I have a new keyboard, which means that (hopefully) I will be writing more regularly than I have been. Frankly, even short online updates were an annoyance without the shift, delete, enter and apostrophe keys!
This past Saturday was the two-week mark for my time in Paris. It is hard to believe that I’ve already been here longer than most vacations last, but from the beginning this hasn’t felt like a vacation. That isn’t to say I haven’t seen Paris at all, just that I’ve found my own rate of wandering. I started by foot in my own quarter, the Marais.At first I felt the need to justify my slow meanderings, but quickly decided that this year is about finding my own rhythm. To start on foot in my neighbourhood felt right. To find a spot on the seine to read, and to actually do some reading, was essential. To comfortably spend an hour at a café writing in a language not my own, increased my comfort with French. To wander the more authentically Parisien neighbourhoods around Canal St. Martin with a lovely family, asserted my tenuous foothold on this city. I was lucky this past weekend to have overlapping visitors, for whom I saved some of my touristing.
My father and I went to the Orangerie, where I was reassured to find that the seams in Monet’s immense canvases not to distract from the exquisite painting—not to compare my own multi-panel with his work of course, but seams are one of the issues I’m facing in this new way of working.
That evening we chatted over a wonderful meal of rabbit pâté, duck and creamy mashed potatoes, wine, crème brulée and un café (espress).
Another friend came that evening, and the next day the three of us ate bread and cheese on the edge of the seine en route to the Musée d’Orsay. I will never tire of seeing Courbet’s immense canvases. I was struck this time by one painting by Toulouse Lautrec, who I think will become my new artistic obsession. The work that was so engrossing depicted a man sitting on the riverbank with one calf crossed over his other knee. It was the way that the artist used a light paint to “erase” the background behind the subject’s legs, forcing perspective and carving out the fully realized legs in contrast to the otherwise sketched scene. I think you can imagine why that was inspiring to me in my current way of working.
Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast at the Petit Versailles, my local café, a friend and I headed to the real thing. I won’t try to find original words for the extravagance of the place. In the gardens, I was amazed to see a sleeping kitten under topiary, unfazed by the volume of the loudly piped in music or the crowds. Both of these touristy additions were perfectly congruent with the exaggerated qualities of the place as a whole.
On the way home, we stumbled on an epicurean’s dream—a food festival held along the seine’s left bank that featured producers from South West France.
Cheese, foie gras, wine, apple tarts, preserves, chocolate, melon, escargots, cheese and wine, wine and cheese…did I mentioned wine and cheese? This year won’t be entirely about food, but it will certainly play its part!
I have started to draw, though that was put on hold for the weekend. I plan this week to accomplish two things. The first is to establish a structure to my days and weeks that will help me to maintain a working rhythm. Granted, I’m intending this structure to be more like bookends on a shelf. Aesthetic in their own right and adjustable to suit changing contents of the shelves. The second goal is to really get this multi-panel drawing mapped out, to allow me to work more intensely on a few panels at a time.
Wandering all of the item specific stores in the Saint Paul area of the Marais, I have found a few ideas for a show titles. In general they play on the concept of the nostalgia shop, though hopefully my drawings will push the concept a little further by continuing to represent objects that many may not recollect, and specimens that we do not consider to belong to the past.
I’ve made it to Paris safely and am settling into my studio/apartment at the Cite internationale des arts. This is the first of my homes this year. Four months in Paris!
Rather than fighting jet lag with all of my might, I have been allowing myself a slow schedule adjustment. Because I can! I have, without guilt been sleeping late and staying up late, but otherwise have remained fairly on track. I have months to see this city and to work, not only a few days on a vacation. I needed this sleep after weeks of running on adrenaline as I prepared to leave Nova Scotia.
I’m excited to be writing, but unfortunately my computer keyboard is broken and missing some important keys, namely enter, shift, delete. So for now, please bear with the rarity of my blog entries, and their dependence on photographs.
I’ve walked daily, just around the Marais, where I am living. I’ve been up to Sacre Coeur, placing the city at my feet and giving myself some much needed emotional perspective. This is home for the fall. This country is home for the next nine months. This continent is home for the year.
I haven’t done much work yet, except to get all of my studio accoutrements settled into their new digs. I’ve started taking French lessons, which I hope will improve my confidence, and therefore help me speak to learn more.