Friday, October 20, 2006

Paris Grey Skies

Paris is a grey city - overcast skies, grey cobbled streets with grey Baron Haussmann buildings. Citizens dressed in grey neutrals with just a dash of color at the neck. Why is this a good thing? Because grey acts as the perfect foil for brilliant colors. Grey makes colors sing. We adore Ladurée's pale green, Hermés' Orange, Hediard's redFauchon's hot pink. Strong colors radiate against this serene grey backdrop.
It's color basic theory.
And why do we love to wander aimlessly down Paris' streets? Lois Swirnoff explains in THE COLOR OF CITIES;
Elegant, gracious and stylish, the great lady reveals her distinction facially. The aesthetic is one of dignified composure. Close range colors in these facades impart a sense of unity, rather than commercial competition (like New York).
Restraint and refinement is the urban message.

Par hasard /by chance I passed this art student sketching in the Jardins du Luxembourg. Tout en gris. Note how GREEN the greens look surrounded by all that gris (grey).
 King of Paris pastry, Pierre Hermé uses pearl grey for his pretty boxes. THE COLOR OF CITIES is a fav book because it explains why we love Paris, Rome, Venice, or any extraordinary city. For reasons usually never considered like longitude, angles of light, shadow shapes. Paris' low-contrast light is softer, more atmospheric, more moody and best for still life painting. Thanks to overcast grey skies. a tout à l'heure

These grey cheeses are aged in charcoal. They look like corrugated cardboard left in a cellar (they rested on rope and were turned periodically). But on a tartine (slice) of fresh baguette..YUM
Look in any Parisien shop window. Close range colors make for harmony, balance, calm. My friend, Christiane, is outfitted in her crazy, grey LILITH jacket. Can you get more French? Note the little touch of red lips 💋at the neck.



  1. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Thanks for helping me appreciate a grey Pittsburgh day. I'll search for the splash of color. And ... are you off to Paris? Have a marvelous trip.

  2. I've begun to seriously consider Paris as a destination for a trip due to yours and Laura's enthusiasm! have a great time! and come back with lots of chocolate stories :)

  3. Anonymous10:03 AM

    what a beautiful post, carol. grey seems to me the softer version of the all-black-artist, much softer.i'd love to have those purple ballerinas, though :)

  4. Grey is beautiful! And do have a wonderful trip with lots of inspiration oozing all over you!

  5. Anonymous2:01 PM

    Grey, gris, grisaille, gray, Davy's gray, Payne's gray, slate gray, grey noise, shades of gray, Gray Panthers, Greyhound, Grey Lady, Greybeard..I love grey and this Paris post!

  6. Beautiful blog!!! Beautiful art!!!! I enjoyed my visit here.

  7. Anonymous3:28 PM

    I love the glorious grays, too! The most elegant woman I ever saw was dressed all in gray, with silver hair. (Most days find me similarly attired--also with silver hair--but I miss elegance by a country mile, I'm afraid.)

    Beautiful examples and explanation, Carol...

  8. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Such a dreamy, atmospheric post..I won't frown next time it's overcast outside :)

  9. You have an amazing time and think of me everytime you look at a chocolat or a stylish shop front in the Marais.

  10. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Like most Plaine Air artists, I love the slanting am & pm sunlight. But on a gray day, the light is consistent, softer, and prolonged. To mother nature, its' just another beautiful, albeit grey, day.
    Have fun in Paris!

  11. I love seeing all your stuff, your walls, your paints, we are all curious of other artists. Paris sounds very interesting.
    you like to leave the Backgrounds white, do you find the colors more intense/alive this way?

    anyway, good trip!

  12. Shant A good observation about my use of the white paper..My teacher, David Dewey constantly stressed letting the whites play in and out of the colored areas..he would say let the paper breathe. Also I'm influenced by the simplicity of Japanese woodblock prints..maybe I'll do a post on them when I get back. Thanks for your comment :)

  13. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Dear Carol,
    As a regular reader of your blog and in response to your quest for special places in Paris may I suggest the following:

    1). Café Voltaire on the corner of Quai Voltaire and rue de Beaune. The atmosphere is magic, especially in the morning. I love their china – white with blue cornflowers, and they have fresh flower arrangements by le fils du patron. It's open for breakfast, lunch and tea and Sennelier is juste à deux pas!

    2) Terre de Chine – one of the best teashops in Paris – 49 rue Quincampoix 75004 (near Centre Pompidou). An excellent selection of Chinese teas and fine porcelain expertly chosen directly from producers by the boutique owners.

    3) Librairie La Porte étroite – 10 rue Bonaparte 75006. Run by a charming man, a very unusual art books shop with a good choice of second-hand & new art books.

    4) More funky in style and gathering point of students and local creative people – Le Bizuth, 202 Boulevard Saint-Germain.

