Tableau 395 x 395 mm Coloured pencil drawing completed in February 2014. A moment captured one evening in Saint Germain des Près.

395 x 395 mm
Coloured pencil drawing completed in February 2014.
A moment captured one evening in Saint Germain des Prés.

“Tableau: a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene.” Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary.  What does this scene represent?  To me it speaks of domesticity; the never-ending care of others…especially if one is a woman.   It isn’t a complaint.  It’s just the way it is.

I found this tableau in Saint Germain des Prés on the first night I arrived in Paris in October 2012.  I had come from another part of Europe and was exhausted from long flight delays.  I’d already been away from Australia for a week and I still had another week left of my solo trip.  I felt lonely for my family and Paris seemed aggressive.  Outside my hotel window brakes-screeching buses honked their horns at cars and pedestrians.  Police cars and ambulances raced through traffic with ear-splitting sirens.  My hotel room was tiny and so close to Boulevard Saint Michel that the sirens wailed within my tiny ‘cell’ rather than without.  Good old Paris plumbing; the toilet made wierd gurgling noises every time somebody in another room flushed.  How would I sleep?  It had been a mistake to come back to this city.   Reality contradicted Romance.    But I was here to work so I picked up my camera and went outside.

Though I started out feeling low, my senses were alert and on the look-out in the fascinating Saint Germain des Prés surroundings.  Without realising it, Paris was working its magic on me.  Ever so slowly I began to have fun.  One of the photos I took that evening became this drawing.  When I got back to my room I wrote in my journal “I went out tonight in the worst mood, feeling so hostile towards the crowds and the noise.  Despite all that I did feel some of the charm.  Much of the time I felt that my affair with Paris was over!  It probably isn’t.  Despite my misery at the ‘shock of the new’ ie being back in Paris on a thoroughly swarming-with-crowds Saturday night, and my thinking I don’t like it any more, I still have taken some lovely photos”.

This drawing could have been called “Art Meets Life”, “Life Imitates Art”, or “Strange Days” (the latter from a “Doors” album).  In the end I chose “Tableau”.  It doesn’t matter that only one of the figures is a living human.  The motionless dog waits expectantly for his human.  The paste-up smiling housewife eternally mops while the woman sees to the dog’s needs.  The paste-up head of Sid Vicious has an A (for ‘anarchy’) coming out of his mouth.  I couldn’t have thought this up.  It happened in front of me.  Extraordinary ordinary life.  And … I still hold a candle for Paris.

From my drawing "Aberration" you can see that the chain from the bucket is shackled to the paste-up lady. Whereas in "Tableau" it looks like it might be attached to the dog.

From my drawing “Aberration” you can see that the chain from the bucket is shackled to the paste-up lady. Whereas in “Tableau” it looks like it might be attached to the dog.

Early next morning the streets were silent.  That is when I got the photo for the drawing which became “Quiet“.   I still like Paris best first thing in the morning and yet I appreciate that sometimes one needs people (and dogs) about to get a source photo such as the one for “Tableau”.

Quiet A drawing of Saint Germain pre-dawn.

A drawing of rue de l’Echaudé in Saint Germain des Prés pre-dawn.

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12 thoughts on “Tableau

  1. Anne Mccaughey

    Beautiful, Julie…and I love the irony of all your depiction of the found art! Quiet is simply stunning as well.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thanks Anne, my drawing might not have been out of place at your last exhibition. We women artists know what a big part of our lives are made up of housework and looking after others.

  2. Robyn Varpins

    the glowing dog….or haloed dog…or hallowed dog….quivering with focussed adoration….or anticipation….anyway, is the central character for me…vibrant with emotion….and need. I do find dogs express human emotions, unlike cats that are above all that….as was the wonderful Saffy.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Robyn, definitely the dog received more of a halo than he would have if Saphie hadn’t died last Sunday. I wanted the attention to be on him. He certainly does show expectation that his needs will be met. Saphie was VERY expressive of her emotions too, and expected her needs and wants to be fulfilled – and fast.

  3. peacockfairy

    Lovely post! Thank you for sharing, Julie. Violeta

    Enviado desde mi iPad

    El 16/02/2014, a las 21:02, juliepodstolski escribió:

    > >

  4. anna warren portfolio

    Julie, this one really is a triumph. Even before I read your words, I made note of the chain linking the dog to the wall art, and appreciated the subtle connection. Another title could be ‘Irony’ – when not chained to domesticity women are often the slave of a pet, even though it is usually a much happier situation, one that probably the woman gets more from … or maybe not … the domestic work could be validating her too. But aside from all the symbolism, it works beautifully just as a work of art – great composition, use of that warm colour and beautifully drawn, as always!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I think in a way domestic work is a sort of validation. It can certainly have a grounding effect. Sometimes I have gone to the supermarket feeling down in the dumps and found that just from the very mundane act of food shopping, my mood has picked right up. Looking after people IS a giving exercise – and when one gives, one also receives. Regarding the word “Irony”, I felt it ironic that when I was away from the family with nobody to look after but myself, I missed them and all that goes WITH them, including the day-to-day care.

  5. Jeannie Beauchamp

    I very much like the balance of colours and harmony of “Quiet”. If I’ve seen it before, I’ve overlooked its special quality. Its shop window particularly impressed me, like a work of art within a work of art. When I looked at it close up, it revealed stylised hands, as if drawn on the glass; so the whole thing is like a mysterious combination of reflections, the pane itself, and the shop interior. – In the other picture, I like the irony of the gorgeous jewellery in the shop window behind the other reality of the woman busy with everyday life. Your shop windows are opportunities not to be missed, Julie.

  6. juliepodstolski Post author

    Ahh – Jeannie – I also thought about the irony of the jewellery in the shop window. Good that you picked that one up. The first photo I took of the lady and the dog was when the dog was relieving himself ON the street-art lady’s shoes (NB: not his owner’s shoes), While he was doing this the dog’s owner was turned away, looking at the jewellery in the window. I considered making a drawing of that one but took the view that there may be nobody in the world who would want to buy a drawing of a dog cocking its leg against a street wall!

    As to “Quiet” it was the picture within the picture which grabbed my attention. I saved the gallery window until last because that was the part of “Quiet” I was most looking forward to drawing.


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