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PaintFox2014toJune (Read 1519 times)
Reply #27 - Sep 1st, 2014 at 2:47am

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ARTNOTES:  Paris as Home
    The plane landed more than a half an hour early at Paris Orly airport on Friday.  It didn’t make much difference, though, as they seem to have unloaded the baggage and Harika as if we had arrived at 10 AM.   A group from Martinique preceded us on the limited international baggage belt at the airport (Orly serves mainly French flights) – many were smelling their suitcases, a phenomenon I will have to further research.
    Landing in Paris as home is very different from landing in Paris as vacation destination.  We find one of the very few taxis which will accept a dog (in 1993, when we first got here, most cab drivers had a dog, sitting in the passenger seat – now dogs are pariah) – a friendly black man who tells us about Paris’ poor weather in August drives us to our door.
    We had a marvelous vacation:  Harika and I stayed on the beach much of the time.  She laid in the sand, and I swam in the lake (like a Newfoundland, she would have rescued me had I needed it).  Doggy Daddy (aka Blair) worked on puzzles on the porch; drove here and there for art shows; visited with his sisters.   We cooked recipes from a new cookbook I ordered.  We ate pork prepared a variety of ways; paella with lobster; lobster on its own; hundreds of clams. 
    People stopped by to visit on the porch, and we went to a party on the lake.  My sister’s family and her inlaws ate with us a lot; my cousin, just back from Afghanistan, told stories; Harika met Fern, a new dog in the family.  We made new friends at an art show in Springfield, Massachusetts; we sold artwork to an old client we hadn’t seen/heard from in ten years.    I spoke English solidly for a month, which is one of my favorite things.  After three days in Connecticut I never wanted to come back to France.
    I painted pictures in the woods above the house while Harika chased chipmunks and foxes.   She never caught anything, and my intention for a show in the woods was too ambitious (rain).   It was fun, nonetheless.
    A woodpecker with a hangover pounded ever so slowly on a rotten tree, day after day.  Many trees around Hemlock lodge are dead, succumbed to a parasite.  The Traubs are planting white pines to replace them – they grow quick enough that we may see shade and a pine-needle forest floor in our lifetime.   We saw fireflies, butterflies, hummingbirds and turtledoves. 
    We went to two baseball games (playoff and final) played by Henry.  Marshall is learning to drive, and Sam had her first legal drink with us at O’Connors Irish pub in Torrington, Connecticut.  We visited the Mount, home of Edith Wharton, with Harika, who was welcome on the grounds and in the house, as Wharton was a dog-lover.  Harika was appropriately adored by all visitors.   We looked at buying a house, but later decided we couldn’t live in two places at once.
    We drank local beers, and imported vodka.  Wine wasn’t as good as it is in France.
Laurie Floating   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  11 x 14"  sold
(I like his water)

 
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Reply #26 - Jul 27th, 2014 at 8:47am

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One afternoon last week, Harika and I hobbled along the burning hot pavement to sit in the Market Area on Boulevard Raspail.  We go around the block, rue d’Assas, a little stretch of Cherche-Midi (Harika runs),  then find our bench beneath the trees at the Raspail market (in business Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings).  It was 90+degrees at 4 in the afternoon.

The armatures and awnings for the market  stands are shared between the markets at Raspail and Edgar Quinet, near Montparnasse.   A flat bed truck, commandeered by four very large black Africans and a Arab driver, ferry the equipment the eight blocks between the two (they have other gigs, as well).    They set the uprights, add the connector bars and finally put the awnings, rolled up, into place.  They must be very strong men, because all the bars are made of steel, very heavy.

This day, they discovered the large upright water spigot for the market:  one man fashioned a tool, and the next thing you knew water burst forth from the aperture where there is usually a faucet.  Wildness ensued:  these men, wearing surprisingly heavy jackets (maybe to protect themselves from the hot metal),  stuck their heads into the stream, creating a spreading effect of the water.  They scrubbed their heads, washed out their mouths; some took off their jackets and doused their shirts.  It was pandemonium and pure joy, culminating in each filling his cap with water, clapping it onto his head, and sadly, shutting off the tap.   Harika and I both went and stood, bare footed, in the remaining water.   

Yes, it’s been city hot here.  We rented a car and drove out to the country one day, to work on a “bid” for twenty workshop painters at Giverny next October.   We stopped along the way, looking for place to launch Monet’s painting boat (that’s heating up, too).  Harika and I dunked into the Seine at Vernon (she up to her chest, me just to my knees – I worry about getting that water inside of me).    It is hard to find “natural” swimming around Paris – there are umpteen pools, but who wants to swim in water fish can’t live in? 

On Friday, we spent the afternoon beneath our favorite tree in the bois de Boulogne, counting the insects and the breezes that passed. 

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER
PS.  sold 31 out of 34 of our paintings at auction on Friday!
 
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Reply #25 - Jul 20th, 2014 at 8:58am

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Artnotes: A Force
On the way to coffee this morning, we saw three people who had obviously spent the night in the sewer.  Two very pretty 20 year-old girls and their male friend, all covered in that calc-sandy colored clay of the underground, walked toward the park.    “That’s what we should have done,” I said to Blair.  Blair and I and Harika spent a short but near-sleepless night in our 90 degree apartment.

I’ve never spent any time in the underground warrens of Paris.  We have a girlfriend, our age, who remembers, as an exchange student, entering the underground near the Luxembourg Gardens and emerging someplace near Notre Dame.  We used to have a charming picture of a man in a beret, poking his head up from a sewer cover – when we lived in the USA it just seemed absurd; but know we know its where the cool rich kids hang.

It’s been super hot here.  Everyone, everwhere, seems to be complaining about their weather.  We bought an air conditioner, intended to vent up our chimney.  It  gives off as much heat as it takes away.  We’re revisiting our HVAC strategy today with a trip to Leroy Merlin, the Home Depot of Paris.

I tried to sit down at the bus stop the other day, and burned my bottom through my thin summer skirt.  It made for great amusement among the others waiting for transport, all too polite to laugh.  I did. 

The gypsy friend we made in Villefranche-sur-Mer  during the holidays  called to ask if we’d like to stay in his house while he vacations in Roumania.  He bought two pictures from us and asked about another, already sold.  He tells us he has birds and a lizard.  We tell him we already have plans to go to Connecticut.

At  Omar’s this week we drink for free because we brought him a 8 kilos of potatoes left over from our trip to Normandy:  the stand would only sell us a 10 kilo sack.  We have a big talk about storms and extreme weather conditions.  We’re all hoping for rain, can you believe it?   He thinks I am crazy when I tell him how much I like thunder and lightning.  Then he reconsiders:  the  “force majeure” is a sign of a supreme being, whatever we perceive it to be, isn’t it?



 
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Reply #24 - Jul 18th, 2014 at 9:26pm

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Sorry I'm late at putting this up, so much has been happening politically. We must fight for our country.
Artnotes: a Laugh in the Night
​   With three days in a row off this week, we hopped in a rental car for a trip to the Normandy woods.   I used to recall driving near the Foret de Brotonne, and gazing into a deep dark forest.   It was not quite as good as I remembered, but we did manage to paint a couple of tree pictures while we were there. 
   We slept overnight in a chaumiere:  a thatch-roofed cottage.  It was on a property with sheep (Harika seemed shocked at their size -- maybe she’s not a Pyrenees sheep dog after all) and chickens, apple trees and towering poplars.  The house was a solid structure, neat as a pin, everything in working order – and no sirens, car accidents or singing drunks all night long.  But it wasn’t as romantic as our own home.
   At first I was thrilled, but then I felt uneasy with the silence of the place.  I have always disliked living in a single-family house, and miss the comforting noise of a neighbors step in the hall, a door closing, a laugh in the night.   
   The days have blended together recently.  I can’t slow down enough to think, to pick out the details of life. I seem in a mad dash toward making a living, and in doing so am barely aware of what’s going on around me.    I might try mind-mapping events – I do that sometimes, and a friend recently  sent his own mind-map memory of his visit with us.
   I painted this week with a student who just couldn’t  ‘let go of the string’. She is a good painter, but so aware of what’s she’s doing she couldn’t soar into the magic realm.  It hearkens to my own insomnia, and the inability to break the thinking process.
   The Andre Malraux museum at nearby  le Havre was featuring a deStael show.  The museum itself is fabulous – flooded with natural light, right on the water.  DeStael was wonderful as ever – he provides that step between life and abstraction in color and form.  It was such an ideal show, we sat outside afterward trying to see the same way as him.
   ​We drove to St Valery en Caux, where stormy waves broke over the jetties:  we walked in pouring rain.  We visited Etratat, with its stony beach and white cliffs.  But I felt most happy when we left the woods and went to Trouville. Harika and I ran on the sandy beach.  I really love the ocean.