    5) Musée de la Vie Romantique – 16, rue Chaptal 75009 (on the way to the Denise Acabo chocolat shop on rue Fontaine).

    Back to the Left Bank :

    6) Deyrolle – gardening paraphernalia, books and great candles – 42 rue du Bac. I don’t like stuffed animals in the shop window but it is fun to visit and they also have a branch in Palais Royal.

    7) Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux - 16 rue d’Assas. Recommended by Denise from rue Fontaine and Monsieur le maitre is l’eleve de Michel Chaudin.

    Have a wonderful time in Paris!
    Nana Tilley

  14. "...Paris' low-contrast lighting is softer, more atmospheric, more moody and best for still life painting?" I have to move there, Carol. What's the best method for learning french?

  15. Anonymous10:50 PM

    Bon voyage mon ami!

  16. r.chun the best way to learn French is to fall in love, as Carol has with Paris.
    PAris has more grey days than London, yet its stunning design and constant display of sheer genius, makes Paris a place of dreams...Carol you are my favorite art teacher...your paint brush is like a magic wand, you have a beautiful explained the capture of light brillantly! Paris will smile on you!
    How lucky we will be when you return...I canot wait to see what you will bring us!!

  17. Cher M. Chunn
    The best way to learn French is by immersion.
    Rent/buy Fr movies..& turn off the subtitles after a couple of watches
    Listen to French news all day long
    or better yet French POP
    as I do
    Watch the French news on the computer or if they have it in Seattle..
    Buy some BDs - bande dessiné - French adult comics and NON! they are not naughty. More like manga -illustrated stories
    Adele Blanc-Sec is good series to begin with.
    Get yr ear atuned and the tongue will follow
    Forget classes IMO
    Bon Soir

  18. as long as it is not Paynes grey i always LOVE the mixed colors of grey! enjoy carol!

  19. Anonymous7:20 AM

    Beautiful - as always! Yes, your paintings do indeed "breathe"..that's the quality I've been trying to describe.

    As to the "grays": How about "an elephant playing with a blue exercise ball" ? ;}

    Have a lovely trip! I can't wait to see what inspires you this time and what you'll share as a result.

    Bon voyage!


  20. Anonymous9:50 AM

    I've stopped drinking it years ago but Earl Grey would fit with your post ;-)
    Au plaisir

  21. Carol,

    Have a beautiful time in Paris ... city of love .. I'm there with you every moment that I read your writings and drink in your beautiful paintings. Paris, in my heart, is my home. Say hello to Paris for me, too. I look forward to reading all about your ventures when you return. Au Revoir mon Ami -- Ann

  22. Anonymous5:53 AM

    "Grey ":Multiples gris! c'est une des couleur de Paris certes mais tout en nuances. c'est en Ecosse que j'ai découvert les multiples facettes de ces gris en voulant peindre les paysages de la-bas à l'aquarelle.
    Merci Carol, pour vos merveilleux billets

  23. I miss the muted greys of Paris. London is dark grey and much duller. It's also red and black, rather than pale blue and green (in spite of all the parks), I think.

    Beautiful post. :-)

  24. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Your blog is simply DELICIOUS.I've been living in Paris 18 months and those wonderful acquarelles and the comments you write make me return to my city.Also where I live was near you(51,rue de Vaugirard...alors ma petite I feel at home)I recomend you two places for your beatiful paintings:Polâine(rue de Chereche Midi-it´s one of the best bakeries in Paris..try those little apple cakes)and the S.XIX peacocks paintings inside La Samaritaine(incredibles).Allez-y!!!

  25. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Pd-Sorry,I forgot recomend you some inspiring music for your inspired art:buy Benjamin Biolay&Chiara Mastroianni"Home" cd(Fnac,rue de rennes).

  26. Grey is one of my favourite colours and Paris one of my favourite cities. How wonderful that they go together so beautifully. Nel

  27. I love mixing greys. My students always were surprised when they mixed greys.
    Love it.
    Again have fun in Paris

  28. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Carol, Have a beautiful time in Paris. I cant wait till there are paintings and wonderful comments of your days. I wold really be interested in the art stores and the cafes. I cant imagine what it feels like to be sitting there and seeing all the magical things.

  29. Anonymous1:56 AM

    Smila, I know the excellent Poilane and Samartaine is ferme malheureusement :(
    Mais merci!

  30. Anonymous1:56 AM

    I love the baby GREY elephant with the blue ball. Nice your blog, I enjoy so much, so refreshing and beauty make me feel better.

  31. Anonymous1:58 PM

    It's interesting how reading your posts again while you're in Paris sparks off other reactions. "Restraint and refinement is the urban message." I haven't read The Color of Cities you quoted but I recall "ravalement de façade" from my student year in France and now, it has led me to this agreement:

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