Along the Garden Path- Memories of Giverny

  The clock rolled over to 4:00AM. It seemed like an eternity since I awoke at 3:15. No matter how hard I tried, sleep was just an elusive memory. The moonlight filtered through the French lace curtains, casting an intricate glow in the room, while the snow on the windowpane glistened like diamonds. My head was full of the photos I had reviewed the night before. Two hours of Monet’s garden at Giverny. I really wanted to do a piece representing Giverny, but the thought of selecting just one photo was overwhelming! Lying in bed I conjured up old memories of my very first visit to le Pressoir/Giverny. It was 1989, my husband’s and my first trip to Paris. I had taken some French courses and listened to tapes, but my “French” left a lot to be desired. I decided that I would visit the gardens but my husband begged off, said he wanted to visit a lock museum in Paris. Truth be known, he was probably wondering why I would want to take a day trip away from Paris just to see some gardens. But to me, visiting Giverny would be to fulfil a dream. I wanted to see where Monet created his masterpieces. Many other artists used to visit him at Givery: Clemenceau, Rodin, Cézanne, Degas and Renoir. I could only guess that the cause for some of these visits would be the beautiful gardens. The Paris-Rouen train left from the Gare St. Lazare. Following my guidebook, I exited the train at Vernon. But what the book failed to mention was that Monet’s home was 4 km (2 ½ miles) from the station! The very friendly station ticket master informed me of this “petite problem” after much sign language on my part. So I approached the lone taxi in front of the station. Trying my best, I attempted to ask for Giverny. The driver seemed to understand; either that or it was the only place that foreigners wanted to see. Touring the house, I could hardly believe I was actually in the home of the “father” of Impressionism (and my favorite impressionist). The gardens had thousands of flowers, a wonderful mass of colors and textures! Wisteria hung over the Japanese bridge and the nymphéas (water lilies) bobbed their little pink heads in the pond. I took hundreds of photos. I spent a few hours in the gardens before heading back to Paris. Reminiscing like this was giving me the urge to paint. All of a sudden I felt I was up to the challenge. I quickly got up from bed and went to my studio. I chose a Debussy CD, and went right for “Clair de lune”. What better music to wake up with? Working not from a photo but from memories, I started the piece. The music began to move me and the pastels seemed to flow from my fingers. Pastels are a wonderful medium. They are “pure pigment” and are not diluted in any way, so the colors are rich and vibrant. The “movement” of the painting would be the greatest challenge. As the music crescendo, the image seemed to “dance” onto the paper (I love it when this happens!). Time escaped me. On another plane I was aware of the sunrise. Soon I began to hear the sounds of my husband’s morning rituals. But I couldn’t stop now…I was SO CLOSE!! I glanced at the clock–7:08AM! I had been painting for three hours! The garden path was at a point where I could stop. There comes a point in every painting when the artist must stop and live with the piece for a few days. I hung my art where I would walk past it during the day, and much “tweaking” went on for a few days before I felt satisfied. “Along The Garden Path” has been accepted into some juried competitions and won an award from the National Pen Women’s Society in the spring of 2003. It is one of my favorite pieces as it represents that first visit to Giverny. So, what do you do at 4:00AM? —As a young girl, all Debbie ever wanted to do was go to Paris; she thinks perhaps the movie “GiGi” might have had something to do with it. Her art has won many awards and been accepted into many juried shows and competitions. She’s completed two pastel series, “The Gardens of Paris” and “The Flower Markets of France” (12 pieces in each series). She is contemplating an upcoming series, perhaps about the gardens at Versailles.
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