Two life-drawing sessions in Paris (mildly NSFW?)

I’m fortunate in having had the opportunity to attend two life-drawing sessions during our month in Paris!

The first, which I mentioned last week, was through Meetup. The Paris Life Drawing Group was started in 2010 by an Australian who’s been living in Paris for almost a decade. It is a very pleasant, welcoming, intimate group, and the fee was extremely reasonable. We drew a lovely pregnant model for two hours, and at the break, Scott (the organizer) provided tea, coffee, croissants, and biscuits. I got to see a different part of Paris, and pass a rainy Friday morning in drawing and conversation. It was perfect.

{as always, mouse over images for notes, or click to enlarge}

The second group was totally different. L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière was founded in 1902 and an impressive roster of artists has passed through its doors. They have sans-instruction sessions multiple times a day; I went on a Wednesday evening — after a couple of hours at the Louvre and a lunch with a fellow artist — walking the ~1 km from our apartment in the dark.

It was a slightly confusing experience at first. I couldn’t figure out the front door, and then once inside, there didn’t seem to be anyone in charge, and everyone was (of course) speaking French. It took me an hour to figure out that the length of poses was posted on the wall, and still longer before I learned how to pay for the session (a guy came around with a money box). But the atmosphere was simultaneously laid-back and professional, the model was beautiful and very good at her job, the room is set up specifically for life drawing and has been used that way for years, and at break time, there was wine and cheese and cookies and cherry tomatoes and extremely good bread. And drawing, thank heaven, is something I can do in any language. At one of the breaks, the model told me how much she liked my drawings (I didn’t understand most of what she said, but the gist was clear). By the second-to-last break I was even embolded to have some Muscadet (I don’t normally drink). It was a wonderful experience, and I’m hoping I’ll get the chance at another session there before we leave on Monday.


Everyone knows Paris is a good city for art (if not the city for art). I remember a month ago in Istanbul, feeling exhausted and thinking, “Maybe when we get to Paris, I’ll just spend all my time eating and sitting in museums.” Well, that’s more or less what we’ve been doing, but it is even better to be making art here and not just looking at it. It is like stepping into the tradition and not just admiring it from afar. I don’t compare myself to the famous greats (even leaving aside all questions of talent, our aims are different!), but still, many of them, too, came to Paris from somewhere else and found this a congenial place to work and be inspired.

I was in the Musée d’Orsay today, looking at Impressionist paintings of Paris, and then looking out over the city through the old clock faces. I was filled with a tremendous and inarticulate emotion, some mixture of awe and gratitude and incredulity and recognition. 

Three more full days before we leave for Boston.

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