Monday, 25 June 2012

Celebrating 500 posts

This post is number 500 on this blog! I never thought I would get that far when I started this My French Easel blog in August 2007. First, I am sending a big thank you to everyone who follows or visit this blog. This helps me carrying on.

Source: background photo from NASA

I had a several reasons to start this blog:
  • This motivates me to paint and create.
  • It acts like a journal and I can refer to when I want.
  • I like to share my painting tips.
  • As a non-native English speaker, writing regularly in English is a good exercise.
A few numbers

I try not to look at the blog's statistics too often, but numbers show some interesting and often surprising facts.

  • 199509 pageviews since the start
  • Post with the most page views (5,234 Pageviews): Texture in oil with painting knives
  • Most used search term that led to the blog: Hokusai
This blog is not a commercial venture. I decided not to put any advertising on the site and I don’t plan to change that. I use Amazon affiliate links (and managed to buy one art book with the proceeds...), but this does not dictate the content of the blog.

A few favourite posts

Let me do that by category.

Paintings: Cable car ride for oil paintings; Dragon Gate (San Francisco) for mixed-media; River Kennet at Avebury for watercolour and Children at the river for pastel.

Recommended book: It’s hard to pick one, but the most inspiring book I read and reviewed on the blog so far is The Creative habit by Twyla Tharp.

Museum: I can’t really pick a favourite museum, however the Marmottan museum in Paris is a must see if you like Impresionnism.

Painting studio tips: two posts my readers found useful are How to open a stuck oil paint tube and How to set-up your French easel (on your own).

Art material: my vote goes to the daylight easel lamp because I can paint in the evening with it, without fear of discovering the next day that all the colours are wrong.

Monday, 18 June 2012

SF's taxi

SF's taxi - Oil on canvas (24 cm x 33 cm) by Benoit Philippe

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Matisse Museum – Le Cateau-Cambrésis

As I was in the North of France with my family, we went to visit the Matisse museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis – his birth place.

Palais Fénelon, home of the Matisse museum

The collection, exhibited in chronological order, counts 170 works. It is interesting to see the evolution of his work throughout his career. You can view some of the works on the website of the museum (link at the end of this post).

During the first years, when he was learning the craft in the art studio of Gustave Moreau, Matisse’s palette was still full of earth colours and he was also copying still life paintings by Chardin.

Matisse then explored Divisionism, after meeting Signac in Saint-Tropez in 1904. The painting was slowly created by the juxtaposition of coloured dots and the final effect relied on optical mixing of colours, when the painting is look at from a distance. But Matisse found the technique too burdensome and only kept from it the pure colours.

Another room showed works from the Fauvism period, a movement he created with a group of painters in 1905: Marquet, Manguin, Camoin, Puy, Derain, Vlaminck, Braque, Dufy, Friez, Valtat, Van Dongen and Rouault. The trademark of the group was bright and pure colours used to express sentiments rather than depict reality.

One of Matisse's sculpture in the courtyard

Then came the paintings done with flat colours and simplified lines. Matisse was always looking for a sensation of calm and balance in his work. A feature of the artist’s work is how he uses black: to create lines but also in planes, as any other colours. In his writings and interviews, he made the point that black was a colour. He even went as far as declaring that he was using black as a "colour of light rather than a colour of obscurity".

Matisse's palette

Towards the end of his life, Matisse developed a unique technique with gouache cut-outs to create his works. The museum has some fine examples from this period.

Matisse also worked on the Chapelle in Vence (South of France) that he created for the Dominican sisters between 1948 and 1951. The museum shows several models and works specially created for this project.

On the ground floor, the museum has a large selection of drawings and engravings by Matisse.

Nus de Dos number one by Matisse

Another aspect of Matisse’s work is the sculptures he carved. The original plasters of the series Nus de Dos are in the museum. And the first one is also in the garden as a bronze sculpture (A full series of the four sculptures casted in bronze is part of the Centre Pompidou collection in Paris).

The Matisse museum also hosts the Herbin Collection (a geometrical abstract artist born in the North of France) as well as the Tériade Collection (he published a number of artists’ books, including Jazz by Matisse).

The museum

Musée départemental Matisse
Palais Fénelon
59360 Le Cateau-Cambrésis