A Summer of Feeding My Creativity at the Paris College of Art
As a Graphic Design professional there is always a new creative design trend to be aware of, technique to learn, clients to gain, clients to maintain, new tech to be aware of, finance accounts to keep in check – the list can go on.
It dawned on me that I had been running my Graphic Design business for three years and as all new business owners do – we just don't stop to smell to roses. My time had come.
My view is that it is integral to the essence of a design professional to stay connected with the basics of art, design and creativity as we can get lost within the admin, technology and technical side that a creative business can bring. Of course this is a personal choice of how you go about doing this, or if you do this in the first place! My preference was to immerse myself in one of the most creative and culturally diverse places. The French capital – Paris.
In the summer of 2015, I booked myself onto Painting en Plein Air (Painting out-of-doors) course at the prestigious Paris College of Art. Armed with a solidly impressive faculty that run courses from all creative walks, but are still able keep an eye on the real art and design world – I knew this was the place that could help me... press reset.
So, what did I see and do?
Lots. Having not been in the classroom for more years than I'd like to admit, I was a tad nervous! Although very soon after arriving at registration and introductions, these nerves were replaced with eager excitement to get started.
As an ice breaker, Marie Breton, Admissions Manager for Special Programs took the lead and was the main point of contact for all thing PCA and Parisienne. All summer course students were asked to introduce themselves with their names and where they lived. I was amazed at how far some students had come to attend PCA, and for me this solidified even more how sought-after PCA is! From Canada, Russia, Germany, India and throughout the USA... the list goes on. This made my train journey over the British Channel feel even shorter!
The Painting en Plein Air course was taught by Professor Munro Galloway, Artist and Lecturer at Yale University School of Art. I always find that if an art/creative teacher, is a knowledgeable practicing artist and not just classroom based... I can start to hand out high-fives! Good choice PCA! (Link below for Prof. Galloway's artworks!)
The city of Paris served as inspiration, classroom, and palette for an intensive study of the materials and techniques of Plein air Painting. In addition, we acquired a basic knowledge of 19th and 20th century painting in France, which to me was brilliant to get a further understanding of art history... but this is a separate course all together...
The course made us question and explore the artistic working of Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro and Renoir and how they created paintings of the streets, squares and parks of Paris.
Working primarily in water-based media including watercolor and acrylic, we were introduced to the basics of painting application, composition and colour. The course focused on the colour palettes of the impressionist painters to help gain an understanding of how colour theory can be used to create space and light. Painting used to be my number one artistic love, but as time went on my Apple Mac seemed to take it's place! Getting a paint brush back in hand after 10+ years was a bitter sweet for me, bitter for the thought of leaving it so long, and sweet for having the opportunity to do so!
We visited sites where the impressionists worked, including the parks, canals, train stations and passageways of Paris. Studied impressionist paintings on view at the Musée d’Orsay, Marmottan-Monet Museum and the Musée de l’Orangerie.
For me, the icing on the cake that pulled everything we had learnt together was a field trip away from the much loved bustle of Paris to Monet’s house and garden in the French countryside of Giverny. We took a train from Paris and had a short cycle to Monet's house. The views along the way were simply stunning. Here Professor Munro shed light on Monet's works with the famous Water Lillie paintings and was able to answer questions we had. We all explored and used the environment to create our own paintings with Monet's painting techniques in mind.
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a wonderfully interesting group of people in my class, that I am happy I met on the journey. I can say my time in Paris wasn't all painting and art history. We had our evenings! Which was me and my class mates dumping our paint brushes for French food, bars and exploring as many places as possible. The PCA also encouraged students to take advantage of social events they organised, which were brilliant! One being a boat tour down the Seine River. Luckily we had a beautiful day to enjoy it.
Was it worth it?
As the last day drew to an end, I knew I was leaving Paris and I asked myself if the time away from my business and everyday workings was worth it... Yes. Yes in every sense of the word.
With the love for learning new things and gaining new perspectives. This course allowed me to do just that. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in new surroundings, a fast paced learning curve with knowledgable and interesting artistic people. It's a win, win for me.
Would I recommend a creative break for design professionals?
It's creatively healthy!... So, one word. YES. I totally recommend attend PCA, who wouldn't want to attend a friendly Art college spilling over with a knowledgeable faculty??!
...Be sure to check them out if you have made the decision to 'press the reset button' or if I have inspired you! You may even pick up a French word or two! :)
Now I am back in London, UK. I was amazed at how I was able to apply what I had learnt about the artist workings/choices of Monet, Renior and Degas to client work. Amongst a few, my choice in colour palettes will never be the same and light & dark are more important than ever – all things I am truly happy about.
Mission accomplished. Reset button firmly pressed. Thank you PCA & Paris.