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...

 

New Beginnings in the Studio

As work in my studio begins for the new year, I’d like to invite you in, show you what I’m working on, and invite your feedback. Let me know what you think about my designs for this new series, and what advice you have for me. (Select any image to enlarge)

I have an exciting new project: An art exhibit in France! The exhibit opens June 21st in Felletin, midway between the cities of Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand in central France, at the heart of the French tapestry production area. Felletin is located on the river Creuse, dating back to before medieval times. 

I have already visited this area several times (and fallen in love with it!), so I have a collection of photographs and sketches to work from. I love exploring its streets, traveling on foot or bicycle from the main square down the hill towards the river, where an old railroad station sits amid a budding arts district of studios, workshops, and restaurants. Fewer than 2,000 people live in Felletin, so it is a cozy if sprawling town. Meander up the hill from the square and you’ll find sheep and cattle grazing in beautiful open fields. In a section of town called Beaumont (“beautiful hill”) one hilltop offers spectacular views, while another hill’s narrow, winding streets feature small houses with doors and shutters in beautiful muted colors.

The town slowly reveals itself to me. I love the feeling of discovery as I peek into backyards and courtyards. Is that a goat living in the middle of the city? A horse in the front yard of that small chateau? What a beautiful garden hidden behind that sturdy stone wall! There are monumental buildings and modest ones, historic churches, homes belonging to workers, artisans, and bishops. I am excited to meet the people of Felletin through this new project and exhibit, and to learn their stories along the way. And I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

MORE GOOD NEWS:

NEW WORKSHOP Saturday, March 11th @ KA Artist Shop

Hand painting on silk is an ancient art with a rich history from India, China, and Japan. The process of silk painting begins with stretching silk on a frame, sketching / transferring the design onto the silk, mixing dye colors, and painting. This is exactly what we will do in the class together. Silk painting is a fabulous technique that makes the silk come alive with color as you apply the dye to the silk.

Each workshop participant will create (and take home) a painting on a 22” square hemmed silk that can be worn as a scarf or displayed as a wall hanging.

All supplies will be provided & no experience necessary

Click HERE to sign up!

 

NOW ON VIEW

 

A Closer Look

The interview by WE Design Studios that I mentioned in my last post was published this week. It is titled “A Closer Look: Rene Shoemaker,” by David Elden, and can be found at:

            http://wedesignstudios.com/2011/04/a-closer-look-rene-shoemaker/

In this interview, I explain some more about how my work takes shape, what my techniques and inspirations are, and how the view from my studio window has changed in the last six months!

       Enjoy!

                                                 Coffee Cup Press - Studio exterior

Tools of the Trade

I’m excited to announce that my friends at WE Design Studios will soon be publishing a “Coffee Cup Press” interview about my inspirations and creative process. I was finishing that up last week… be sure to keep an eye on their blog at http://wedesignstudios.com/  Sorry if you missed me - I certainly missed you! 

Having spent so much time lately on tax preparation work, it was a great feeling to put the calculator down and get back to the studio. It was nice to return to my dyes, my fabric, and my tools. One of the WE Design interview questions got me thinking about my favorite piece of equipment… 

It seems so silly - but I think that my favorite tool is actually the very humble foam brush! What can be more un-sexy than a plain grey foam brush on a plain beige wooden handle? Ah, but the colors that come off that brush after it has been dipped into a cup of dye and applied to a piece of silk! 

Though these foam brushes come in different sizes, I prefer to work with two-inch wide ones. Any smaller, and the dye is too difficult to control… And the wider brushes just don’t seem to keep contact with the silk consistently. I’ve experimented with other types of brushes, but none provide the same feeling of control that this brush does. I love the way the brush never seems to drip dyes - I can use a tiny corner to color the smallest section of silk, or create a swash of color on a large area, moving quickly and smoothly back and forth, back and forth. 

So unassuming, so matter of fact, so un-glitzy, so ready to go to work - costing about 35 cents each, these brushes last for years. From what I understand, they were created to help house painters paint trim around windows and doors; I imagine they do that job well too, but for me, I am in love with them for the way they work with the dye.

………………………………

I received several lovely responses to my recent post on the new animal alphabet… I’ve chosen a few to share here: 

-Amy, massage therapist and mother of new baby Wren, wrote “I love these alphabet animals so much I am going to explode!” (And this makes me so happy!)

-Garden curator Maureen wrote and suggested V for vole - “a vegetarian version of a mole, really!” - creating a discussion on whether a Vole or a Vixen (female fox) would be more appropriate… 

-my poet niece Liz sent a wonderful photo of a Swallow Tailed Sparrow Kite she spotted in the park, and suggested this image for the ever-elusive “X” for the animal alphabet:

Thanks to everyone for your support and responses. Keep them coming - See you next week!

Response from WE Design Studios:

"Thank you so much for the kind words Rene! I’m glad you’re able to get back in the studio to create more beautiful work. We can’t wait to publish the article about you :)"