French Lessons - Part 4

The final installment!IMG_4121So I will try to sum up the last bit of our trip to France in this post.  We left off with our visit to the Chateau of Versailles.  The next day we began painting the marbles at the bottom of the panel.  The marbles in the panel are direct references to what they used in the palace. Green Campan and Sarrancolin.  My favorite is the Sarrancolin.  Something about the bold rusty red and grey/white strikes me.  Pierre talked about how marbles are quarried and used in decoration, how they are cut; pass cut vs. cross cut, etc.  It was the hardest part of the panel for me to execute.  To make it look "natural" you have to be conscious to not create 45' angles with the veins, and to make everything random.  Since it was such a new marble to me and we didn't have reference photos to work from I had to rely on the demonstration by Pierre and sorta "wing it." Pierre was very helpful to everyone, walking around and assisting those of us struggling.IMG_4165What really surprised me was how much faux there was in the palace.  And same with the Louvre. I didn't realize that before the Louvre was a museum it was the original palace of the king before they moved out to Versailles.  (Perhaps I shouldn't have fallen asleep in Art in the Dark in college?) Because of the number of rulers that lived there, there are many examples of faux marble and woodgraining because each successive occupant would paint over what was there instead of ripping out and replacing elements.  Thus they would paint over one type of marble with another to suit the tastes of that particular period. IMG_4150This is Pierre discussing with Mike how the marble here was painted over with a new type. The Louvre also seems to go on forever.  When we arrived, we entered in the lower level and we could see what was the original foundation of the fortress built in the 12th century. Every monarch since then would put his own stamp on the building by adding on and redecorating.

The morning of the Louvre tour, Pierre met us at the Notre Dame and took us on a foot tour of the areas within the 1st arrondissement.  Everywhere we looked there were beautiful things.  We walked into a church (I can't even remember which one) to see beautiful marbles, paintings, gilding, and more.  We also took a walk around the galerie de montpensier and fogged the windows at the cafe Le Grand Vefour where there were incredible paintings of grottescas and decorative elements.

IMG_3818A little Bawlmer in Paris!


IMG_3900Faux Bois on the streets

IMG_3825 IMG_3827Store that has beautiful decorative painting. Randomly came across it on our walk.

IMG_3834Metro entrance

IMG_3854 IMG_3860 IMG_3862Walking through the galleries of the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal

IMG_3891A beautiful scene in a church...

We made it to the Louvre around lunchtime and spent the afternoon going through various areas of the museum; the Apartments of Napoleon III, the Grand Gallery, and other areas I can now not remember their names!

IMG_4015 IMG_3986 IMG_3969IMG_4023IMG_4031IMG_3980Dee meets MonaMeet getting to meet "Mona".

Here are a few images of our little B&B "Villa Versailles" which I highly recommend.  Vanessa, the owner, is extremely accommodating and brought us homemade treats.  She speaks English (whew!) and she has a dachshund named Elvis who only speaks French.

IMG_3764 IMG_3757View out our front door to the courtyard.IMG_3755Our KitchenetteIMG_3754IMG_3764IMG_3055This is looking out of the school across the parking lot to our place. Its the small building with the vines all over it.

One evening a friend of Pierre came to demonstrate water gilding.  I got to try my hand at it, it is so very delicate.  You can read more on Pierre's blog.

IMG_3703 IMG_3710Our final dinner was at a restaurant in Versailles.  The food was incredible and dogs are allowed! Apparently the French are huge dog lovers and the idea of not being able to bring your dog into a restaurant is unfathomable. 2013-03-15_19-37-35_396 2013-03-15_21-30-53_398 2013-03-15_21-23-17_928We were all presented certificates of completion signed by both Jean and Pierre.  Everyone came up one at a time for a photo op.  I took the opportunity to get a kiss on the cheek like a Tour De France stage winner does from the podium girls :).

It was a trip of a lifetime and we were sad to go but happy to get back to our boys and our king size bed :).

