Saturday, June 30, 2012

Delicious Color Charts

Color charts are often used as a means to an end. A way to get to know paints & how they mix with one another. A way to develop a color vocabulary or a palette for a painting. But they are gorgeous in their own right.  

There was a time when I made impulsive purchases, not knowing that it was the color that I needed rather than the objects. When I realized that, & when acquiring things was no longer a part of my lifestyle, playing with color 
became the way to satisfy my craving.
  One of the first published artist's sketchbooks I ever saw was that of Sara Midda. 
How imaginatively & sweetly she plays with color, as well as creating a beautiful diary.
Midda's color charts.
What got me thinking about all this color was the Quiller Color Wheel that was introduced in my art group. It can be used in a very  technical way. I was never big on science, but for my 7th grade science project I made a huge oil on canvas color wheel. So now (a "few" years later) my challenge is to integrate some "scientific" & organized experimentation with my more spontaneous approach. Hmm...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The French Country Horse

Class assignment: Write a poem in French...Much easier to do than in English because I don't have the knowledge or critical voice that I have in my mother tongue.  It's like being 8 years old, and being delighted that you can express your experience by writing words.
However, I wrote a translation.

The brown farm horse
Body undulating, a slow dance,
Steadily coming toward his destination. Me,
 On the side of the road.
Then he stood still and close,
So I sketched him.
From time to time I spoke to him in French. 
He didn’t mind my accent.
I thanked him for his welcome.
I thought I heard him say,
“Do not hurry, Madame. Look and see what you can see.
My meadow here, the clouds behind the mountains. 
Poppies... olive trees... vines...
And me.”
“I won’t leave you, 
But when you are ready, continue on your path,
Look around you, see what you can see,
But don’t forget me. (And thank you for my portrait.)
Later, Sandrine asked me if I had gone all the way
To the end of the road.
“No, I failed to reach my destination,”  I said in hesitant French.
Wait...No. Without reaching my destination,
 Yes, I had arrived at my destination!
And my horse, from my sketchbook,
Looked up at me.
And winked.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Le Petit Nicolas at L'Hôtel de Ville

A sketch from 2009, when I had the surprise treat of attending the Le Petit Nicolas show at l'Hôtel de Ville. There are many reasons why adults love Le Petit Nicolas. Sempé wrote: “L’univers du Petit Nicolas est un monde idéal. C’est l’enfance que Goscinny et moi aurions voulu avoir.” (The universe of Petit Nicolas is an ideal world. It’s the childhood that Goscinny & I would have wanted to have.)

It was the 1st French novel that I was able to read, about 7 years ago. (not sure how much I've progressed since...) Students of French & native speakers, love Nicolas' informal & enthusiastic language. 

Little Nicolas interprets situations with an innocence that makes adults laugh. The boys are always getting into messes & fighting, but, as Sempé wrote, without real harm. “Ces gosses sont...toujours à se battre mais leurs coups de poing ne font pas mal.” The antics of the adults, as seen by Nicolas, are funny too. "On ne peut pas s'empêcher de rire lorsqu'on écoute le petit Nicolas raconter ses multiples aventures, avec la naîveté et la candeur d’un en enfant qui semble ne pas très bien saisir l’importance de tous ses actes et les réactions qu’ils entraînent auprès des adultes.

On display were original drawings & text pages, as well as Goscinny's & Sempé's tools. Goscinny wrote everything on a typewriter, bought in NYC in the 40's, that he loved as a pianist loves  his or her piano. 
Photo from Wikipedia 
An extra treat for me was listening in on an interview by an American reporter with Goscinny’s son in law, Aymar du Chatenet. He said that French kids learn to read their language with Nicolas. He wasn’t sure why the translated English version didn't become popular in England & America, in the way that other foreign versions have succeeded. Indeed I had found that the English translation lacked the charm of the French, while the Polish one, Milolajek retained it. Translated editions in some 30 languages, were displayed at the show.

 You can buy "un tas de" Petit Nicolas products. I do like the postcards, but none of the spin off objects match the books themselves.