Don: Good luck with your auction in OH.


 
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Reply #23 - Jul 6th, 2014 at 7:13am

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We’ve worked the last two weeks with nary a day to ourselves.  To be free today is such a luxury – don’t tell anyone    Mundane chores have never seemed  so pleasant.   I’ve actually TIME to write artnotes today. 

​I am getting better at appreciating the free time we have.  On Thursday afternoon we drove our rental car (from a previous night at Giverny), out to the bois de Boulogne, where I saw one of the best trees of my life.  We didn’t go out to paint, but to sit beneath that tree.

We’re were on TV in Chicago this week, thanks to Debi Lilly and “off the registry-wedding-gift-ideas”.  Our paintings were prominently displayed, and our names mentioned, in the proper French pronunciation.  Who knows, maybe we will be famous someday.   http://wgntv.com/2014/06/26/off-the-registry-wedding-gift-ideas/

The tree in the bois de Boulogne is located near the Bagatelle and a little stand where we ate French fries and drank little bottles of cold rose wine.  The tree is more than five hugs around – that is, if we put our arms around it,  it would take five of us to enclose the trunk.  At about twelve feet the trunk splits into five huge branches, which eventually branch  again and dip clear down to about four feet above the ground, providing comfortable seats for kids

Blair is writing an introduction for our art Auction, taking place on JULY 25TH 2014 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM at The MADISON VINEYARD   9640 W BROAD ST, WEST JEFFERSON, OH 43162.    If  our own auction purchases were  to inspire others, we will have great success. I am thrilled about this whole thing, orchestrated by Blair and one of our painting workshop participants, Grant Zerkle, of Geoff Smith Auctioneers.

The tree looks out to other big trees and a large field.  Dark skinned men in working clothes sleep in the shade; five girls taking selfies sit giggling on a big green blanket in the sun.  Couples slather sun-tan lotion on one another, smoke cigarettes, and gesticulate wildly with their hands, discussing modern music.  People undress; a flabby Englishman exercises his white legs, like a windmill, in the sun.    I hear the wind in the trees, distant peacocks calling, a dog in a car (in the shade).  There are hundreds (Blair says a thousand) different bugs.

Our second renter has been unfortunately called back home for the month of August, so our bohemian apartment with a big Paris view is again available.  We would entertain any reasonable request to occupy the place, water the plants and leave a small donation in the kitty.  Let us know soon, if you are interested.

Harika rolls in the grass, overcome with the joy of being outside in nature.  I look at my white clothes and think of grass stains.
Blair and Laurie Pessemier

House by Bagatelle   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  9.5 x 13"  24 x 33 cm  195.00
 
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Reply #22 - Jun 30th, 2014 at 2:38am

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Good Times
“Keep left then bear right”, our GPS ordered as we negotiated a winding country road.  We took a wrong turn, the machine froze.  Behind the technology wave, we still use our portable GPS plugged into the cigarette lighter of the rental car. The GPS works, at least most of the time. 

This week’s workshops took us to a remote chateau, an hour north of Paris.  A family, 18, wanted to paint –we ended up with 8 serious painters.    They were the COOLest of clients – a super fabulous chateau, artists between the ages of 6 and 60, painting on the terrace, and lunch.  Our client was a journalist, and we talked about right and wrong, and what mattered.  Wonderful stuff.

We had a painter this week from Detroit, two from Canada, two from Texas, a five-day workshop with someone from South Carolina, and today, Sunday, a really great young painter from Philadelphia.  We are exhausted, but I feel we are hitting our stride.    I am really enjoying painting with such a variety of people – our own paintings are here and there – I try to find new ways to look at the same scene.

The last two days have been cold and rainy – we’re painting under the bridge, near the Seine; in the pavilion at the Luxembourg Gardens.   Our young painter painted me as a second subject:  hat and raincoat.

Our five day workshop is on the modified American plan (does anyone remember going on vacation that way?  Here in France we call it demi-pension:  one meal a day at our house).   June and July are the months we have all of our guests, it seems.  We are drinking champagne and eating  hors d'oeuvres, letting the good times roll.

 
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Reply #21 - Jun 29th, 2014 at 6:50am

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Art Notes: It's the Top
At 10:30 on Friday night, there was still a little daylight on top of the Eiffel Tower.  We looked out on people picnicking on the grass of the Champs de Mars, and local fireworks display signaling  France’s victory over Switzerland in the world cup.  The streets were empty, with everyone at home, cheering on the home team. 

Blair and I had never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower before, and it was quite spectacular.  We were minding two girls, 10 and 13, daughters of an old Seattle friend.   The oldest girl urged us to go, and even paid our two adult fares.     It was a short line on the ground this day, and a brief wait at level two, which was as high as we’d gone before, on account of fog.  It is a quite good amusement, and for the first time, I can understand why people want to stand in line so long.  Nobody can accuse us of not enjoying our local attractions.

Today, the five of us went for a walk in the Parc Bagatelle, to smell the roses.   We saw five peacocks, screaming their mating call (as shrill as Harika’s bark).   

We’ve had at least ten sunny days here in Paris, and have painted in all the usual places.   Giverny was exceptionally beautiful in the rays of the setting sun.

Don: Hi Laurie, I was only there for two weeks, twice, in '63, and I went to the top of the Eiffel in the daytime.. and shot photos of which I lost most of them. Anyway, where are the pictures of the 11 and 13. I want to see them.
I remember the limestone wine caves were visible to me from the top but you had to look in the other direction.
   About the picture, In the Shadows by the Seine. I can use it for sure. It's the darks that show up as mixed color that I want to pass around.
   Don't forget to send me their photos.. I hope she puts your picture (and theirs) on YouTube.

First two paintings by Day, 13 years old; next painting by Mira, 10; my painting and Blair's painting (he hated his and painted over)

Friday was a painting day for us, the two girls, and one other painter.  I was so happy we all meshed, the youngest taking video footage for her movie, “my trip to Paris”.  “Excuse me, “ she says, “but just how old ARE you?”  We ate lunch at the local creperie where she showed us dance moves.

On Saturday night, their dad returned, liberating them from  the narrow bed and the two chairs strung together for sleeping.   I don’t know how they did it.

Children help to measure the time gone by.  I learned lyrics to new songs, which I won’t repeat in mixed company, but they sang them in the Eiffel Tower line.  They deemed us dinosaurs as we tried to take a selfie (we’d never made one before), pointing the camera-phone the wrong way (I like being a dinosaur – it takes off the pressure to be up to date).

 
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Reply #20 - Jun 15th, 2014 at 9:15am

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Artnotes: Eggs-actly

Over 300 people visited our show in Yerres last weekend.  One  of us painted outside the 18th century gatekeeper’s cottage:  the “hook” to draw people in.   We put our big yellow ART flag in the limbs of the little leaf linden out front and made a sign.  Browsers walked down the wood and stone path to the yard where we had about thirty works on display.

Beneath centuries-old trees on the banks of the river, we visited with people from all over France.  Harika lounged in the grass and we all hoped for a breeze, which obliged every so often.  I painted a picture of the house.  Sales weren’t robust, but we had a terrific time.   We drove back to Paris on Tuesday, relaxed and sated with country life.   Harika had to be dragged back into our apartment.

It has been pretty warm in Paris, and we bought an airconditioner, which will hopefully work once successfully installed.  Because we have “French” windows, we can’t really vent it there, so we have stuffed the exhaust hose up the chimney of the fireplace.   Now we need to “block”’  the bottom to prevent the heat from re-entering the room.  Nothing is ever simple here.

We had just one workshop painter this week, our last easy week of the summer.  We painted in the Luxembourg gardens, where we were plagued with chatty Americans wanting to visit.  Clearly not artists, they simply couldn’t understand that painting requires concentration – and that the joy of the experience lies in how far away one can be transported on the brush.  I must hone my technique for gently chasing people away.

