Thursday, March 8, 2012

Living a Cliche

It was sunny today in Paris - finally! - and I didn't have much work to do.  Feeling inspired and happy to be out in the brisk sunshine, I decided to try out a classic Paris experience - or cliche, if you will. Depends on your perspective, I think. 

For more than 200 years, the Musee du Louvre has been not only a showcase for some of the greatest works in history but also a place for aspiring artists from around the globe to visit, to enjoy, and to copy works.  For a few months now I've been reading David McCullough's "The Greater Journey" about Americans in Paris - I tend to put down and pick up non-fiction at varying intervals - and some of my favorite parts are the stories of young, ambitious American artists who make the pilgrimage to Paris in order to spend hours at the Louvre (among other activities - though it does seem like many of them really came to Paris for the art).  I've yet to visit the Louvre without seeing at least one person with a full-on easel, copying a Poussin or a David or a Rubens.  So I thought maybe I should try out this whole artist thing.
Like this guy.  Though I don't think David McCullough mentions him.

My initial challenge, of course, was that I am in no way actually artistic.  I have good handwriting.  That's been about the extent of my art career.  When I was 8 I spent a lot of time trying to draw horses.  They weren't so good.  But, you know, when in Paris.  Where is an aspiring artist's first stop?  An art store, of course.  So I headed to Lavrut, a classic art supply shop tucked inside Passage Choiseul in the 2nd arrondissement.  Lavrut and its partner store Adam have been supplying artists, designers, students and more since the 1920s.  Actually, in fact, Adam has been around since 1898. They joined forces in 1999 to market themselves as "les magasins d'art de Paris". 

Lavrut is a very cool store. It has everything you could want from paints to pastels to oils to canvas to sketchbooks and more. A lot of stuff that someone like me has never seen and definitely has no idea what it is, or what it's for. You can buy a wooden model of a hand. Or of a horse (this might have come in handy when I was 8).  There are about a billion different sizes and styles of paintbrushes.  And again I emphasize, a whole lot of really cool looking things that I could not identify.  Never fear, though, I left with a sketchbook and a few pencils in tow (and who doesn't love colored pencils, I ask.  Totally underappreciated.). 

Then I had to brave the crowds of the Louvre and figure out where to go.  I didn't want to draw Jesus or the apostles or the Virgin Mary, and I was looking for something that would have a heavy focus on buildings because I decided that would be easier than people.  So I picked this one:
Pannini's Galerie de vues de la Rome Moderne, 1759.

Hahahahahaha!!!!!!! This is me laughing at myself and I promise you should be laughing at me too.  And while my end product only vaguely resembles this very cluttered and intense masterpiece (it seems I have some issues with proportions, and also perspective, and more generally with drawing), and while I felt a bit self-conscious when various tourists would peek at my "work", it was actually a pretty pleasant way to pass 40 minutes.  And now I can say that I have lived the Parisian artist cliche - although it would have been better if I was chain-smoking and partaking in deeply bohemian conversations while drinking wine in Montmartre.  So are you ready for my masterpiece?

I know. Speechless, aren't you. I have so missed my calling.