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May Bursts Out

photo: cafe pick clops

In the Marais last Wednesday.

Freaks, Montparnos, Sunlight

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 17. May 2004:– I have taken off my sweater and I took off my shirt yesterday and kept it off today. Thus stripped, you may consider my detached clothing as a kind of barometre that should tell you that the weather is pretty fine for late June here.

It is more than just fine. It is stunningly bright and warm. It is the kind of weather you usually only see in old photographs – kind of like fictional or antique weather. The kind that is 'used to be.' The kind that your grandmother – if you had a Parisian grandmother – would say, 'Eh, bien, I remember clearly before the Great War...'

Well, this is today. This will be tomorrow too. There is a whopping great high domed over Europe, and it is supposed to last for a few more days. Right now the sky is nearly dark – dark blue, getting darker. There isn't one cloud in it. The low temperature for tomorrow morning is higher at 14 degrees than the high was just a week ago.

This may not be amazing to you, but it is pretty amazing for Paris. Most years we sit around waiting for spring until well into the summer. In summer we are usually still waiting for it. Usually there isn't any summer either. It doesn't fit into Paris' scheme of two seasons – fall and winter.

Since there is nothing tricky about the next couple of days, all you need to know are the predicted highs. These are 25 for tomorrow and Wednesday, and a bit lower for Thursday, when a bit of low pressure might seep in from the Atlantic.

This may translate into a feeling of damp, heavy air by next Friday. But, from the looks of it, it is going to happen in slow motion. If may be delayed. It may change its mind. It may be beautiful forever. This may be a rare year with four seasons. I can't say it's happened before, but there's a 'first time' even for the weather here.

Café Life

Bad Patch

If I wasn't 'up to par' last week, I haven't fully recovered since then. The good weather hit like a cannonball lastphoto: rue de tresor Wednesday and a story in the paper sucked me out to the Marais, where I had a good tour in the sunshine. However, when it came to sitting down for five hours with my nose in several heavy books, I gave up after a hour and went back out into the sunshine.

The Rue du Trésor, off the Rue du Vielle du Temple.

This makes it about the fourth 'tour' I've done without writing it up to be a feature in Metropole. You shouldn't think I was just outside walking around free as a bird. No, I was going through the motions of doing a 'tour,' including taking all the photos – as ever, too many – and archiving them afterwards.

Then a few days later, I did open the book and I did start to write. But the story oozed out of me like a slow leak and before I could control myself, I was outside without any destination. I know now – I went looking for posters. There weren't any, so I went to the library and read magazines, without my glasses.

This is what I found out – Europe's biggest photo fair – Foire de Photo à Bièvres – for both used and antique equipment and for photo prints, is on Sunday, 6. June. It is suggested that you take an umbrella just in case, and the same thing goes for cash, cards or cheques.

If you want to know which photo equipment has been chosen as best by photo magazines, check out the Tipa Web site. The selection for this year's candidates is closed, and the results will be published in September. Meanwhile, last year's Tipa picks are still online.

Some would think that some of the photos on this page should be on the 'Au Bistro' page and vice versa. If 'Ed' wasn't having a 'bad patch,' I'd agree with this view.

Les Freaks de Mai

After my tour of one street in the Marais last Wednesday, I kept on walking into the 11th arrondissement until turning right at the Boulevard Voltaire and I walked down it quite a long way until I arrived at the Freak Bothers studio, dozing in a side street. It looked deserted but a quiet tap on the door was answered with a briefly drawn–aside curtain, and the door opened.

Pic let me in. Gilbert Shelton was about to be interviewed by the Jolly Green Giant so I reversed to where Pic was cleaning up pages of the coming issue of the 'Not Quite Dead' comic strip.

This is a tedious way to pass the day, but somebody has to do it. You see, at the Freak Bros. studio comic strips arephoto: pic at work, freak studio still hand–made – still drawn in pencil on standard letter–sized paper and then inked. After this the pages are taken to a high–tech standard photocopier, and it is these copies that are colored, with water–colors.

Pic, at his fix–the–comic–strip station.

Actually it is all a bit low–grade. I asked Gilbert if he was saving money by using small, letter–sized paper. He said no. So I assume he is not intending to make a lot of money fifty years from now by selling the individual pages, because I doubt if they'll last.

When the photocopy pages are colored Pic scans them at a fairly large size and resolution, and then he goes through them practically pixel by pixel, and cleans them up. Where color goes over frame lines, he eliminates it. Where color hasn't quite filled a white space, he fills it in. While doing this, he fiddles with the overall color, density, and other fiddly items. I guess a page takes a half hour to get into shape.

It's about the length of time I'll spend on a cartoon after it's been scanned. There are always rogue pixels to whip into shape. Pic stops about every ten minutes to tell me a story or get me an Orangina – "Only for kids!"

No sunlight penetrates into the Freak Bros. studio. Both of us could feel or sense it shining outside. With Gilbert telling the Jolly Green Giant about Janis Joplin's early days in Austin in the main studio, time was nearly standing still in the outer studio. Page 33 – French. Page 34 – English. Pic showed me some photos of his father's sculptures. Wood, stone, metal, Pic has ten or 20 tons of it, that he has to move.

No. Life in the art business isn't all cool vernissages with cold white wine and warm cheese. Sometimes it's dirty work in poor light, sipping Orangina, sensing the sunlight outside, life outside scooting down the boulevard, going somewhere with the wind in its hair.

When I decided to go somewhere else to do nothing, Pic wanted to know which way I was going. I always go to the Métro, so Pic came along too as far as the magazine shop, to get some of the air that was passing both of us by.

Le Mai des Montparnos
Continued on page 2...
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