Last night, over a cold dinner (my southwest facing kitchen is brutally hot, so I cook early in the day)  we visit with American and French friends.    On the way to painting this morning (just us), I tell Blair how glad I am that so much of my life was spent without a cell phone.  I love visiting around the dinner table.  I know how to say hello on the street, and read people’s expressions and body language.  I can’t always write a note or a letter that says how I really feel.   

While painting on the grass before Napoleon’s tomb, I visit with two Germans.  There are broken eggs all over the area.   He bemoans, “these kids” who are just wild.  But I tell him it’s only eggs.

Don: I added the bottom picture because it reminded me of Lauri's work in another medium.
 
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Reply #19 - Jun 8th, 2014 at 2:22am

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Artnotes:  A Sunday in the Country

People have been asking us about our “house in the country” – a month or two ago, we were desperately seeking a refuge away from Paris.   We have had a WONDERFUL time looking for our house in the country, painting as we went along.  So when the proprietor of the little caretakers cottage in Yerres asked us WHEN we were going to rent, we jumped in with both feet and said:  how about next weekend?  We’ll have a party.

SO, we are showing our paintings for four days in Yerres, along the river, across from the Caillebotte estate, where Caillebotte’s painting are likewise on exhibit.  His are not for sale.

On Sunday next, the 8 June, we’ll serve Prosecco and biscotti, and mill around like Sunday people in the country.   What could be better? (it’s our 34th wedding anniversary, as well)

The best we can do is an electronic invitation and a hope for many new people to stop by.  Meanwhile Harika can enjoy the great outdoors and I’ll breathe fresh air.

Meanwhile, we’ve been ever so Parisien.  We painted this week along the Seine, with a delightful aunt and niece, both talented – we all painted two pictures.   I painted out our window on a grey day – we seem to have a lot of those lately.

I went to the Monumenta show in the Grand Palais this week – that is ultra-city.   A little lost city is constructed within the huge universe of the Grand Palais by marvelously quirky “(former) Soviet” artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.   

Although my initial reaction was “darn, I am going to have to THINK about this”, pretty soon the impact of the show hit me, and led me around, as if in a dream. (if you are not led around by yourself, there are young, good looking guides who are eager to explain it all to you.) It was like magic:   a lost, ancient city; cosmic communication, angels, and portals…  I came away thinking about life in a different way – the typical straight-line-ruler was gone, and I was thinking about time, vestiges left by things past and how we perceive them.  I felt calm and happy for hours afterward.

And I was more open to suggestion – when you wrote, when is your next show, and did you find that place in the country, and the cottage on the Yerres became once again available, I followed my dream.

Join us next weekend --  to get to Yerres, you can take the RER D train from Paris Gare de Lyon – just 27 minutes!  Follow the Caillebotte markers in the sidewalk, to the Caillebotte show and our show across the street.



City View Gray Day  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 20.5" 100 x 52 cm  500.00
 
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Reply #18 - May 25th, 2014 at 8:27pm

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Don) Today's paintings are about color, that's why I use Laurie's work, she paints with primary colors, mixes what she wants and is a good cook. Blair joined her a couple of years back, his work is more contemporary and fast enough now to join Laurie. He used to paint like me, very detailed. Neither of them use black pigment so I post both of them.

Art Notes: False Start
On the banks of the Seine, I set to drawing Henry IV on his horse.  Not only are horses difficult for me, but this horse seems to have a funny hoof.  No matter, it looks like I am drawing two men in a horse suit, with a too long gumby leg up front.  Henry seems to have a hunchback.  I move on to another subject. 

It’s been a week of false starts – we needed a car to go to Auvers-sur-Oise with a painter on Wednesday, so I rented a compact for a week (1 day 42 euros; 1 week 91).
Don) I'm glad Laurie now has students, she can rent cars, back when - she had to paint where she could walk or bus to.

It rained all morning in Auvers-sur-Oise.  Harika, who LOVES the country, chose the car after the “Vincent walked here” dousing along the path between fields and church.   Too wet to paint, Blair and our colleague visited Vincent’s room in the Hotel Ravoux.  I dried my wet pants and socks in the car.  Still too rainy to paint, we took our fellow artist to lunch.  Our hostess, bedecked in rat fur capelet tied with black grosgrain ribbon, welcomed us.  A sort of Edith Piaf gone to seed, she has been operating the restaurant for fifty-five years.  She has an assistant, another vintage woman, in the kitchen.  The place is lined in peeling imitation-van-gogh murals executed by one of her contemporaries in an early year.  They are now covered with newer paintings, on canvas, but still with a Vincent theme.  I ask about the bringing in Harika:  “I’ll beat her if she doesn’t behave,” she tells me, poker faced, and winks.   We have a big assorted appetizer plate, one quail, two rabbit legs, and a giant mound of au gratin potatoes, an aperitif, wine, apple tart and coffee:    48 for the three of us, and we’re on our way.  Eventually, the rain lets up and we paint Van Gogh’s city hall.
Don) I guess Van Gogh is my all time favorite artist, we lead similar lives, painting is number one and always on location. Laurie is like that too, she pushes her color with "color impressionism". She can make any color and chooses to make color brighter and more pure. She can't draw as well as Blair, Gogh or I, but we would not use a red tree when there is only a hint of red in the natural lettings.

Next day, we intended to go to Nimes, by car.  I searched the internet for just the right place to stay, to no avail.  We went anyway.   Two hours out of town, we changed our mind.  We stopped to visit the town of Auxerre, to walk Harika and stretch our own legs, before turning back.

Auxerre was a place I never thought of visiting.  It has a strong waterfront presence on the river Yonne.  A gallo-roman city, again it thrived again in medieval times.  We visited the church with a beautiful Joan of Arc window, and the ancient abbey.  Joan of Arc freed Auxerre from English rule in 1429.  Auxerre is in the region of Burgundy, and is famous for chablis (a much nicer wine than what we think of as chablis in the USA).
Don) When I think of Joan of Arc I think of Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix and his painting and what he said in his journal, Gray is the enemy of painting. He meant don't use black pigment.

On Friday, we visited an exhibit at the Beaux-Arts museum in Rouen.  The theme was gothic cathedrals:  gothic seems to have a revival every so many years, so we saw works ranging from original bits of the churches, to “cathedral” themed decoration from the 1800s, to the pictures Monet painted of the cathedral in Rouen at different times of the day.  Marquet painted images of Notre Dame in Paris in the 1910s; Lyonel Feninger in the 20s.    Saturday was the fete of Joan of Arc, who was burned in Rouen in 1431.   Posters and announcements hung everywhere.
Don) That's what I love about Laurie, she knows her stuff and tells us about it. Too bad we don't burn politicians today.
   We drove on, to the country, in hopes of seeing flax (linen) in bloom.  It has a delicate blue flower.  We were two weeks too early.
Don) This week we have jacarandas blooming, I know what it's like being dependent on nature for timing.
I didn't know flax had blue flowers. http://www.realcolorwheel.com/jacaranda2014kulaglen5-5-14.htm 

Painting by the Seine on Saturday was a mix of cool and damp, with a little sun.  The rain held off until noon, allowing us time to paint a picture of the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris.
Don) When I was on the road painting I didn't hesitate if it was raining. I had a sun/rain shield on my van, an overhead tarp I could erect in the woods and sun/rain umbrella for everyday location work. Rain and clouds are artists friends, but you have to stay prepared.
 
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Reply #17 - May 19th, 2014 at 6:33am

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​On Wednesday,  we met a man from Afghanistan at our morning café (really it’s Harika’s café, Pierre and Andre’s place, where they love her and give her sausages).  The Afghani is working in the neighbhorhood as a menusier, or specialty woodworker.  Blair saw the opportunity to get to know him better and offer a little work.  We have two drawers which never were properly fitted (actually, the backs were broken off to accommodate a pipe) and finished in our kitchen cabinet:  lickety-split he was over.   

He showed us pictures of Afghanistan.  Would I paint him a picture of the mountain which just had the landslide?  Of course. “ I will send you many pictures of Afghanistan, so you know – the real country, not the country you see on the news.”  He means the infernal war, the Taliban, the awfulness of it all.

