Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Great Mentor and New Tools

In April I attended the Fran Larsen workshop sponsored by the Watercolor Society of Oregon. Fran did not teach techniques, which is perfect for someone like me. I've "seen that, done that"for years. What she gave me were words of wisdom that inspired me to be more exploratory regarding ideas, "Think of 10 different ways to paint that," and more adventurous when beginning a painting "What if?" So coming away from the workshop, I have begun to paint several topics from different points of view or in different ways.

I painted "Lightly Beaten #1" almost 2 years ago. Much of my work is now inspired by women and children's issues. And an article I read in the newspaper sparked this idea.

I was not satisfied with this painting, even though painting the decorative mosque took a lot of time. I later used it as a practice piece for applying gold leaf. (That is probably never going to be my thing.)

But I still liked the idea driving the painting, so I took it along to Fran's workshop, where she inspired me with "What if?"

What if I neutralized most of the painting, leaving the running child in color? What if one of the women seated outside of the mosque was also in color? Would that help tell a story?

I had painted this in a workshop, working fast to make the most use of my time with Fran--meaning letting many "What if's" come my way.

But now in my own studio, I continued to work with this idea. This time going more toward my current goals: simplify more, use patterns, paint flat. So here is the process I used to create the next painting from one idea.

I started out with two neutral, flatly painted colors. I protected the women, archway and child with two new tools.

Oramask stencil film #13 is much easier to work with than contact paper and it can be reused. It is pretty leak proof if you burnish down the edges. (thanks Geoff McCormack)

And a student (Mary Holt) in one of my workshops introduced my to Nichiban tape, another great product for protecting.

I lifted the windows, pillars and the outer arch using plastic protection and a good, clean, well wrung out , natural sponge. 

I made some stamps/stencils to add a different element to the piece, including some language--my apologies to anyone who reads Urdu.

With this I began to add my pattern making. Then added the darks.

Creating the figures in the doorway was a bit challenging--lifting, but not too much. I wanted to give them a mysteriousness. 

Finally it was time to put in the color. 

Simplify more--Check 
Use patterns--Check 
Paint flat--Check

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 8: It Was Too Far to Walk

Modigliani, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mondrian,  Picasso, Pissarro, and van Gogh--all the artists whose paintings I had loved and admired most of my life, the artists whose work I had sought to see in museums for the last few days, had all spent time in the Bohemian area of Montmartre. How could I leave Paris without visiting the place where art studios were inhabited by these great artists?

Unlike every other day of my trip, it was too far to walk to Montmartre, so I found the metro and was on my way.

This area is home of the Moulin Rouge and other night clubs where artists met to drink and share ideas about the twists and turns art was making as it left the romantic realism behind. Impressionism, post-impressionism were about to evolve into cubism and abstract expressionism.

This was the home of clubs and bars where Toulouse-Lautrec sketched and painted "ladies of the night." Where, no doubt, the other male artists frequently visited their favorite ladies as well.

Montmartre is where the Can-Can began and some of the most well-known posters  originated advertising the entertainment establishments.  Who wouldn't be drawn to the "Black Cat" for a late night drink?

Although this hill in Paris has a very long history, I was there to walk in the footprints of more recent history. My friend Toni recommended taking a walking tour which meant meeting a guide near a metro stop, then wandering around uphill and down through Montmartre.

This part of Paris was spared or ignored during the demolition and rebuilding of Paris in the second half of the 1800's. It has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years and is now protected as a historic district, with no development allowed.

There is a small vineyard in Montmartre, where about 135 gallons of wine are produced annually. The vineyard is owned by the city of Paris.

The Musée de Montmartre is housed in the oldest building in Montmartre, built in the 1600's. It was often the meeting place of artists such as Renoir and Bernard who had their studios in the building. It was turned into a museum in 1960.

This odd statue is based on a story about a man who had the capability of walking though walls. This allowed him to begin an affair with a married woman. When they heard her husband come home, the man would simply slip out of the house through a wall until one night his power failed him mid-exit.

The most impressive building of Montmartre is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and that is where the walking tour ended. This Romano-Byzantine style building is fairly new--began in 1875 and finished in 1914. It is a huge and complex structure that can be seen from miles away on it's perch at the base of the butte Montmartre. 

