Me and Claude Monet - My Story
I remembered seeing just a few weeks ago in my ‘personal’ box (my box containing years of memories) a project I had written on Claude Monet while I was studying for an ‘A Level’ qualification in Art at college.
I haven’t looked at it for many years, it was written 22 years ago and suddenly I was curious as to what I’d done. As I held my project book in my hands it bought back many emotions and memories of why it was written.
This is my story.
I found myself sat on a bus, the seat next to me empty. My sister had waved me off, wishing me a good time and here I was just ten minutes later staring out of the window, my eyes threatening to fill with tears, wondering what on earth was I doing here.
I was 37 years of age, going to Paris for the weekend on a bus full of young art students, on the verge of tears. I was like a child away from home for the first time feeling lost and homesick.
The bus made a stop for more students, I looked up and there was a familiar face. Her name was Annabelle she was about 18 years of age and she was from my art course. I liked her and was delighted when she asked if she could sit by me.
Suddenly things were looking a little brighter and we ended up sharing a room at the hotel and spending the weekend together, visiting museums and exploring Paris by metro. I remember especially enjoying visiting the Eiffel Tower, and an evening boat trip on the river Seine.
But the whole idea of the weekend was for ‘us’ art students to visit the museums and see the original works of famous artists.
I was a mature student, and had been widowed just a few months before.
Suddenly I had become a single parent with two children to bring up, a mortgage to pay and I had no job or prospects.
Almost immediately I realised that the world doesn’t stop for you to come to terms with bereavement, that to me was like a ‘double whammy’ how can you make important future decisions when your brain isn’t working?
Incredibly within a few weeks of being widowed, I had enrolled for several courses at my local college, I remember almost ‘zombie like’ completing the forms for a ‘Training to go back to work’ course comprising of English, word processing and IT subjects.
But also in my numbed state, I and my wonderful, supportive sister and children decided it would be a good idea, to take a course in something I enjoyed as a ‘distraction’.
I enrolled in a one year ‘A Level’ evening art course. I have always enjoyed drawing and sketching and had taken my ‘O Level’ at school.
My sister bought me an easel, some pastels and sketching pads.
Art turned out to be a lifeline for me.
Here was a world I could create and could escape to.
I remember my first art class, I was nervous. All the other students looked so young and I felt as though I had two heads and didn’t belong on this planet anymore.
This first class was sketching ‘still life’ our teacher placed a large ‘Rubber Plant’ in front of us, I was shaking that much I didn’t think I would be able to hold a pencil less alone sketch!
Several minutes passed and I was engrossed in my work, my teacher was looking over my shoulder, ‘I love what you are doing with that plant’ he said.
What? he loves what ‘I’M’ doing with the plant? Well aren’t I doing the same as everyone else?
I very discreetly looked to the left and right at my neighbours sketching and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I needed to check out more work and went over to the sink and washed my hands I managed to look at about six different sketches - they were so different!
There were big plants, there were small plants, some thin, some fat!
We were all looking at the same plant but we all saw it differently - I felt I had just learnt a valuable lesson - not just about art, but about life!
I have thought about those words many, many times since. At the time they were spoken to me, they ‘lifted’ me from the deep, dark hole I was in, they gave me back some self-esteem and confidence. I’d got a long way to go, but I was moving forward. From that moment on I held my head a little higher.
I’m no good with a paintbrush, but I do enjoy pencil sketching and working with pastels and these were the medium I used for most of my work.
For part of our course work, we had to write about an artist who inspired us and I chose the impressionist artist Claude Monet. Looking at my project now it looks so basic compared to what we can produce these days with the help of today’s technology.
I remember spending hours researching through books, whereby today we would just ‘Google’ our subject!
I have always been in awe of the magnificent paintings Claude Monet produced especially his reflections of the Lily ponds and my project focused on ‘reflections’
It was therefore an incredible experience to actually see some of his work in the Paris museums. Some of his paintings were 14 foot wide - they were breathtaking to see.
‘When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have in front of you, a tree, a field. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here is an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape until it gives you your own naïve impression of the scene’ Claude Monet
These words have inspired me not only in art but also in photography.
It’s never to late in life to learn, or change direction. I was surprised to learn that colleges welcome mature students. Here is an opportunity to learn something new, or further your knowledge in a subject you enjoy.
I achieved my A Level art qualification and was so proud of myself!
My ‘training to go back to work’ course opened up a whole new career for me in banking, I worked in this industry for nearly 17 years.