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!!!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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...