourists are also abundant!  In late autumn and early spring the water lilies weren’t flowering but to compensate, there were hardly any visitors.  In both October and April one could contemplate in peace.

On the way back to Australia I managed to get my Monet water lily image – in Singapore of all places – down at Marina Bay Sands.  I took this photo about 36 hours after being in Giverny.  I think the spirit of Monet’s garden was still in my eye.  I am considering making a drawing from this photo.  Maybe one day.

Water lilies in Singapore.

Water lilies in Singapore.

Afterword: speaking of cats, you might like to see this view below.  This is a scene right here in front of me now.  I have my draft up on the computer screen and my journals (from which I quoted) laid out on the desk.  My cat, Saphie, would like my attention so she has plonked herself centre stage.  For the moment, this is Saphie’s somewhere.

Saphie in the midst of 'Monet's Garden' blog post composition.

Saphie invading my ”le jardin de Claude Monet” thoughts.

In January 2018 I am attempting a drawing in mixed media from one of my photos.

In 2018 I made drawings from the first two photos in this post.

“Day Trip to Giverny”
Drawn in January 2018

“Walking with Claude”
Sennelier oil pastels, and coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.

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New York

“Hey!  I’m walkin’ here.”  The line ad libbed by Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), when he was about to be run down by a taxi, has become synonymous with New York.   Matthew and I quoted it to one another during our recent stay in that great city…especially when attempting to cross roads!  I’d like to share some of my NY images with you.  To see images enlarged, just click on them.

View from my pillow.

View from my pillow.

We stayed at the Nolitan Hotel in an area called Nolita (which means North of Little Italy) in Lower Manhattan.   I sought out a room with a view.  Two iconic landmarks are in my view; Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.  I didn’t even have to get out of bed for this cityscape!

Billboard with water towers.

Billboard with water towers.

The ubiquitous water towers reminded me that I was in New York and made me think of Edward Hopper paintings.  I like the juxtaposition between the slick model and the dingy towers in “Billboard with water towers”.  The model is all curves while her surroundings are straight lines; well, except for the water towers.

This image reminds me of Anne Bancroft's character in 'The Graduate' (1967).

This image reminds me of Anne Bancroft’s ‘seductress’ character in “The Graduate”(1967).  Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson…

Art exhibit at MoMA or paste-up with mindless graffiti? Guess.

Art exhibit at MoMA or paste-up with mindless graffiti? Guess.

Fame is OK. I think I'm going insane.

Fame is OK. I think I’m going insane.

I am always searching for street art and graffiti…especially with a feminine or intimate slant.  (Being a woman, I empathize with ‘the feminine’ in the environment.)  I found surprisingly little of it.  I liked the above images and might make drawings of them in the future.

No Standing Anytime....or ... Portrait of Matthew.

No Standing Anytime….or … Portrait of Matthew.

In the spirit of Jeffrey Smart’s portrait of Clive James, here is my portrait of Matthew.  He was standing on The High Line.

In Soho. Skateboarding by with a pair of legs.

In Soho. Skateboarding holding a pair of legs…as one does.

The New Yorker.

The New Yorker.

I asked the subject of “The New Yorker” if I could photograph him.  I explained that I liked the way his black and white shirt ‘talked’ to the black and white jacket of the paste-up lady behind him.  I also liked his poodle.  He was happy to be photographed.  I would never go up to a stranger in Australia like that.  New York must have made me bold.  I was pleased to be somewhere, for once, where English was spoken – meaning I COULD easily approach people.   Maybe he was an artist too.  He nodded in understanding when I explained my thoughts about his shirt and the wall behind him.

This is odd.

This is odd.

Pride goes before a fall.

Pride goes before a fall.

The two photos above are examples of my neighborhood walks, shooting whatever took my eye in the streets.  I like the touches of hot pink in both the photos above as well as the words within the scenes.

Squirrel in Washington Square Gardens.

Squirrel in Washington Square Gardens.

People from many parts of the world won’t understand my fascination with squirrels.  You see, there are no squirrels in Australia or New Zealand.  I am always delighted, therefore, to come across squirrels in countries which have them.  I could watch squirrels for hours.  In the photo “Squirrel in Washington Square Gardens” I am struck by the gravity of the message on the rock in contrast with the squirrel who sits atop indifferently eating his nut.  Human tragedy doesn’t concern him as he gets on with enjoying his morsel.

Coney Island

Coney Island

I wanted to see somewhere outside Lower Manhattan or Midtown.  I suggested to Matt that we take the train to Coney Island (on the Brooklyn coast).  I have heard so much about it.  I associate it with the musicians Lou Reed and Woody Guthrie.  Besides, I’ve always had a morbid fascination with fun parks.  They’re kind of creepy.  This one was well past its use-by date.  ‘Bleak’ is the word which comes to mind.  Matthew wasn’t impressed that I dragged him there until I pointed out Mermaid Avenue.  That’s where Woody Guthrie used to live.  We set out to find his old address.  THAT cheered Matthew up.  Now he’s glad we went there.  When I listen to “Coney Island Baby” Lou Reed, I’m glad I went there too.  Besides, the fish and chips we ate on the boardwalk were not bad.

