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Bayeux, France is my kind of place.

I first read about it when I was ten years old, in the August 1966 issue of the National Geographic Magazine(the one that had a detail from the Bayeux Tapestry on the cover to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of 1066, when William the Duke of Normandy walloped Harold, King of England at the Battle of Hastings and put himself on the throne and yadda yadda yadda all the way to the current Queen).

I dreamed of being married in Bayeux. Turns out that that’s a very complicated thing if you’re marrying an American and when I married a French guy I wasn’t in the mood but all the same: Bayeux is my kind of town.

I visit it whenever I can.

It’s an important part of my Damn France Book, of course.

But there’s a scenic little corner in my dear sweet village of Bayeux that ‘s been giving me trouble. I won’t even show you the first attempt I made to paint it — it is too embarrassing. But this is the second try:

Jeeze. Even while I was painting it I saw my paint brush committing various sins against perspective and shading, proportion and draftsmanship — but I was helpless to stop it. I was in denial. I kept thinking that if I just kept painting on it long enough, I could make it OK.

Really, though; there are just some paintings that are doomed from the get go.

But now that I’m almost ready to ship the Damn France Book manuscript out into the Land of Not My Problem, I’ve been hastening to make a last-ditch attempt at righting certain wrongs. And last weekend, I took another (third) stab at this scenic corner of dear sweet little Bayeux:

I think this is OK. I’m happy with it.

I made myself relax, made myself loose, made myself go for a less labored/less painted kind of painting. I wanted it to look like a colored-in drawing because that way I could go with my strength as a draftsman, and play down my weakness as a painterly painter.

And I decided to spend more time on the cobblestones, because I find it very relaxing to paint a lot of little cobblestones. Like a meditation, like the way I used to focus my attention without having to think when I did embroidery – one little tiny stitch after another, after another, after another. (Substitute cobblestone for running stitch and you get the idea.)

The only paint brushes I used to do this picture were:

 That’s Baby Huey on the left, my fattest paint brush that I bought because it was 40% off and I thought it would be cool to own such a brush (but have never  used, until now). And that’s Pee Wee on the right, the tiniest Double-Zero brush that I own. Yes, I had to go to the extremes to get this damn painting done the way it should ought to have been done, which is what you got to do sometimes.

The moral of this painting — and it’s very very deep, so get ready — is

Sometimes more is more and sometimes less is more, more or less.

And to my Uncommonly Commonplace Readers: The two winners of the nifty journal are Barbara from California and Tara from upstate New York. I was hoping that it would turn out to be an East Coast/West Coast win/win. Thank you all for the usual high standard of responses (I wish I had journals for you all).

The journal is, by the way, made by a firm in Connecticut called Semaki & Bird and I’m waiting for them to reply to my email re: if they still make the Soleil journal — which is a style that is actually called Celestial. I didn’t see it on their website, but they have all kinds of new designs that might have to take the place of Soleil if and when I ever use up my remaining stash of six books.

Congratulations, Barbara and Tara!

11 comments to My kind of place.

  • Great post! Yes, the second painting is better – I think there were too many red cobbles in the first one. However, I would have been thrilled if I had painted that first one……

  • Baby Huey and Pee Wee. Who else but Vivian would NAME her brushes?
    It shows how these brushes are special and personal to you, Vivian.
    I see what you mean, about the red stones in the road.

  • I want to send my laundry to The Land Of Not My Problem. I LOVE the painting, makes me want to go there…

  • Laurie

    Beautiful painting.

    Forgive me if you’ve already addressed this elsewhere in your blog, but is there a release date yet for your new book? I absolutely loved When Wanderers Cease to Roam!

  • Rachel

    When I was a child we lived in a two story house, with basement, that had a LAUNDRY CHUTE. I was not allowed to actually use it, for laundry nor anything else, but I see now that it was a magical direct connection to the *land of not my problem.* Here in California I live in a small apartment, and we dont have basements, but I have got to find a way to reconstruct that laundry chute concept in my life.

  • Susie

    http://www.semaki.com/customer/home.php?cat=47

    They still have it, also a moon face journal.
    But they don’t give nay information about price or how to order, guess they want you to call their 800#. Or email them as you did?

    Congrats to the winners, lucky stinkers! lol Any of your readers would give these journals a good home.

    Do you paint these ‘updates’ from your original sketches or from your old photographs? I would also be thrilled to have painted either one….thank you for showing us your secret brushes, with names! Maybe that’s what I’m missing, naming my brushes……then I could paint like you.

  • Randi

    I liked both your paintings. The third one was more “correct” but the second one had a glow to it that I kinda liked. Like others, I’da been happy to’ve painted either one.

  • The Land of Not My Problem – I’m stealing that.

  • I kinda like the first painting better. I see where you thought you might need to draft it better and stay in line and proportion but there is a shimmer to the first painting. I sure to applaud painting it twice though!

  • Oh, THANK YOU!!! I’m so excited! I cannot wait to try out this book. Loved your paintings in this post and that you name your brushes. Haha! Also thought you might enjoy this post from my site from 2008…
    http://badcatstudios.blogspot.com/2008/11/fireside-reads.html

  • They’re both beautiful paintings. What happened to the outdoor eating area with the blue awning that was in the first painting? It pepped things up a bit.
    I went through part of the complications of marrying an American in France but then we didn’t get married. It was all for naught!

    THANK YOU, thank you, thank you for the journal. I sure didn’t expect to win. So glad I did!

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