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Dessins de Paris: 2

I saw this chap on the Paris Metro, travelling on line 13 between Gaite and Champs Elysees. He boarded the train at Bir Hakeim, the stop closest to the Eiffel Tower. He looked run down and ragged, possibly homeless, but certainly one of the people who hop on and off the metro to beg for money in different carriages. This man didn't do the most common thing you see, which is to give his well-rehearsed hard luck story in a loud voice while he passes along the carriage with an upturned hat in his hand. The man in this drawing was singing a song, I think it was an old chanson like you would hear from the 1950s. I didn't recognize all of the words, but it was something about walking through the rain and being in love, and his voice was exceptionally good, a strong baritone with a nice tone, perfectly in tune. His face was covered in patches of bad skin, like he had been sleeping rough in cold weather, or maybe they were burns. But the voice that came out of that horrible exterior …
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Dessins de Paris: 1

During my annual trip to Paris in January, I try to do as much drawing as I can, using neocolor pastels and occasionally pen. On the last two trips (2017 and 2018) I did a lot more drawing from memory rather than observation. There are so many interesting facial types among the people you see in Paris, so I try to fix the most salient parts of their features in my mind, through a series of brief and intense gazes. Then when I get back to the apartment in Montparnasse, I get out the pastels and begin work.

This is a new series for my blog, in which I post one of the drawings and try to remember the moment in which I noticed the person.

This first one was someone I saw on the Metro, Line 9, when Patty and I went over to the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, near the Palais de Tokyo on the right bank. It was bitterly cold, and this older gentleman entered the metro car having clearly just experienced a blast of the arctic air that was pummeling the city. Despite his wooly ha…

Following the Thread

I've been to so many art museums in my life and seen so many paintings, sculptures, and other highly wrought handmade objects of beauty. Yet I've never been too taken by tapestries, for some reason, usually choosing to walk past them and into another gallery where I can find more paintings to look at. But during my visit a few weeks ago to the Musee de Cluny (the medieval museum, basically) in Paris, I saw some things that made me stop in admiration.

There were rooms full of these gorgeous images, 10 feet by 15 feet or larger, created in tapestry in the 1400s or 1500s. The museum's collection is quite small and actually has hardly any paintings, so this forced me to spend more time on woven stuff than I normally would. I'm glad I did, because the artistry of the mainly anonymous craftsmen who made these pieces is astonishing. Look at the perfectly proportioned figures and animals, the rich colours, and the teeming imagination that fills every inch of them.

The prize o…

Retour a Paris

I'm back in Paris, teaching for the fourth consecutive year. During my most recent free weekend, I visited the Rodin Museum for the first time in more then twenty years. My visit coincided with the best weather so far -- bright and sunny and mild. The view of the Invalides from the gardens of the former Hotel Biron is spectacular:

 This summed up the experience of the museum, actually: the building being as deserving of admiration as the work displayed inside it. The rooms on the ground floor were full of these mouth watering combinations of belle epoque decoration and Rodin's writhing, muscular statuary:

Typically for me, the documentary material also caught my eye. Here is on the of the photos of Rodin using rooms in the hotel as a temporary studio, where he would entertain admirers, hangers on, and potential new clients (Rodin is seated at front-left):

The gardens surrounding the museum consist of sandy pathways leading through orderly bushes and topiary, interspersed with…

2017 in Review

It's about time I wrote another blog post. As it is the last day of 2017, here is a list post looking back at some of the highlights from the last 12 months.

January: Taught in Paris for most of the month with my wunnerful colleague Kathie Bergquist from Columbia College Chicago. We were teaching a class which is basically "Hemingway and Baldwin in Paris." Here is a photo of our drinks, purchased at the newly reopened Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel, Place Vendome:

February: Participated in a group drawing event at the Ed Paschke Center, Chicago, organised by the terrific artist Anne Harris.

March: Spent a week in Tucson, Arizona, truly one of the most magical places in the United States:

May: Two of my small handmade books were purchased by the Joan Flasch Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

July: Patty and I moved after 10 years in our third floor apartment, to the 9th floor of a high rise building overlooking Lake Michigan:

September: I took up a posi…

Inspired by Matisse

For more than ten years, off an on, I have taught a class called Journal and Sketchbook. The class alternates between writing and visual-art activities in order to heighten a writer's "seeing in the mind" and sense of story-telling. I co-taught it with Patty McNair until recently, when I have taught it solo, to small classes of between three and eight people. Even during a one-day class, there is a noticeable difference in people's writing by the end of the day: more sensory detail, more sense of scene, more fully told moments.

In the most recent session of teaching this class, I have increased the level of visual art stuff. Each week, I took as inspiration a book by an artist that combines text and image. So we had Frida Kahlo week (using her Diary as inspiration), Paul Gauguin week (Noa-Noa), and then Matisse week (Jazz).

First, I read a piece by writer Maija Rothenberg that uses the format of an alphabetized list to tell the story of a life:


Stage 2: invite the p…

The Brant Hardware and Implement Company, by Jeanne Locke Johnson

I taught a day long journal and sketchbook class recently, at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan. One of the activities was called Writing in Place, devised by my writerwife Patricia Ann McNair. A participant in the class, Jeanne, wrote the piece I'm reprinting below. As soon as she began reading it back in the class, I knew straight away I was hearing a really good piece of writing. The image was also by Jeanne, made in the collage class the day before the journal and sketchbook class.



I

I remember going to the Hardware after school. The bus dropped us off at the house. If I was feeling the need to make money, or Dad needed work done, I walked to the store. If Mom or Dad were in sight, I checked in while clocking in on the old time clock punch card. Usually, I needed to dust displays or clean the bathrooms, or wash windows. My favorite was filling the old pop machine. I had to get the keys, check inventory for flavors, empty the change bucket, clean the…