Thursday, August 6, 2009


"In a tree, there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth,
and a spirit of holding its head up."

I recently came across this quotation by artist-teacher-writer, Robert Henri author of The Art Spirit.
Yes. I thought. That's just one more reason why I love Paris.
It's not just "Chestnuts in blossom..." or
why "I miss you most of all my darling..."
Year round, the trees here soothe my soul.

Despite their chorus-line uniformity on some streets and military
symmetry on others, they still soften the stone and marble architecture and make urban life a pleasure. Drawing the trees of Paris became my next passion.

My debutant dip into tree art was in August 1976. I was asked to sculpt a tree au tour de a fat winding pipe on the lower level of Mother Earth's, an American bar-restaurant next to Les Halles when Les Halles was no longer the mother of all markets, but a huge hole in the ground.

 Dennis, the manager of Mother's made the request, I immediately thought that I'd sculpt the tree of life.  I was working on a series of water colors back then, on the creation of the universe - Genesis; one day at a time.

Dennis a beach boy Californian, said "No. We want a palm tree."
I'm a New Englander. I had seen "Gidget goes Hawaii.", but the closest I had ever come to this family of arbor was during Holy Week.

The following day, I began slabbing plaster of Paris all over the large winding pipe. When it dried, I sculpted the form and texture with a steak knife from their kitchen. Then, painted it with different shades of ochre and yellow and added a layer of clear varnish. The palms leaves or sprouts I painted generously on the ceiling.

The consensus was that I had done very well if a giant snake swallowing a parrot was my inspiration. I left on a trip to India a few days later, so was spared an excess of humiliation.

What does this have to do with Paris and trees? Now, I am not drawing the tree of life.
I am drawing the living. Each tree seems to have a unique form and personality despite the excess pruning. It's like what our schoolteachers did to us, and how we survived.

After a few days of rendering the local Montmartre trees, I scurried and schetched in the jardin Luxembourg and then went on to le Parc Monceau which could be called Picnic City. It was wonderful to see people lunching on the grass. 

I met a couple of fellows in the café across the street from me in Montmartre

who said les Buttes Chaumont has the best trees in Paris. They were right. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon; I thought that I had landed in
paradise. Them were treeze. Mammoth. And so peaceful.
I began drawing and decided it was time to get into bark. Texture. I noted more clearly that some branches had been cut so that others would grow. I thought of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken".
Then, I thought of my life, a little out on a limb, but at least I chose it.
I hear the trees at Bagatelle are also grand.

Click on Paris Trees at top of side bar,
then click 'plein ecran' or 'full screen' to see the selection
of tree drawings.


  1. Salut Mary,
    I just found your blog today linked on Polly's blog.
    I have started and the begining and working my way thorugh your well-told stories and glorious painting.
    I love your sense of humor and your descriptions that bring Paris to me here in Illinois...!

    I have been coming to Paris for
    20+ years, each time staying a little longer. I hope that one of these days I will stay for good...!

    I am a photographer and "so-called" painter and your paintings and sketches inspire me to dust off my brushes and conte crayons.
    You are very brave to paint out in the open in Paris. The bravest I could ever was doing pencil sketches of my meals at Paris brasseries and added watercolor washes back in my appartement.

    Thank you for sharing your Paris with this self-proclaimed "Parisienne in exhile".
    Please keep up with these inspiring stories and amazing paintings.

    Love these sketches of Paris trees...!

    A prochaine fois,

    1. June 26, 2015
      I just found your message.
      I hope that you are still coming to Paris and will look me up one of these days.
      Very best to you.

  2. I just stumbled on your blog via Polly-vous and I am IN LOVE with your paintings! I feel that Paris is often depicted as very colorless and grey but your paintings are a great reflection of the romanticism and fantasy that foreigners have of the beautiful city! I look forward to reading your back posts and poking around your official site!

    Bonne journée!

  3. Monmarte and Paris are as beautiful as you describe--maybe we crossed paths this week while I was there in the square of painters!



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