So I walked past the rest of the artists, past the café and the painters selling their works on the other side, lost my friends in the sea of people, got called out by some other artists, I want to draw you, but I circled back to the only man in the square who used color.
He was still alone, wasn't drawing anybody. Lucky me.
I walked up to him. "Bonjour Monsieur, est-ce que vous avez d'autres exemples de vos portraits?" I said. ("Hello, sir, do you have any other examples of your portraits?")
Without a word, he pulled some out, on a little card behind his easel, four portraits in blue. All of them were a three-quarter view, facing the same direction, of course he used a formula. It’s true that on some of them the angles of the head didn’t look right, the proportions. But he was the only one painting with color, and I liked the possibility.
I tapped my chin, probably. "J'aime bien votre style," I said. ("I really like your style.")
"Mais vous ne m'aimez pas," he said, look up, solid, steady, straight. ("But you don't like me.")
"C'est parce que je vous connais pas," I said, but even in English joking makes me uncomfortable. ("That's because I don't know you.")
"Ça va," he said, "j'ai déjà une femme." ("It's okay. I already have a wife.")
I laughed for a moment, because that was the right thing to do. “Alors, je vais regarder les autres artistes—“ I started, lifting my arms, but he cut me off— ("All right, I'm going to go look at the other artists—")
“Je suis minimaliste,” he said. “J'essai de representer avec le plus peu de lignes que possible." ("I'm a minimalist. I try to work with the fewest amount of lines possible.")
I could see that, and certainly respect that.
“Vous avez des jolies cheveux,” he said, gesturing curls by his head. “On peut faire quelque chose avec." ("You have beautiful hair. We could do something with it.")
Des jolies cheveux. I smiled, for real this time.
“Mais je vous dessine sans lunettes,” he continued. ("But I will draw you without glasses.")
“Ah bon?” I said. “Pourquoi?” You know that my glasses are a part of me. ("Oh yeah? Why?.")
“Dans un an, deux ans, vous allez changer vos lunettes,” he said. “Alors je vous dessine sans." ("In a year, two years, you are going to change your glasses. So I'll draw you without.")
“Ahhh, vous avez raison,” I said. Of course he had to think about this type of thing, drawing people all day. I did not mention that in a month I am going to cut off all my “jolies cheveux” too. ("Ahhh, you're right.")
“Ça coute combien?” I asked, expecting something high, because I had brought €120 and I was willing to drop almost anything. ("How much does it cost?")
“€40 pour les jolies filles, €60 pour les moins belles." ("€40 the pretty girls, €60 for the less pretty.")
“Et je suis dans quelle catégorie?" ("And which category am I in?")
“Jolie, bien sûr." ("Pretty, of course..")
I smiled. Of course he had to be a charmer, but €40 and two compliments, I smiled, I was sold.
“Un instant, je suis ici avec deux amies. Je vais les trouver. Je reviendrai." ("One minute, I'm here with two friends. I'm going to go find them. I'll come back.")
I pulled out my phone and pulled back into the crowd of people, looking over their heads for Caitlin and Elizabeth, trying to call them, when they appeared out of the crowd and I told them that this was the one.
And so I went over to the chair, took off my glasses, gave them and my bag to Elizabeth. He sat me down, pulled out his paints. Told me where to sit, in that little leather chair. “Regardez là-bas,” I turned my head to the side, I looked up, I looked at the sky. ("Look over there.")
Another artist set up his stand and umbrella next to me and I tried to unfocus my eyes and stay still. I could see in my peripheral that a crowd gathered around him working and I wondered if this would be a masterpiece. I looked up to the sky, everything fuzzy because I had taken off my glasses, I wondered if I had moved my head too much, I wondered if he would paint the sense of wonder in my eyes, the glint of sunlight in my hair.