Friday, November 23, 2012

Mornings in Paris

Do you have a favorite hangout where you go repeatedly? I have Mornings in Paris in the Old Port. I love going early, before crowds, & before you have to deposit coins into les parcmètres. (But the parking fees are well worth it, if you want to go later on, like for lunch or midday coffee & treats...)
The coffee is exquisite, 

and the interior is filled with artistic displays.
Illuminated cases show off gorgeous pastries, quiches & bonbons...
This morning, after the early quietude, crowds began to arrive (note a little Portland Maine high fashion here!) & the café buzzed with cheerful questions & answers about the food.
From my favorite window table a dog on the sidewalk was in full view. He watched longingly & attentively for his person who was grabbing a coffee to go...Passersby laughed, & me too, so earnest he was! 
When the clock struck 9 I packed up & ran because the meterfolks would be starting their day...but not without saying au revoir et merci & exchanging a few words in French to proprietor, Isabelle. You can read about her & Mornings in Paris here. The site tells you what a warm & welcoming person she is but I don't know if it tells you how pleasant it is to hear her frequently laugh...It's just as invigorating as her coffee.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poor November

People around town are already starting to festoon, adorn, trim, embellish & ornament  their lamposts, yards & doors with lights & Christmas decorations. But our actual landscape looks more like this sketch, from November, 2003. 
Mid-November Quebec City, 2012 displayed last shouts of autumn colors...
But signs pointed to next month's celebrations & bookshops were already well stocked with Christmas books. Our month of November seems to get ignored. It lacks the glitz of October & is overshadowed by the anticipation of  December...Still, it's a lovely month...
A Happy November Thanksgiving to you!

Friday, November 9, 2012


I adore bicycles but I'm a little fearful about riding since I fell & broke a bone a few years ago (not on a bicycle). How I loved the freedom & energy generated by pushing those pedals, ever since childhood!! 
Should I ride again? Yes. (But maybe not today...)
The bicycle culture in Amsterdam makes so much sense!
I'm definitely too timid to try this in Paris with, gasp! lots of fast cars & motorcycles!!
 In Amsterdam, such a variety of bicycle morphs! Maybe I could handle this one...
Even when they're parked, they're so wonderful!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Story of the Not So Simple Slug

News of the oncoming storm motivated me to clean up a garden patch that’s been weedy for a long time.  In pulling up overgrown rocks I noticed a 7 inch slug moving slowly over a flat rock. My first reaction: Eeeeeek!! Impulse to toss it, kill it, destroy it, (or run). But having read & loved The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey I engaged my brain, & understood that it wasn’t going to hurt me. Fear turned to curiosity. After twice going round the surface of a flat rock it slithered down to a lower rock & then crawled there for awhile. Curiosity turned to compassion & even remorse: I suspected that I had uprooted it from its home underneath one of the rocks.That awareness came from having read Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes. The suburban lawn is a complex habitat chock-full of interdependent life forms!

So I decided to get the facts, ma’am: The slug’s silver slime helps it to crawl & protects it from sharp objects. The slime trails guide it back to it’s tunnels (except in this case I had probably wiped out his trail & maybe his tunnel, oh dear...) the slug has light sensitive eyes on the end of the long tentacles, but it mostly relies on smell to get around. They need dampness & could dehydrate if caught in windy weather. I was relieved to know that the last time I had checked on “my” slug (compassion turned to possessiveness, interesting...) he was back in the soil, so during the winds of hurricane Sandy’s edge he was probably protected.

Just the facts, m’am, but facts are dependent on who is presenting them & why. I watched a film made by a slug poison bait company. I now learned that the slug is my enemy because it eats farmers’ crops. My protectiveness turned to hatred & brought me back around to my initial fear. 

And now? I’m still glad I met the slug & don’t hate it & still find it fascinating. 

What a complex world we live in, though, even in relation to a simple slug.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Joyful Vegetables

I was so happy to see you all at The Local Buzz Opening, thank you!! The show will be up through November 12. The Local Buzz Coffee House & Wine Bar is a great place to hang out. Sunday Ronda Dale is performing from 11 to 2! She's a wonderful local songwriter & singer! 
A new vegetable series has begun as many of my little postcard drawings of Maine & France have been going to new homes.

