New paintings, new gallery, and books by K’WAN

original contemporary urban Parisian landscape
Rue Soufflot, 80x80cm oil on canvas

This is one of the paintings for my upcoming show in June at Carré d’artistes 6th arrondissement gallery— 66, rue Saint André des Arts, where you can already find my smaller paintings of Paris. 

When I first moved to here I was struck by how the post-twilight sky remained blue for hours. The blue hour, l’heure bleue (l’heure entre chien et loup) is that witching hour when the dogs leave the street and the wolves come out. The Blue Hour has inspired many creators. Givenchy made a perfume called L’Heure Blue. It’s a magic time of day when. Artist in Giverney painted it, maybe that’s when they were waking up after their hedonist parties.

Artists ask what I listen to while I paint.

Late last year I discovered audiobooks and listened to about thirty. Before audiobooks I painted to radio ADO because it has the best French rap music. La Fouine, Stromae and more, not to forget international artists like Maître Gims. But audiobooks trumped rap music for my working muse. Though I do still listen do radio ADO when I need a break.

After following a discussion on literary agent Janet Reid’s blog about diverse books, I decided to search for titles by non-white authors. I discovered K’WAN.

While painting Rue Soufflot I listened to Cary Hite perform K’WAN‘s Section 8. Cary Hite has a lovely voice, I was surprised to see how young he is when I googled him. What a resume he has. I’ll be looking for more audiobooks narrated by him.

Section 8 hooked me on the story and I needed to know how it started so I bought Hood Rat and skipped out on painting until I’d finished. I’m reading/ listening through the entire series. Still Hood was too violent for my taste but I want to know how the characters evolve.  Now I’m onto Welfare Wifeys and I can’t wait to read or listen to Animal.  K’WAN’s voice and stories has dwarfed what I thought would be the best book I’d read this year, Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg. But they are different kinds of crime fiction. Gangsterland seems like Disney in comparison.

K’WAN’s hood rat series is contemporary realism. Life inside Harlem of the late ’80s early ’90s. The books are gritty, graphic, heart breaking and have masterfully crafted plots. They show a cocktail of a love inside a brutal reality.  Sometimes I wish there were an appendix for the slang and the erotic, in my opinion, is for men. I particularly like how he weaves in backstory and how his characters are developed through action.. I started the series with Section 8 and it was clear to me where all the characters came from.

Don’t miss his novella Black Lotus is quite different from the hood rat series. It’s a classic detective tale with a wicked twist and no erotica.  The writing is tight and shows how K’WAN’s craft has evolved. It’s reflects his twitter profile “Writer, thinker, trailblazer.. author of over two dozen novels and just getting warmed up.” 

 I hope he makes a Black Lotus series.

I’d love to see his books translated into French. There is a borough north of Paris called Saint Denis where his message in the hood rat series should be heard. Surely every big city in the world has a hood like Harlem. I’d like to see K’WAN’s books translated worldwide.

He has a new release in February. The Fix.


Noilly Prat Parisian Cat


photo of Parisian cat
Cat at home in a Parisian Bistrot

While I’m painting up a storm for my upcoming show in June, I’m listening to Johnny Heller read Carole Nelson DouglasCat in Zebra Zoot Suit.  This could be Midnight Louie, Temple’s furry detective partner.

I haven’t read many books where animals speak, some think it’s gimmicky but Johnny Heller as Midnight Louie is fantastic. Carole Nelson Douglas’ comic word choice is delightful.

I love Johnny Heller’s voice. He read, or shall I say performed, Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland.  Gansterland was my first audiobook this year. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read or listened to.

Last year I listened to more than thirty audio books. Johnny Heller has a fantastic voice. Marrying his narration with these two books is a win-win.


Graffiti in Paris

JO BER graffiti, Paris

Graffiti is illegal in Paris  but it’s everywhere and sometimes it is legal.

Graffiti has ancient origins. It began long before Montana spray cans. Here is a blogpost I wrote when I was researching the origin of graffiti.

In Paris, artists are chosen each year by the association Lezarts de La Bievre to paint their works on donated walls. Lezarts is an association grouping artists’ ateliers in the 13th and 5th arrondissements which wind around the buried Bievre river.  When the Bievre was visible it flowed along rue Pascal from what is now Square René Le Gal. Long ago it served tanneries. Can you imagine the smell?

This piece by JO BER  is on rue Henri Barbusse. Here is a link to JO BER‘s facebook page.

If you look closely, you can see that this wall has been painted over again and again. Until I saw the photo I thought the white spots were flaking paint. Now I see clouds.


40 paintings for Carre d’Artistes

40 plus paintings for Carre d'artistes
Parisian subjects

As I look at the forty plus paintings laid out mosaic style on the floor of my atelier this rainy Sunday I think, “That doesn’t look like much work.” 

But hey, when you look at anything finished you never know how much thought and work is behind it. I did these in two weeks, working weekends and until midnight most days. It feels good to know I can work that fast.

These will be for sale at Carré d’artistes gallery 66 rue Saint André des Arts, 75006 Paris.



The Creative Process


My oil palette


Here is a photo of my oil painting palette. When I open my paint box it’s like I release a genie from its bottle. A crusty resin odour tickles the roof of my mouth. I sense the vapours only once during the long hours of painting, when I open my paint box.

While I’m painting all thoughts fall away. Most days I can’t remember painting until I clean my brushes. Seven hours of painting with short a pause to eat. After fifteen minutes I fall into the process, and deep concentration.

I’ve trained myself to produce. And produce I’ll need to until June because I have sixty-six paintings to paint for an exhibition with Carré d’Artistes. Forty-four are small format and twenty-two are large. I’ll need to paint more than that because I’ve got other galleries to furnish.

It used to be hard to concentrate, my thoughts would fly all over the place and I would stand up, pace around then force myself to sit again, pick up my brushes and work. Sometimes a painting seems off. I know, now, that I have to keep plugging along and lose myself in the process. Turn off my mind. Paint. Or I may put that one aside and work on another.

Some years ago, after holidays and weeks away from my atelier, it would take me months to find my concentration. Over the years, young artists have asked me how do you do it. I know what they mean­­— spend hours alone in your atelier painting. I didn’t know how to respond to that question. Now I do. It’s not a passion, it’s not a desire, it’s a need. Keep me away from my paints and I’ll turn into a witch and burn you with my broom.

If you want to know what colors I use here is a list of the colors from right to left. All pigments are Rembrandt except for one: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Flesh Tint (Old Holland), Caput Mortuum Violet, Quinacridone, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre, Greenish Umber, Raw Umber, Ultramarine Deep, Phtalo Green Blue, Ivory Black and Veronese Green.