Thursday, April 27, 2017

Escape from New York? Read Cat Seto's IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS: An Artist's Sketchbook. It sparkles with wit, insight and beauty.

Cat Seto's IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS: An Artist's Sketchbook (Harper Design, April) is precious in the sense of rare and valuable, a jewel of a book that sparkles with wit, insight, and beauty.  This artist's book is organized around themes; color, pattern, perspective and rhythm. As Seto meanders curiously through Paris neighborhoods, local wonders take shape under her sure paint brush--whimsical, striking and often good enough to eat.

The book begins with Monet's quote about color as .."my day-long obsession, joy and torment"
and begins her journey at BERTHILLON.  Seto is in agreement with Monet, but with the addition of ice cream. As she said, "when you lay down a good oil or or watercolor that you can literally feel the purity of the color wash onto the canvas, The artful glaces did just that to my mouth." And of course she visually deconstructs the colors of the glace.

Pattern takes us to JARDINS DES PLANTES, where she "spiraled up a stone dome to look down upon black water and a group of golden dappled fish." and she treats us to sketches of  "endless numbers of plant species on the grounds which turned into a series of botanical patterns." Floor tiles on cafes, galleries, and even the "striated rain and muddled walks" of a rainy market are wondrous in her deft and delicate drawings. Seto also noticed the patterns of oversized fur coats women wore, chevrons and green and apricot abstractions.

Perspective did take us to The Eifel Tower, but not as I've seen it. "...from the park, on a picnic,in between rafters, and from the windows of many apartments. The tower is perfectly, if not dramatically, framed by the city every day." Here it's a landmark in the Tour de France race.

Rhythm took us to artists studios at 59 Rivoli, sketched below. I loved the dragon painted on the walls of a staircase. "I climbed up six flights of stairs, following the tail of this serpentine creation. Every inch of the walls were covered with its scales and the minutiae of etched drawings, monograms, and layered patterns."

While Cat Seto's lovely images make this a book to be SEEN, her accompanying words make this a book to be savored. Unfortunately, I am not going to Paris any time soon. But I loved visiting Seto's version of the city--aesthetic, wryly funny and delicious.

There's a long tradition of artist's sketchbooks, watercolors of places. I've seen pages from Turner, Sargeant, Cassatt.  They are ideas on the fly, a conversation between the person's sensibility, what they see, and the mood of the moment--person and place as one. Below is a view on Canal St.Martin
with a burst of color.

“From the book: IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS by Cat Seto. Copyright © 2017 by Cat Seto. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.”

I hope Cat Seto does a similar book about San Francisco, another aesthetic city of eccentric and various perfection.



I got an angry comment about this post. The objection was that art was elitest, as was Paris and New York. Art is not elitest, any more than beauty.  They are there for those that can see, as are major
cities that value them. As a visual artist and writer, I appreciate the fact that people who do creative work spend years developing their talent. Many are employed at other jobs and raise families, while pursuing their work. Arts add meaning to existence and reverence for being alive on this planet. While the profit motive exists, so do motivations such as transcendence or seeking truth.