I entered the Basilica and enjoyed one last dose of the art of Paris before climbing down the hill to a metro stop. Then it was back to the hotel to pack up for an early flight. 

I had one last dinner, with wine, of course. As I made my final journal entry at the table, I felt overwhelmed with the thought that this adventure was coming to an end. At the end of the meal, the server took my hand and kissed it. He said in his lovely French accent, "I hope to see you again." The feeling is mutual!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 7: Anna and I Pop In to the Musée d'Orsay

Three years ago, Anna and her sister Rose joined Mike, Angelica (granddaughter) and me in Paris. It was our last stop on our Egypt-France trip of 2015. We all visited the Musée d'Orsay at that time, but Anna and I agreed we did not see as much as we could have, so we set off for another round of impressionist and post-impressionist art and much more.

D'Orsay is such as spectacular building--it was once a railway station built arounc 1900, but as trains grew longer, the short platforms of the building were no longer workable. It had several uses before it became a museum in 1986--a mailing station during WWII, the backdrop for many films, etc.

This post is primarily an opportunity for me to share the art I love the most from that museum, so here goes.

Can I ever get enough of 
Van Gogh?


Like so many artists of this time, the Japanese woodblocks greatly influenced Gauguin.

Gauguin's art found his unique voice when he traveled to and painted the lifestyle of French Polynesia.  

I really love the simplification of the paintings of the following artists:




Wouldn't you guess Klimpt? But this similar style belongs to




These two Monet paintings were new to me:  Turkeys . . .

And a painting of his dead wife.

I find this piece so stunning!


And finally, the one woman artist painting I could find,


It had been a wonderful two days with Anna. We had seen loads of art, laughed at shared memories,  and told stories of events since we last saw each other. We had a fabulous dinner together in a fancy restaurant the night before, but now she had to head back to Lyon to work and her life there. 

I had one more day in Paris. What would I do?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 6: Anna Joins Me

On my arrival in Paris, my friend Anna offered to visit me on the weekend--she lives and works in Lyon. By the time she arrived, I had enjoyed the freedom of traveling alone for five days and was ready for a companion, especially for meals. Anna and I share an interest in art and can outlast most folks in a museum.

Anna with the background of Garden Tuileries
Me with the Louvre behind me

Anna arrived late morning and we chose to go to the Musée de L'Orangerie, home of Monet's eight tremendous murals.

Once again, it was a short walk from the hotel: over a bridge, along the Seine, by the Louvre and through the Tuileries Garden.

There are two large circular rooms which house the murals--four to each room. Monet offered these immense murals to the French government the day after the Armistice of November 11, 1918 as a symbol of peace. They were installed months after his death in 1927, so he never viewed them in their entirety.

These murals are mesmerizing and to be able to walk up and see the brushstrokes is such an education in impressionism.
But Monet is not all this museum has to offer. Walking downstairs, one is facing a huge painting by American artist, Joan Mitchell. 

I found an exhibit of work by Nigerian born artist Otobong Nkanga especially interesting. "Back to the Hole" was one of several fascinating works on display. What does is mean?

Back to the Hole by Nkanga

And then this museum is home to many more artists' work.




I had intended to have one very "French" meal while in Paris. Now that Anna was with me, it was the perfect time for the splurge. After inquiring at the hotel and reading reviews on TripAdvisor, we settled on eating at Le Christine. It was just a stone's throw away from the hotel. We made reservations for two and found ourselves at a small, contemporary restaurant. The menu had the typically (for Paris) priced menu: 35 Euros, 45 Euros or Chef's choice for 50 Euros. Each priced dinner offered several choices of a starter, salad, one (or two) entree, and a dessert. I really was tempted by the Chef's choice because it seemed more adventurous, but we both opted for the 35 Euro meal. As we finished our three delicate puff pastries (choux in French) filled with homemade ice cream, sitting on a bed of chocolate mousse, drizzled with chocolate sauce, Anna swore it was the fanciest food she had ever encountered. We left the restaurant feeling full and more than satisfied that we had enjoyed one of the greatest meals in Paris!