Saturday, November 15, 2014


Friday September 26, 2014
Crossing the Place des Abbesses has always been an event. 
When I first arrived  in the Montmartre neighborhood, twenty years ago,  the boundaries were clear. The ivrognes or winos took the helm directly across the street from the tall brick church Saint Jean and a small grocery with a good variety of cheep red wine . The young voyous not yet graduated to being gang members, but old enough to leave their neighborhoods hung out near the entry to rue de la Veuxville. The beautiful art deco Guimard Metro in the center,  constantly streamed visitors to Montmartre's Sacre Coeur. Scattered around were always musicians  with varying degrees of talent. Some really exceptional.

A classic carousel was a great solution to ameliorate the first flash image coming up from the Metro. And I guess the little ones think they can tolerate school if they have a chance at the merry-go-round later on. 
It was late September bright and sunny. I decided to paint it again. I set up
on Friday late in the afternoon. The sun was behind me. Luck not on side.Gigi, the frustrated hard rock local musician set up his three amplifiers next to me. He was watching me as he began  playing and finally asked if he was disturbing me.I nodded. He pulled up shop. I thanked him.I looked to the sky.
"Thank you God. "

He was replaced by an young street talent  playing "La Vie En Rose" on an electric ukulel.
There is a nice garden on the far side of La Place. Behind the garden, a city retirement home.Francois, an 82 year old resident from the home began chatting me up. I realized that he  could be a captain concierge. He knew all the local gossip. He also introduced me to the best chausson de pomme I had ever eaten. A remarkable melt in your mouth treat for this afternoon. Francois knew all that was the best. Including himself.

Saturday afternoon
 Within minutes of setting my easel up, Francois was at my side recounting his adventures of La Fête des Vins the evening before. Some Asiatic tourists asked  Francois a question. He began spouting off directions in Japanese. Francois speaks six or seven languages. "Idiots" he said returning to my side, "They were looking for that stupid wall ... when you've got Le Louvre in Paris.  The "mur des je t'aime" is a large ceramic tiled structure in the garden with "I love you" written in 280 languages. A hot spot for honeymooners.
Another gentleman came up. He told me that he was an artist also. He built ukuleles. Another one. That's interesting. I introduced Ludwig to Francois and asked them to step aside so that I could work.
It took me three tries but it finally worked when I tried the grade-school-teacher-you've -been -bad- boys-intonation.
I  really was feeling the amazing energy. A group of very tall loud Latin Americans approached me.
We're looking for Notre Dame. I laughed. No. You're looking for Sacre Coeur. The leader turned to his companions. We're looking for Sacre Coeur.
"That will do." The leader responded. I began to get weary and turned my brushes over to Carmela.

Monday, November 10, 2014

CAFE KAKOO at the foot of Sacre Coeur

 September 17, 2014
Manuel, a friend and owner of the Café Kakoo asked me to make a painting of his bistro. I told him that I didn't paint in the street anymore. He had sold his part of the restaurant and would be leaving Paris at the end of the year.
"Please." he begged me with his sparkling eyes and gorgeous smile. I want one more Mary Blake painting to remember you by.

 I agreed. The next day I set up my easel for the attack on about the most crowded spot on earth -the entrance gate going up to Sacre Coeur.
Camera city.

THE  PHOTO TAKERS as opposed to photographers.

If I looked up and saw a camera aimed at me and the person made a gesture as if to say is it okay?
I would nod and return to my work.
The best was when I looked up and the photo taker pretended to be aiming at the sky or the building behind me. 
Unacceptable - Putting the camera in front of my face to take a photo of my painting in progress.
or the grinning housewife posing with her head next to my painting  with a victory sign. 
"Scat lady."

It was a real lesson in concentration, especially the way I paint. Always by trial and error. I arrange the colors first. When I find harmony approaching, I gradually weave in the subject.
A week later I presented the painting to Manuel

"It's wonderful!" he smiled. "That how I'll remember my café with the world steaming by."


Ruby chez la princess from