We visit a little – we ask him about boats.  Boats?  Afghanistan doesn’t even have a seacoast.  I see a picture of his brother – “he was little when I left, now he is big and he shaves.  It makes me so sad when I look at this picture.  I have never known him.”  But the key in the picture is the river.  “See, we have a river, and there are boats.  This river comes from the mountain and brings water to Kabul.”  I hope Coca-cola never figures that out.  “People protect the river,” he continues “we all need it.”  The reason the mountain slid and killed 2000 people is because the people moved so close to the mountain to have water.

I am so sorry I can’t go see Afghanistan myself; Kabul looks intriguing.  Actually, Damascus in Syria was the place I most wanted to live after Tunisia.  Damascus is the oldest continuously occupied city on earth. Neither place is open to visitors now. 

Blair and I have lived in a charmed age where travel was cheap and easy and people loved Americans.  Blair went to school in Rome, visited Istanbul on his own.   Those days are gone; to insure our continued stay-put-ness, we have Harika.  “You’re going where? NO WAY” her eyes bespeak her thoughts.  We have probably lasted longer because of her silent protests.

So we humor ourselves in Paris meeting people from all over -- living in the big city has its advantages. We were thinking of going to Nimes on Sunday.  Blair found a grand house we could rent and put up people for art lessons.  Eventually we’ll turn it into a  retirement home for our more interesting friends.  We’ll hire good-looking help.  The politically incorrect police could be all over me: a real French chef, handsome.

Oddly enough, our student on Thursday has had a similar idea:  to open a home for orphaned old folks.  Each one will have an orphan dog.  Harika isn’t as keen on that, but I am happy to hear other people are thinking the same way as me.  I read  people who are 100 are happier than many younger people.  And they ate whatever seemed good to them.  Hooray.
 
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Reply #16 - May 7th, 2014 at 10:52pm

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Artnotes: Week Unique
We spent all this week painting: in our usual workshop haunts, but with the fresh eyes of a new season.   The great thing about painting is, even in the same place, light and angles and scenes all look new.

We painted ponies and boules players in the Luxembourg Gardens.  We stood beneath the Pont des Arts with the added insurance of umbrellas, hung upside down on the bridge rafters, as we painted the river.  We sat BEHIND Notre Dame, where tourists rarely go, and painted the ever so complex cathedral – what were we thinking?  A man from Norway, a teacher, spoke to me about his “kids” who wanted to know why paintings cost so much.  I explained a painting was a unique item, which was the work of a single person, in touch with the subject, which could never be replicated.  It is a single moment in the universe.  His wife dragged him away.

Giverny was remarkably sunny – and there we ran into a friend who didn’t have a reservation for after-hours, but we had an extra slot.  So, photographer Meredith Mullins took this great picture of Blair’s painting.

Auvers-sur-Oise was a bit rainy, so we just walked around/drove around, imagining Vincent Van Gogh.   At Dr Gachet’s house, we looked at letters in Vincent’s very own hand.

When Friday rolled around, we brought one guest to the airport, and with the other, drove twenty further minutes to the chateau of Chantilly. Chantilly belonged to the Conde family for much of its history (the history goes up and down, with the chateau being destroyed/rebuilt/destroyed/rebuilt).   At one time, it had an art collection which was only second to the Louvre.  Now, it has some very choice pieces including work by Raphael and Ingres – but I find the collection of portrait miniatures and the library (which now houses (sadly just a facsimile of) the Duc de Berry’s “tres riches heures”) to be most interesting.  Chantilly’s gardens were designed by le Notre, and there is an actual water-filled moat.  Chantilly, however, is most noted for its stables. 

The seventh prince of Conde built royal stables, which, at one time housed 280 horses and 150 dogs.  This time, we saw about a dozen horses and a Jack Russell terrier – but the stables, and the ring (with a 28 meter high dome, hosting daily shows of dressage at 11 AM) remain.  There is also a racecourse.  The prince was convinced he (and his friends) would be reincarnated as horses, so he wanted to be sure they had decent digs:  they are.

After we dropped our painter off at the airport, Blair and I returned to paint le Notre’s gardens, under a rainy/sunny sky.

Don: When I was younger I could never remember the words of a song, so I remembered the popular song of the day. "Chantilly lace with a pretty face and a pony tail hanging down, with a wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk, made the world go round and round." I still only know the words to one song, Chantilly Lace. I wonder if there is a connection?
 
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Reply #15 - Apr 27th, 2014 at 4:36am

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Artnotes: Once upon a Time
A couple of weeks ago, riding on the 63 bus, I noticed a train engine outside the Arab Institute.  Even though we were close to the Gare Austerlitz, an errant engine, both in space and time, just wasn’t possible.   But there it was, parked in the courtyard of the Arab Institute, for the exposition:  Once Upon a Time on the Orient Express.

The engine, built in France in 1922, is the classic engine one associates with this romantic train.  The real romance is in the cars:  we toured THE ACTUAL CARS, imagining our trip from Paris to Venice to Istanbul, in the first half of the 20th century.   One can picture the fictitious Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, all aboard:  and if that isn’t enough, their clothes, their books, cards, etc. are all artfully lying about.  The cars were designed by Lalique, in a true deco style.  A cabin set up with cards and a (near) smoking hubble-bubble was full of Arabic talk;  a newspaper on a table in the salon announces the start of the war; Graham Greene’s typewriter sits before his chair; Josephine Baker’s gloves and cigarette holder announce her seat.   The French president, in his pajamas, fell out of the train window one night.  Real or imaginary, the characters surrounding the Orient Express and the train itself, thrilled my imagination.

Thus inspired we hired a Hertz car and made our voyage to the valley of le Loir this week.  In fact, we did so to escape the fumes from the polyurethane being applied to the wood stairs and floors in our building.  The renovation of public areas in our little building is still underway, since 15 January.   We joke about how Pessemier’s Commercial Interior Design used to “roll out” an Eddie Bauer store (significantly larger), from design to building to opening in a mere six weeks.  Ah, France, what has happened here?

We made our escape to the village of Troo, next door to Montoire-sur-le-Loir (inside a triangle with points Orleans/Vendome/Tours).   I felt like I was in 1930s France, with men in berets and hunting jackets with a loaf of bread under their arm.  This was a most curious place, with homes in caves (troglodyte).   We rented a small house (40 euros a night) which was part of a large, Renaissance chateau, overlooking fields of wheat, rapeseed and grapes.  Grapes grew beside our little house, with its black and white tile floors and 13 foot ceilings.    There were many buildings, some quite lovely, for rent or sale in the Loir et Cher region.   Farm equipment slowed down traffic, sparse at best.  We managed to paint nine paintings, some quite large, in just three days, which will give you an idea of the magnificent views.

Harika ran and rolled in grass, ran away from big farm cats, and chased rabbits.  It was with regret we drove back to Paris to find, yes, the work on the building is still going on.

PS:  Not everyone in Paris, however, works slowly.  On Friday last we had an appointment with a lawyer. “I’ll meet you exactly at 12:15” he said. Generally, if we are on time, people make fun of us, where a minimum 15 minute delay gives the “je ne sais quoi”.   He confirmed 30 minutes before. A young man of great ambition, with Jewish and Tunisian roots, worked over the holiday weekend, collecting our information, and on Monday (another holiday here) he delivered our new BUSINESS LICENSE.  Hallelujah!

 
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Reply #14 - Apr 24th, 2014 at 8:04am

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On Monday, I found four packages of hair dye on top of the trash container near the pharmacy – two were my shade!  I took all four – maybe I’ll feel like a change some day.  We colored my hair at once, I cut it myself, and voila, a new me for free.

We took our first trip of the season to Giverny.  Monet’s gardens were incredibly beautiful, so early in the season.  Every shade of tulip was in bloom, from deep butterscotch to red so bright it hurt your eyes.   We didn’t paint tulips, but rather the choice of our workshop painters:  the bridge, festooned with wisteria, just starting to bloom.

The show at the Impressionist museum at Giverny was truly fabulous:  John Singer Sargent at his best, Whistler, Twachtman, William Merritt Chase…  Blair’s favorite was a work by Sargent of Monet painting, and Monet’s painting hanging beside it.   I was so glad our group wanted to go an hour early to be sure to see everything.

It also reminded me that Giverny was not just the home of Claude Monet, but “a  lively colony of mostly American artists who travelled to France  at the end of the 19th century to take in the newest developments in art, especially impressionism.”

