15 December 2013

Callipepla californica

I said in my last post that I wanted to try painting another bird, but I didn't anticipate how soon. My friend Cindy had her 60th birthday today, and as well as being born (?) and raised in California, she also works for the California State Library, so I decided that a painting of the California state bird might be an appropriate birthday gift. Unfortunately, I ended up having to miss her party, so she has yet to receive it, but since she doesn't read my blog (that I know of!), I decided to go ahead and post it. Hope this isn't a spoiler!

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,
The California Quail is a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich blue-gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping, comma-shaped topknot. Its stiffly accented Chi-ca-go call is a common sound of the chaparral and other brushy areas of California and the Northwest. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quail are common but unobtrusive. They usually travel in groups called coveys. Their flight is explosive but lasts just long enough to reach cover.
This was a fun, though complex, bird to paint. I love his bright eye and cheerful goofy head plume, and his beautiful, subtle colors. The "intricately scaled underparts" were a challenge, and I have to say that I phoned in the detail a bit, but I think the feeling of the feather pattern is conveyed. I overworked the background, but when do I not? Someday I'll learn to let things be instead of going in just one more time!

A final note (no pun intended): While the quail's call does have three syllables, I wonder whether some homesick transplanted Illinois ornithologist decided that "Chicago" is what this guy is saying--I sure don't hear that! See if you do: Here is a link to the various sounds the quail makes.

03 December 2013


I just finished reading Donna Tartt's highly anticipated new book, The Goldfinch. I seem to keep happening upon these art-related novels without intending to--this one is based on a story about the 350-year-old painting of the same name by Carel Fabritius, currently on loan as part of a Dutch Masterworks exhibit at the Frick Collection in New York City, loaned by the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands.

It's a beautiful little gem of a painting, with that simultaneous depth and light given such skilled life by the Dutch masters. Tragically, it's one of the few surviving paintings by Fabritius, who died at age 32 in an explosion of a gunpowder magazine in Delft, taking nearly all his work with him.

My ambition, after dwelling so lovingly on the painting through the words of Tartt, is to see it in person some day; but the other emotion her story evoked in me was the desire to paint a European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) of my own.

No, I'm not aspiring to duplicate, or to set myself and my puny skills up against a master like Fabritius--that would be laughable. But one of the things I have discovered, in the pursuit of my short and part-time avocation, is that to paint something is to really see it, to take in, take it apart, put it back together again, and forever know it in a more intense and personal way, and this is what I wanted to do.

So, here is my Carduelis. Not very gold at all, compared to the American variety, but bright, colorful and endearing in his own right. The only other bird I have ever painted was a raven, and the task of conveying feathers, some of which are soft down while others are spiky, stiff and strong, is challenging. I really enjoyed making this little painting, and I think I will try a few more birds in the future.

You can read my review of The Goldfinch on the Burbank Library Blog at this link.

16 November 2013

Picturing the characters in a book

Today I "worked" from home--I read the book club book for my 6+7 Book Club on Tuesday night. We are reading Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller, about a group of "butt-kicking girl superspies out to save Manhattan" from an evil conspiracy. The description of the main character includes pale, ice-blue eyes and distinctive white hair, and every time I looked at the cover of the paperback version, I winced at the photo of the admittedly pretty but decidedly regular blonde girl the publisher / cover designer chose to depict Kiki. To me, the author's description indicated Kiki was albino, or lacking any melanin in her skin and hair, something like model Nastya Zhidkova . . .

only of course tougher and way less pouty. So tonight I decided to do my own version. Here it is--"Kiki Strike in Central Park," in the snow, wearing her black hoodie, hands on hips, displaying her slightly challenging stare . . .

Here are the two book covers--the hardcover version (left) with the cartoon Kiki obviously more true to the book than the paperback one (right).

11 November 2013

Watercolor West through my eyes, Part 1

As I mentioned yesterday, I was thrilled to attend the Watercolor West exhibit at the City of Brea Art Gallery. The exhibit included entries from all over the United States, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Norway. The show's juror, Ratindra Das, AWS(DF), NWS, TSWA master, selected 100 paintings to represent a variety of styles and techniques, and they surely are diverse. Das said in the catalog that his final criteria was that each painting had "that magnetic quality," and you could certainly feel that in the room(s) as you viewed his choices.

There were quite a few awards in this show, starting with a top award of $1,750, and going down to a $225 "Merchandise Award." While I agreed with many of the choices, there were also pictures that won no award but that drew me for various reasons, so I'm going to post some of both here. (I'm not going to mention which were the award-winners.)

