February 15, 2013

Stephen Clarke: A Self-Publishing Success Story

Meet Stephen Clarke – self-publishing star and writer extraordinaire of the hilarious and wildly successful Merde series.   With 10 books to his credit and another one on the way, Stephen Clarke is one of the most popular Anglophone writers in Paris today.   
Stephen Clarke author book
Stephen Clarke signing his book
Talk To The Snail

The book that started it all - A Year In The Merde - is the tale of British expat, Paul West, living the fish-out-of-water experience in Paris.  Through Paul West’s adventures and more often misadventures, this book sheds a humorous light on all the peculiarities of French life- from an Anglo perspective, without being malicious.   Paul West is the star of five of Stephen Clarke’s novels, while the other books range from the funny side of historical non-fiction to the not-so-futuristic science fiction.  

How did all of this great Merde success begin? 

Once he had finished A Year In The Merde, Stephen knew that he had written something special, in spite of all the rejection letters.   Instead of crawling away and disappearing as the publishing industry was suggesting, the conviction that everybody was wrong and he was right led Stephen to self-publishing. 

But Stephen didn’t want to go about self-publishing as if it were a vanity case of him wanting to see his book in print. Instead he treated it as a professional get-your-foot-in-the-door attempt.  Lots of time, energy and money was spent creating a high quality published book, from the professional looking cover all the way down to the ISBN #.   

Furthermore, to thwart any self-publishing sniffer-outers, he cleverly created his own fictitious publishing house, so that his book could have a ‘professional’ looking home. But yet, a professional publishing house cannot exist on just one book alone, so Stephen created pseudonyms for his other two ‘homeless’ books that he had previously written and voila – Red Garage Books was born.  3 books and 3 authors (2 of which were non-existent).    

Stephen Clarke writer author books
Stephen Clarke's books
Including  the original pseudonym covers
With a great looking cover, a fabulous story inside and publishing house peers, A Year In The Merde was ready to hit the pavement in search of Parisian Anglophone bookstores.   2.5 million copies of all of his books sold and translations in over a dozen languages have proved that Stephen’s singular vision of his book was right!  

How have the French responded to his books? 

Even though his books good-naturedly poke fun at the French, the French readers were initially the catalyst for making A Year In The Merde such a great success.   Now his books are stocked in all bookstores in Paris –both French and English.   Additionally, the most recent sign of French adoration of his work was  having his non-fiction history book 1000 Years of Annoying the French be short-listed for the Prix Guesclin in December 2012 at the Salon de l’histoire “en littérature”.

WICE members have had the pleasure of hearing Stephen talk about his books last year at the Paris Writers’ Workshop and at Kate Kemp-Griffin’s Write-In course.  Once you talk to Stephen, you understand why his books are so successful.  The understated humor that makes his books so engaging to read seems to be how his brain is hardwired.   There’s never a boring conversation to be had with him, and you’ll always find yourself laughing at his witty comments. 

Be sure to check out the details of the upcoming WICE events and courses so that you don’t miss out on any fantastic opportunities to meet interesting people like this!

For more information about Stephen Clarke and to read his books, visit stephenclarkewriter.com.  

Post by Veronica Kugler
Photos by Kate Kemp-Griffin 

February 8, 2013

Jan Olsson: Debunking The Myth That Good Artists Require Innate Talent

“There is something that we learn in our culture about drawing that makes us believe we should just innately be able to do it. But people wouldn't expect the same thing in playing a musical instrument, or ballet, or sports.  You have to learn the various series of steps and practice them until you become skillful at them."  -Jan Olsson  .

Paris Drawing Painting classes
Jan Olsson with her sketches in her Paris art studio
Many times when we pick up the pencil or paintbrush, if our resulting work isn't museum quality, then we consider ourselves a hopeless cause.  Don’t stay in the trap of believing that artistic skill is all about innate talent.    Come to Jan Olsson’s studio for art classes where she will unlock the mysteries of being able to draw and paint. 

Jan dispels the innate-talent myth by breaking down the different aspects that come together to create works of art such as edges, volumes, perspective, light, shade, color, and depth of space.   With an untrained eye, the average person isn't aware of perceiving these elements when viewing paintings and drawings.  Throughout her courses, Jan will teach you to see and recognize these elements, so that you can incorporate them into your own works of art.

For over 20 years, Jan has been helping WICE students develop their artistic talents.   Originally, Jan came to Paris in 1988 on a year sabbatical from teaching art at Mary Baldwin College, with a fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.   She started as a Visual Arts instructor at WICE by offering a Paris Sketchbook course.  Since then she has taught various courses in  painting , drawing, live-model figure drawing, and printmaking.  Throughout her career, Jan’s artwork has received international recognition by a myriad of solo and group exhibitions, and art awards.  

