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!!!).

rene_waking view5.jpg

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...

 

JE SUIS ARRIVÉ

Living in France 

When am I allowed to say I live in France? Is it when we bought the house? (No). Is it when we arrived in April to move in? (No). Is it one week, one month, one year after we arrived? (Maybe).

L-R clockwise: coffee at the hearth on our first night here, a composition of flowers against a fresh white wall, our new home before the grass was cut, a break for coffee in the yard

As I rode my bike from my village to the next yesterday, zooming down the hill, on my way to draw the church and castle there, I had the feeling: “I belong here”. I sat up a little taller, looked more fully at the fields surrounding me, breathed in the fresh, cool air and I smiled. Je suis arrivé.

Coming home from a long ride on my bicycle

I have studied French for over 20 years - off and on - but never received the degree I sought as I found that studying the language consumed all of my time (no time left over for art!). It was very difficult for me (all those rules and exceptions to the rules - egads!). Now that I am here, though, I can tell that those years of reading French literature and fables, of taking the Conversation and Composition class a zillion times, paired with previous trips to France… the language is beginning to come together in my head. It is still difficult to speak - and comprehend when people speak to me - but I can tell there is a chink in the door, I can see a path towards understanding, and I know that with every day it becomes just a little easier as just a little more of the words I hear make their way into my brain.

As an artist, what is exciting me the most about my physical world is that there are no right angles here! Everything is handmade, worn with age, settled with years, and roads are created by feet, not by plum lines. The stone houses are created by the patterns of the stones; the interiors of the houses are molded by hand; the door knobs and furniture have been loved by hands for years.

L-R clockwise: the stones that make up our home, a nook for the most fantastic coffee break, a gift from a neighbor - goose eggs along with a chicken egg

Oh, and the landscape… Let me tell you about this beautiful landscape I have landed in. There are ubiquitous rolling hills. There are large skies. When the sun shines, everything is beautiful and green. These nights are filled with skies populated with dense stars, even more stars than our place in the U.S.! When the clouds prevail, it is beautiful in a cool, moist way. The greens get greener, the cows by the road more defined. The roads are narrow and curving here. It is also a fabulous area for bicycling - so much to see with enough of a workout to be a challenge.

Most of the houses are stone structures, as is ours. In Georgia, we live in isolation, in a wooden house, tucked into the forested countryside. Here we are in a hamlet, surrounded by friendly people who stop in to check on us, and give us our daily dose of French. We eat French baguettes. We drink French wine. We marvel every day at our good luck. We are here. Nous sommes ici.

The view! The view!

Click to enlarge and see the dolmen, likely from the Neolithic period

Sunset view from the house

We have the most incredible hearth

The back of the house. So much to discover! Such light!

I love the landscape here!

PS - A note about the election that just happened here… I wish that I had been able to vote, and am so very fortunate to live in a country where love prevailed!

PPS - In Athens, GA, USA, new work is up at BMA @ Home, just in time for Mother's Day! Click here to purchase!

 

MY NEW HOUSE IN FRANCE / MA NOUVELLE MAISON EN FRANCE

Let me tell you about my new house in France. I'm on my way there now!                                                                 + But I have been on my way there for over 30 years...

Quote by Gregory Kramer collaged on top of a new work on silk

I want you to know that anything is possible. My husband Harvey and I planted a very small seed of this dream many, many years ago, and it has finally bloomed. France has always spoken to both of us. We love the light, the language, the culture, the rolling hills of the countryside and the bustle of the cities. I especially am drawn to the deep love of art as a part of life. Not only am I going to France for six months to live and make work in a modest, old, mysterious home in a small, sleepy hamlet, but I also have an exhibition nearby that I have been madly preparing for. My dreams are coming true!

I want to share with you a little bit about this journey, because I'm not a "second home" kind of person. I raised my family in a homemade home in the woods outside of Athens, Georgia. Harvey and I were fortunate to buy property before the real estate boom in Athens, and we lived extremely modestly as we raised our children. Who needs a television when nature is right outside every window? I am fortunate to not have my values based on material culture as much as the culture that living life as our best selves gives us. A life full of love and leaky roofs and deer-scavenged gardens and the language of the forest. So, how did I buy a home in France? It sounds very complicated to some, but it's really about patience, commitment, and perseverance. Our little house in the woods in the US afforded us the saving of pennies, and the land we own is vast. We were able to recently sell a small parcel, using an incredible real estate agent (and an even more incredible artist!) named Sean Dunn, and we happily and fortunately sold part of our land to a young family with similar interests as we held when we started our homestead. 

So, back to the question... how to buy a house in France? You look and look for years. You travel all around the countryside. You find a small place that feels like you belong. You go back and you visit and you make friends. You find a house that feels right, that's ready to live in but not completely renovated. I like it when homes are real, strong, and full of stories. It's not covered in coats of paint, there is nothing fancy about it. We paid cash for our home, that's how unbelievably affordable it was. It's perfect. 

Today -- right now, in fact -- I am on a plane to live in France. Our son Sam and our lovely dog will hold down the homestead outside of Athens. I will set up my studio in the old barn that is part of the property, connected to the home. I like to think about everything that came there before me, and I wonder how it will influence my work. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. 

This is our opportunity to shine. It is our opportunity to immerse ourselves in a place that we love. It is our opportunity to live the adventure we dreamt up so many years ago. Thanks so much for joining us!

A painting about a dream... read more about this new work and what inspired in on instagram, where I'll be posting regularly. 

Today. Leaving our home in Georgia (with Sam) for our new home in France! (Click to view larger) L-R: René, Sam, Harvey

The full moon waving us away

On the plane to France, 20:30, 12 April 2017

The best studio intern ever! Henry is the babe of my amazing studio assistant  Jess . Check out her studio  HERE ! And more Henry is  h  ere  :)

The best studio intern ever! Henry is the babe of my amazing studio assistant Jess. Check out her studio HERE! And more Henry is here :)