I envisioned a relaxing next day, painting on our own, but painting the river is a bigger challenge than I  imagined.  We took the 20 minute train ride from Paris to the Caillebotte estate and park in Yerres.   From our arrival at Gare de Lyon to our arrival at the park itself was more like an hour, but it was a great trip.  We are now offering that excursion as part of our painting workshops (http://bit.ly/1i40udL).

Harka, Blair and I lounged by the river and painted a couple of canvasses.  Young families and old people filled the park, and it was hard to believe it was a weekday in April.  We boarded the train back to Paris at five o’clock, tired from playing outdoors all day.

 
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Reply #13 - Apr 15th, 2014 at 4:09am

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After a successful five-painter escapade by the Seine on Tuesday, we took a rental car to go to Amiens.  Our friend Richard (http://eyepreferparis.com/) is always game for an adventure, and I wanted to go back to Amiens to see the Hortillonnages – floating islands in the Somme.  I had no idea what to expect.

First we visited Jules Verne’s house (doesn’t that seem just right before going on the adventure of the floating islands?), which was interesting.  It was like stepping back in time (uh-oh) to the 1880s, where someone with a most vivid imagination lived.   It was Jules Verne who was responsible for the wonderful “cirque” (circus) building in Amiens; Verne was a major civic (and financial) force in Amiens.  While the architecture of Amiens is dominated by the cathedral (very impressive, wonderful Gothic, rivaling (perhaps surpassing) Chartres) there are marvelous little brick houses of the 19th century that line the canals and streets.  We ate in such a building, and knew we were near the islands when we saw scullers row by.

We followed them to scores of small islands attached to the main path and each other with small gated (all different) bridges.  These are mostly city-sized lots, growing flowers and vegetables – people dining outdoors waved as we passed.  The whole thing began 2000 years ago when the Romans harvested peat from the area.  Islands formed and turned out to be terrifically fertile gardens. 

Lush living green foliage has been my penchant of late.  Blair and I are still looking for that house at the edge of the river where Harika and I can breathe.  We found a terrific one in Yerres, home of Caillebotte, the impressionist painter.  On Thursday we went to a major show of his work, on his family estate.  Yerres was great – thick moist air, almost no dust, amazing in a place just twenty minutes from Paris.  We played along the river that day and the next, when we looked at our dream cottage (the owner doesn’t want a regular renter, at least during the summer when he hopes to get 100Euros a night).  I long for this cool, mossy life.

I told the owner of the house I wanted to live there so I could breathe.  He pulled an inhaler out of his pocket; out of my bag, I pulled a painting of the river by his house.   



 
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Reply #12 - Apr 5th, 2014 at 7:51pm

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This week we visited “unseen” France.  We started out in Bennencourt, a small village across the Seine from the Normandy highway, not far from Giverny.   Here, Harika and I poked about near the river, while Blair chatted up “Jacques” about places to launch a boat and rent a small studio.   Jacques had lived all his life between Paris and Rouen.  He was most discouraging about the boat.  “Before the war, and during the war, everyone had a boat, but then no one wanted them anymore.  They are “out of fashion”, and besides that, there are the authorities”, he moaned.  This sort of discouragement is endemic here, which makes the eventual achievement of the goal even more satisfying.

He sent us on to Roche-Guyon, 5 kilometers down the road.   Here we ate a terrific lunch at the Les Bords de Seine, and painted pictures by the river.  Harika rolled on newly-mown grass and drank water from the river (yes, she’s still alive).  Roche-Guyon is known for its 12th century chateau, which incorporates the rocky hillside into its structure.  The castle is quite impressive, not clearly beautiful.  Field-marshal Rommel used it as his headquarters in the fight against the Allies in Normandy.  There is a magnificent organic orchard across the street, open to the town citizens (550).  Roche-Guyon was an interesting place to visit, but came up null on the rental house or boat launch fronts.  I might eat there again.

We visited Vertheuil, where Monet once lived; we painted at Les Andelys, an island in the Seine.  On April 1, we turned south to Barbizon and the Loing river, but the joke was on us:  we weren’t as happy there, and the one house we inquired about did not respond to our messages.

Harika got gobs of exercise, and we breathed clean air.  Our best bet for a studio at Etretat, where we could rent an entire house for less than 500 euros a month.  Unfortunately, it was further than we wanted to go:  2-1/2 hours by train; the 120 euros round trip train fare really squelched it.

We had a wonderful adventure looking around for our house/studio in the country. To get the ball rolling often results in a solution down the road.  Meanwhile, we can get an air filter for our city apartment as we await the keys to our castle. 

Don) Blair did a fine job with his "ariel perspective"
Don) I wonder hoe much 500 euros a month is?
 
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Reply #11 - Mar 30th, 2014 at 9:21pm

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Artnotes:  Springtime in Paris
"Aren't you cold?" one of my student asked another.  "Yes," he replied, "isn't it great?  I never feel like this."

Again this week, I had students from Southern California, experiencing the Paris springtime.  I have thoroughly enjoyed painting with them, many of whom are seeing chestnut leaves burst forth for the first time.  One girl this week wanted to paint the white daffodils popping up wildly beneath the trees.  Can do!

She was an inspiring student.  She sat down with her easel and paints and just started painting.  No drawing, no real layout.  "I can give you guidance if you need it," I told her.  She didn't need it. 

The light changed, we felt a few sprinkles, but kept on painting.  Her mom went to a cafe and had a hot chocolate.  Two hours later, our painter reviewed her finished work.  Good job:  it was the first landscape she ever painted.

Blair and I have experienced twenty springtimes in Paris.   This year has been the best for cherry trees, I believe.  My own azalea tree on the balcony is so heavy with blooms I am afraid it will break.   

It is hard for me to keep on painting in the same place, though.  If it weren't for the workshop painters bringing new ideas to light I am not sure I could continue painting here.  I am grateful for them.

This week, we're driving two hours in any direction (the hertz rental car is a mere 12.89 Euros ($17.75) a day.  We're looking for an inexpensive studio -- walking distance from the train station (cars aren't always this cheap), near a river, in a touristy area, where we can paint, sell paintings, sleep in the back and cook on a hot plate (and Harika can breathe fresh air).  Our budget is the price of the sale of 2 small paintings a month (500euros).  We'll keep you posted.

 
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Reply #10 - Mar 24th, 2014 at 10:22pm

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The best way to write is just to start writing.  It’s that way for lots of stuff, I think.  Yesterday we painted with four students and their teacher in the Luxembourg Gardens.  It took effort to pick the scene and get started.  First attempts weren’t perfect, but as we pressed on, we produced some wonderful paintings.

On Wednesday morning, we drove home from our wonderful two day sojourn at the Baie de la Somme.   While we were there, I saw so many birds – following fish from the sea to the river.   The Bay of the Somme is famous for migrating birds and huge sections of the land are set aside for preservation.  It wasn’t unusual to see hundreds of birds in the sky.  Our room in Saint Valery sur Somme looked out on the river, where the tide was significant each day.  Birds would ride the incoming or outgoing current, rushing along.  Others scooped out fish, whenever the occasion arose.

This put me in the mind of river fish, fresh water fish, something I rarely see in the market.  So for our guests on Friday night, I selected two “Fera”, deep water lake fish found only in the lakes on the French/Swiss border.  We had scallops as a starter (in a blue cheese and whiskey (for want of bourbon) sauce), followed by this white fish which I poached in a white wine and served with roasted potatoes and leeks.  My cousin’s daughter and her friend came over – both young and brave with ideas about many things.  Good eaters.  She (my second cousin) is such a confident person, I sometimes feel she is more grown up that me.   It was lots of fun.
 
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Reply #9 - Mar 19th, 2014 at 8:34pm

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Something strange happened to one of my browsers, Safari, It stopped giving me a scrollbar on this page. Firefox works. This week Laurie and Blair painted with what looks like 3 primary painting colors. Don

Artnotes:  A week in the gallery (makes artnotes late)

Open your doors on a busy street and you’re bound to have lots of interaction.  I have had one woman come back three times to the gallery:  she looks at my work to help her improve her own.  How DID you make that boat?  I give her my best brush in hand gesture.

