Paris: Modern Life

Paris café terrace on June 2, 2020 (photo credit : BBC)

‘We are going to get back our way of life, our taste for freedom – in other words, we are going to rediscover France fully again’. According to the June 14, 2020 news from The Independant, French president Emmanuel Macron made this statement, which means the famous bar and café culture so treasured by the French can officially restart fully, with Paris declared a “green zone” of safety as the pandemic relaxes its hold on the world.

This is thrilling news, sending a signal to all of us that things will always eventually get better. Pour moi, I feel good just imagining the relief and (albeit cautious) optimism Parisian citizens must feel upon re-emerging from their strict two-month lock-down. For many in the City of Light, the café is an extension of their home living spaces, which tend to be small and confining.

The café is where creative ideas are born, where people meet before and after work to socialize, and where a delicious, relaxing lunch in a neighbourhood restaurant may be taken before heading back to the office. This is the beautiful rhythm of day-to-day living so important to one’s joie de vivre (zest for life) .

When something has been taken away, it feels more precious when you get it back.

That April three years ago, when I woke up in my little 11th arrondissement flat on the first day of a five-week Parisian soujourn., I was repeatedly amazed and grateful to actually be there. All of my senses were super-heightened: tastes, colours, sounds. It was like I too had just emerged from lock-down and could experience more fully the joy of life once again while I continued to heal.

This is the spot where I often started my day, enjoying a to-die-for croissant aux chocolat et aux amandes––do the French know what to do with butter and sugar or what? And sipping a café créme, which is basically a flat white, while watching the locals go about their day.

Boulangerie Gaia, Boulevard Voltaire, 11th arrondissement

One day while I was sitting in my usual window spot, I watched a young mother walking her little son to school. They paused in front of my window so that she could take a hairbrush out of her bag, smooth his disarrayed coiffe and apply HAIR SPRAY before heading out. In France, aesthetics are très important!

The thing you must do for sure when you visit Paris: just walk around and notice what comes across your path. The city is meant to be savored on foot. This is known as flânerie, a term which became widely used in 19th century Paris. A flâneur or flâneuse is a stroller or wanderer with enough means that allows her to walk the city with no particular purpose besides pleasure.

“The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude,

amid the ebb and flow of movement,

in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world,

and yet to remain hidden from the world.

Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”, 1863

Gustave Caillebotte: Raboteurs de parquet, 1875 oil on canvas
Paris, France ©photo Musée d’Orsay

The Impressionists and other emerging French painters of the 19th century were at the zeitgeist of the explosion of changes to industrial society with their keen observations of modern life. In their brave move away from the academy-approved history and allegorical painting, they created a new kind of painting, a more subjective expression of human experience of their time.

Edouard Manet depicted family and friends in this ambitious painting of crowds of bourgeois Parisians relaxing out-of-doors. If you look closely you can find Baudelaire and a self-portrait of the artist.

Manet, Music in the Tuilieries, Musée D’orsay, Paris

Manet famously did not idealise what he observed around him, which got him into trouble with the Academy at times. Here is his Bar at the Folies Bérgère (above), which he painted in 1882 . The objects are seductively rendered in thick gestural paint––the glowing liqueur and beer bottles, fruits and glassware, and the beautiful bar-maid with vacant expression who is also an object for the consumption of the crowd reflected in the mirror behind her, and for us.

Here is Cécile Laforest, the bartender at L’Eventail where I would sometimes stop for a snack. She was so kind to me as I practiced my French. She would diplomatically switch to fluent English to tell me about herself. She is an actress, a comédienne, and sometimes model. You can check out her Instagram page to see what she’s up to now. Très sympathique, et très talenteuex!

We’ll talk some more about the act of looking in my next blog.

In the meantime, enjoy being more free to wander around your neighbourhood as most of us are feeling safer to get out there, go to a café, bar, or restaurant, and enjoy the summer.

A bientôt!

Val

SUMMER CLASSES in process

Hello! I’m currently researching how to deliver classes online over the summer while the coronavirus is altering how we do things. Meanwhile, if you are comfortable with one-on-one private sessions, or sessions for two or more in my studio at a safe distance, please contact me and we can get together!

Warm regards, and stay safe out there,

Val

Paris and Anticipation

I was supposed to be in Paris with my sweetie in March this year, but we had to postpone our trip almost at the last moment when the global pandemic developed with such surprising speed. Since we won’t be going anywhere for a while, I’ve decided to share with you some events from my five week dream stay in Paris in 2017.

What made the trip extraordinary was that there was a very real chance it could never happen.

In late summer of 2016 I made my plan: I’d wake up in Paris on April 1 (my birthday), live six weeks in Paris “like a Parisian”, then move on to teach a two-week painting workshop in Tuscany. Then I’d wrap up my trip by meeting a friend to see the Venice Biennale. Très excitant!

Everything was on track: I had ramped up my entrepeneurial chops by meeting my financial goals through selling my art; my Tuscan painting holiday was close to fully booked; I had bought my air ticket to Paris, and booked an AirBnB for a really great price.