Art class drawing painting Paris
Student work based on Soutine exhibit at L'Orangerie Museum
by Lisbeth Ring Pedersen, Fiona Mir, and Mariel Delarbre
At Jan’s painting and drawing studio, your artistic creativity will be inspired by the expansive view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.   This is a safe place where you can give yourself permission to create artwork without judgments or comparisons. Jan’s classes attract a variety of people from long-term students with art degrees or many years of practical experience, to new students wanting to try something they've always wondered about doing. 

Paris art class drawing painting
Carnet de Voyage
The ongoing Carnet de Voyage course gives an introductory instruction in drawing.  Each course section focuses on a different drawing element.     During this course, students will document their experiences in Paris by creating a book (carnet de voyage) that combines drawings with writing and photography.

Periodically Jan offers printmaking courses, located at her studio in the historical gem -La Ruche artist residence.  This 16-sided building (beehive shaped) was the Wine Pavilion at the 1900 World’s Fair and was established in 1902 by Alfred Boucher as a  residence for artists.  
La Ruche hidden behind trees

Some benefits from taking Jan's courses:
·         Confidence in your ability to develop a new artistic skill or hone your existing talent.
·         A documented record of your time in Paris – Carnet de Voyage.
·         A space for expression that is your own activity, apart from your family and work. 
·         Enhanced understanding of the composition elements of paintings and drawings. Impress your friends, in museums!

Jan Olsson's upcoming courses:
·         SM182  Contemporary Drawing The Urban Scene  (5 Sessions)
·         SM191  Live Model Drawing -  The Expressive Image  (6 Sessions)
·         SM192  Painting from the Masters – Marc Chagall and Narrative Painting (6 Sessions)
·         SY131 Contemporary Drawing  - Nature and The City (5 Sessions)
·         SY141  Live Model Drawing -  Nature and The Human Figure (6 Sessions)
·         SY142  Painting from the Masters - Still Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse (6 Sessions)

What are you waiting for?  Take one of Jan’s classes and give yourself the chance to show that you do have talent to be proud of. 
Space is limited – enroll and secure your spot today!

To learn more about her artwork and exhibitions, visit janolssonart.com.

***By the way, the next time you see Jan Olsson, congratulate her on her 25th anniversary of teaching art classes at WICE.   Do you have fond memories of taking classes with Jan?  If so, share them in the comments section.  We’d love to hear them!  

Post by Veronica Kugler

February 4, 2013

The Other Museum in the Louvre Palace

Did you know that in addition to being the home of the Louvre Museum, the Palais du Louvre (Louvre Palace) is also the location of the lesser-known Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum)?   

Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris 18th century chairs
Although completely separate from the Louvre Museum, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs fills the western end of the Richelieu wing of the Palace.  With two entrances, one at 107 rue de Rivoli and the other on the Jardin des Tuileries side, it’s easy to find once you know it exists.

Considering the magnitude and space that the Louvre collection takes up, it is easy to assume that this second museum must be small in scope and size.   But the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is a full-fledged museum in its own right, with nine floors of diverse collections of art that merit hours of viewing.

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is divided into permanent and a continuous rotation of temporary collections.   Dating back from the middle ages to today, the main themes of all of the collections include fashion, furniture, advertising, interior design, jewelry, toys, religious painting, and tableware.

This busy museum currently boasts six temporary exhibits, with the main attraction being a breathtaking collection of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry.   Creating the illusion of a nighttime sky filled with sparkling diamond-like stars, the beautiful Nave of the museum elegantly displays 400 iconic pieces of jewelry, such as the Duchess of Wales inspired Zip necklace or the Mysterious Phoenix necklace with its 14.36 carat dangling diamond.  Blue light glowing from below and jewelry mysteriously floating in illuminated floor to ceiling glass tubes give you an otherworldly feel. This magical presentation alone is worth seeing.   

Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris Trompe-l'oeil exhibit
Trompe-l'oeil Cabinet
The Fashion and Textile exhibit showcases 100 European outfits and their accessories for men and women from 1700 to 1915.  Although many of us have seen these types of historical outfits in movies such as Jane Austen’s film adaptations, this is a rare chance to see them close enough to appreciate all of the intricate details, designs and textures of the fabric.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris furniture
Lit en Nacelle - 1827
If you are visiting the Musée des Arts Décoratifs with kids who are less than impressed by 18th century hoop skirts, or Princess Charlene of Monaco’s wedding tiara, reenergize their enthusiasm with the Star Wars Toys exhibit.   With Darth Vader breathing in the background, you can see all of the original Star Wars action figures and toys, many of them still in their original packaging.  What a blast from the past, seeing Atari 2600 video games, and 1980 tv commercials!   Not only is this exhibit great for kids, but for those of you who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, you’ll be walking around smiling as these old toys bring back tons of childhood memories.    

So if you’ve already seen most of the big name museums, next time check out the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Prefer guided tours?  Then join us on some of WICE’s upcoming visits to:

If you have some lesser-known museums in Paris that you'd like to recommend, let us know in the comments!

Photos and Post by Veronica Kugler