many ways, I am a self-taught artist. I paint almost everyday, working on my own
compositions or copying the masters (Monet, Cézanne,
Van Gogh, Modigliani, Vermeer and others). But creating art is not just solitary
work. While I did not learn to do art in a standard academic program, along the
way I have attended courses at a local college and participated in a variety of
classes taught by professionals. I have studied under these wonderfully talented
artists: Igor Koutsenko,
Michael Steirnagle, Sylvia
Greenfield , Richard
Stergulz (my current mentor) and Renée Corwin (president of the San
Diego Portrait Society).
I have been painting actively for only a few years, but I am not totally new to
art - far from it actually. My artistic interest goes back a long time. It started
with art lessons in high school in my native Brittany, France (the region made
famous by Paul Gauguin and the Ecole de Pont Aven). I had excellent teachers who
taught me the basics of drawing and composition and left me with a lifelong interest
in art. In my first career as a teacher, I taught art to my grade school students
and dabbled in painting with oil in my spare time. Over the years, I also created
jewelry, I sculpted a bust of Shakespeare and I designed a theater set, newsletter
covers, various brochures and a wine label. So, although the demands of my professional
life pulled me in totally different directions, I have always had a strong interest
in all things related to the arts.
is not my style - at least not for now. He was a very talented artist, no doubt,
but I have found other heroes I admire: Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Anders
Zorn, Joaquin Sorolla, John Singer Sargent and Lucien Freud are on my short list.
The loose painterly brushwork of these great artists fascinates me. My goal is
to emulate them as I work on my technique. They are my guiding lights as I continue
developing my own style.
views on art? Well, treatises on the definition of art are a dime a dozen and,
I have to say, I am not on a mission to start a movement. However, I do have a
few personal thoughts on the subject. So, here we go... I think art should be
a re-processing of what we see and what we know. Art gives us the capability to
create new interpretations of the world around us - real or fantasized. It's an
activity whose purpose is to appeal to the imagination and the power of suggestion.
To me, the greatest gift of art is the opportunity to go around dreaming while
being wide awake - similar, in a way, to watching clouds drift across the sky.
Should it be pleasing to the eye? No question! But remember, we all see the world
differently, so this leaves a lot of room for personal expression and creativity
- the proverbial "eye of the beholder". I also think that art should
exude or elicit emotions by telling "stories" that move and inspire.
But above all, the primary goal of art is to elevate from the real but not alienate
from the incomprehensible (translation: if you want to re-create reality, take
a photo, but if you can't figure out what the message is, the piece is probably
not a work of art).
I love going to art museums, but my interest goes beyond comparing Michelangelo
to El Greco or Titian to Caravaggio. I also enjoy visiting places where famous
artists have lived and worked. Seeing the houses, studios, kitchens, gardens,
etc. where famous paintings were created is a totally different experience...
an artistic pilgrimage, so to speak. Here are some of my favorite artist places:
Cézanne - Aix-en-Provence, France. I visited both the house where he
lived most of his life, Jas de Bouffan, and his studio, Les Lauves.. Walking around
his garden - the setting for many of his paintings - was absolutely fascinating,
and driving past Mt Sainte Victoire, his favorite subject, was a thrill.
Dali - Port Lligat, Spain (north of Barcelona). Dali bought a cluster of fishermen's
houses and turned them into an architecturally "surrealist" compound
with stunning views over the Mediterranean. An extravagant complex, as you would
Kahlo - Mexico City. Frida lived in the Blue House with Diego Rivera during
their tumultuous relationship. Her easel is still there and the back brace she
wore because of an injury is on display in her bedroom.
Modigliani - Pere Lachaise, Paris. Modigliani never lived there, obviously
(Pere Lachaise is a cemetery for famous people: Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf
and many others). So, instead of going to his studio, I went to his grave, where
he is buried next to his companion, Jeanne Hebuterne, who tragically ended her
life (while pregnant) 3 days after the artist's death. On the ground, I saw a
flower which didn't seem to be in use. I picked it up and put it on his gravestone
Monet - Giverny, France. A very popular tourist destination - just a day trip
from Paris. Strolling around Monet's lily pond and through his garden puts you
in the middle of his wonderful Impressionist world. The house and his studio are
also open for visits.
Picasso - Malaga, Spain. A comfortable apartment in this attractive beach
city of Andalusia, where he was born. The Picasso Museum in Barcelona shows some
of his early "traditional" works. Also stunning are his Guernica, at
the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and the Chapel of War and Peace in Vallauris,
France (on the French Riviera near Nice).
- Amsterdam, Holland. With the Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijks Museums, Amsterdam
is heaven on earth for art enthusiasts. You can also visit Rembrandt's 5-story
house, which has been turned into a museum. They even have live demonstrations
of the etching techniques he used. It's a shame he went bankrupt. He certainly
lived in fine quarters!
there is more near Amsterdam. If you ever go there, consider allowing time for
these three fantastic museums: Kroller-Muller in Otterlo (a large Van Gogh collection),
Frans Hals in Haarlem and Mauritshuis in The Hague (Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl
Renoir - Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (near Nice). He lived in a commodious two-story
house with several acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and views over the
Mediterranean. A very peaceful place! A handful of his paintings are on display
in the living and dining rooms.
Sorolla - Madrid, Spain. The artist's mansion (now a museum owned by the Ministry
of Culture) displays a small collection of the prolific Impressionist's work and
shows how successful he was during his lifetime. In the large and airy studio,
the canvas he was working on just before he died in 1923 remains in its place,
with the brushes, paint tubes and palette next to the unfinished work. The Andalusian-style
garden he designed makes a peaceful transition from the busy street outside..
van Gogh - Auvers-sur-Oise, France. This is where the life of the tormented
genius tragically ended. Walking into the tiny, drab bedroom where he died gives
you goose bumps. His grave is next to that of his brother Theo in the local cemetery,
up on a hill. I also went inside Dr. Gachet's house, only a few blocks down the
Zorn - Mora, Sweden. A 3 ½ -hour train ride north of Stockholm. Located
on a beautiful placid lake, Mora is a bucolic picture-postcard Swedish town, complete
with Zorn's bronze statue in a park and his grave by the church. He lived in a
rambling home with his wife (and many times his model) Emma. Everything is as
it was when he lived there. The Zorn museum is right next door. It's small but
absolutely delightful and well worth the trip, in my opinion.
right, this long list probably sounds like a travelog to you. Well maybe it is.
But there is a good reason for that. My wife and I used to have a travel business
that specialized in France, Spain and Portugal, and I have been to all thoses
places many times.