JOURNAL

A Day in The Life

In my last post I promised you a look into my process while in France; here we go!  (select any image to enlarge)

I wake up about 6am when I have art projects going. It’s easy to get up that early; the bedroom windows face the rising sun, and those windows are wide open almost all of the time (no bug screens necessary here!!!).

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My well-loved planner and a favorite spot :)

and another view

Bonjour!

My dog Dexter climbs up the stairs while I am descending; he gets extra snooze time with my husband Harvey while I get quiet time, which is very important to my creative process.

Stretch, drink tea, plan my day using my paper-based journal, a beloved vintage Franklin Planner. 

I try to stay away from turning on the iPhone or computer, so that my head stays clear.

. . .

Begin work. Again, I try to stay away from the computer and start working on my art right away. If there is a silk stretched and ready to be painted, that’s what I do first. And/or mix colors, because that process is long; when I create a color, I put the new color on a test grid, and then I need to wait until the dye is completely dry to really see what the color is! That often leads to a new adjustment of the color, another drying spell, etc etc - you get the picture.

 

Today's visitor, la vache, is the domesticated pet of a neighbor; when not at home with her, it is often seen wandering the village

Navigate to the studio. To get there, I walk out my front door, turn right and go up the stone steps into the studio. I think it was these very same outdoor steps that made me fall in love with this house immediately when I first saw it.

The steps to my studio.

Outside my studio window with Ganesh.

After at least an hour of creative work, I eat breakfast with Harvey and we go on a walk with Dexter all together. Here we have the option of walking down the Roman road (really!), a footpath that goes through forest and tree-lined fields with cows and hay, or “around the block” (I’ve always been fascinated that the French language has no word for block). This route goes toward a lake and past more fields with mama cows and baby cows and hawks and sparrows, past a castle, then returning to our house. Yet another route is down the road to Léon le Franc - what is now a tractor path that used to be a major foot thoroughfare to the village 2.5 km away - and we love how descriptive the names around here can be!

This is at the corner of my village; if I turn left I am following the Roman road. The woman who lives in the house you see here takes care of the little plot of land on the corner; the poppies are so beautiful here and seeing them always make me happy.

"around the block"

Dexter

Back home, drink tea, and back to the studio. I have work organized and lined up, both on my table and in my head. I try to make between 15 - 20 new pieces of art for each solo exhibit I hang, and that's what I'm working on now. I design, wax, and paint about 3 silks at a time, so as one is drying I can apply the resist to another, etc etc. When I am working on a large (6 ft long) silk, the banner material will take up my entire work table, so I concentrate on one of those at a time. Also, because the smaller works need to be delivered to the framer, and he needs time to measure, prepare, and cut the frame molding (called “baguettes” - the same word as the typically French loaf of bread!), I create the small works first.

Testing the dyes in my studio to capture the very colors I'm looking for.

Beginning the resist process using wax to draw with.

Here I am standing at the door to my studio looking out. That's my yard in the background.

I hold the artwork outside the door so I can see what the colors look like in the daylight and in the sun.

the set-up

In a very un-French way, we eat lunch about 2pm. The French lunch break is 12-2, and all the stores and businesses close during that time — very wise! After lunch I often sit in the yard and soak up some sunshine while doing hand-sewing or reading and remind myself how lucky I am to be here. And then drink a cup of coffee and move back into the studio.

A large part of the process is patience. And coffee. This is a new artwork for my next exhibition in August, inspired by the town of Aubusson. I look forward to sharing more about this soon... 

Break in routine. The outdoor Felletin Market happens every Friday morning, and it is very lively and a great place for socializing. We buy our vegetables, meat, and olives there, and on Saturdays the Aubusson Market is available; our cheese, bread and fruit come from this market. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the Ressourcerie -- the Habitat-for-Humanity-type second-hand shop, is open and this is where we buy almost everything that we need for our house. We visit there once or twice a week.

Once a week, usually on Friday, I set up the steamer for setting the dyes on the art that I have made that week. The silk steams for 1 hour, but the whole process of preparing and washing and ironing afterwards takes about 4 hours total. I have learned not to leave the steaming until the last minute!

For working on the computer, I try to take it in chunks later in the day, setting a timer so I won’t get lost in the fog of the Internet and social media. The internet is unbelievably speedy here! I answer emails, write blog posts, do photoshop work, and check in with family and friends. And search for new places to exhibit my art.