Ooh la la, I was stoked. I was so amazed that I was making this dream a reality. But I was a bit tired from all this activity. So I took a little break in California to get some sunshine. This is me practicing plein air in Palm Desert on November 29.

On November 30 came the car crash.

Oops.

Rush Hour 3

The next several months I spent convalescing. I had a concussion, a broken clavicle (my painting arm), major whiplash, and for a while I had difficulty walking. And I couldn’t paint. Argh. I lay awake unable to know what to do. Should I cancel my trip?

Self-portrait with broken clavicle

It was my dark night of the soul. Since I couldn’t be in the studio, and I love making the most of my time, I thought it would be a good idea to work on my “art career”. When I began working with two different life coaches, it became obvious that what I really needed to address was some deep stuff within myself. So I spent the winter in meditation, and began sorting it all out.

Bubble

By mid-March, even though I couldn’t yet lift my suitcase, my doctors and physiotherapists deemed me well enough to go to Europe. Hurray! I could spend some of my convalescence in Paris––pas mal, non? I figured sitting in some cafés, looking at art, and maybe making a few drawings should be fine, and I would likely be much stronger by the time I got to do the working portion of my “holiday” in Italy, so things were looking pretty rosy.

Then, the vertigo kicked in. Or what I later learned is actually something called “disequilibrium”. But more on that later.

At any rate, I was still able to leave for France only two weeks later than planned.

Charles de Gaulle airport

When I arrived on a sunny mid-April afternoon and found my new home in the 11th arrondissement, I remembered that I had booked my accommodation the previous fall knowing full-well that there was no elevator. And my suite was on the sixth floor. That’s one of the reasons it was so cheap!

Although I usually like to travel light, my suitcase this time was extra large because of the length of my stay, and the fact that I had brought along art supplies for my upcoming painting workshop. Because I had been in “business” mode for four months, I also had foolishly brought along office supplies, including a stapler that must have weighed nearly half a pound! What was I thinking? Okay, I’ll give myself some slack, I was after all recovering from a concussion.

Needless to say, there was no way I was going to be able to get my stuff up there the normal way. So I treated the ground floor like base camp, and gradually decanted things up the long spiralling staircase over several stages.

The place was pretty tiny, and obviously they’d got most of their decor from Ikea. But I was in Paris!

Stay tuned for more Parisian adventures in my next installment. Meanwhile, I thought I’d pass along a tip on a très charmant online show I’ve been escaping into lately during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s called Little Paris Kitchen, hosted by Rachel Khoo, a young British Cordon-Blue trained chef who demystifies French cooking for us in her tiny Paris flat. She turns her little place into a restaurant at night that can only seat two people at a time! You can find it on CBC Gems and watch it for free.

A bientôt!

Stay tuned : SUMMER PAINTING CLASSES

Studio Interior, Spring 2020, 22 x 30 inches, oil on paper

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well and weathering this pandemic craziness by keeping creative and keeping in touch with the people most important to you.

I’ve suspended classes temporarily, but am exploring ways to deliver instruction to you online. Meanwhile, as things are opening up out there (I am writing this on June 4), if you feel comfortable with safe distance learning in my studio for one or two people, or for small groups, let me know and I can set something up for you! I miss you.

I will keep you posted as things shape up more clearly. Happy painting!

warm best wishes, Val

SPRING/SUMMER PAINTING CLASSES at VAL NELSON STUDIO

DUE TO THE CORONOAVIRUS PANDEMIC, PAINTING CLASSES ARE SUSPENDED UNTIL OFFICIAL WORD HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED THAT WE CAN RETURN TO SAFE GROUP ACTIVITIES. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES, AND PLEASE STAY SAFE OUT THERE. I MISS YOU AND LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU IN THE STUDIO AGAIN!

Open Painting Studio

Four Saturday afternoons: TBA (was April 25, May 2, May 16 & 23)

Four Sunday afternoons: TBA (was April 26, May 3, May 17 & 24)

This energizing workshop is for students with some painting experience who want to hone their craft under the guidance of a professional painter in her private studio. Bring a new project, or complete something you have on the go if you’re feeling stuck! Val will help you work through any painterly problem you might have be it technical or conceptual.

Each session begins with a 30 minute drawing or painting warmup exercise.

Oil or acrylic. $278 includes GST Drop-ins when available: $73.50

Loosen Up Painting Weekend TBA- may go ahead May 30/31

Are you ready to loosen up your painting practice? In this inspiring painting weekend workshop, participants will be assigned fun and challenging timed painting exercises to build confidence to take risks and discover new strategies to their painting practice. Includes blind-contour drawing, semi-blind painting, collaborative painting, limited palette, mark-making, experimental colour, and other approaches to make the process more playful and exciting.

