Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I have a serious problem.

A France problem.

A typical French cafe-bar, via Rita Crane's Flickr photostream (with beautiful, thoughtful descriptions)

Most of you know about my love affair with La Belle France, which began in 2006 when I studied abroad in Paris. Click here to read my Paris blog, which is pretty amazing if I can say that about my own writing. I returned from the City of Light and shortly after began dating the man I would marry, but I never forgot my first love. Never.

Moi in front of... well, you know. 2006.

Sometimes I miss Paris so much my heart. literally. hurts. It's a little sick, actually. Whenever I hear about someone else* loving Paris, I become extremely indignant, like I have some sense of ownership over the city. I feel like a jealous lover who has discovered some awful adultery. "You can't love France. She was mine first." ::: clench jaw and fists ::: No really, I recognize that this is not normal behavior.
*Disclaimer: These feelings do not apply to Stephanie, who discovered Paris with me, and Abby, who also studied abroad in France and whose love for the motherland is pure and sincere.
I have shed tears over the fact that I’m losing my grasp on the French language, in which I was conversational – even near fluent – just a short three years ago (“Il y a trois ans,” as I tell fellow Francophiles who ask me when I was last in France).

Well the sickness is worsening, and I have SMU to blame.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was beginning a contemporary art history course this summer. We’re barely out of Realism and I can feel my heart simultaneously breaking and bursting with joy each night I’m in class. I’ll catch myself in the middle of the lecture, sitting on the second row, my chin cupped in both hands, elbows on the table, grinning and looking cow-eyed at mon professeur as she romances me with words like “Courbet,” “Daumier,” “Musée d’Orsay,” and “Déjeuner sur l’herbe.”

Déjeuner sur l’herbe, oil on canvas, 1863

Last night she said, “Those of you who know Paris well know that the book- and print-sellers even line the streets of the city.”

It was all I could do to keep myself from exclaiming, “Oui, je les connais! Les bouquinistes!”

Le sighhhh…

My second trip to Paris, 2006... Making a fool of myself in front of the Louvre.

I’m craving all things French. Carambars, le Métro, watching American movies with French subtitles in St.-Germain-des-Pres, drinking wine out of a baby bottle at Le Refuge des Fondues in Montmartre… I even tried to French braid my hair this morning, with less than spectacular results.

A classmate and I are pondering Monet's genius at his home of Giverny.

Brad’s company is treating us to a Mediterranean cruise in October, and we plan to stay an extra week to explore Morocco, which I have never visited before, or Paris, which has my heart. Morocco sounds sexy and exotic, and I would love to add Africa to the list of continents I have visited… but today I’m leaning toward Paris.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cinque Pommes, or Apples and a Dish Rag on a Table

I've had three blissful weeks off of school, and this week will mark my return to SMU. "Le Sigh," as fellow Mustang Steffy Lou would say.

Really, I'm excited to go back. I'm taking a contemporary art course, a deep dive on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and a class on a single painting -- Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Scintillating (I'm serious!)!!!

Édouard Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère, c. 1882, oil on canvas

But I really have loved this little break. I read (for leisure!) till my eye muscles were tired, enjoyed happy hours with girlfriends, figured out what this thing they call "Thursday night TV" was, and painted!

That's right, I painted.

Ohhh, what a release! Those of you who know me well know how much I love art, but it seems that finding the time to do it is rare. Even when I'm not in classes, it seems there has been some practical consideration (work, wedding planning, work, moving, WORK) to stifle the creative juices. So I decided that in order to feel like I had really made the most of this three week hiatus, I needed to do something really artistic. (Brad was DELIGHTED to come home from school and see me painting. He is a huge encourager and tells me frequently that I shouldn't waste my gifts because of "busyness." He's right. It's too easy to make excuses.)

My preferred medium is pencil -- love the detail that I can achieve. I always shy away from color because I don't feel like I have a great grasp of it. But in studying Michelangelo last semester, I grew to really admire his facility and imagination when it came to colors.

Until the Sistine Chapel's restoration was complete in 1994, art historians thought the Renaissance master painted in browns, greys, and tans because he was primarily a sculptor and thus wanted to render in stony-looking figures and scenes.

One of Michelangelo's Sistine frescoes before restoration

But as experts worked to remove centuries of smoke and grime from the ceiling, they uncovered lemon yellows, cherry reds, tangerine oranges, and lime greens. He was not only a colorist, but one of the premier colorists of his time! Imagine how shocked art history students of the 1970s and before must have been to realize everything that was printed in their books and taught in their lectures was based on a giant misconception about Michelangelo's vision.

One of Michelangelo's frescoes of a sybil on the Sistine ceiling, post-restoration

But I digress. Seeking to challenge myself, I chose the most brightly colored green apples (Golden Delicious, to be exact) apples the grocery store offered and arranged them on my dining room table. I love that they are mottled with hints of red and orange too. I added a little dish rag to provide depth and visual interest -- though let's be honest, how interesting are apples on a table?

Here's the finished work:

I've been toying with a name for this painting (about 16" x 20", oil on canvas). Anything from the uber artsy, like Cinque, Cinque Pommes, or Charis -- Greek for "grace," which the number five symbolizes; to the obvious, Apples and a Dish Rag on a Table; to the playful, like 'Dem Apples. I think it shall just remain unnamed. :)

I will readily admit it's not inventive or daring, but it was a fantastic exercise for me as I get outside my artistic comfort zone. All in all, the investment was some yellow and green oil paints (I had the other colors), a canvas, a Saturday morning, and two evenings after work. The thing about working with oils, it seems, is that you have to wait for them to set a bit if you want to do a lot of layering. Not a happy reality for this impatient girl.

Meanwhile, my fellow artsy kindred spirit was painting this streetscape in Portland (one of my top five favorite cities in the world):

Stephanie painted this as a Mother's Day gift for her sweet mom, Carol. Please pray for Stephanie's dad, who was in a terrible car accident on Saturday, May 23, and is recovering. The Wanderlusters have put their wanderlusting on hold and are in San Antonio until Andy is able to make significant progress.

I'm envious of how personal and painterly it is. You can really see her hand in it, and the way she has interpreted the shadows, reflections, and the depth of the clouds just wows me! And of course as kindred spirits we WOULD be doing paintings at the same time -- unbeknownst to each other.

Here's thanking the Creator for art and lovers of art everywhere!