William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

# 82 - My One Minute of Fame

Fellow Art Lovers:

I want to tell you about some of my experiences while painting in public in France, namely on what is called “la digue” (the best translation is “the boardwalk”) in the coastal town of Saint Aubin-sur-Mer in Normandy. I’ve been painting a lot in the coastal towns near here because the beaches are beautiful, the skies above them are breath-taking, and it’s fun trying to capture the people on the digues and on the beaches.

When I paint on the digue in Saint Aubin, I often use a little wagon to carry my portable easel, my paints and brushes, etc, and a few blank canvases. It usually takes me no more than a few minutes to set up. Sometimes I take a few minutes to sketch the scene in an ink drawing, which helps me decide exactly what approach I will take. But very often I’ve already sketched the scene while sitting on the beach or drinking something at a café table. Then I get to work.

There is one particular challenge while painting in public that doesn’t exist when painting in the farms and fields and villages in the countryside. That is, passers-by. Most people are polite and discreet; they glance at what I’m painting, smile at me and often simply say “beautiful,” even if I’ve barely started or they haven’t even glanced at my work. I take this as a form of politeness or encouragement. Some people ask if they can watch me for a minute, and I caution them not to get too close because oil paint is hard to get out of fabric or I don’t want to get distracted. Especially if there are small children involved.

What do I really want? I want to be fully involved in the scene, fully involved with the beauty in front of me and the process of painting, so that I can produce something that will continue to give me or someone else pleasure when looking at what I produced that day or those days on the digue. 

That doesn’t always happen. Some people like to linger and chat. Yes, I accept that the beach and the digue belong to everyone, and I have no special right to space or privacy. And also, every once in a while people have interesting things to share, and I enjoy a few minutes of conversation. But it’s surprising how often an on-looker will tell me in detail how they’ve always wanted to paint but never did, or they will tell me their life story, also in detail.

There’s one kind of experience that I’ve never had while painting in public. That is, I’ve never been interviewed and filmed for the television news. Until now.

On Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, two television reporters from France’s France 3 TV channel saw me painting on the digue in Saint Aubin. The day was sunny, perfect beach weather, and it was the day before the French holiday of Assumption Day. Most people had both days off. The reporters asked me a lot of questions about how great the weather was, and how it was so great compared to the rain you often see in Normandy, and they filmed me while I painted. I gave them my time because they were polite, pleasant and honest about my chances of actually appearing on television. At one point, the two reporters thanked me and then headed off to look for other subjects for their report. When I saw them coming back to the point on the digue where I was painting, I asked them if they had found another older gentlemen who was more interesting then me; they looked at me, laughed and then told me,”Of course not.” They told me to watch the evening news for “Base Normandie.” And I thought it would be fun to be on TV, even though I knew it was unlikely I would actually appear.

Well, guess what? I appeared. You can see my one minute of fame by clicking on the link below. But first, just a few explanations. You might ask, if I was interviewed way back in August while I was in France, why did I wait until now to make a new blog posting? Well. without going into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that I needed some help to solve a few technical issues. Also, you might ask what's all this other stuff that's shown before I actually appear? Because of the size of the video file, I did not reproduce the entire segment. As I said above, the reporters were basically showing how many happy people came out to enjoy the beach on a beautiful day, because Normandy has more than its share of rain. 


As far as my own segment is concerned, I was asked how much I enjoyed the sunshine. The answer I gave, which was used on the air, was: Normandy is famous for its wonderfully green foliage, but that requires rain, for which Normandy is also famous.

I had my one minute of fame, not the 15 minutes Andy Warhol is credited with talking about. But this was just the beginning. The day after my television appearance, I was painting again in the countryside, just next to a road near the village of Reviers. All of a sudden, a truck-driver slowed down his rig on the road nearby, honked his horn, gave me a big thumbs-up gesture and shouted “television.” That same evening, my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in our town of Saint Aubin-sur-Mer for a light dinner. Our waiter smiled at me, nodded his head and mentioned that he saw me the previous night on television. The same kind of response came maybe three or four more times. Even our former cleaning lady, who stopped by for coffee, told us she felt honored because she knows me, a painter who was on television. And during the following days while I was working on the painting “Saint Aubin III” on the digue, people started greeting me as “the painter of Saint Aubin.” So, maybe my one minute of fame will last just a little bit longer.

Thanks for listening, and for your encouragement,