I take another long walk with the dog towards the end of the day, and never plan on accomplishing anything after dinner - the process is long and the good French wine slows me down. If we are having my favorite (anything “bubbly”/champagne-style) I totally write off the whole evening because I tend to just want to sit in the yard while sipping bubbly with Harvey and Dexter and stare at the sky, the beautiful setting sun, the stars that appear, and the rising moon.

Bed about 11.

 
 

- René Shoemaker, Juchefaux, St Maixant. June 30, 2018

Does it even need a caption? Arc en ciel.

The house that is attached to our friend Madeleine's house in a nearby village. It is so beautiful! We were eating dinner in her yard and drinking champagne to celebrate my birthday when I captured this view...

Our sunset.

Look at that moon!

The moon with planet on my Mother's Birthday which was June 21st.



 

PS - A friend in America just commented: “You are so prolific in France!” Yes, I am making the artwork - but now how do I SELL it?!?! - this is the mystery I am seeking to unravel. Send me your ideas and advice, please! And check out my shop, let me know what you'd like to see there...

 

EXPOSITION! Decouvrir: Felletin et ses villages

Photo Credit - Yveline LeGrand

I’ve been really busy in my studio and beyond here in central France! The reception to my exhibit, which opened on June 1st at La Mairie de Felletin (Felletin City Hall), was so well received. It was my second exhibition about (and in!) Felletin in two years; I am happy to share that my audience grew! And to also see the arrival of familiar faces among those that attended my first vernissage... well, I’m proud. And the Mayor and her office are happy to now share my work with their visitors and dignitaries!

Many attendees noted that my work has progressed exponentially since last year. I heard that it was more free, that the the colors were more alive, and that my subjects grew to include more diverse places and spaces.

I was honored to hang larger silk paintings this year (last year it was forbidden), as creating large work makes me especially happy. It was a challenge as my studio in France was not yet set up for making large-scale silk installation pieces. Now it is! The larger work gave us the perfect scale to create a perfect announcement banner, which hangs in the front of the wonderful, historic building - welcoming all to come in and see my works of art.

La Montagne wrote an article about the exhibition and reviewed it quite complimentary. I find it a sweet synopsis for the people who have yet to attend, and an inspiration for those who still have time to stop by. Decouvrir: Felletin et ses villages runs through July 27th. (*article and translation below) You can see images from the exhibition, purchase work, and read more about it HERE.

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Our Community Interpreted by René Shoemaker

By Robert Guinot

Just one year after having an exhibition here, René Shoemaker has retuned to the Felletin City Hall. The American artist, who lives in the commune of Saint Maixant, is this time sharing here the discovery of Felletin and its villages. She presents a selection of paintings on silk that represent a year’s work.*

Artistic Stroll around Felletin

René Shoemaker walked past Pont Roby to the Chatueau d’Arfeuille, then to the library. She went up Rue de Beaumont, climbed to the summit of the bell tower to experience a panoramic view of the town and the countryside. She studied the engraved inscriptions in stone buildings. Her journey is displayed in blue and green. She plays with the horizon line and sometimes departs, deliberately, from reality. Her exhibition delivers her perceptions of Felletin and its surroundings, from Arfeuille to Lavaud and to La Croix-Blanche. Her work has developed into a body of work that is dear to her, between poetry and naivety, with great attention to line and color choice, all with a very personal style. It is understood that the artist and her husband, who live here 1/2 the year in the Creuse, often leaves Saint-Maixant for Felletin where René is fascinated with the countryside and the monuments, where she observes the houses and architectural details. Her wandering journey inspires her paintings on silk, designs that are between figurative and abstraction, which is always elegant and personal. Her chromatic range is limited, contributing to the uniformity of the exhibition, that is, both understated and joyful.

(*) The ceremony of inauguration was held with the presence of Wilfried Celerien, deputy mayor, Gérard Chabert, the mayor of Saint-Maixant, Thierry Roger, who has framed the collection of work…

An exhibition, and all of the work that goes into them, can be really exhausting. In the next few weeks I plan to share some of my process with you!

I am also excited to share with you my next exhibit, opening  at AM’Carta Gallery (Atlier-Musée des Cartons de Tapisserie d'Aubusson) in Aubusson on August 17th. I have allowed myself time for new research, new paintings, and new large scale work — I can’t wait to discover what I create!

As always, I’m so happy to have you along on this adventure with me!

 

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM LE VERNISSAGE (OPENING RECEPTION)

Photo Credit - Yveline LeGrand