French Lessons - part 3: Mike's Adventures on the Bike

While I was in class, Mike rode in neighboring's an excerpt from the email he sent to family back home:...I've done some great bike rides the past two days. I rode from Versailles and through the villas Buc, Toussus-le-Noble, Chateafort, Sain-Remy-les-Chavreuse, Les Molieres, Cernay-la-Ville, Senlisse, and Dempierre. I saw the Aqueduct built in the 1600s in Buc, which was constructed to send water to the gardens and fountains of Versailles. I also randomly came across a monument to Jacques Anquetil, legendary cyclist and 5-time TdF winner. Dempierre has a cool Chateaux and a quaint town center.Anquetil Monument Buc Aqueduct Rambouillet Chateaux Rambouillet Chateaux2 2013-03-14_11-55-43_899 2013-03-14_11-56-00_542 2013-03-14_13-20-05_907

..Yesterday was the big ride to Chartres, which was a big goal of mine for the trip because I wanted to see the Cathedral.  I planned a straight out and back ride to Chartres. I had an awesome 95-mile ride and saw so much cool stuff. The trip took me through the villas of Rambouillet, Orphin, Escrosnes, Gallardon, and into Chartres. Rambouillet is really cool. There is a beautiful Chateaux and a big outside market in the town center, including a large carousel. The Chateaux was owned by some royalty. Gallardon is an old small villa, but had this really cool Gothic Cathedral. Escrosnes is even smaller and has an older and more medieval church.

Cathedral de ChartresChartres is a pretty big town (close to the size of Versailles) and the Cathedral is AMAZING. It sits up on hill with all these old small, narrow, and steep cobblestone streets and alleys surrounding the church. It's a beautiful area with people out and about shopping and sitting at cafes. The Cathedral is huge and is right up there with Notre Dame from the outside. I didn't go in because I had my bike and all my gear on."

Up next, "French Lessons - Part 4" Class notes, Louvre tour, and our "Petit Chateau"

French Lessons - Part 2

IMG_3057Class started on Friday. I was glad to have had two days to acclimate to the time change and get to know the neighborhood. Class started off at a fast pace and only grew faster.

We began with finalizing the drawing that was pounced on our panels previously. Jean discussed the "Chromatic Link", a secret and ancient method of unifying all of the elements that will be painted within the canvas.  Actually its just toning the canvas.  No secrets. Then we added layers of glazes to create the look of limestone, the material in which the entire niche is constructed. After Jean demonstrated the technique, we laid in the foundation for the ornament above the niche and moved to the background color for the urn.  The marble panels at the bottom would come later, taught by Pierre. Then a discussion of how light affects shadows and how forms dictate their shape. IMG_3069


My buddy Jeannie from Long Island decided to make the trip last minute, and thank goodness, it wouldn't have been the same with out her.  Tre Drole! Lots of wine, baguettes, croissants, and many other French delicacies were shared. The class was full of students from around the world; Taiwan, France, Israel, US, (and California :)) a true "UN of painting!"

IMG_3600Wine at lunch!

Lunch was on our own and many people either brought food or went out and grabbed some to bring back.  One day, Maddie's husband Frank bought sandwiches for everyone! There was always goodies to be had that people would bring to share, croissants, chocolates, and treats. Great conversations around the lunch table.

2013-03-08_14-35-07_569Dinner at "Cafe Aux Crepes" with some students

2013-03-05_14-06-52_714Gates at Chateau

The third day we were guided by Pierre and Jean Luc on a tour of the Palace of Versailles which included the Chateau, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen's Hamlet. I believe the word is gobsmacked.  I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing. Beautiful gilding, marbles, trompe loeil... And surprisingly, a lot of the marbles were painted!  Even the King had a budget! Every last inch of the place was decorated.  We were treated to an unconventional tour where our "guides" pointed out details of the decorations that would not normally be on the tour.  You can read some of what we learned on Pierre Finkelstein's blog.


On our way to the Chateau

IMG_3108Pierre and Mikey, aka, the Crazy Frenchman and "le Stupide Américain"

IMG_3130 IMG_3242The famous Hall of Mirrors

IMG_3227The War Room

IMG_3234Amazing Trompe L'oeil (look closely at the gilded moldings.  Where the figure crosses the molding, the area is flat and has been painted and gilded to create the 3D effect.)