Liberty Island as seen through Battery Park weeds.

Liberty Island as seen through Battery Park weeds.

Doomed Youth - or - Matt on Brooklyn Bridge.

Doomed Youth – or – Matt on Brooklyn Bridge.

We walked across Brooklyn Bridge.  Behind Matthew you can see Manhattan Bridge. Matthew, being a civil engineer, loves bridges.  He was in his element.  It was only after I got home that I noticed the ‘doom’d youth’ in the photo.  After that walk and a trip on an East River ferry, we ended up at Battery Park.  We looked out at Liberty Island but didn’t  desire to visit it.  The statue and the island looked so much smaller than I’d expected…perhaps…like seeing “Mona Lisa” for the first time.

Roof with a View 1

Roof with a View 1

Roof with a view 2

Roof with a view 2

To finish off, here are two views from the roof garden of our hotel.   I rested my camera on the shiny surface of the balcony, thereby being able to take long exposures.   View 1 is looking north, view 2 looking south.  Once upon a time The Twin Towers would have been in the second view.

While walking in the streets I kept hearing guys talking to one another about relationships and feelings.  I pointed this out to Matthew.  Over and over again.  Wow.  I never hear such a thing in Australia.  My ears were in overdrive.  (They talk about sport here!)

Every single person we encountered was friendly.  We felt safe at all times, day and night.  We ate well and we loved visiting MoMA, The Guggenheim Museum and Central Park.  Without doubt, our time in New York was the highlight of our North and South American trip.    We only took tiny bites from the gigantic tasting plate which is New York.   For a bigger meal we would have to stay for much longer than we did.  Do we have an appetite for more?  Yes.  We may return one day.  In the meantime, I listen to Lou Reed’s album “New York” and remember.

Two of the photos above became source material for drawings.

“Just a New York Conversation” drawn in 2014

White Noise
My second drawing of New York street art, drawn in January 2014.

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Take Me to the River

Local readers won’t need reminding that Perth had a lot of rain in September.  It was wonderful.  Wind howled, rain threw itself down.  Being a Kiwi (ie a New Zealander) by birth, I like wild weather.  I get a bit tired of the constant sunshine and blue skies of Western Australia.  I took advantage of the mercurial spring weather by taking several trips to the Swan River with my camera.

On the morning of September 19th there was misty rain.  Some people think that grey skies are boring.  I feel that grey skies and rain have a softening effect.  Inclement weather mystifies and conceals landforms which, under strong sunlight, contain no secrets.  On this day the misty rain diffused the landscape.  One of the photos I took that morning became the source material for my drawing “Take Me to the River”.

I have been developing a new technique of adding to the length of a pencil with a pencil extender.   Pencil extenders are made so that short pencil stubs may be inserted into them.  The benefit is that one may comfortably use stubs without having to scrunch up one’s hand, giving pencils a longer work life.  While doing this drawing, I began using my pencil extender with a full length pencil.  This combination produced a tool which was long-paintbrush in length.  Hence I could use the pencil rather like a paintbrush in a painterly way.  Gently holding the extender right at the lowest end, I loosely ‘feathered’ the pencil across the paper ever so lightly to give a diffuse effect.  The more one is fast and furious from wrist, forearm, shoulder, upper body – the freer the marks become.  As an ex-painter it feels natural to stand at the easel and use the pencil in this way.  The opposite of tight control, it is letting go, using the element of chance in mark making.

I named the drawing after the Talking Heads song “Take Me to the River” which is on their album “More Songs About Buildings and Food”.  It is fitting that I pay tribute to David Byrne (of Talking Heads) by naming my drawing after his song.  Just the other day I was watching his 1986 film “True Stories” (described as a ‘completely cool, multi-purpose movie’).  After David Byrne has taken us on a tour of Texas, at the end of the film he says something profound which I quote verbatim.

“Well, I really enjoyed forgetting.  When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details.  I notice the way the sky looks, the colour of white paper, the way people walk, doorknobs, everything.  Then I get used to the place and I don’t notice those things any more.  So only by forgetting, can I see the place again as it really is.”

That’s how it is for me coming back to Fremantle after being overseas.  I did so much traveling that I forgot Fremantle…which enabled me to notice it once again.  When I quoted David Byrne’s words to Matthew just now, he said “Well, that’s art.”

Return to Contents of Posts page        Related page:  Subject 6: Birds in a landscape