Claudine Parisot is enjoying a renaissance. Having raised three children, retired from two careers, undergone numerous relocations and renovations, she is on the brink of picking up her painter’s brush full-time.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Claudine Parisot is enjoying a renaissance. Having raised three children, retired from two careers, undergone numerous relocations and renovations, she is on the brink of picking up her painter’s brush full-time. With life’s tangents behind her, she is ready to devote her life to art.
On a visit to her home on a crisp fall afternoon, one can see Parisot’s vibrant garden stands alone among the wilting, gray flowerbeds in the neighborhood. Her anemones, coreopsis, and angelonia are in full bloom. Having been a landscape designer, she is well acquainted with autumn-flowering perennials. They weren’t always in her repertoire, however.
Born in Madagascar and raised in France, Parisot grew up sketching and painting. Innately visual and creative, her mastery of color, texture, structure, and scale came naturally. Instead of pursuing art as a career though, she became a pharmacist. Having had to jump through too many hoops to earn her license to practice in this country when she and her family relocated, she regrettably left it behind.
It was her husband Bernard’s work as an engineer that brought them to the United States. They went back and forth between the two countries a number of times before finally settling here in 1996. Now that he is president of a French advertising firm in New York City, JC Decaux, they’re here to stay. Although they love Manhattan, the Parisots wouldn’t want to live there.
“I wanted a garden and Bernard wanted to be able to come to a home away from his business. We love it here in Rye,” said Parisot, whose home also boasts a spacious, well-lit art studio with skylights, easels, and her treasured art supplies.
While raising their children, Parisot struggled with preserving their heritage while assimilating as Americans. In the end, the insightful, sensitive mother made it work.
“Now, seeing them all grown up, I suppose being bicultural hasn’t stopped them in any way,” she said. Marie is a human resources consultant in Paris, Pierre is in advertising in Los Angeles, and Nelly is a resident at N.Y.U. Medical.
One constant throughout their lives was their mother’s canvas. It wasn’t unusual for Parisot to reach for paper and brushes and capture a moment in a watercolor painting. A number of these landscape paintings and small portraits of her children throughout her home.
“When the children were young, we spent so much time with colors, all sorts of materials and objects and paper. I still have a lot of their work. I never thought of it as teaching them. It was just having pure fun with them,” she recalled.
Always challenging herself, Parisot, as an empty nester, embarked on a career as a landscape designer. When the last of her kids moved out of the house, she earned her certification at the New York Botanical Garden (NYGB) and launched her own landscaping business, Jardins, LLC.
Much like Monet, who was also a gardener, Parisot moved seamlessly from one to the other. She became intrigued by two things that a canvas alone cannot provide: a third dimension and collaboration with clients.
“What I loved most about it was solving problems for people, who want you to help them have a better vision and define their relationship to the garden. I liked taking time to understand the person, as well as the space,” she remarked. “A client once told me she is still moved when she looks at a suggestion I made for her pergola. It’s gratifying to change the way someone goes into their garden.”
Parisot even visited Japan with the NYBG. “It was inspiring to see how much time the Japanese dedicate to designing their landscape,” she observed. “A garden should be beautiful even when all the leaves have fallen off the trees. There’s beauty in the color of the bark and the structure of the branches, like a sculpture.”
Ultimately, painting trumped the landscape design business. Jardins ended up taking too much of her time, so she closed up shop. Redirecting all her energy into her painting, Parisot is currently enrolled in a portrait course at the Rye Arts Center, which she says helps her focus on technique. These days, she prefers painting in oil because it gives her more freedom. Nevertheless in her travels all over the world, she always carries her brush, paints and a container of water. Not surprisingly, she has framed these watercolor paintings of her travels all herself, designing the matting, too.
“I learned in Versailles from someone who frames artwork for the Louvre,” she said. “I figured she knew what she was talking about.”
In addition, the artist, her own worst critic, seemed to have reached a turning point. After all these years, she finally realized that perhaps her artwork has the potential of touching others. Her contemporary oil painting of 9/11,
“If I can communicate and make somebody feel differently after viewing my paintings, then a connection has been made,” she explained. “When you paint, it’s very personal.”