Oil and acrylic

Location: #322b-1000 Parker Street, East Vancouver

Tuition: $278 includes GST

Max 8 students

NOTORIOUSLY INSPIRING

5 Day Art Vacation in Historic Moosejaw: TBA Jun 26-Jun 30

An ideal pairing of inspired learning and blissful relaxation amidst authentic heritage architecture and stunning Prairie landscape.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Friday, June 26 to Tuesday, June 30, 2020

We are fascinated with the idea of the Prairies with its generous skies, clarity of light and spaciousness. We think we are familiar with it, but do we really know what the heartland has to offer us as artists?

Do you ache to be inspired by a new experience—and to be able to paint or sketch in a bold and direct way? This workshop will help you find your own expression, whether you’re an experienced painter, or just beginning your painting exploration.

Intrigued to learn more? For more information:

 https://valnelson.ca/

Contact: val@valnelson.ca   778-865-2650

POSTPONED: LOOSEN UP PAINTING WEEKEND May 30/31 2020

POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE:

Are you ready to Loosen Up your painting practice? In this inspiring painting weekend workshop, participants will be assigned fun and challenging timed painting exercises to build confidence to take risks and discover new strategies to their painting practice. Includes blind-contour drawing, semi-blind painting, collaborative painting, limited palette, mark-making, experimental colour, and other approaches to make the process more playful and exciting.

Oil and acrylic. A supply list will be provided in plenty of time before the workshop.

Location: #322b-1000 Parker Street, East Vancouver

Tuition: $265 + GST

Max 8 students.

To register: 778-865-2650 val@valnelson.ca

ONLINE PAINTING CLASSES

In progress! Contact me to subcribe for updates. val@valnelson.ca

Also, if you are happy to do small safe-distancing workshops in my studio with me, let me know and we can set something up!

Meanwhile, stay safe out there!

xoVal

OTHER CLASS OPTIONS

All classes subject to GST

Online Class: I’m currently researching how to deliver classes online over the summer while the coronavirus is altering how we do things. Meanwhile, if you are comfortable with one-on-one private sessions, or sessions for two or more in my studio at a safe distance, please contact me and we can get together!

Private Classes: $110/hr (first hour $85 for new student) 4-session package $400

Private Classes for Two: $160/hr

Group Classes: $400 half-day/ $750 full day

Mentorship/Critique: $110/hr

Artist talk: $350

Painting Demo: $350

Cancellation policy: Due to the demands for my teaching and my busy painting schedule, two weeks’ notice is required if you need to cancel or reschedule. Thank you for your understanding!

Instructor Biography: A finalist in the Royal Bank Painting Competition, Val Nelson has exhibited widely across Canada, and has taught painting at the Shadbolt Arts Centre, Emily Carr University, and Vancouver Island School of Art. She has 1800+ students and five-star reviews for her online painting course with Bluprint (formerly Craftsy). Val believes that painting can be fun and challenging, offering a beautiful pathway to self-realisation.

Paper works and New Paintings: Eastside Culture Crawl Nov 15-18, 2018

For the first time at the Culture Crawl I’m offering a limited edition print of one of my paintings, Rush Hour. There will be only 10 in the edition,  10 x 10 inches on archival paper with archival inks. A framed sample beautifully put together by Fine Art Framing will be on display in my studio. I will be taking orders for this and a few other limited editions  also available at a price point that allows for affordable gift-giving, for a loved one, or for yourself!

Rush Hour, 10 x 10 inch limited edition print on archival paper

Also available: A 50-page book of select paintings from twelve years of my Tourist series.

As well you will find six new paintings, and  a drypoint print, Syon House Interior that I recently re-discovered in my print portfolio, along with some framed 7 x 7 inch 3-colour pencil crayon drawings.

Detail, Syon House Interior, drypoint print with chine collé on BFK Rives paper

Detail of one of several drawings on offer.

See you there!

1000 Parker Street, #322b

EASTSIDE CULTURE CRAWL DATES AND HOURS

Thursday, November 15
5 pm – 10 pm

Friday, November 16
5 pm – 10 pm

Saturday, November 17
11 am – 6 pm

Sunday, November 18
11 am – 6 pm

Haptic Splendour

For the past 15 years, I’ve painted opulent European 18th and 19th century interiors. Designed as theatrical displays of status and power by wealthy aristocrats and bourgeoisie, these formerly private sites are now museums, providing entertainment and pleasure for touristic consumption, while also opening up a space for philosophical contemplation.

Although I use photography as a structural device through which I enter the painting process, with each piece I always seem to arrive at a point of crisis where I need to break free from the tyranny of the image. Through partly destroying the image I discover fresh solutions to painterly problems I set for myself.

Throughout my childhood and into my mid-twenties, I was a ballet dancer. That intense training of spatial awareness and interpretive questioning is still deeply stamped in my DNA. A painting to me is a kind of choreography; there’s a haptic dance that takes place from my optical experience of an image, through to the way my nervous system signals to my body how to translate and record it. As painter/dancer I tease out meaning through working and reworking, coming up to speed as I gain understanding, and making the last strikes with absolute commitment.