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Thank you, everyone, for your Comments on Monday’s post  — I really appreciate your helping me suss out what it takes to take cheese to the next level. I tried to do too much in a 4 1/2-inch  x  7 inch space…re-works are in the works.

Today’s topic is:  How far can you go with charcuterie?

This is an illustration that was in the proposal for my Damn France Book that I sent to my publishers at Bloomsbury over a year ago. But now, after having illustrated the rest of the book, this picture doesn’t do it for me. Or, I should say: I don’t think this picture gives enough for a reader (and not just any reader: my reader) to look at. So I’ve re-done it (to take it to the next level, as they say).

I should mention that there was also a technical reason I had to change this illustration. When I proposed the book, I wanted it to be in an 8 ” x 8″ format. Bloomsbury came back and said that they wanted the Damn France Book to be a partner to my first book, and in the same trim size — 8″ x 9″. So my page layout had to go from square to rectangle — I had to re-do every single page of the first three chapters. If I were lazier I would have just left this illustration in its original size, but I’m persnickety.

And because I’m persnickety, it’s taken me weeks and weeks to get the French Bread page right.

It started out like this:

But I quickly replaced it with this:

Which I hated. You see, I have a very clear idea about how French bread should be painted, and it’s not like this. Because, while I think it’s OK to paint cheese and charcuterie with my usual up-tight attention to detail, French bread has to be done with a much lighter, looser touch. A lightness and looseness of touch that (see above) does not come easily to me. I knew I would have to practise and practise to get that gossamer tactility that I wanted:

Let me show you what I mean. This is the wrong way to paint French bread(too much paint, too many brush strokes, to much fussiness):

And this (one of my more successful practice sketches) is the (loose, light) right way:

When it comes to French bread my inspiration is not the great, glossy, super art-directed pages that I love to find in shelter magazines (like I showed you on Monday).  My inspiration is the feather-soft work of Mozelle Thompson, whose work can be found on the front and backs of my beloved vintage LPs which I collect for their priceless nostalgic images of France that puts me in the mood to do a whole Damn France Book. Ah, those old 33 1/3 records were once the epitome of cool, modern, foreign, sophistication.

This is an album with Mozelle’s art work on it (front and back)  from 1958:

This vintage album:

has this Mozelle on the back (it’s unsigned, but her style is unmistakable):

And this little Mozelle beauty:

is on the back of this 1957 album:

So when I was painting my French bread, I tried my best to channel the light-as-air paint brush of Mozelle Thompson:

And this is what I got:

Do you recognize the typeface I used for Le Pain? Here’s a hint:

The point of all this, dear patient readers, is that it doesn’t pay to think that inspiration can only come from on high. I mean from the high horses of the  sanctioned gatekeepers of official culture: museums, coffee table art books, college-level classes, galleries, big-time art directed glossy beautiful shelter magazines.  Aim low, my friends; find inspiration in the dusty bargain bins of neighborhood thrift stores.

Right?

9 comments to Back on the learning curve.

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