The picnic architecture:
Outdoor space, urban space, eating space: it can all be the same, especially when in a city that has the perfect spot for such a combo, like Parc du Mont-Royal in Montréal. Trying out restaurants for every meal is common practice when on vacation in a new city, but I always try to shop in a local grocery store to get a sense of how “the people” would eat. So on our last full day in the city, we picked up some cheddar, brie, a baguette, and a bottle of red wine to have a very “new French” kind of afternoon (it was very Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe if you will).
Parc du Mont-Royal is essentially a small mountain in Montréal. It’s a beautiful public park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, with wide, winding trails; the boulevards of the woods. There are plenty of grassy places to sit and picnic or play games. A constructed lake and folded-plate community center provide convenient public facilities as well. A vast green space is really the breath of fresh air that is needed when in a congested city.
The missed-opportunity architecture:
To our fortunate surprise, May 29th happened to be the one day a year that almost all of the museums around Montréal are free to the public! So of course, the Centre Canadien d’Architecture / Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) was a must. The center wraps a new building around an old designed in 1874; an interior photo is shown above. What the photo also shows, however, is a complete misuse of this historical space. The CCA’s website describes the center as “an international research institution based on the fundamental premise that architecture is a public concern,” and yet it does nothing within this space to engage the public. I was disappointed to find rooms with great architectural detail holding merely a folding table and some folding chairs. These could be modern day salons, where the public can gather for community programs, exchange ideas, or at least reflect on their location and atmosphere.
To its credit, the newer building of the CCA does hold exhibits and has a book shop. There was even a space where visitors could learn how to artfully fold paper. But without a better integration of the old with the new, there is a missed opportunity.
The old architecture:
We arrived in Montréal around 4:00 pm and decided to head to the old district right away. During the 45 minute walk from our Downtown hotel, we came across many historical landmarks of the city; Victoria Square and Basilique Notre-Dame, to name a couple. Reflecting on the day, it was these historical spots that clamour first to my memory. Old Montréal was absolutely fantastic; the food, the shopping, the atmosphere…and it was not suffocated by the tourism, but perhaps even enhanced. In my travel experience, I have come to find that it is the historic districts that tend to be most pleasant. Perhaps it’s the escape from the gridded city, like the winding streets of old Barcelona,or the spirited color of the buildings, like old Tryol, Austria, or just the variety of the cobblestones, like Boston’s North End; either way, it’s a welcomed change from the modern.
Keep your old districts safe!
At “The Power of (Re)Invention” in Springfield, MA
In February, I became a member of the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Every year, the society holds a regional conference for those interested in expanding their network and learning tricks of the trade. Being a self-proclaimed amateur illustrator, I was interested in both.
The conference was fantastic. It began with a keynote address by author Wendy Mass, who spoke of her career through hilarious anecdotes and personal interests. Each attendee was able to choose hour-long seminars all with unique topics. Because I identify more as a picture book illustrator, I chose to attend “A Crash Course in Hands” first. It was helpful to learn that drawing realistic hands starts with understanding the anatomy of the hand (though I will probably continue to draw them as mittens…). The second seminar, “Picture Book: Concept to Print,” was excellent. A presentation by Kendra Levin and Jim Hoover, editor and art director at Viking Press respectively, AND writer/illustrator Deborah Freedman, that chronicled the process tackled to take Deborah’s book concept from sketch to consumable product.
Lunch followed the morning seminars, and a second keynote address was presented by author Patrick Carman. Like earlier, Patrick recalled his efforts to self-publish and publicize his work. The third seminar I attended was “Marketing Using the Free Short Story” by middle-grade author Natasha Sass. The seminar provided a lesson in how to better sell your work on Amazon by selling a supplemental work for free. My last scheduled event for the day was a manuscript critique with Zaneta Jung of Sterling Publishing. Zaneta was great with her feedback for my first work, One Banana. She expressed how the current story is a bit disjointed because it contains what appears to be three stories in one, but that the main character and illustrations are overall a lot of fun. So my next steps? Zero-in on one of those stories for a more complete work, and build an illustration portfolio.