 The film version came out in 2009, but, à mon avis, the best part is the animated title sequence. To see it, click here

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Journals, Memories & Revisiting the Past

Seems like many June weekends ago that Monsieur J and I used to haul 
our mini kayaks on top of the car and head off to the lakes of Maine.
Under this sketch I'd noted sunny clear breezes, health and happiness.
 We'd paddled to the left of a little island, but the wind and the waves had pushed against us, 
so we allowed ourselves to float back and pursue a different direction.  

Some reasons for journaling: The pleasure of practicing attentiveness and observation... 
recording and expanding impressions and reflections...
the preserving of memories.

 I've been looking through old journals, as I contemplate some of my life changes.
As Montaigne wrote (a previous entry), live in the present, 
aided by the past, with dreams for the future. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paris Sculptures The Stravinsky Fountain

I'm glad I hadn't read or heard about the colorful sculptures in the Stravinsky Fountain at Centre Pompidou. They were a total surprise as I turned a corner and POW!  they came into view! They're set in a public space that invites folks to hang out and to enjoy. How they made me laugh!
View from the museum's exterior escalator.
 They move, they spray water, they represent the works of Igor Stravinsky. There are black painted mechanical creations by Jean Tinguely and colorful painted ones by his wife, Niki de Saint Phalle. They were commissioned in 1978 as part of a program to build contempory fountains in 7 public squares in Paris. I'm going to try to not look up the other 6 so that on future trips I might enjoy the surprises they offer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Paris Sculptures, Personnages

St-Etienne-du-Mont interior and Pont Alexandre III

I grew up with military statues: men on horses. Loved the horses, but I didn't relate to the guys and their guns. Sculptures in museums seemed so serious and I always gravitated toward the paintings. In Paris I met sculptures and statues that had such soul... that played instruments and danced and moved, so alive, perched above  the heads of the many visitors. In parks, on bridges, fountains, churches, above doorways, in museums..

In niches of Cathedrals, Notre Dame and St-Etienne-du-Mont...
Outside of a Hall of Paintings in the Louvre. You can see her from an upper level...
In the Jardin du Luxembourg. I think Le Faune Dansant has a lot to be happy about.
  Near Place Colette, at Place André Malraux. Since I first encountered her, she is one I go back to, to say Merci for this experience of Paris. When traveling solo, you don't need to be alone in Paris. These personnages, these characters or figures, they are everywhere! 
In Musée d'Orsay. As people eat in the nearby café, walk, sit and chat, these 2 are each dreaming their dreams. But they seem to know one another. We don't seem to disturb their reveries.
Looking out of a Louvre window. He greets the day, he says Welcome Spring, Welcome Dieu, Welcome Visitors to my home, the Louvre. He says, blessings to you all!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sennelier and Art Materials

My trip journals begin before the trip. One of my pre-trip rituals is to gather materials, to try things out.
In childhood, pencils, crayons and paper were my only dear art materials, Then came my first thrilling visit to a real art shop to buy colors with exotic names such as Cadmium Red and Burnt Umber. I still swoon at the smell of Crayolas (invented in 1903!) and the sight of that gold and green box.
A most exciting art shop: Sennelier in Paris. Reasons: The colors of the displayed materials and the lovely building itself. 
From Sennelier website. To go there, click here.
The history. Started in 1887!
The location on Quay Voltaire in Paris, across from the Louvre. Oh, là!!!

The little events that happen inside.

In April, I was waiting at the counter. A young man was agonizing over about 10 Prismacolors. He talked  to himself as he arranged and re-arranged them. He would put 3 together, then 3 others, over and over. I smiled with empathy. In can be hard to choose in any case, but at Sennelier, the Prismacolors are double the price of US, and that’s not counting the exchange rate. I never learned where he was from, or what language he spoke. I did say to him, “C’est difficile à chosir, n’est-ce pas?”. "It's difficult to choose, no?" He never looked up, he kept on shuffling. Later I drew the scene from memory. Artists and their materials, n'est-ce pas?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Guginol French Puppet Theater

My journal from the Guignol Theater in Lyon

Traditional Guignol puppet shows are presented throughout France. Both Le Théâtre La Maison de Guignol in Lyon, and Le Théâtre des marionnetees du jardin du Luxembourg in Paris are small and colorful, with beautiful sets and lighting. Each theater has its own history. I've had the good fortune to attend both.
Photo from site Les marionnettes du Luxembourg Paris. To go to the site, click here.

