Monday, December 29, 2008

Mise En Place

I just learned this term - mise en place - while reading a cooking blog. It is a French term, defined by the Culinary Institute of America (according to Wikipedia), that means everything in it's place. It's what you see when you watch a cooking demonstration and see that everything is already prepared and laid out ahead of the actual cooking. Everything is measured, chopped, sifted, and so on, and cooking utensils are clean and ready to go. It makes the process seem so much more effortless and flowing.

It got me to thinking about studio practices and how well the concept might transfer and at what place preparation and forethought, spontaneity and creativity intersect. When I'm working with encaustics or watercolor I know that I spend a lot more time in preparation, mainly because both mediums set so quickly. That means laying out a palette - in watercolor waking up the colors with water so that they are ready to use, as well as stretching the paper, wetting and laying out the brushes, sponges, and whatever else is used to apply the paint, and making sure plenty of clean water is on hand. With encaustic preparation involves getting out specialized tools, many of which need to be plugged in and warmed up. The paint also needs to be brought to melting point. In oils I plan to have the right size and proportioned canvases or boards ready ahead of time and to have paint on hand, within reason, but since the drying process is slower preparation doesn't have the same intensity for me, at least not until later on in the process. Then I find, in the heat of the moment, it's imperative to be able to have exactly the right color and brush at the tip of your fingers.

Anyway, something to think about while I paint the studio walls this week.

Update: I have learned from a reader from France that "mise en place" is not a French term, but an American term coming from France that seems to translate more accurately as a verb: "an action to fix things in place."

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