Please note that I am crediting them to the artists, and I hope that none of the readers of this blog will abuse these artists' trust by using their art in any way. My grouping of them here is purely as an additional homage, and for the benefit of those who don't live in California to view them in person, because they're just too good to miss. (If you want to see the whole lot, you can order the catalog afterwards, I think. It's quite good quality reproduction and represents them well.)

I also apologize for the quality and cropping of some of the photos, which I had to shoot to accommodate others' viewing of the exhibit. Some contain unfortunate reflections of the room behind me in their glass.

These first two I liked because they reminded me of the works of members of the California Watercolor Society in the 1940s, such as Millard Sheets, Emile Kosa, Phil Dike, Jade Fon, and Dong Kingman, because of the choice of subject matter, the methodology, and the palettes.

Bill Doyle, Toledo Street Scene, 15x11

Eileen McCullough, Walking Through the Wetlands, 21x13

I loved this one because of the intensity of the color, and the light patterns...

Robin St. Louis, Heart to Heart, 30x22

...while this one is the same, but also for the ultra-smooth technique and almost graphic quality of the figures vs. the background. Unfortunately, reflections marred the faces in this one.

Ruth Ellen Hoag, Hangin' Out, 29x21

These next two are all about the characterizations. While the ultra-realism of the horse picture is amazing, it is completely subordinate to the captured moment; on the other hand, the blown paint and spatters are so appropriate to their subject matter, the crows!

Israel Holloway, Resting at the Gates, 20x20
Denise McFadden, Yes, Dear!, 22x15

Watercolor West, Part 2

If you add too many photos into Blogspot, sometimes it freaks out and starts rearranging both photos and captions willy nilly. After struggling for awhile and losing about a third of my post, I decided to put up this Watercolor West piece in two parts! So on to Part 2.

The atmosphere was what drew me to these next four, which are all very different.

Patricia M. Dispenziere, Play of Light II, 18x24

Look at the reflection on that tabletop, and the light that is so blinding you almost want to squint. The back-lighting of the sewing machine is beautiful.

Fealing Lin, On the Road Again, 15x21
I don't know whether to rave about light, technique, or story in this one, so...all three!

Marilyn Miller, Printemps, 30x22
The color. The color! Wow, the color.

John Salminen, One Way, 36x24
The wealth of detail, the night-time palette, the storytelling...

This portrait blew me away:

Phyllis Tseng, Maybe, Just Maybe, 12x16
The combination of the smooth, subtle tonal transitions in the background with the almost splashy delineation of features with vibrant color in the foreground was delicious, and add to that the accuracy and detail of the features themselves...really impressive.

This next picture grabbed me because of its colors and simplicity that felt almost like a fairy tale illustration. There was also a technique evident that I would love to know how to do--I wish I could have tea with the artist and ferret out her secret! Around the edges of things, there are little tiny outlines of different colors, almost like there are multiple underwashes--yellow under the blue, orange under the yellow, green under the orange--that she very carefully left to peek through. It's really hard to see in a photo, but it gives an enchanting quirkiness to this picture.

Joyce Hicks, Depot by the River, 24x18

And my final choice had that "magnetic quality" the juror talked about, from the flow of light to the beautiful color transitions to the wealth of story. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite, I think this would be it.

Htun Tin, Serene Village, 21x29

So there you have it--my top 16 out of 100 watercolors. But honestly, there were another half dozen I could have put here in their places with equal satisfaction and pleasure, and who knows? If I saw the exhibit again next week, I might choose a completely different set to share.

This exhibit daunted and awed me, but it also inspired me. There were a few paintings I could imagine myself maybe being able to paint, a few I could aspire to soon (with hard work), a few I could maybe master with another couple of years (or maybe a decade!) of study, and some to which I will never presume. But it definitely made me see what vision, perseverance, and talent can produce!

Watercolor West, Part 2.5

Blogger strikes again, or else I am just not properly educated in its use. Anyway, three photos got dropped when I was trying to distinguish between captions and text, so I'm reposting to include all of my original 16 picks.

I liked these two because of their color palettes and all those confetti-like bits of color and white left to sparkle through. Also, in both, a really nice use of shadow and color together.

Judi Betts, Sea Prince, 30x22

Dan Burt, Piazza del Mercato, 22x30

This one was also all about the color. (Also, I like sheep. They're just such ridiculous-looking critters.) But it wasn't enough for the artist to make those sheep and their landscape improbable colors--she also did this interesting stripes-of-color overlay that gave the picture added dimension and interest.

