Saturday, August 23, 2008

Free painting lessons

Paris is a very generous city; free bikes, beauty everywhere you look, countless parks and green spaces, many with playgrounds, tennis courts, etc. This summer, Paris is also giving free painting lessons. Everything you need to know about color and composition can be found in the flowerbeds in the gardens. I've always been a huge fan of the gardeners for the Luxembourg Gardens; no matter the season, they manage to create the most extraordinary, inspiring mixtures of plant life. This summer, though, I've seen the same artistry in almost every park, including one behind the Gare de l'Est that I didn't even know existed. That one, the Parc Villemin, is certainly not listed in any upmarket guidebook, but it has the same kind of gorgeous spread for its less tony clientele. It's all here - a wild array of color complements, usually restrained in a bed to focus on a particular combination, sophisticated textural range, with, for example, fine spidery foliage carefully balanced by larger leaves or more expansive flower forms, and clear understanding of line in the heights of flowers, leaves, and grasses. Flowers or not, the lessons of composition and color are universal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I've had my eye out for faces this summer, ever since I discovered them all over the beautiful buildings of Bordeaux. Paris is full of them. Many are from the 19th century, a time of human concern and discovery in science, medicine, literature, art, and architecture. They say something about the age in which they were created, when human beings increasingly took possession of the individual worth that had been denied them (excepting the rich and noble) for long centuries. Many of the faces are sited above entry doors and windows, like guardian spirits for their building and its inhabitants. The variety of expression on these lively faces is at times astonishing, and surely cost the builders more than slapping up rows of generic, molded images. It's nice to know that they valued individuality enough to pay for it. We're lucky in their choices.