“Yes,” I said, pointing to my faux Matisse which was drying on the floor, “We’re having a workshop today on Matisse decoupage”.They gave me a blank look. This was the third couple to drop by yesterday morning who clearly had no idea who this “Matisse” might be. We stared at each other. I pointed to the book on the chair. “C’est un peintre francais.” “Ah oui?” the husband said as the wife frowned.
She was trying to imagine a world in which people know about different painters and try to make things inspired by them just as I was trying to imagine a world in which they don’t. They left and I bustled around mixing paints and spreading paper on the floor. I was sad to think about people going through life not knowing about Matisse. Obviously, his work is the thing, but knowing about his life, his struggles and how he prevailed is enriching, too. That was the idea behind the workshop.
“Painting with scissors” was Matisse’s primary focus for the last 15 years of his life. Too ill to stand at his easel, and on a quest for simplicity and flatness in his work, he took great pleasure from his cut-outs as we do today.
In my own “Matisse” I included a blue nude (but pink in mine), the undulating leaf-shapes, and stars and suns. What fun.
A floor full of lovely Matisse colours: the colours of summer and happiness.
First the canvas is divided into asymmetric areas with masking tape. Then squares , rectangles and rhomboids are painted on, in the same happy colours.
Working on the floor turns out to be the best way to do it.
Before we can continue, the paint must dry. This gave us a chance to see slides of Matisse’s work, to discuss his ideas, his place in the story of art, and his life. It was great to share his story with this lovely group of women. I could see that they were moved by Matisse in the same way I am. I don’t know these gals very well – some hardly at all. But there was a great feeling of fellowship in the room. We had a common purpose and interest. We trusted each other. We were sharing ideas and making art together in freedom. We ended this part of the workshop by thinking about some of the things Matisse said:
“(My aim is) to present emotion as directly as possible and by the simplest means.”
“Exactitude is not truth.”
“Everything is new, everything is fresh as if the world had just been born…”
This last statement was made by Matisse following the illness that left him bed-ridden. His child-like excitement at the beauty of the world and his vocation of expressing his feelings through cut-outs is touching and inspiring, no? “That’s the spirit I want you to bring to your cut-outs,” I said.
They are all coming together so well.
By the end, we’re all exhausted, but everyone has a really beautiful work to take home. One of the new-comers said, “That’s the most enjoyable afternoon I’ve spent in a long time.” Others murmured assent. I was filled with the glow that comes at the end of a good class. And the delight of getting to do what I need to do – share knowledge, share art, make things, nurture people, express myself. How lucky is that?