Ellen Jean Diederich, Wool Patterns, 22x14

Since I'm adding photos anyway, I decided to throw this one in as well. There were several paintings in this show that were amazingly über-realistic--you could reach out and pick the flower or bite the piece of fruit or be stung by the bee! I have to say that realism in watercolor isn't so much my thing--while I have great respect for it, I have always liked a more expressive, interpretive style better. But props to this artist--I would never attempt this in a million years and frankly don't see how he/she did it! (Look at that fabric! the shine on the fruit! the shadows and folds! Wow.)

Chris Krupinski, Plums, Apples and a Yellow Rose, 22x30

10 November 2013

Watercolor West and Thomas Schaller

Yesterday I was privileged to see the 45th Annual Juried International Exhibition of Watercolor West, "An International Transparent Watercolor Society." Anyone can be a general member of this society, but in order to be a "juried member," you have to have had a painting accepted/exhibited by Watercolor West, and that's a pretty exclusive group that includes some amazing artists.

My cousin Kirsten and I first happened upon Watercolor West purely by chance. Even though I had been a watercolor student for several years, I hadn't sought out groups or attended many exhibits. One weekend when my parents were still living, Kirsten and I went to visit them in Riverside. We ran an errand downtown for them (I think we returned books to the library?) and stopped into the small Riverside Art Museum to see what they had on display, since it's practically next door. We walked into the exhibit hall and were dumbfounded by the bright and stunning array of watercolors--it was the annual Watercolor West show. They have also exhibited at the San Bernardino County Museum and at the Brand Library in Glendale, and this year's show is at the Brea Cultural Center Gallery. It runs through December 15th, so if you are local, be sure to make a point to see it in the next five weeks--definitely worth the trip.

Yesterday I went on purpose to sit in on Thomas W. Schaller's artwork demonstration. Really, because they gave him from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with a lunch break), it was half lecture/slide show and half demo, and full of wonderful hints, tips, details, and demonstrations.

Schaller had a 20-year career as an architect and architectural artist in New York City, and now lives and works in Los Angeles as a fine artist. His artwork shows a definite preference for architectural subjects, yet he has weaned himself from the "rendering" style used for architectural illustration to create a looser, wet-in-wet methodology that is all about story-telling with light.

A few random words of wisdom from his demo:

Find the lightest light, the darkest dark, and the midtones and let those tell your story--the eye follows the light. What advances your story? What do you put in, what do you leave out to best tell it? Identify your center of interest and don't get stuck in the details.

Paint beyond your canvas--ask questions by not containing your image within the arbitrary page. Envision your scene beyond the boundaries, and then paint just the part that interests you while keeping your eye/mind on the rest as well.

Remember what you see or photograph, but then when you start to paint, toss it out. The paper becomes your world, and the actuality was just a suggestion to inform your painting's reality.

When working on the final painting, don't overdraw first. It slows down your brush and your brain once you start to paint.

The most important elements of a painting, in order:
1. Story
2. Design (composition) -- arrangement of lights and darks
3. Values
4. Color--complementaries and how they meet--warm/cool, what dominates

Decide on your focal point for the painting. Whatever it is should have the most detail, precision and interest.

ON COLOR: Don't over-buy or you will be overwhelmed by "over-choice."

Schaller prefers sedimentary rather than staining colors--grainy and neutral, lightfast, transparent. His favorite color palette is complementaries -- gold and violet, blue and orange. There is a danger of going to mud, since complementaries mixed make gray, but if you can maintain their integrity in parts of the piece, the contrasts are wonderful.

ON BRUSHES: He owns many, but finds that he uses only a few--squirrel mops, because they hold a lot of water and are not as floppy as sable. Synthetics because they hold a nice point, but they don't hold water. He doesn't use flat brushes much, because they don't hold enough water for his style. He sometimes uses a filbert brush for linework, railings, detail, and a "rigger" for things like high wires.

PAPER: He uses rough, toothy paper to give a "sparkle." Also, both wet and dry-brush work well on it. He prefers 140-lb. to anything heavier because the heavier papers (like 300-lb.) soak up both water and pigment. (He doesn't like it when he paints something and comes back to discover it has dried three shades lighter than he thought it would!)

There was a lot more, but I don't want to bogart all his best material! (He does teach workshops too!) You can see his portfolio here, broken down by location.

