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Collagraphs

One of the classes I am teaching at the moment is collagraph printmaking. As the name implies, you make a collage of materials on a flat substrate such as matboard, seal the back and the front, then ink and wipe it like an intaglio plate before printing. Here is one of the collagraphs I have made this year:

The texture along the top is created by ripping away the first layers of the matboard and exposing some of the rougher fibres below the smooth surface. The crane shape comes from cutting precise lines with an x-acto knife and then digging away inside the lines. The brown shape below the crane=a piece of thin textured fabric glued onto the matboard. The factory=pieces of the torn mat board cut into regular shapes and glued back down. Finally, the very darkest areas were created by brushing on carborundum mixed with PVA. When all of that was dry, I sealed the front and the back with acrylic gloss medium. Inking=prussian blue and sepia, wiped with tarlatan to create a middle tone of …
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Dessins de Paris: 6

A waiter at La Closerie de Lilas, at the eastern end of the Boulevard de Montparnasse. The bistro is famous for its association with several generations of writers and artists, from Paul Fort in the 1890s, Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s, and Gide and Beckett in the post-WWII era. The waiter could have worked at any place in Paris, however, and that's what caught my eye and made me draw him. The crisp white shirt and apron, the black tie and waistcoat, and the high domed forehead made him seem like the distilled essence of Parisian waiter. If you cold walk into the Closerie in any of the eras I mentioned, there would be a fair chance of seeing a waiter who looked just like this.

He looks like he might be sleeping on the job in this drawing, but I think he was looking down as he was ringing up a bill at the register. And that reminds me of something: I don't recall many French waiters gazing at their smartphones, even if there was a lull in the traffic (unlike American or Englis…

Dessins de Paris: 5

At a restaurant in Montparnasse, just off the Boulevard de Montparnasse, where three of us went one evening for a faculty meal. A small place with fewer than ten tables, and a waiting list that meant we had to book more than a week in advance. The food was classic French cuisine with some Vietnamese touches. One of the waiters was the chap in this memory-drawing: tall, athletic build, with a beautiful rich burnt umber skin tone, and his head shaved into concentric circles ascending to a curling tuft right on the top of his skull. It's the sort of hairstyle that might look ridiculous on some people, but which mysteriously some people can carry off well. The waiter also smiled a lot, and seemed like a nice person. I can remember him more than the food I ate that night.

I Did Nazi This Coming

Metropolitan Opera, New York: Parsifal Act III
Despite being a lifelong lover of and listener to opera, I've never had the ear for Wagner's music. I love hearing everything from Gluck up to John Adams, but skirted around or jumped over Wagner whenever the temptation presented itself.

I used the provocative 'N' word in the title of this post because one of the things that has always made me wary of the Bard of Bayreuth is the stain laid on it by its National Socialist admirers. That's not the only reason.

Reasons why I never liked Wagner:
The enormous length of his operas, often five hours plus. And my objection was not to the length per se, but to what it said about his musical language. For example, if like me you are steeped in Mozart's operative language, with its brilliance and variety and liveliness, Wagner's music can seem turgid and static by comparison.
The ridiculous medieval stories. Given the chance to watch Mozart or Puccini or Richard Strauss…

Dessins de Paris: 4

I am sitting on the Paris Metro on one of the fold-down seats near the sliding doors. The train is travelling between the Grands Boulevards on the Right Bank, and Denfert-Rochereau on the Left Bank. At one of the stations, the doors open and a woman walks in wearing a coat of expensive looking dark blue cloth with a billowing white cold-repelling collar. She has a string of pearls around her neck, and her face glows with lots of immaculately applied make-up. She sees someone she knows, and her mouth and eyes open wide at the coincidence of meeting a friend or acquaintance at that time of day, in a Metro system that ferries more than four million people around and beneath Paris every day.

(Medium: pen, Neocolor water-soluble wax pastels.)

Dessins de Paris: 3

This woman was walking down the Rue Daguerre in Montparnasse. I noticed several things about her. First, she wore heavy blue eye make up and wore tight fitting black clothes that made me think of the down-at-heels lefties I used to see walking around London in the 1990s. The second, more obvious thing was that she was carrying a baby in a sling, and smoking from a vaper directly over the baby's head. And not just smoking, but allowing clouds of nicotine-infused smoke to billow over and around the baby's face. French people are among the last resolute holdouts to anti-smoking crusades in Europe, and seem to take pride in smoking defiantly wherever they can get away with it, even if there's a big non-smoking sign displayed right next to them. So I'm pretty used to seeing cigarettes all over Paris. But this really takes the biscuit, as we English say.

Dessins de Paris: 2

I saw this chap on the Paris Metro, travelling on line 13 between Gaite and Champs Elysees. He boarded the train at Bir Hakeim, the stop closest to the Eiffel Tower. He looked run down and ragged, possibly homeless, but certainly one of the people who hop on and off the metro to beg for money in different carriages. This man didn't do the most common thing you see, which is to give his well-rehearsed hard luck story in a loud voice while he passes along the carriage with an upturned hat in his hand. The man in this drawing was singing a song, I think it was an old chanson like you would hear from the 1950s. I didn't recognize all of the words, but it was something about walking through the rain and being in love, and his voice was exceptionally good, a strong baritone with a nice tone, perfectly in tune. His face was covered in patches of bad skin, like he had been sleeping rough in cold weather, or maybe they were burns. But the voice that came out of that horrible exterior …