Blair has spent the most time at the shop.  He likes it better than I do, and is a better French speaker.  I have also been having a problem with asthma because Paris has had such terrible smog.    The smog is so bad that they have made all public transportation free in the city, to discourage burning gas.

The doctor recommended we leave Paris because my blood pressure high on account of struggling to breathe.  So we rented a car, which we drove within the newly imposed lower speed limit, out to the Baie de la Somme -- a quick getaway before our painting lessons begin on the first day of spring this year with six new painters.  I can’t wait!

Even though the park is grossly polluted, I painted some cherry blossoms and hope to get back there for more before this post is sent.   Blair dashes next door for a portrait of Lola, who owns the Salon de The, with magnificent desserts.

A psychologist came in while Blair was there, and spent a long time looking at all the paintings.  After her, another said how much “emotion” our work carried.  She had friends who were well-known painters, but their painting seemed academic in comparison.   

I bring Blair his lunch each day in a tiffin.  Harika and I test it earlier, I make a few adjustments and voila!  I love to cook, and envision having a real supper club one day, in a grand apartment (we might have to move abroad, from France, that is) for artists and musicians, performers and patrons.   It’s good to have further plans.  Despite the sale of more than 20 paintings, the prospect of bringing the other 30 or so home is discouraging.  Food doesn’t pile up in the hallway like paintings do.   On the other hand I look at the unsold masterpieces as my retirement fund .  I hope I don’t have to fake my own death to live.

A woman came in while I was there, on next to the last day.  She talked about how her uncle was a prisoner at Auschwitz during WWII, and she sketched what she remembered him talking about.  She talked about how there were artists in the camps who made pictures of the beauty they saw there.  She talked about poetry, which, at times, was amusing.  Artists of all sorts were able to find beauty where others only saw horror.  She liked the happiness of our work.

We packed up our pictures, brought them home, and took off the next morning for the Baie de la Somme.  It was great!
 
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Reply #8 - Mar 9th, 2014 at 10:19pm

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Artnotes: Observer
Spring has tumbled down like a ton of bricks here in Paris.  Suddenly, people are back on the street:  flower sellers, babies in carriages, lovers hand-in-hand.  We are eating outside whenever possible.  It is predicted to be 20C/68F degrees today.

There is a steady stream of “flaneurs” passing by our gallery at 102, rue de Cherche-Midi.  Many come in to buy:  the picture from the poster, Blair’s boat builders, his boats, my oranges…ten paintings have been sold in the first three days.   It is so encouraging to know people like our work.   “You are selling it too cheap,” a friend scolds.  But I am happy to be selling my paintings in these economic times.

Blair has been in the gallery most of the time.  I shuttle back and forth, the kilometer between the two, bringing new pictures, carrying lunch, walking Harika (she’s not so good at the gallery, her welcoming bark is a bit off-putting).

I love this new neighborhood, full of restaurants and small stores.  Young and old people frequent all the establishments, from the hardware store to the “salon de the” next door.   

On my walks, I see the gypsies are back in Paris.  I know most people don’t like gypsies but I love them for their look, and for their difference.  Amidst the dull back plumage of the Paris girl (constantly preening), the gypsy sports pattern and color.  Big skirts, shiny black hair in a bun, scarves, high cheekbones – thrown together in a most interesting array.  Their patterns have a way of blending into the urban scene, providing fodder for my paintbrush.

One can’t make any eye contact, or the mystique is finished:  the demand for money ensues.  I have to be careful as I paint the girl on the corner.  I am backed into a table at one of the cafes, pretending to paint the building across the street.  Ten minutes into the picture, the lovely girl’s crabby husband uproots her -- he looks like a mean dog.   I finish up, using my memory.  I wanted to give her a little something, but not her husband.

I give all my favorite fixtures on the street a small coin, welcoming them back.  I buy their daffodils.   They protect the neighborhood from more serious menaces.    It is one of the advantages of a busy street: there are many observers.

Daffodil Seller  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  12 x 24 inches  275.00
Everybody knows by now that Laurie and Blair don't use black pigment, never did, never will.
 
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Reply #7 - Feb 27th, 2014 at 8:00pm

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   How much time does it take to prepare for an art show?  Lots.  We’ve spent nearly all of the last week getting ready for “Orange dans l’Azur”, scheduled to open the 5 March.   Hence, our painting has fallen a bit by the wayside as all of our energy goes to getting the pictures stretched, sending out invitations, framing, planning.  And Artnotes is a day late.
   I feel the days getting slightly longer now:  the sun wakes us up at about 7:45 and sets at 6:30.  We can easily go for a walk at 5 in the afternoon and not be in the dark.   The sun is higher in the sky.  As I type artnotes, a day late, the sun is streaming through my living room window.
   We had six painters with us in the Luxembourg Gardens yesterday:  students from Choate.  “Fifteen minutes,” I tell one of them.  “What?” he exclaims.  “It’s quarter to one”.  He’s been painting for nearly two hours.  “I thought I was just here fifteen minutes.”  I feel so happy that painting has the power to transport a 16 year-old into another time.  Of course, an iphone can do it, but with painting, it’s all taking place in the mind.   I would like to have more young students – they are the most imaginative and most appreciative.  I can make a big difference in their lives. 
I went out painting a couple of times this week –  under the bridge down by the Seine.  Rain has swollen the river to a raging muddy mess – not quite over the banks.  I paint from my window, and with the students in the park, of course. 
   All this makes me all realize how enriching our time in Villefranche-sur-Mer was:  our paintings were better, we broke new ground in painting size and mediums.  We vow to travel more.   We have rented out our apartment for the latter half of October, and plan to go to Biarritz or Grenada.  I think we need to have the upending experience of displacement to shock our brain into seeing in new ways.
   Meanwhile, please come to our opening on the 5 March from 6-9 PM, if you are in Paris.  Or stop by the Gallery at 102, rue Cherche-Midi, in the 6th arrondissement between then and the 16 March.  And experience a little of the cote d’Azur.  Orange and Bleu.
 
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Reply #6 - Feb 16th, 2014 at 6:23am

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I had my first workshop date this week in Paris.  R and I walked up to the Atelier Grande Chaumiere near Montparnasse at 2:30 and waited for the 3:15 session to begin.  A few older French women were waiting, too, hoping to get a choice spot, or at least your usual spot.  We settled in on the second tier.

Because this is officially a drawing session, there are three tiers of rails to lean a sketchbook on.  We pick three stools (one for layout) and settle in.  We called earlier to see if we could paint, too, and the manager told us, yes, if there was room.  R had a great new watercolor system – a pen of sorts with a water well, and a soft brush at the end.  It seems the Louvre has forbidden water (oil and acrylic paint is prohibited except to those officially approved by the Louvre), but if one uses a pen like this with color, it’s ok.  R takes classes with a lady at the Louvre, too. 

I set up my acrylics (I could paint in a phone booth) and we both got underway as soon as the model struck her pose.  She was a cross between Elke Sommer and Barbara Eden.  Honestly – a little thicker in the hips maybe, but that blonde, good-natured look.  I liked her at once.  She tried to include a ruffle around her neck, which I thought was great, but an incensed Frenchman demanded she remove it.  I thought him rather crass, and he wasn’t a good artist either.

I got so incredibly involved with painting here at the Grande Chaumiere, I was quickly transported to another level of consciousness.  I realize that sounds funny, but it was the case.  It rarely happens to me anymore because I am usually assuring in the comfort of everyone in the workshop, but today I was on another plane.  When I was maybe thirty years old, and I used to paint, I used to get scared when that feeling of euphoria happened.  Then another painter, Ray, said to me, “you’re Catholic, aren’t you?  Don’t be ashamed when you get those feelings, go with it.”  I did go with it and I have been happier ever since. 

Blair had surgery this week for a hernia (carrying Harika and I up all those hills in Villefranche-sur-Mer, I say), so I’ve become chief cook and bottle-washer.  We rented a car beforehand, so we drove up the Seine looking for painting/boat sites.  Unfortunately, the rain set in and we only got to get out of the car once – a former quarry on the Seine, filled with water and cut off, like a lake.  This boat-atelier project is really big, and I have some doubts it will be realized anytime soon.  It’s still fun to work on, and maybe we’ll follow the path forward, just slower.