"Eat your vegetables," we used to hear as metropolitan suburban children  But today, in the more rural state of Maine I hear: "Eat your fresh, organic, local vegetables!", or better yet, "Grow your own." I come with no farming skills or experience, so for now I'm drawing my own.
Tomorrow I go to the Deering Oaks Farmer's Market!! Happy & Healthy Weekend to you! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Process & Product, Introvert & Extrovert

This quick sketch in my private journal makes me think of concepts that have been important to me during my whole life: Process verses Product. This artist whom I sketched goes deep into her spiritual process. She studies technique & also connects with imagery that is important to her spirit. On the way, the paintings she creates, indeed Products, are lovely to enjoy. In my childhood it was the Process of Drawing that sustained me, & the pressure to create Products that inhibited me. The balance between the 2 got lost. 
My Products are currently "exposed" ( the French word for art exhibit is "exposition) on the café wall, & they're being bought. It's a relatively new thing, so I reflect again on Process verses Product, or rather, Process AND Product. I also reflect on the personality types of Intovert & Extrovert. Like Ferdinand the Bull, I am (mostly) an Introvert living in an extroverted world. Ferdinand & his book, in both my childhood Polish version & the English, was my hero & I loved him. I still do. Do you know Ferdinand?
 In the end, he got to go back & sit under his favorite tree, "smelling the flowers just quietly." "I odtąd, chociaż może to plotka, zawsze w tym miejscu można go spotkać, jak sobie siedzi i wącha kwiatki, maki, stokrotki, jaskry, bławatki, słucha jak szumią lasy i niwy." (a lot more detail was added to the translation!) The last sentence: "He is very happy." "I jest podobno bardzo szczęśliwy." 
  My little Products often reflect my places of solitude such as Scarborough Marsh...
Or Portland, from a quiet spot in the distance...

Unlike Ferdinand, I also love being with people, & have a bit of an extroverted side too. The show is giving me a gift of connecting with wonderful people. And it all is working, as over the years I've learned how to wander between the sides of Process & Product, Extrovert & Introvert. 
I'm curious, dear Readers, are you more Introvert or Extrovert? Or do you even think about it?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Boston Rainy Day en français!

A Day Trip to Boston is a complete vacation (though I'm not saying I wouldn't want to stay overnight...) The rain & exhaustion (bad night sleep anticipating making the 5:45AM train) created fewer moments of enchantment than usual, still, a day of travel , of change, of newness invigorates & refreshes. In the afternoon, after many footsteps, my feet & I just  wanted to go home, but we had 3 hours before the train. Finally we found Starbucks at the foot of Beacon Hill. A window bar seat & a latté were just the thing! The view showed pedestrians waiting for the crossing light at the edge of the Commons. It called for fast action sketching. Fun to see the different shifts of people in a rhythmic stop & go dance. (The drawing above is from my sketches, you might have had trouble deciphering the originals.)
My motivation for the trip: The Museum of Fine Arts presents a French language guided tour on Wednesday mornings. Listening to Art History in French is spell binding for me. The guides are super & they speak relatively slowly, merci bien!)
These are 2 original scribbly sketches from an English language tour that I attempted to go on later. (click on them to see them larger). I only made it halfway through...perhaps if it had been in French... I never used to do guided tours, but what I'm noticing is that the MFA is very much about art HISTORY, so I might as well start learning with more depth than my own eyes provide. History as storytelling & pictures is fascinating, school book war history: not so much.
I keep a little Boston "kit" in a drawer, so I can be ready for my next trip. It includes my French language Guide de Voyage, maps & Charlie subway card. Imagine if Paris were this close to home, right??!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

To France & Back: Watercolor Drawings A Show

Rue Saint Séverin, 5th Arronissement, Paris
The Show is officially on display! "To France & Back: Watercolor Drawings"... from my travels in France & here in Maine. For you Local Folks, it's at The Local Buzz, Coffee House & Wine Bar in Cape Elizabeth.  It's a great space, & serves good food & drink. Opening Reception is on October 17th from 7-9. I'll bring some of my travel journals which are the source for the drawings. The inspiration for traveling to France in the first place  was, & is my French teacher & founder of Portland's Language Exchange. The reason I have this show is because friend Beth click on Beth's Take on Life let me know about the opportunity. And the reason the display pleases me is because friend & fellow Francophile Janet helped me hang it! And I'm learning a lot about how to do this as carolg (click on Paris Breakfasts & visit her Etsy shop) has been sharing some show tips with me! Merci!

I knew it would be fun to share this series, but a bonus surprise: When I'm at the café, the theme of the drawings gets me into conversations with fellow Francophiles & travelers to France & fellow appreciators of Maine's beauty! 

