Starting Again

On Monday when we left Montmirail, we woke up to a dusting of snow.

We took a rather long holiday break to spend Christmas with our local family at our home in the countryside. Since this blog is dedicated to our experiences on the Brittany coast, I have taken a break from posting as well. We are now back in our little apartment by the sea and it seems that while we were gone the oceanscape didn’t change much. The tides still roll in and out with predictable regularity and the sun still rises and sets on schedule. These certainties have a calming effect.

From my own point of view, this new year offers an opportunity to take another look at my personal life and to use the changing of the calendar as a prompt to make my own alterations. In other words, make some resolutions. Anyone who has known me long probably recalls that the first of January is one of my favorite days. I appreciate signs and portents and I am not at all hesitant to find significance in the human construct of a calendar year. I fully believe that extra energy for my own change accompanies the turning over of the year. And since I feel that way, it tends to work that way for me. The beginning of a new year always brings hopeful expectations.

The glassy sea with swirling “tidal shadows” caused by the water flowing around the rocky outcrops.

I stopped long ago with resolutions about losing weight or exercising more. Mine tend to revolve around art goals, although this year, as explained in a recent post, my art year began when we moved to the sea, and I am in the middle of a project which will go on until we leave again.

I do have some new things I want to explore, including making my own stamps, which I have already begun to do.

I have carved a few images from ordinary erasers I bought at the supermarket.

That’s a simple and fun idea, and the stamps can be used in my journal, in letters, to make package tags or in multi-media illustrations. I will add them to my on-going monthly Sense of Place book project.

I mounted the finished stamps on little logs I brought back from our firewood stash at the Maison

This year I decided that my real resolution is to experience more joy. It is very easy to get swept away by the bad news of the day, I certainly often do, but adding my distress to the general gloomy outlook is probably not helpful in the grand scheme of things, and I feel convinced it does not accomplish much either for myself or the rest of the world.

Standing in a shaft of winter sun, with the wind brushing my cheek, leaning out a window to listen to song birds greet the morning, watching the gold yellow dawn disappear into blue, smelling the rain on bare earth, or tasting the salt in the sea air, all these joys I have experienced, They are available every day. I think of joy as a current that flows unseen through the air. I just need to locate it and stand in the middle of it and allow it to wash over me. It only requires that I forget myself for a moment, because joy really is completely impersonal.

We were surprised to see someone right outside our window sailing past on the day we returned. We could almost touch her, before she floated away.

Winter at the Maison

Monotype Landscape #1

Winter this year so far has been extremely mild. Global warming has come to Montmirail. In our front garden we currently have a rose in bloom, and our Daphne plant, (which usually blooms first, but closer to the beginning of March) is in full bloom. Unless something changes soon, I think we will see Spring long before expected. Of course since it was significantly warmer in Antarctica this week than in our village, it’s clear that we can’t count on much these days.

One thing, however, that hasn’t changed, is the Maison Conti is currently very quiet. We have our days mostly to ourselves. I do appreciate being able to begin the new year with lots of time to experiment and indulge myself in my atelier. It sustains me for the year. A little winter hibernation is not a bad thing.

I have returned to printmaking experimentation. I spent a lot of time several years ago exploring monotypes. The process basically involves painting an image on a plate and printing it as a one-off. 9 out of 10 times I wasn’t so happy with the results, but the ones that did turn out well were very pleasing to me indeed. It’s a process with a lot of surprises.

Monotype Landscape #2

I have done many fewer etchings over the last few years than I did when we first set up the atelier at Maison Conti. I hope to get back to more of that as the year goes on. I finished my first effort in early January.

Chez Nous”, a line etching

I have also begun working on some relief prints. The difference between intaglio, like an etching, and relief, like linoleum or wood block printing, is that in a relief the part that is not meant to print is cut away, leaving the surface to be inked and printed. In Intaglio, the lines are incised into metal, using acid. The plate is inked but then wiped clean, leaving the ink only in the lines which print under the pressure of the press and the dampness of the paper. I have done very little relief printing in my life. The results are less detailed and fine, but can be lovely in their own way.

“Black Bird,” relief print cut from wood blocks, one block for each color.

“Versailles”, one color wood block print

Our little village is calm at this time of the year, but there are lots of ideas in the air to improve and grow the town. We have a new restaurant being planned, perhaps a bike rental and brewery, we have some crafts people moving in to town to open up their studios for visits, we have a new gift shop and many cultural events in the coming seasons.