On the way home, the on-strike taxi drivers had blocked the main route into Paris through Porte Maillot.  It was the first time I have ever really been afraid in Paris – it looked like a scene out of a movie, with protesters banging on cars, being trapped in a traffic jam.  I had a very difficult time with it.  I swore I’d never take another taxi again, but lo and behold, after Blair’s operation, I had already returned the car (he doesn’t like my driving) and we were forced to use taxi service.  I asked the driver about the strike.  “Imagine”, he said, “if they tried to take away your retirement savings (he added “you can, your’re from America’) – what will I have if they deregulate taxis and I can’t sell my license?”   

 
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Reply #5 - Feb 9th, 2014 at 9:55pm

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Don Said, Could that be florescent paint in Laurie's painting?

Artnotes: Rogue Wave,
Blair and I have always wanted to go to Stes. Maries de la Mer, so last Sunday, we hopped in the rental car and drove there from Villefranche.
We were likewise attracted to the fact it was not raining there, actually SUNNY.  So away we three went.

We stopped in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh’s town, first.  Upon reaching the town, we saw his landlady-model.   We wound through the pedestrian streets.   People still resemble the portraits he painted there.  With jet-black hair, swarthy complected, small, wiry people abound.  We found a café to have lunch.

Harika, Blair and I shared the giant steak (450 gr).  It was one of two dishes available that day.  The tables were packed with locals, always a good sign.  It was cooked to perfection, served on a plank of wood with piles of sea salt, herbs and fresh thyme alongside.  We drank local wine, and wrapped up early to get the Stes Maries.

Stes Maries de la Mer is really a city dedicated to Sainte Sarah, even though her name isn’t mentioned.  It was she, who teamed up with Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene who were leaving Palestine after the death of Christ.   Sarah was originally from Egypt, which might account for her patron saint status with the Gypsies.  There is a special statue depicting Sarah, the black saint, housed in the cathedral, along with her bones.  The statue is carried to the sea by a procession of Gypsies (30,000) each year on 24 May.  We make a mental note to go, if not this year, next.

Along the route we see the wild horses of the Camargue, and the black bulls that the area is famous for.  I look for flamingoes, but only find storks, which to me are pretty wonderful.   I might have seen flamingoes flying.  There are wonderful white stucco cottages of the Camargue cowboys.  They are two room sorts of places, with a circular hearth at the end; the house is roofed in black twigs, making for a dramatic black and white effect.  I regret not having the time to paint on this one-day trip.

Which brings me to the point:  we drove three hours to get there and three hours to get back, just to see the sun.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Go home, Laurie and Blair.  The weather in Paris is better.   The next day, just so nature could make her point, I was doused by a rogue wave:  from head to toe, while painting along the corniche in Nice. 

On Wednesday, a nine days before our scheduled departure, we got on the train to head back to Paris.  It was the first time I really smiled in weeks.
 
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Reply #4 - Feb 3rd, 2014 at 7:10pm

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Artnotes:  Inspiration Foundation Maeght

Don said, This visit was exceptional, so is this weeks artwork. Laurie, thanks for the 3 primary color painting and the night scene of the bay which is fabulous.  I was just working on my page of watercolor night paintings. Talking about your time on the computer.. that's all  have done for the past year, so much to do, so little time. Don

A major path through the sculpture garden was roped off.  I thought I would just ask the gardener to read me the sign indicating the artist.  “Which sculpture?” He asked.  The one with the ladder, I pointed out.  “Oh, that’s Dietman,”  he continued, “and that one is Calder, and the mosaic is Tal-coat.”  I knew then we were in a very special place, where the apparent maintenance crew knew all about the art.

Yesterday we visited the Foundation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence.    If I knew how great it was, I would have gone sooner.

I went because I thought the life size figure painting retrospective for  Djamel Tatah looked interesting, and it was.  Since the 1980s he has been painting life size (anonymous) people, arranged in groups, or singularly, on different grounds, using photography, wax, paint, wood…   The hanging of the 50 or so works in the show was phenomenal – when you looked up the stairwell, the portion of the painting with a single man seemed to stand at the head of the stairs.  White background work was hung in the sunny room with a stained glass piece by Miro, so the image appeared to have come in a on sunbeam.

The architecture, by Lluis Sert, was remarkable.   I can’t do it justice with words – the building was built to house some of the greatest artwork of the twentieth century.  Artists, architects and benefactors (Marguerite and Aimee Maeght) worked closely together to realize the project.  There is a sculpture garden by Gaicometti, and a “labyrinth” by Miro (this is phenomenal), works by Pol Bury, Chagall, Joan Mitchell, Bonnard, just to name a few.

We started the tour at the chapel of St. Bernard.  The most minimal, abstract, stations of the cross were executed by Ubac. There was a stained glass window made for the chapel by Braque.  All of these things were made in the 1960s for the dedication of the museum in 1964 (thanks also to Andre Malraux).

I have never seen such a “single thought” running through a contemporary property.  When one visits Versailles, or Malmaison, one can say “oh, there’s that wonderful theme”, but most new museums, houses, properties are designed on a computer, by a “team” and there is inevitably an incongruous element (not to mention the overwhelming souvenir shop).  Not so at the Foundation Maeght.  Yes, in the shop were actual signed lithographs (not posters) by the artists represented in the museum, but no Monet pencil boxes.   

I was overwhelmed by the perfection.  I am tempted to become a member so I can access their library.

I was so thankful for this Monday at St Paul de Vence, sunny and bright.  The rain started again on Tuesday afternoon, and continued, with few small breaks until today, Saturday.  I managed to get out last night and paint a large view of the lighthouse at Cap Ferrat and the bay.  Blair has taken each opportunity to dash out and add a stroke or two to his work.   These are heavy art headwinds we are dealing with.

I have artnotes piled up for the coming weeks, spending much time before the computer.  When we’re not watching Mr. Moto movies (or Broadway Danny Rose, my favorite movie, thank you V for bringing it), I am writing you art letters.


 
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Reply #3 - Jan 26th, 2014 at 8:25pm

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Artnotes: Perfume,
Hillside in Villefranche   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  36 x 28 inches      950.00
Today I wrote Artnotes with paper and pencil.  Blair and I share a single computer – how could we ever have become so dependent on technology?

1999 was the last time we’d been to Grasse, France – city of perfume.  We tried to stay at the hotel  La Bellaudiere, that July, but it was before computers were de rigueur in France, and by the time we got there, the Inn was full.  Renoir stayed there 100 years prior, and the innkeeper was kind enough to show us his room, from which he painted, and then sent us on our way.   This time, we’re driving the 30 minutes from our apartment at Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Don said, I haven't visited Grasse since 1965, but I remember the hill and the building (one of them) where they made and sold perfume. It was like Blair painted it, steep.

Grasse was even more remarkable than I remembered. Once one leaves the littoral (beach) of the Cote d’Azur, the landscape, buildings and people become Provencal.  It’s drier, more yellow, people are less movie-star like, and in a word, the place is EARTHY. 

“It’s impossible to have friends here in Villefranche,” Ulrich tells us when we run into him on our morning walk.  “This is the most beautiful climate in Europe, and you can live without depending on anybody.  In the North, if your neighbor says he’ll cut the wood this winter, you count on him.  Here, nothing like that happens, people are completely selfish”.  I believe that in Provence, where there are farmers, people do depend on each other more – connected to the earth.

Grasse is a hill town, situated on the rim of a large bowl giving way to the sea.  The bowl, this Thursday in January, was full of bluish mist from fog and smoke from burning fires of trimmed foliage.  As I painted, I could smell the city of Grasse, a concoction of frangipani and burning brush.  We perched between two buildings, looking South.  Square buildings in warm stucco shades are set among towering palms and a mishmash of grey-turquoise trees on the hillsides below. 

I felt the invisible power of the Fragonard parfumerie and Auguste Rodin waft up from the valley and consume my spirit.


 
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Reply #2 - Jan 19th, 2014 at 8:15pm

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Don: Laurie has been here for a long time, I don't know how many years offhand, but as long as I remember. Blair was painting in his "old" style, very realistically, but I never saw his work. It was Laurie's primary palette that first got me interested. We have been virtual friends for a long time. Now they both paint several painting a week in Laurie's style and both use a primary palette. I'm learning to cook but I'll never be in her class. Yesterday I talked to Richard Neumyer in Germany for 55 minutes, he used to live on Maui. For the past several months I have been working on my website "All About Color" http://www.realcolorwheel.com/AllAboutColor-Ebook.pdf  I've made into an E-book, all on one page. Now I'm making it easier to navigate with page links. My painting has taken a back-seat for awhile, 3 sit here unfinished, but I will get to them, eventually.

