Since I haven't yet gone to the real Paris, I reasoned, Paris Las Vegas, the hotel, will do. I stationed myself at a corner wedged between the hotel wall and the fountain. The fountain was inspired on the one at the Place de la Concorde, which in turn was inspired on the ones at Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican. Nothing is new.
The falling water's roar was almost unbearable, and the mist made everything colder. In short, I was in my element, so I started painting, happy to be away from cigarette smoke and protected from the maddening crowds. Andrea Bocelli's voice reached me from across the street and thick traffic, and suddenly, the heads of every passer-by turned to face its origin. The huge fountain at the Bellagio had been activated.
I could now focus on the problem at hand. After the pencil drawing I could see the statues would steal the show, but I wanted to fight against my tendency to include too much background detail. Even though they occupied most of the space in the 12 x 12" Aquarello (Cartiera Magnani) sheet, I knew that the manner in which I treated the background would "make or break" this picture. So I asked myself: What do I simplify, and how do I do it?
I omitted most of the people walking within my line of view. I could not rely on spectators staying there long enough for me to paint them. I also used a purple wash over all of the background, except for the sky. Speaking of the sky, I left out the majority of the clouds, too wispy and white to make it in this "battle of the values." Finally, I left out some signs on the street which I thought would be distracting.
My approach varies. Sometimes I do the background first, sometimes the foreground. Sometimes I work on both simultaneously, especially if I am not yet sure of whether there will be enough contrast. In this picture, I did exactly that. It was a cold palette, reflective of the cold day it was.