Here is Thomas with the demo painting he did for us in the afternoon (I wish I had gotten a better shot of both of them--the beautiful sky is almost completely lost in this--but with 50 other people and their cell phones gathered around, I was lucky to get this one!):

A few notes on his process for this painting:

He turned the painting upside down to do the sky first, because the light in the sky and its reflections onto the water and beach were the focal point, and also so he could maintain the horizon line. He starts with the horizon and then works up and down from there. He paints clear water into the sections where he wants to maintain the white/light, and then paints around it and slightly into it.

He reminded us that gravity is just another tool--tip it up, tip it down! Move your paper to help your painting. (Someone in the audience quoted Sargent as saying that "watercolor is making the best of an emergency.")

He paints in the reflections (i.e., those reflections of the stanchions holding up the pier) before he paints in what they're reflecting, because he needs the reflections to be painted wet in wet to give them that blurry look. It seems counterintuitive, but it works!

Remember that the focal point you have chosen for the painting stays the focus because you have given it the most detail and precision--everything else fades back and is painted less carefully and with more neutrals--the "number two" values.

You can spatter clear water into a damp wash to get sparkles in the water.

Don't forget about reflected light (for instance, under the pier).

What a great experience this was! Tomorrow, I will share my favorite paintings from the exhibit and why I liked them. But if you can, go see it for yourself!

08 November 2013

Delayed gratification

It became something of a joke during the week at Bandouille, because every place we went, everything was closed. Especially in the small villages and towns, but also to a certain extent in the big ones, businesses are closed all day Sunday (presumably for religious reasons); they are often closed on Monday (just because); they close for two hours every day at lunch (whereas in many/most other countries, businesses make sure to stay open during lunch so that all the people on their lunch hours can come in!), and then there are "winter hours," which can be whatever they say, and also EVERYTHING is closed in August, when everybody goes somewhere else. (Except I wonder what happens in resort towns--they must stay open for all the city folk coming to vacation there, but maybe not?) The result of this is, it always seems like you are arriving somewhere five minutes after they closed or an hour before they are due to reopen, and it makes you nuts!

So after some of these observations on Sunday and Monday when we kept seeing "fermé" on every hand, on Tuesday we went to Bressuire to draw that hilltop ruin with the chalet in the middle, and after we walk around for awhile, Bixxy says, "We're going to go sit on the patio of a café with the perfect view of the ruins to sketch, and I KNOW they won't be closed, because they're transplanted Brits like us!"

So we arrive at the place and the owner is standing out in his driveway about to drive away in his truck, and Bixxy says hi to him, and that we've come to sketch, and he says "Oh, sorry, we're closed--winter hours!" Bixxy says "Um, WHAT?" and he says "Yeah, we're closed on Mondays AND Tuesdays--in fact, starting today!" But he must have seen our faces, because he relented and let us out onto the patio before he left, and then after we'd been there for half an hour or so, his wife brought out a tray of coffees and "biscuits" for us, so it turned out okay.

Anyway, on Thursday afternoon we went to Saint Loup Lamairé to take more photos of picturesque stuff, and we come around the corner onto the last street and there's a boulangerie. I say "Oh, look, let's go in!" And Bix says, "Nope, it's closed--in fact, in all the times I've been here, on every single day of the week, I've never seen it open!" We all laughed, and I took a picture of the "closed" sign in the window, which turned out well, so I decided I'd paint it and send it to Bix and Drew as a little thank you / joke gift. So I didn't post this one it until after it arrived in France, because I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

I wanted to try out Jane's method of doing an underwash before painting the picture, and that's what I did here, because the sign was a deep green with rust spots and streaks, and the lettering was a pale green, accentuated further by being behind glass, so it lent itself perfectly to this experiment.

I also did some "lifting out," by first painting the wood all one color, then going back in to paint the dark color on the right and lifting out to get a lighter color on the left where the light was falling. After it dried, I also went back in and put in a little more pink in the wood, to counteract the greeny-turquoise underlayer. I also lifted out that little highlight of the reflected rubber stick-on thingy that's holding up the sign.

This was a fun one!

(I signed this picture just before I took it to be matted and mailed, and immediately regretted it. The signature was too careful. The signature was too big. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me. But--people sign their work. How do they ever get past the intrusion this is into the art? Maybe I should have done it in pencil. Maybe I should have just written something on the back and let it go. Too late. Does anybody else get this feeling of inappropriateness when they put their name on their art? It's not that I don't want to own to it, it's just that art to me is visual, and the signature is written and the two don't go together. Ironic in a picture that contains a typeset sign, I guess, but . . . it just feels wrong.)

