Thursday, June 12, 2008

from somewhere in Paris, by the river Marne: for the love of painting

At 5:30 in the morning, my computer is ringing. I sit up listening, confused. I stumble downstairs and ask the one person who Skypes me, Ed, what’s wrong.

Just wanted to say hi… he says in a very sleepy voice.
It’s 5:30!
Oh, you’re eating dinner?

The man is turned around. Having dozed off himself, his level of awareness is about equal to mine.

He’s apologizing now, but my eyes have wandered over to the window. Pink sky of a sunrise. As we chat, it gradually loses some of its pinkness.

I have to run down to the river! I shut down Skype, take the keys (gates shut firmly behind you in this neighborhood), the camera and jog down the block to the river.

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No one is out yet. Oh! The family of swans! They know whne not to sleep.

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Monet would have liked it now. I'm sure of it.


At the outdoor market, I add supplies of cheese, endive, carrots, and at the prepared foods store, I throw in a salad of leeks and shallots. Daily life. La vie quotidienne continues. The "village" is my studio.

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As I take a lunch break, the little one joins me at the table outside. I’m eating, she is making pretty designs on her page. I already have two of her pieces of art – I pasted them to the wall before me. Her color choices are lovely. She must get inspiration from her home, her garden, no? I bring out my computer and write, she continues to add color to her creation, using markers now.

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young painter

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We bike across town (or village, or Paris neighborhood, depending how you view it), because the ten-year old daughter of my landlords has art class and the teacher is letting me sit in.

And I learn something. I learn how to encourage the formation of art. The girls (I see only girls) paint with their own style and speed, in a setting that is tranquil and forgiving (the outdoors). Spills, mistakes, slip ups, imprecise angles – they are routine.

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in the garden where they work

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discussing art

My landlords’ daughter has a gifted hand and I think how exceptionally wonderful it is for her to do this on a day which, in the States, is reserved for schoolwork.


In the evening, I visit Jacques and Nathalie Seguin. I walk in with a grudge: I am leaving Paris next week because of you! I say this with a smile because in reality, I have to leave Paris no matter what. I am out of money, out of time, out of days to spend on the work I love. But it is also true that I have to vacate my apartment because on that midsummer-day weekend, Jacques and Nathalie are displaying their art at the coachhouse where I am staying. That was the deal. I can live here in June, but I have to be out by the time of their gallery event.

Fact is, I love their work. Both, though I will concentrate here on the paintings of Jacques, because this post is about paintings.

(Though note her magnificent work here, and visit her studio by clicking her name above:)

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Nathalie Seguin

Long ago, I fell in love with Impressionism and especially with the work of Monet. You could say that my daughters grew up on this fancy of mine, because on our visits to Paris (and elsewhere), we made sure to stop by every conceivable place where a Monet was displayed. And there are many such places.

Giverny (Monet’s garden) kicked me into an intense gardening mode many decades ago. And it still takes my breath away, the onslaught of visitors notwithstanding. And yet, I am aware of how uncool it is to love Monet. It’s like loving Mozart or Bach. Or Honfleur or Florence. Or anything else that has gained the status of popular genius.

[To let you know how uncool I am: I studied the music of Bach in college, and I chose Honfleur over and above any other town in Normandy, and I’ve visited Giverny at least a half-dozen times, which is more than the average Parisian, I'm sure, even though it’s in their backyard and hardly in mine. Oh, and I regard Florence as being on par with paradise. So there.]

So imagine my delight when I hear that Jacques was inspired by Monet. Of course, his canvases move beyond the recreation of great art forms. To me, his genius is especially evident in the large paintings, the ones done with a paint knife. Should you invest in one, I'll be jealous for life.

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Jacques Seguin

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(Note: if you want to band together and surprise me with a canvas – I like a number of the large paintings! He’ll tell you which ones. Really, they cost small pennies compared to what they’re worth to the soul. And he ships for free.)

In the late evening, Aurore and her two young artists, brought me a piece of strawberry cake, done in the style of the north. I wanted to tell the two little ones (but I couldn’t, because it would take me beyond my vocabulary) that they have a special thing going here. They are surrounded by art and roses and good food and loving parents and earnest visitors (that would be me) and music. It’s a good life.