Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 26: Mostly Gray

This week has brought rainy, gray weather. The leaves have fallen, the temperature has continued to drop, and fog hides the landscape most mornings. Days are short, clients scarce, and responsibilities self-imposed. I have never appreciated the winter so much before moving to Montmirail. After all, my days spread out in front of me, there is a cozy fire in the studio, and spending all day painting, drawing, etching or just dreaming up new ideas seems a profound luxury. I have hardly ventured out the front door this week, and I've enjoyed every minute. I wake up each morning excited to discover what I can make of the day.

We did have clients on the weekend, but they were the kind who are so easy that we hardly knew they were there before they had left again. We glimpsed blue skies and the sun peeking out from behind clouds from time to time, but those moments too were fleeting. We ripped hungrily into various projects, as if we had been starving for just such uninterrupted free days. Before Christmas we have two more trips abroad planned, one to England and one to Germany, so this quiet week was greatly appreciated.

Rick did find time to visit the garden. He began to put it to bed for the winter.  Nothing more was growing except for the last heroic dahlias. What generous plants these are! Giving copiously and constantly between July and November. Last year we mulched the bulbs and left them in the ground, against the advice of Michel and Jonathan. The winter was particularly harsh and we assumed we had lost them all, but in fact most survived. We will probably chance it again this year, even though cold and snow are predicted.

Tomato plants dead and gone

The bare bones of the garden

We cut the last blooms for our weekend clients


One project I have had in mind since last summer is painting a series of cloud images. I have taken numerous photos as the year has gone along. It has been a year of particular cloud appreciation. When we were in Le Havre we saw an entire long wall covered with small canvases of cloud studies. I found them so charming I wanted to make a series myself. Finally, I've had the chance to begin. I painted these on masonite with oils. We mounted them on the wall as they will take several weeks to dry and I need the room on my table for other projects.


During our visit to Chaumont-sur-Loire a few weeks ago, we discovered a small shop with a sign "Atelier de Gravure". We were compelled to enter. Inside we found a small room with a small woman sitting next to a wood stove, cutting paper chains with a tiny pair of scissors. All around the four walls were hundreds of etchings, tacked up. The paper cut outs, which she also produces, were pasted to the windows. It turns out the artist lives and works in this minute space with a very small press right in the middle of the room. There was barely space to move around for all the supplies and books. Her work table was under the front window. Since her studio is small, her images are the same, some not more than an inch or two square. She makes little drawings of people, animals and the castle, quite naive, but charming. I was fascinated by the size of her plates, which she showed me. She doesn't bother to protect them with talc or wrap them in paper and plastic. They all just sit in a box, jumbled on top of one another. She told me that she buys her plates at Charbonnel in Paris and cuts them up herself. I had never seen such thin copper. Charbonnel, located on the left bank across from Notre Dame, makes the highest quality etching inks. I hadn't purchased copper from them before, so last time we were in the city, I went there to have a look. I was very pleased with the thin and inexpensive small plates and bought several to experiment with. In the studio this week, I had my first chance to use them. They are about 2" x 4". I have been trying to work bigger, but in fact small is more natural to me. I like to work quickly, without too much agonizing over details.

Wren and Cedars

Girl and Cat

Chair by the Window

They're so fast to ink and print and one doesn't feel nervous about experimenting. If it all goes wrong, it's not as if you've destroyed a large precious copper plate.


I also began a series of illustrations for a story Emily is writing, The Very Big Something.

Edith Eagans was busy baking bread like any other day

Sadie Stevens was counting chicken eggs like any other day


For obvious reasons, I cannot post photos of some of the Christmas projects we have worked on this week, but I did make some package tags which I will continue creating this week. I plan to put them into my Etsy shop. They are cut out of antique postcards, of which I have a huge number.


Driving home through the countryside one evening we were treated to an exquisite sunset. It was mesmerizing as the colors, at first brilliant, darkened and clouds floated into ever-changing forms. At first we exclaimed to each other about its beauty and stopped to snap photos. In the end we were speechless and simply enjoyed the show, which we were able to appreciate from start to finish.


  1. Comme toujours, j'adore tes photos Nancy ! Ton projet sur les ciels est très intéressant et me rappelle les cathédrales de Monet ou la Sainte Victoire de Cézanne ! Tu en es juste à la moitié de ton année de blog!

  2. love the cloud studies and the girl with the cat!