05 November 2013

Climate and watercolor

On my trip to Bandouille, one thing I learned is that climate plays a huge role in how you paint with watercolor. We did washes there (in damp, cool weather) that took hours, or even overnight, to be ready; but last weekend when I did a couple of underlayer washes here, by the time I had finished the second one, the first one was bone dry! Southern California climate.

So, this weekend, when I went to the farmers' market and bought some flowers, and one of the sunflowers snapped off just a couple of inches below the flower, I put it in a little glass jar of water on my kitchen windowsill and immediately thought, That would make a great Jane Minter-esque painting! My idea was to do the details on the jar first, then paint the sunflower, and while the yellows were still wet, to go around the whole thing with water on the paper, touch into the color (which would, of course still be damp) and bleed a glorious halo out around the sunflower.

If I had done it this weekend, when one day was overcast and cool, it probably would have worked. But I ran out of time, so instead, I got up and did it this morning. I had a 9:00 appointment at the vet for Miniver, but I woke up at 7:00 and thought, Yes! I can do that painting before I have to leave!

In the middle of the night, however, the weather had changed: The Santa Ana winds had blown in, making everything sunny, gusty and dry. It didn't occur to me that this would change my plans, but after painting the glass jar and then the sunflower, I ran the water around the outside of the image, touched into the paint and...nothing. Nothing! The yellow was already dry! No lovely Minter bleed-out of pure beautiful golden color. Phooey.

So, I put some more paint on and dabbed a little out into the background for a paler, less dramatic and definitely less smooth and bloomy version, and here it is. I was at least happy with the weird reflection I managed to duplicate from the early morning sun shining through the jar as it sat on my patio table. I'll have to try Jane's methods another day, when we get one of our rare Seattle-type weekends of rain. (Or sit in the bathroom to paint with the shower going!)

Come to think of it, I used to know a woman in one of my watercolor classes at community college who lived in an apartment with her husband and a couple of almost-grown children, and the only place she had to paint was in the bathroom. She would go in there, sit on the tub and prop her drawing board against the sink, and paint the most glorious, lush, 18x24 landscapes. I felt bad for her that she didn't have some other space in which to work...but maybe she was onto something!

21 October 2013

Walking through the next door

Being a Sunday painter is frustrating. I painted one picture on Sunday (that I'm not posting yet, because it's a present for a friend and I don't want to ruin the surprise). Then I started a second one, but I ran out of time/light, and didn't get to finish it. All I wanted on Monday morning was to go back out on my patio and finish the painting, but instead I had to go to work.

What really needs to happen is that I need to upgrade my eyeglass prescription so that I can see better to paint at night indoors and don't have to restrict myself to Sundays in perfect daylight on the porch. Or, I need to quit my job and make my living as an artist. Right. Not quite yet.

First of all, I don't feel ready as an artist to charge for my work. I post it, I give it as gifts, I frame it and hang it in my house, I keep it in a portfolio. It's not quite stranger-ready, though. I feel like there's so much more to do, to learn, to practice, to develop--a style, an idea of who I want to be as a painter, what I want to share.

Second, if I were going to do it, I'd want to be in a position to really commit to it, because...

It's one of those catch 22s--my cousin said to me recently, Why don't you just get an Etsy page like everybody else, and sell whatever you paint? But working full-time as I am, that's a twofold issue: 1. I don't really need the money because I have a full-time job; and 2. since I do have that full-time job, all the stuff that would go along with the Etsy page, like scanning, pricing, posting, communicating, matting, shipping, following up--all that is too much to do on top of working full-time (especially if I'm also supposed to have time to paint--hello?).

So--I think the first step is to get better glasses, the second step is to paint a LOT more, and the third? That can wait for awhile.

20 October 2013

Playing tourist

So what DO you do with one afternoon in Paris? Run madly from one museum to the next, barely registering what you're seeing? Sit in a café drinking coffee while you sketch and look pensive? SHOP? The café sounded most appealing, since I had been on my feet in the museum since 9:30 in the morning and it was now 3:30, but it felt like a waste to sit in one place on my only afternoon left.

So I sat, but not in one place. I yielded to impulse when, upon exiting the Orsay, surfeited on art for the time being, I saw, right there at the curb, a bus stop for the double decker red tourist buses, and then one pulled up right in front of me and opened its doors. I got on, climbed to the top, and spent the next two hours with earbuds in my ears, craning my neck and holding my phone precariously out over the road to take a series of photos of all the hot spots we passed in our trek to the sights of Paris. Not a very imaginative use of my time, but I did get to see a lot and pinpoint a few places I'd like to come back to when I have a day to spend instead of a few minutes!