Art Notes: Beached
We moved to a new vacation rental apartment.  No ladder this time, more room.  Despite much rain, we are happier.

On Thursday, in the rain, we drove to Aix-en-Provence to see the studio of Cezanne.  We arrived just as it was closing.  Aix might be the final bastion of closing between noon and two.  We took advantage of the situation, and went to lunch.  With Harika, we narrowed it down to two restaurants and decided on the bigger place, more populated.  I spread my coat on the tile floor and Harika settled down.

We are not big eaters-out.  In Paris and Villefranche, all but the most expensive restaurants are using packaged, premade sauces.  Today I am making lunch at home:  a bonita fish (a small tuna), with a grapefruit sauce; rice.  We started with little calzones, one filled with swiss chard and pine nuts, the other with spicy peppers (I bought these at the market today).

The restaurant in Aix did make everything “a maison” (in house).  I had the “Gardianne de taureau” (beef in the style of the (bull’s) shepherd) and Blair had the Seiche au pistou (squid with basil sauce).  Both were super, Harika leaning toward the beef, of course.  But the best, most super-duper thing was an older lady sitting two tables away from us.   She looked at us with sparkly eyes when she came in, giving Harika a glance.  Two lackluster men sat between us, both glued to their iphones throughout the meal.  Despite their not-more-than thirty years, they looked dead waiting to be buried.  They didn’t say hello.

As soon as the dullards left (shovel food in, pay, get out), she and Blair and I fell into conversation.  She took over their table.  She was a regular here – no problem.  She was a little girl in World War II and lived in our neighborhood in Paris, at 11, rue Servandoni.  We got on like a house afire.  We exchanged addresses at the end of our meal, and I felt happy to have talked, really talked, to a new person this week.

Cezanne’s studio was just exactly as one would expect it;  scattered props from his paintings, but neat, clean, architectural.  I imagine he was an orderly child who kept all his pencils sharpened, and his pencil case still had that new smell in May.   (Unlike me, who kept a white glove in my first grade desk, which I used to mop up milk spills on my desk and my friends’ when we ate lunch at our classroom in the winter.  Weeks later, passing by my station was like going into a cave at Roquefort.) 

The studio was upstairs, the building on a wooded lot – and as the receptionist pointed out, this was the weather Cezanne liked – overcast, grey definitely no sun.

The Bonita came out again for dinner in a kind of Mediterranean seafood carbonara: ras-al-hanout, a bit of pancetta, lemon zest (I really needed pine nuts, but alas, this isn’t a city) with penne pasta.   Olives.

This trip to the south has been nothing like we planned, but sometimes more comes from the unexpected.

   


 
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Reply #1 - Jan 12th, 2014 at 7:20pm

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Don: I really like the way Laurie and Blair have taken more time in their work. Blair's Oliviers has great magenta and green combinations. The yellow and cyan colors make great greens and Blair's color mixes are impressive. Laurie's Renoir Garden has a great red and cyan opposition, the dark mixtures in both of their works is pronominal. Both artists are making smaller brushstrokes. I'm pleased.
In the meantime this is a great video on chemical spraying we are getting world wide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDF_dAuZXnM
I'm watching while I'm writing this.  I would like to hear reports from Europe.

Bobbing with the Boats
We painted in Cassis on Wednesday with a friend from Paris.  It was another “white cloud” day.  We sat at the end of the dock, committing downtown Cassis and the harbor to canvas.  We’d hoped to take the “Calanques” tour, but the boat wasn’t running.  Harika was running on the beach, got 86’d by the guard; we went to the market and bought two pieces of fatty ham we ate by the side of the boules court.  A cat prowled the docks while we painted, testing Harika’s patience.

Nobody’s perfect.  I have had a difficult time on this trip, and have been a pain to be with.  I read about people in the newspaper, who make mistakes (Obama, Hollande, Amiri Baracka, Scarlett Johannsen) and think, wait, I am making mistakes all the time.  In realizing such, I learn, and hopefully they do, too.  Many things really don’t matter so much.   It’s only people who DO things who make mistakes; the inactive are immune.

In our rental car we went to Italy on Friday.  There were fisherman by the sea at Cervo, the medieval town we almost stayed in (we would have had we not paid for our apartment in Villefranche already).  There were rocky outcroppings and sandy beach, a la La Marsa, Tunisia, where Harika came from. 

Italy is so very different from France.  I felt wonderful when we got out of the car there – I smiled in a way that made my whole face feel good (could have been that I was grimacing all along the 1000 foot high curving mountain roads).  I felt so happy and relaxed I could have cried.   

We ate a a place called Macaroni’s.  Why does spaghetti taste so much better in Italy?   Thank goodness it does.   Blair and I talked of the possibility of living in Italy, although I am not sure – it is an even more men/women kind of place than France, and I’ve never been able to line up on the right side.   The fishermen by the sea are nearly all men:  at least a dozen boys and one blond haired girl.  Good for her.

This has been a rather painful trip – I’ve had a headache off and on since Christmas day;  I keep the pharmacy in business buying aspirin and antihistamines.  It is my sinuses:   a Seattle headache, where we were plagued with overcast skies and constant humidity, like here.    Blair and I used to wear hats to bed then, knitted caps made by his mother.

Every morning we walk down to the beach near our house.  Blair scavenges for junk and Harika and I lie about  – once in a while we run around and today I got wet up to my thighs – others  swim, but it’s just too cold for me.  Today Blair found a French SOUS from 1943. 

We retire to the Joyeuse Baleine  where they make a  delicious cappuccino, and we sit and sip outdoors, bobbing with the boats in the basin.



 
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Jan 6th, 2014 at 8:39am

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This of course, is interesting to me as we pursue our bateau-atelier idea.  Yes or no?  My business plan is percolating along.   The big question seems to be where, as in France (near Giverny), or in the USA (I fear insurance costs could kill it).  Our mission statement as follows:  To earn money by recreating a boat similar to Monet’s studio/boat and offering painting workshops on the vessel. The Bateau-Atelier could also be used as a floating art gallery to bring our paintings to fairs and events in areas by water.  It would also be rentable for dinners and small events.

I’ve much time to THINK  about all this as more rain is predicted.   So, like coyotes, we’re adapting to our environment:  we rented a car.  We drive fast on winding roads, play the radio, run the heat, honk the horn (well, Blair doesn’t honk, I would, if I drove).    Our first foray was to see where Renoir lived – his house has just been renovated and it’s super nice.   It’s how you might imagine his house:   set among the olive trees, light interior with art nouveau-ish (he was just a tad early), soft paint colors.   We can actually paint on the grounds, were it ever to stop raining.

I felt terrifically inspired, and I felt even better about some of my recent work that I wasn’t sure of.   We are hoping to return there to paint, if the weather clears slightly, as it is predicted.

We visited two other marvelous museums: the Fernand Leger Museum in Biot and the Chagall Museum in Nice.  Fernand Leger was a product of the cubist movement, but preferred a sort of “genre” painting.  He painted large people, thick fingers, often with bicycles, decidedly French.   The work they had on display was huge:  five by six foot canvases, on average, I would estimate.  The building was a tribute to his epoch:  made in what I would describe as a communist-looking 60s style.  He lived through World War I and II, and died in 1955.  The building was big, square, open-spaced simply ideal for his work.

The Chagall museum was less architecturally interesting, although they had an exhibit about it’s conception/construction taking place while we were there.  It is in nearly downtown Nice, and squeezed onto a site.  Only because it was a pouring rain day in January were there few visitors and we found parking.   There were fabulous Chagall paintings on view.  I am not really a Chagall fan, but spent extreme time in a little almost chapel-like room dedicated to paintings for his wife, Vava.  They are RED and inspired by the Song of Songs.  His color is so terrific, in all of work, including the monumental  Old Testament canvases.   It made me think what can be painted  IN THE STUDIO, still using color.  I am not sure I have that much imagination, but am going to let those wheels turn in the remaining weeks while we are on our own.

Downtown Villefranche-sur-Mer  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24 inches  400.00



 
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