Saturday, August 29, 2009
Pepere's Blacksmith Shop, 1909 - 2009
The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society is now accepting entries for their Annual Member Show, "Linear Visions," in October. I painted one piece that I will show another day, but I am ambivalent about how well I like it, so I did a second piece. I decided to use photos I had taken at the family farm in July when we had a major celebration for it's 100th year anniversary.
I am especially taken with the restored blacksmith shop, which had fallen into disrepair after the death in the early 1960s of patriarch Alphonse Joseph (Joe) Paquet from the Province of Quebec. The grandchildren pulled together to give the entire barn complex a facelift, and the Covino brothers shored up the blacksmith shop and arranged the tools. Jimmy, retired IBM executive, is also a sculptor and a blacksmith. The night of the big event, Jimmy gave an ongoing demo, creating lovely small hooks for the home on the old forge and giving them to visitors. The day following the celebration attended by hundreds of people, including the governor, the lead float for the farm in the Barre Heritage Festival parade, featured Jimmy as Pepere (grandfather) and his sister Joanne as Memere (grandmother), and the great anvil was part of the float display. We won one of the three prizes given out to three of the many participating groups, the "Very Barre Award." We were a proud block-long group of Paquet generations marching through my hometown.
I wanted to express the age and lineage of the old shop and capture the dusty air, the ancient wood, the darkened corners, the old tools, the anvil and the forge from an eye-level about even with the anvil. Using great artistic license, I developed my design. Having just done collage in Gerald Brommer's workshop, I decided that texture would greatly enhance the mood, as this place is certainly full of texture. I collaged rice papers onto the entire surface, some of which I had stained with watercolor and some left white. Afer the surface dried in the sun, I applied a very thin layer of gesso. I then developed the image using watercolor. For the dust-filled light rays, I swiped the paper with diluted gesso.
I especially like how some blue and green papers show through the gesso and watercolor to give subtle variety to the darkened interior. The interior feels dusty and old. The old forge glows very dimly with banked coals. The much-used anvil exudes the strength of generations of strong farm people. The rice paper textures give depth to the rock-lined dirt floor and the metal hood. In keeping with the Linear Visions theme, I enhanced some of the center of interest with black ink line work. Today's blacksmith and shop maintain their direct line to founder, Joe Paquet and his wife, Emeda Mathilde Savoie, who moved to Barre in 1903 and founded the farm in 1909. My linear vision of generations of a Vermont French family rooted in Quebec is expressed in this piece.