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Waxing Poetic

Last week, Nichole and I paid a visit to the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits. They had an amazing collection of original manuscripts, including some from notable French writers, and they inspired a few designs. More on the museum later but for now I'll just add that, apart from the astounding whisky list at Verjus, this museum was probably the highlight of the trip for me. Hopefully, the whisky balances out the museum geek factor. Yeah, prolly not. Having just seen Verlaine's manuscript for "Cellulairement" (which he wrote in prison after shooting Rimbaud!), I came up with the idea to do a pair of designs for Verlaine and Rimbaud that would compliment and contrast each other in some way. Given their styles and poetic dispositions, I wanted Verlaine to incorporate white space, and Rimbaud to be essentially black. The two men who were so close, were quite different in their temperament: Verlaine up in the air with his words and thoughts and Rimbaud down in the depths. I re-read "Autumn Song" by Verlaine and "The Drunken Boat" by Rimbaud - two favorites and easy choices. Verlaine first. Like his language, I wanted the objects in the illustration to define the subject playfully and indirectly in negative space. Rimbaud was trickier (how appropriate!). I read The Drunken Boat again and became obsessed with the idea of monsters in the deep that you fear - the Behemoths, Serpents and Leviathans that the boat encounters on its journey- and how those things become part of you. Rimbaud was young - and a little dramatic - but he was fearless. In many ways, he was both the boat and the leviathan, the wildman and the wilderness. I played with some sketches in the Tuilleries, and ultimately arrived at this design. The next day, while Nichole took some photos of the Tuilleries in the rain, I was thinking about Autumn - leaves falling, transience, all that - and we got to talking about Keats. I like Keats. But Nichole *loves* Keats, so I knew that I had to do a design for her, and that it had to be good. Unlike the self-destructive Rimbaud, Keats was terrified of dying, obsessed with the eternal and the transient. I asked Nichole what her favorite line of Keats was and instantly regretted it. She threw down the gauntlet. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." Oh, crap. My head spun with 50 ways to screw that one up. It had to be simple. I played with an idea about a leaf, that was at once fully alive and progressively decomposing. Life is beautiful and brief. I suddenly missed my kids. I'm really happy with the design. I hope Nichole likes it as much as I do and that it does Keats justice. I've added all three designs to my shop this week, here. - Evan


Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Evan

Hi Ann,

I did know that! What a cool bit of history it is. The message was in two parts, wasn’t it? About the print, I do have a version in French, I originally did it that way, but thought I should be consistent for now and stick to English. I could print one in French for you if you like. If you make the purchase on Etsy, just leave a note to me to send the French version.


Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Ann Mah

The Paul Verlaine poem is one of my favorites, drummed into the head of every French student! Did you know it was also a coded signal that D-Day operations were set to begin?

I love what you’ve created here. Have you ever considered making a version in French?

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Catherine

Really nice work here!… I’m a huge fan of the classics. Any chance we’ll be seeing something from (a couple personal favorites) Flaubert or Proust ? :)

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by catie

all three designs are simply beautiful!

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Emily

Your interpretation of Rimbaud is absolutely brilliant! I am sitting in a little apartment in the east of France right now, but your print brings me straight back to a college course on French poetry. (It wasn’t that long ago…) We battled Rimbaud like that boat and its behemoths…and now it all seems to make so much more sense. Thank you for your lovely artwork!

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Marjory

Ah, Keats, Rimbaud, Verlaine.. Wow. I love the poetic inspiration. Adore leaves, poetry, and Paris. I haven’t been to Paris in autumn, only in winter and summer. I look forward to the art you create with the progression of the seasons. Lovely work.

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by mary -

love keats as well, simply beautiful.

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Lindsey

Stunning; Yet another print I want to add to my collection!

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Cheryl Tanner

Sir, you and Nichole are SO creative. I love it. These are so interesting and original. Kudos to you and your Muse :)

Jul 20, 2014 • Posted by Evan

Thanks for the comments! Catherine, both are possibilities, I had an idea for Flaubert in Paris, but it’s still percolating.

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