 J'ai de la chance! I hope to see you there! (& in France...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Audubon Sketch Journal Project #1

On the 2nd day of Autumn, my sketch journal project at Gilsland Farm, headquarters of The Audubon Society, begins. There'll be a workshop to teach & an exhibit of my notes & book later on. But for now, I go there, I slow down, I watch, I listen. An adventure, a journey of discovery begins.
There are surprises & discoveries in the yard of the Environmental Education Center alone. A gracious senior woman brings in a beautifully formed nest to donate & to identify, & with it an elegant story. Groundhogs, who will be sleeping under ground in another month, wander freely. They wear tags on their ears because a scientist at USM studies them. A monarch butterfly surprises me with camouflage on the underside of its wings as it feeds on some little weed on the ground...I make observations in ignorance, knowing that at the Center I can ask & learn about what I'm observing.
I walk one of the trails in late afternoon golden air & find a bench overlooking the the river. Colors so magnificent, even more so because as sunset approaches I know that they will fade...Day #1 at the Audubon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Eiffel Tower

Sketchbook Wandering's rendition of La Tour Eiffel. 
This was the my first glimpse, during my 1st trip,as I turned a corner in the 7th arrondissement

I woke up with the Eiffel Tower on my mind & coincidentally, Virginia (click on Paris Through My Lens) & Genie (click on Paris and Beyond) also posted images of La Tour Eiffel today. Of course, when is it not on my mind? It symbolizes Paris & if you love Paris you probably know Paris Breakfasts who shares such wonderful Paris information & images. Images of the Eiffel are not uncommon:
Paintings by Maurice Utrillo & Raoul Dufy. I was first drawn to these paintings in my youth, when my love for Paris began.

Chez Toi en France is a gorgeous children's book."Paris a sa grande dame, La Tour Eiffel."..The book is bi-lingual in French & English. "Paris has a majestic lady, The Eiffel Tower."

 Delauney was obsessed by La Tour Eiffel, painting at least 30 versions. He appreciated it as a radio tower & symbol for global communication as well as for its beautiful design.
This book is one of a series on Paris arrondissements. The watercolors are by René Oghia & are gorgeous.

A book for children ABC de Paris: Découvrir la capitale est un jeu d'enfant by Raphaëlle Aubert has fun images & information for fans of Paris.

A children's book called Minou, illustrated by Itoko Maeno is a lovely story featuring many Parisian landmarks.

 Nine out of twelve images in the Paris Calendar by Cavallini & Co. feature the Eiffel. When I first went to Paris it seemed like such a cliché, & I almost didn't go to see it. I was thrilled to find that it was far more original, complex , magificent & impressive than I thought!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sketching in Parisian Art Museums

Sketching in museums is way I can make sense of the visual richness that has the potential to otherwise overwhelm me. My body & brain work together with the intense energy that comes from being surrounded by so much magnificent art.

It's a different experience for me than just looking. This woman at Musée d'Orsay spent a long time with Cezanne's Le golfe de Marseille. During one visit to d'Orsay I heard a Mom say to her family: "Hurry up! We still have 3 more floors to see!" An opposite approach from mine, I'm happy if I only see a few works each time. But, when you're far from home, you do want to see as much art as you can...
 At d'Orsay, during my first visit to the Van Gogh paintings, I not only got to see & sketch, but I heard 2 lectures: for elementary & for high school school groups. Having been an art teacher & being a French language student, I was in a state of bliss. An Asian woman tapped me on the shoulder at one point & said: "You~ charming. You~ happy." Taken out of my reverie, & having been witnessed, I burst into tears (of joy) & I thanked her. (I admit, not the first time I have cried happy tears in an art museum.)

 "Magnifique! Magnifique!" said a senior Frenchman looking at Cezanne's Mont Sainte Victoire. J'étais d'accord. The brush strokes took my breath away.

 A mother & daughter spent a long time in front of one of five Monet's Rouen Cathedral paintings. They were very serious. The daughter was reading a pamphlet describing the painting.

The people at museums are their own works of art. Magnifique!

 One time I was in the Louvre sketching Renoir's Portrait de femme assise. A fellow sketcher, a Parisian, sat down next to me. From sketching to conversing, it was a memorable experience. I'm grateful to him to this day for all of the information about Paris & art that he shared. Lately I'm getting messages from different sources: Copy master works in order to see them better & to learn from them. Above you can see how my sketch missed so many subtleties that are in the painting. 

Centre Georges Pompidou & the Musée d'art National Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe is also magnifique. Kandinsky, Matisse Miro! This collection pushes edges more than the other museums do. It has humorous, provocative & disturbing art, along with lovely abstractions. Centre Pompidou, as well as the other Parisian museum buildings & spaces are also masterpieces...There is so much, so much to discover! I would love to live in Paris for the museums alone!