Category Archives: art

A Room with a View

“A Room with a View”  –  coloured pencils, 31.5 x 28 cm.  January 2019

We have a room with a view!

On our first night in Venice I sit at the open window – looking, listening, still.  And then I reach for my camera.  Perhaps this view (this sentiment) can be captured in a drawing.  Shutter clicks follow.

Sounds of lapping water drift upward.   Distant voices from figures on the bridge float on the air, echoing between stone.  It has been raining; maybe it still is – [I can’t remember].  The buildings are lace silhouettes, their white lights reflect on black water.

(“E.M Forster, I’m borrowing your novel title for my drawing.  Is that OK with you?”) 

The following three nights I hardly glance outwards as I flit about the room.  I am already used to the view – desensitized.  Isn’t that a peculiar thing about human nature…

 

 

Early One Morning

“Early One Morning”
35 x 28 cm in coloured pencils.  January 2019

Early one morning just nine Saturdays ago I set out from my vacation rental into the maze of lanes outside.  “I won’t go far”, I called to daughter, Alicia, who was still in bed.  My plan was to orientate myself within a small radius from the apartment, in our sestiere, Cannaregio.

We had arrived in Venice the previous afternoon in rain.  The forecast for our entire four-day stay was rain.  Indeed in the night it had drummed down steadily.  I had woken early to the plaintive call of seagulls.  When I roused myself to the window the sky was blue and the moon sharp.  So I quickly dressed and rushed out. Who wouldn’t?

First I took a photo of our building’s entrance so that I’d be able to recognize it again.  The distinguishing feature was “hooligan” scrawled in graffiti.  Noted.  Senses erect I took a few steps this way (into Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo) then that way (to Fondamenta Nuove – the vaporetto stop).

Before I knew it I was OUT AND ABOUT in Venice.  Wow!  What an achievement, what joy!  The low winter sun illuminated all it touched.  Stone and water glowed.  Hardly anyone was around, the time being before 07:00.

I took the brave (for me) decision not to retrace my steps.  Instead I pushed on, map in one hand, camera in the other, past Santa Maria Assunta dei Gesuiti.  In tiny lanes between canals I witnessed light, shadow, water and movement.

I would do a loop back to our apartment.  En route I took the photo which became my reference for “Early One Morning”.  Where was I?  On Rio Terrà di Franceschi detta la Botesela.  (The name is longer than the thoroughfare!)

Was the pooled water a remnant from the just-finished high tide or was it from the night’s rain?  I don’t know but it looked perfect in its Venetian context.  Sunshine bathed upper walls of buildings.  It couldn’t reach lower – the result being an almost spiritual vertical ascension from deep shadow to radiant light.

Early one morning just as the sun was rising...” in Venice –  Serenissimo – Most Serene.

(And I found my way home.)

 

Enchanted Venice

It’s true.  Venice is a tourist trap.  It is groaning under the weight of people as much as it is soaked by increasing washes of acqua alta.  It is claustrophobic and impossible not to get thoroughly lost…continuously!  When the tides are very high the waterbuses (vaporetto) stop running leaving one stranded.  It is wet, wet, wet.  Who would go there?  Who, having been, would ever want to go back?

(After five days I said to my traveling companions, “I don’t think I’ll ever come back here”.  They nodded in agreement.)

It’s a lie!  I don’t mean what I said about not wanting to go back.

The enchanted city has caught me. In the few weeks since I was there its spell has been intensifying, working its way into my emotional landscape as surely as an incoming tide.

Venice – wait for me!  I will surely return.

Venetian selfie

 

The Artist’s Way

“The Artist’s Way”    Coloured pencils    October 2018

The artist’s way is a journey where sometimes one feels certain about the path ahead only to become thoroughly lost at the next turn.

When I visited rue Quincampoix that night in October 2016 I was in familiar territory and was delighted to see it illuminated so vibrantly.  I took photos and walked in a happy daze.  Continuing home (so I thought) I turned up one street, thinking it was another, and led myself into an unfamiliar area.  Alone.  At night.  Lost in Paris.  After some hasty and intimate time spent with my map, I righted my wrong and got home.

Similarly I went into my most recent exhibition full of certainty.  But over the two weeks in the public gaze I lost my bearings.  Certainty dissolved into a state of trepidation as I experienced the full spectrum of reactions; from praise, through indifference to actual hostility.  (Only one person was truly hostile.)

To be lost, found, and lost again in an endless cycle throughout a life, questioning one’s art and one’s very existence, is the artist’s way.

In the end the thing that you feel is your undoing is also your way back to sanity – art.

Another drawing from the same photo-shoot is “Guiding Lights”, drawn in 2016.

The drawing below shows the way I drew this street back in 2012.

“Conversations at Dusk” 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Post-exhibition post

  • Here I am
  • I exist.  For now
  • What am I going to do with the rest of my existence?
  • What is my relationship with the world?
  • How can I be relevant?
  • How can I fit?
  • How do I fill in time?
  • Void

At the end of every art exhibition I walk off the edge into nothingness…

“Once Upon a Wall” (detail) coloured pencils/oil pastels 2017

Disintegration, then reformation (hopefully) – maybe.  Exposure equals vulnerability.  This always happens.

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way/ And the stars look very different today/….Planet Earth is blue/ And there’s nothing I can do…    (David Bowie)

A normal part of the artistic process.  Nothing special.

“Café des Arts” (detail) coloured pencils 2018.

PS I recovered from my post-exhibition blues.  It took exactly two weeks for me to return to my normal self.

 

Café des Arts

Café des Arts    coloured pencils      35 x 32 cm

Café des Arts” is a true story.

I saw these two couples (one painted and one real) at the Café des Arts, 3 place de la Contrescarpe, near Panthéon.  I had to surreptitiously acquire my source photo by pretending to focus somewhere else and then quickly swing my lens to the desired spot.

I wonder if the absinthe drinkers in the painting “Dans un Café” were aware of being watched back in 1875?  (The painting by Edgar Degas hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.)  My human couple remained oblivious to me.

Artists have to break rules in the quest for a good visual story whether the year is 1875 or 2018. Life imitates art.  Art imitates life.  And sometimes they both end up in the same picture.

Here is the source photo for “Café des Arts”.  If you look closely, you’ll see that I made a few simplifications by reducing details.

 

 

 

Boulevard

“Boulevard”  19.5 x 25.5 cm.  Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.

Bright lights and shadowy figures marching across the boulevard merge to create a lively kaleidoscope at Place Blanche.  This is the final drawing (I mean it this time) for the “Remember Paris” exhibition opening in five weeks’ time.

To view the catalogue of 30 drawings for the exhibition, click here.