IMG_3315More beautiful marbles, marquetry, gilding, and murals.

IMG_3274The king's bedroom

IMG_3290Marie Antoinette's bedchamber


Some examples of faux marbre:

IMG_3335 IMG_3437 IMG_3448 IMG_3483

Moving on to the Grand Trianon...

IMG_3462 IMG_3434Grand Trianon

IMG_3455Rebecca, myself, and Jeannie

IMG_3442 IMG_3485Beautiful painted armoire holding china in the Petit Trianon

IMG_3516Marie Antoinette's bedroom in the Petit Trianon

IMG_3495 IMG_3500 IMG_3523Even the queen has to go sometimes!


View from the queen's bedroom at the Petit Trianon


Queen's dressing room.  The wall panels raise and lower for privacy.

IMG_3555 IMG_3548The group

IMG_3573Petit Trianon exterior

IMG_3561Interior of the Belvedere.  Look at those grottescas and ceiling!!


Belvedere and Grotto

IMG_3578Some of the sheep that reside on the grounds at Versailles.

I could go on and on!  Check out more images in my gallery on my facebook page

Up next, "French Lessons - Part 3: Mike's Adventures on the Bike"

French Lessons - Part 1

2013-03-05_14-18-40_206 I have been back for a week and already I feel it was a dream that I was in France. I had the opportunity to take a class with world renowned decorative arts professionals Pierre Finkelstein and Jean Luc Sable at Ecole Sable in Versailles, France.  Yes, I said Versailles.  <sigh>.  And it was amazing.  Mike came with me, he wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to travel to one of the cycling meccas of the world, even if it was in March.  We flew out of Dulles outside of Washington DC on the 4th of March replete with our necessities: painting materials, guidebooks, and Mike's bike in a box.  Yep.  Mike brought his bike.  Does that surprise you? Me neither.


Day One:

We flew into Charles De Gaulle Airport and took the RER across town to our little place I rented in Versaille.  It was an ordeal to say the least.  We didn't realize that we had to steel our jet lagged ears against singing and accordion playing gypsies, traipse up and down stairs trying to change trains, hoist our gear up into the train and race against the closing doors that will NOT reopen...not to mention the 1/4 mile hike from the train station to our place once we arrived at Versailles.  All with our luggage.  And Mike's bike box. But we made it 13 hours after we left Dulles at 6pm the night before.

We had two days before class started so that we could explore the town of Versailles and Paris.  The day we arrived (after we recovered from our train ride) we had a bite to eat at a restaurant a block from our place and then walked around the town of Versailles and were in awe of the magnitude of opulence that is the 'Chateau'. We had dinner that evening in Versailles at Chez Lazare, where they spoke English! Tres Bien!2013-03-05_09-24-45_8422013-03-05_13-55-24_8972013-03-05_19-05-43_836

2013-03-05_19-06-06_344Day Two:

The next day we went into Paris and followed "Rick Steve's Historic Paris Walk" which started us at Notre Dame then around to the Latin Quarter.  We deviated and took a side trip to the Pantheon and then returned to Saint Chapelle and the Concierge (which was closed.)

Notre Dame: I remember learning about these "flying buttresses" in art history class.

IMG_2829 IMG_2821IMG_2840Medieval Paris

Saint Severin





Saint Chapelle:



IMG_2961Le Metro

Day Three:

The third day we went back to Paris and headed straight for the Place de la Concord and walked up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomph.  Mikey was in his element.  It was really cool seeing all of these landmarks up close and in person.IMG_2978 IMG_2981Pont Alexandre III

IMG_2984  IMG_2994IMG_2990

Here Mike is standing in the gutter on the Champs Elysees. Next time you watch the final stage of the tour, keep an eye on when they ride this stretch.  Since its the smoothest part of the street cyclists fight to get a part of the gutter which is only about 16-18 inches wide. And they go about 30 mph.  We then walked over to the Eiffel Tower and then back to the Musee de Arts Decoratif.


Up next: Class starts and Mikey goes on his own "Tour de France"

To be continued!