  Guignol was created in Lyon in 1808, during hard times, by a street peddler who decided to set up shop as a dentist (tooth extractor) in the public square. In order to entertain clients, he put on puppet plays. They became so successful that he became a professional puppeteer, with plays that contained political commentary and included references to local news. The use of "guignol" in French means "buffoon", but Puppet Guignol is clever and courageous, and with him good triumphs over evil. 
My photo, Lyon

The puppets are fun and funny, the plots suspenseful with twists and turns, the songs and rhymes captivating. Traditional Guignol plays contain some beating over the head with a bat, but that is not my favorite part.  
Children actively participate as they respond to questions the puppets ask them, or shout out warnings to a puppet in danger. In April in Paris I saw the show Les Metamorphoses du Prince Charmant, which was created by Luxembourg theater director Francis-Claude Desarthis. Indeed charmant!
From the site, Les marionnettes du Luxembourg

 Desarthis who personally greeted the audience before and after the show was obviously in love with his metier, or profession, one that he inherited from his father. In his words:

"A l'âge heureux des petits enfants, l'imagination voyage à tire des ailes et tout paraît vrai et facile. Les comédiens de bois aux visage divers sont pour eux la personnification de leurs rêves, leur joie pure, leurs rires frais et naïfs, sont la pluie belle récompense pour moi qui anime des marionnettes, personnages de légende venus du pays des fées."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pond du gard with Provence Panorama

I visited Pont du gard with a little tour group, Provence Panorama, out of Avignon. While I didn’t get to be a solitary flâneur (wanderer), (and therefore had to sketch quickly), I did love the leader and I tremendously enjoyed my group companions! The half day tour also took us to Nîmes and Uzès with our leader's passionate, informative commentary along the way.
I'd seen it from a distance (beautiful), in photos (impressive), but up close, with its scale and symmetry, it made my heart beat fast! It's a Roman aqueduct bridge, built in the 1st century, that is part of a 31 mile aqueduct between Usès and Nîmes!!  It's the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges (157 feet) and the 2nd best preserved in the world. In the Middle Ages it was used as a toll bridge. Today it's a park and museum.
Above: a page from a pamphlet pasted into my journal. So, what is an aqueduct? According to (click here for a great video), Romans created canals and tunnels  through which water traveled for miles to reach cities by means of gravity! Back in the 1st century, the Romans knew how to slant the tubes at just the right angle to make the water flow!
The above ink and watercolor sketch is an 8X10 inch "translation" of one of my small, quick colored pencil sketches. I'm remembering fondly the place, as well as my 5 great companions from France, India and New Zealand. English was spoken with 4 different pronounciations, and French in 3 different accents! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wandering the Saint Sulpice Neighborhood

 One morning I headed west on St-Germain-Des-Prés and then south, (left) on Rue de Seine... I wandered the area bordered by those two streets, Rue de Rennes and Rue de Vaugirard. Rue de Clément has a covered marketplace which attracts more residents than tourists. I had hoped to find a bathroom there (which I did, but that's another story that still makes me laugh). The site of an old market fair in the 12th century, this marketplace had been rebuilt in 1811 in an Italian Renaissance style featuring double columns.  It was reconstructed in the 60's. At the time I didn't know that along with shops and food markets, it houses a theater, swimming pool, a daycare, handicapped studios, and underground parking. The shop part looks like an American Mall (except not very public bathrooms), but the food markets have more the feel of French outdoor food markets. Nearby there are some hotels, boutiques and also a soup kitchen. 
Place St Sulpice. So here was a time, encountering a magnificent fountain, when I regretted my choice of leaving the camera at home. However, sketching from a bench in front of the cathedral was so enjoyable. It might not have happened if I'd been running around snapping photos. (I am a snapper, rather than a photographer, it's true...)
Having fair skin means I am always on the lookout for sunhats that don't look too dorky. Imagine my surprise to find a boutique of some of the largest bonnets I've ever seen!  Eventually the saleslady inside the store caught on to the fact that I was sketching, and gave me a disapproving eye out the window. I understood what she meant, for the evil eye is in Universal Language.  School teachers & librarians have been known to use it.  But if it's done well, there is a twinkle attached. Since I didn't catch a twinkle, I wandered on...