Some of the photos weren't great, since the bus was moving, but I got a few that I thought were memorable:

And here's where I ended up, when I descended, cold and slightly damp, two and a half hours later--my destination all along! I had a bracing café au lait, then acquired a sandwich to go (for my dinner), and started the search for the proper bus to take me back to my hotel (no more Metro for me this trip!). I could most definitely have spent a more scintillating evening, my last night in Paris, but I was overwhelmed by everything with which I had stuffed my senses all day, so I spent a quiet night reorganizing my suitcase, and went to bed early, since Parishuttle was picking me up at 6:30 a.m. for my flight home.

And that was my trip to France! Eleven hours back the other way, with my kind friend Carey waiting at the end of it to pick me up and take me home, where I got reacquainted with my cats, watered my garden, did my laundry, and blogged, and the day after that I returned to work. It's almost as if I never left! Except now I have new painting techniques to try, new reference photos from which to paint, and a plan to make for WHERE TO GO ON HOLIDAY NEXT YEAR!

The End (of the beginning)

17 October 2013

My day in Paris

What a ridiculous concept--one day in Paris! In retrospect, I should have just said "I'm taking the rest of the week" (considering the 11-hour flight to get there!) and stayed until Thursday, but...I didn't, so I made the most of it. Here is my Paris Story...

Before I get on with that, though, here is my "Booking-com" review: Hotel des 3 Colleges, in the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne, very tiny room, but clean and with all the basic amenities for a good price. Obviously, however, created for a smaller breed of (wo)man than exists nowadays. The hallways were so narrow you could hardly pull your suitcase through them; and I know I mentioned the shower before, but I really couldn't believe it. It was so small that I had to wash my hair standing upright, because there was not enough room inside to bend over and hang my head down. Good water pressure, though, and oodles of hot water, plus a supplied hairdryer and quite nice toiletries. No complaints!

Up at 7:30, a quick breakfast in that glass-enclosed cafe you can see on the ground floor next to the front doors, and then a taxi (no more Metro mishaps!) door to door from the hotel to Le Musée d'Orsay.

It was "free Sunday" at the museum, and the lines to get in were really long, so I splurged and bought myself a ticket so I could go in by the side door with a much smaller group of people. That put me ahead of most of the crowd for most of the day, which was great.

The Orsay is a former train station, redone as a museum, and it is beautiful inside and out. Inside, you're not technically supposed to take any photos, but they do wink at taking them from the platform up on the 5th floor, high above the entire museum, so I snapped a couple:

Under all those panels at either side are individual galleries that you wander in and out of to this central area, and each gallery has a different era, or a different theme. It's amazing how much art is actually in this museum, since if you look at it from this vantage, it just looks like a bunch of sculptures on the central floor. There are five floors, however, and extensive rooms at one end that continue on forever.

I spent five and a half hours and I feel like I got a good look at most of the collection, though I could go back and back and back to revisit. I loved that there were so many groups of quite young schoolchildren with their teachers, sitting like this one and getting an explanation of the art they were seeing. They were quite attentive and well-behaved, too! Much more so than we foreign tourists, who persisted in taking photos where we weren't supposed to!

I wish that I had taken my sketchbook and made notes of everything I saw, but I didn't want to be weighed down with anything while walking, standing and looking, so I didn't. But there were a few "highlights" pictures for me, which I will show here (not photographs I took, but off the web).

This floral picture by Van Gogh, Fritillaries in a Bronze Vase, was completely new to me--I had never seen even a photograph of it--so I was delighted to become acquainted with it.

I also had never seen this one, and I loved the border he painted around half of it:

It was a treat to see some Degas dancers in person, since they are so delicate that sometimes they don't translate well in photographs:

I also love the paintings of Alfred Sisley, and the Orsay has so many of them, of which this is one beautiful example:

And I have never been much of a fan of Seurat or the Pointilism guys, but I had never seen this giant one he did of the circus, and its fresh, limited palette and the simple joy in the faces of the audience was delightful:

I could fill up pages with everything I saw that I want to remember, but I'll leave it to you to go take an online tour of the Orsay. Here is a good documentary view; and here is a short overview with Rick Steves. If you get to Paris, don't miss it!

After about four hours, I took myself upstairs to the café behind the clock, and had a leisurely lunch. I took a few photos from the balcony outside--some panoramas of the city--and then after another hour and a half to see the final things I had missed, I set off on the second half of my day, which I will detail tomorrow...