Sunday, August 16, 2009

Art & Europe

I'm back from my European adventure and I am excited to blog once again! My entire trip was filled with moments of art and inspiration, so I thought I'd share some of that with you. It cultivated in a final day of actually making art with Amb in Italy, so be sure to check out the next post about that as well.

First of all, you know already that before I left, I aspired to make quilts for five of the new babies I was to see. Lucky for me, my meeting with Tara from Tinkerfrog was particularly helpful in finishing that bear of a project. She suggested omitting the batting and just sewing them front-to-front with cute flannels, and voila! they'd be done in a snap. And so, here they are, all wrapped up like bon bons and ready to pack. If you'd like to see photos of them with their recipients, just email me: artbyhlm (at) gmail (dot) com.

After delivering the second of the quilts, I had the chance to learn about napkin art. This is something I'd read about previously in Craft, Paper, Scissors, but never really realized its potential and simplicity. My friend Andrea made these two pieces for the guest room in her home, and sadly, the photos don't do them justice. But you get the idea. And they were made from canvases, a napkin each, decoupage glue, and a little paint around the edges. I was so inspired I promptly bought a bunch of napkins in the art store in Hameln, Hobby Haus (one of my old haunts).

Later in the week, I had breakfast with my dear friend Barbara, who is a quilter. She made that purple and brown piece on her living room wall a number of years ago. It is entirely hand-quilted. In the foreground, you can see a multi-media quilt she recently purchased. Now that is my kind of quilt! Small, and incorporating various items to give it texture.

On a day trip down the Weser valley with an old colleague, I stopped for a bathroom break in a cafe where the staircase was something else! First, it was wallpapered in this black and white striped paper, and then there were these fine silverware prints and a wall full of pepper mills.

Next stop, Lucerne, Switzerland, where one of its most famous attractions, the Lion Memorial, is an incredible work of art. It commemorates the fallen Swiss soldiers of the French Revolution in the 1700s, and was designed and carved by Bertel Thorvaldsen and Lukas Ahorn in 1820-1821. I had been here before, exactly 20 years ago, and it was wonderful to see it again as an adult. I could better appreciate its meaning this time, and its artistry. To carve something like this from a slab of rock takes a special talent. I admire the way a sculptor's mind must work to conceive of such a project.

That same day, I visited the Bourbaki Panorama, a true marvel! You view the 360-degree painting from the center of a large round room. It wraps around you and you feel like you're in the scene, which depicts the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the French soldiers finding refuge in Neu Chatel, Switzerland. There is even a soundtrack to go along with it, which, mixed with the air conditioning, makes it easy to imagine being there in it. It was created in the 1880s by Edouard Castres, and it took a large team of painters to complete it. The other cool thing about it is that other artists made a faux-terrain in the year 2000 to give the painting depth and make it more realistic. I highly recommend a visit to this museum if anyone ever goes to Lucerne. It was a definite highlight of my trip. Visit their website here if you'd like to learn more about it. I'm afraid it wasn't the easiest thing to photograph, so sorry for that.

On a walk about Lucerne one evening, I came across a window in which there were many expensive items. However, the window design included these lovely sewn-paper butterflies, hanging by threads. So lovely.

The next week, I found myself in Nice, France! Amb and I walked by this church, which was nice (haha) in its own right, but I was particularly enamored by the young woman outside who was drawing/painting the church. You could tell that she was taking the time to be painstakingly detailed, and in my opinion, her half-finished piece was far more beautiful than the church itself. She was lovely, too, in the afternoon sun.

We also visited the Henri Matisse museum. Everything about it was wonderful. It was a small museum in a beautiful building, near a park full of olive trees, and the admission was free! I was only familiar with a couple of Matisse's things, and it was great to get to know his work better, and understand that art doesn't have to be complicated to be good. This piece, called Nu Bleu IV is actually not painted but collaged! The blue paper is cut-up pieces arranged in the shape of the woman. Much of his work involved simple contrasting colors and shapes. We were incredibly inspired.

Finally, while shopping in town, Amb discovered a card shop that sold 6x6" cards with the art work of Gaelle Boissonard, a French woman who seems to be "one of us." We tried looking her up online, and her work has been commissioned for a French card company called Correspondences. But she has nothing more than a blog, which you can view here. It's all in French, but her work is fantastic, and Amb and I have become instant fans. This is one of the many cards I purchased that day.

That's it for my European art experience. As I begin my four-day work week in September, which means I can devote an entire day every week--guaranteed--to making art, I am inspired and refreshed. I can't wait to show you what will come!
So glad to be back. Check in with me every couple of weeks to see what happens!


As often as Amb and I have spent time together while working on our own art, we couldn't remember a time when we'd worked collaboratively on one project. Inspired by our individual artistic development over the last year, our conversations during our week together, our trip to Nice, France, and Kelly Rae Roberts, we organized ourselves in Amb's small studio on my last day in Europe and created a piece together. What an excellent experience!

Amb has recently considered the importance of process documentation, and the idea of pictures of the artist at work, so we dutifully photographed our process. Here I am gluing the tickets/brochures/receipts from our trip to Nice to a piece of cardboard, to use as our base. We used gloss medium to glue everything down and varnish it before applying paint. The varnish helps to protect the paper underneath.

The finished base. You can see we used the map of the city, two validated tram tickets, our train tickets to and from Nice, a brochure for the Matisse museum, and the business cards for the place we stayed and the restaurants where we ate.

Using a photo we took of ourselves in a park as inspiration, we sketched out images over the base, then mixed acrylic paint till we got satisfactory hues, and started filling the sketches in. We ended up painting each other rather than ourselves, which was good practice for both of us.

Amb in her studio.

After getting the faces down, we added words that represented what the trip was for us. We liked how the image of us is a form of reflection, considering how much we reflected in our conversations, and really the experience was all about time for each other and ourselves. Using a style learned from Kelly Rae, we wiped the edges of the piece with yellow and turquoise paint, two colors I now highly associate with Nice. We are both extremely satisfied with the final outcome.

Reflection by HLM and ambrella:

And just so you can see the photo that inspired us, here ya go.

Be sure to visit Amb's blog in the next couple of days to see her posting about our trip and this art experience! 

(Edited 12/11/13: Likely due to inactivity, Ambra's blog was unfortunately taken over in November 2011 and turned into something completely different, so this post is lost to us.)