My Paris stent has a lot on the docket. Two commissions, three including Normandy. I’ve got from Tuesday to Tuesday to paint all this plus a few more hopefully. A time to focus. Well, Paris is a massive, people packed, fast paced Mecca of quick walkers. Settling in and getting my bearings required two days minimum. From July 3rd to the 5th I fell into the pure hedonistic Parisian way of life. The day begins drinking by the Seine for the sunset, perhaps a dinner at ten or just skipped, evening events walking from pub to club consuming until three in the morning and hopefully bed before sunrise. It’s called the city of love but I call it the city that never sleeps. It seems that the all night traditions of Hemingway and the expatriates has passed its legacy to the modern day.
My cure for these costs has been forced Musueming to the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame, Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, walking miles in between. This is a must for any trip to Paris but it being six days without painting, the lackadaisical anxiety was setting in.
Come Friday I rose early from my first night in the youth hostel on a mission to paint a restaurant called “Frenchie” for a valued client. My drawing board I have toted around for three weeks finally snapped when I shoved myself through the Metro turnstile an hour after arriving in Paris. First task- find a painting surface.
At eight I started canvassing the streets eyeing out cardboard boxes placed on the curb by shop owners and serial Amazon shoppers. After testing all sorts of boxes, some of which might have been the bed of a vagrant the night before, I finally saw my cardboard in shining armor. It was stiff as wood and the perfect size.
Taped and ready to go I began the long stroll south through the 19th, then the 10th, and finally the 1st arrondissement just north of the Louvre and the Seine. The restaurant was here somewhere. Unashamed of whipping out the map I scoured hard for the unnamed side street that led to Rue du Nil. A stroke of luck and a divine sense of direction led me right to the golden sign marked “Frenchie” above the mahogany clad front of the eatery. I’d done enough stalling hitting the boulangeries and cafes for baguettes and cafe alonges. It was time to begin.
Here we go. My easel was scrunched on the narrow sidewalk. With looks from confused shop owners lifting their iron curtain storefronts to open shop I ripped into it. Progress was surprisingly fast. Within an hour the restaurant was recognizable and filling in quite well. This narrow side street was traversed often this morning and I had no shortage of onlookers. The most notable was a garçon who was very interested in my process. Within a short amount of time it was agreed he would be my apprentice for the day handing me paints and bringing me water.
By three o’clock the sun finally hit the bottom of this urban canyon. Je suis chaud! The structure of the building was done and I needed a break. The France Uruguay game began at four and I would be a chump to miss it. I walked the restaurant filled streets looking into the packed establishments at the projector screens showing the match. The screen I was watching was delayed from the ones down the street. Around the forty minute mark a wave of exultations swept down the boulevard like a tidal wave overtaking our bar as France drilled the ball into Uruguay’s upper ninety. Loud noises! The painted blue and red fan next to me immediately set off France colored smoke bombs smothering me in blue.
It seemed France had the game won so I headed back to Frenchie to paint the six o’clock golden hour. The game was not over and there were no people in the restaurant which was the only thing left to paint. I watched the last twenty minutes in the Frenchie wine bar. When I tried to buy some beers the barkeep gave me a “Non.” “You are the artist? Here, take.” Two free beers. The gratitude of the restaurant’s appreciation had begun.
As I went to finish the homestretch of the people packed restaurant I became inundated with visitors. Many passers by, Parisians and tourists alike came to talk. Meanwhile the owner of Frenchie who was well served kept feeding me wine and food from this five star Michelin establishment. Living the high life! The downside of this was minimal progress, getting a more than fine buzz going. I can’t complain. Press on!
The final touch of spelling Frenchie on the copper sign was done. Signed and sealed, I sought out the chefs and servers who wined and dined me to thank them. The owner who I learned was Frenchie himself almost took the painting for his own until I promised to come back and do another.
We shook hands and exchanged cards. He gave me a beer and I walked back to my temporary hostel home. Today was a good day. Let’s paint again tomorrow.