My travel bud, Erin, and I were reminiscing about some of our many adventures and one in particular got us laughing. Well, it was more so her laughing at it since it was at my expense and well, I’m still reeling from the whole experience.

Picture it… the Montmartre district of Paris where all the artists come out at night like crickets on a Mississippi river bank. One of the women in our group was looking forward to visiting this area as she’d been there before many years ago. Not having heard of this area, I asked her what it was all about. She told me it was where the famous Sacre Coeur church was and it was the area where all the local artists hung out and many sold their pieces. Big woop, I thought. At this point, if I saw another boring church I was going to scream. I didn’t want to see any more churches… seen one, seen ’em all, and I had zero interest in seeing starving artists peddling their wares. I was more interested in sipping hot chocolate somewhere in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, or hitting the shops on the Champs. Our group was heading to Montmartre and therefore, so was I.

Looky, looky, an artist doing a beautiful portrait of a girl. Imagine that. (courtesy of

We had wandered around the lovely cobblestone streets visiting the various little shops before coming across the “square” where many artists were roaming around with canvases in hand, offering to do sketches of random people. I sauntered around and watched several of the artists as they did sketches of various tourists who now dotted the area. Some weren’t bad, some were awful and some did pure magic.

I stood and watched one guy do beautiful portraits of a number of individual teenaged girls. I befriended the school group who turned out to be on a class trip from Alabama. I should point out at this moment that these kids were really outgoing and friendly, but certainly weren’t first in line when God was handing out good looks if you know what I mean. What amazed me was that the artist I’d been watching was turning out incredibly beautiful sketches of these not so great looking girls. Each one would see her finished product and just delight in the portrait. This guy was good! I stayed and spoke with several of the kids about their trip and where they’d been, and where they were going and school life back in Alabama compared to school in Eastern Canada. After the last girl was finished a number of the girls told me that I should get this guy to do my portrait. I didn’t want to. I saw that Erin had found a great table in front of one of the cafes and I was in the mood for hot chocolate, not a portrait. But then the artist started his selling technique and tried to talk me into getting my portrait done. I hesitated, but then finally gave in.

I’m stupid.

I stood still for about 10 minutes while this numskull sketched my portrait. I admit, I was actually starting to get excited and was looking forward to seeing the finished product. Several of the kids I’d spoken to were now watching the artist do my picture. They’d “ooh and ahh” as he finished one part, and they’d whisper to each other “it’s beautiful”, or “wow, he’s captured her eyes perfectly.” On and on it went. I watched him work under the stress of so many pairs of eyes watching his every move. The anticipation was killing me.

He finally announced it was finished, signed his name and ripped the sheet from his book. He turned it around for me to see.

This is what I was expecting….

I don’t look like this either, but at least he could have embellished a little!

This is similar to what I got….

This artwork itself is very good with great techniques/shadows/etc, however, no offense to the artist of this drawing, but if this were the finished product of my portrait I’d be screaming at this one too. (artist: Tom Richmond)

I nearly screamed.

It was awful.


My heart sank.

I was crushed.

I was hideous… like some sort of monster from a horror movie… some god-awful creature from the underworld. Okay, I’m getting carried away here, but it was a terrible drawing.

I knew it was awful when I went over to where Erin and some of the others were sitting. I rolled up the portrait like an old scroll. Erin was polishing off her creme brulee and said, “Oh, did you get one done? Let’s see it.”

I shifted my stance and decided to change the subject. “I think I’ll get a hot chocolate.”

“Let’s seeeeee it.” Erin urged.

I advised the others that it was awful and they sang out, “Ohhh commmmmme onnnn, it can’t be that bad.”

I opened the rolled up paper and showed them. They said nothing. Finally Erin, being as politically correct as she is, says “It’s… it’s really nice.”

“Its’ awful.” I said flatly.

“What’s wrong with it?” one of the women in our group said.

“If I look like this, I shouldn’t be allowed in public.” I advised. (Yes, I’m this vain.)  I was starting to get angry at the thought of the portrait. Afterall, why were all the other sketches of those other girls so beautiful? Why wasn’t mine as nice as theirs? I had no answers but I did have an awful portrait. This was terrible. What could have been a lovely moment to remember quickly turned into an event to forget. Ugh.

I was utterly disgusted and sour faced as we descended down the hill with the group…. wondering if I should take up residence as the Quasi Modo of the century at Notre Dame. (I wasn’t being serious, but hey, I was sour.)

Now, all this being said, I should mention that I shouldn’t really be criticizing anyone’s artwork because I cannot draw worth a lick. In fact, this is my own self-portrait….

’nuff said, right?

Once I got back home to Canada, I unpacked the hideous portrait and while contemplating keeping it, I just couldn’t bear the thought of seeing it again. I ripped it up… never to be seen again.

I should point out that two years after this incident, Erin and I visited Paris again, and even went to Montmartre.  Remembering the ordeal I suffered the last time, she smiled when we got to the artist area and said slyly, “Getting your portrait done again?”

I hate her.

Just kidding. We did have a good chuckle over it … although I think she was laughing slightly harder than I was.