Music has always been the lifeblood of Cesar-Award-winning French actress, Charlotte Gainsbourg, courtesy of her bohemian folksinger parents, Jane Birkin and the late Serge Gainsbourg. With such noble lineage, it was inevitable that she start recording albums, too. (The mournful 2017 disc “Rest,” her fifth, uses the tragic 2013 death of her half-sister Kate Barry, and the passing of her father, to study mortality in detached detail.) To do so, Gainsbourg, 47, relocated her family to New York, where she spent four intense years with producer SebastiAn perfecting “Rest,” which inspired a new companion book of the same name, filled with her lyrics, photographs, and in-studio sketches. “I can’t help it — I just love drawing,” she says.
Are you a New Yorker now? Do you wake up, order a flat white, read the Times? You know what? I still listen to French news — that’s what I do when I wake up. And also, I want my children to hear French, so it’s very bilingual at home. And when I’m here, I kind of feel like I’m on vacation, because I take care of the children and I don’t really work, except on my album. And I always try to work on lyrics, although that doesn’t seem like work. People talk about the rhythm and stress of New York, but that’s not what I feel. But even after four years here, I still don’t understand the city. I feel very much a foreigner.
Someone on an HBO special recently said something insightful: There are three types of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who will never see. Yes. I’m going to these drawing classes in New York, where it’s great to be shown how to see. I’m learning about the technique, the approach to doing a portrait or sketching a nude. Because there’s a real vision you need to have when you draw. I had that when I was first in art school at 18, and this feels like I’m back there again. And I’ve always wanted to draw nudes. I actually wanted to ask people to come and strip naked at my place, but that seems really weird to ask that of random people, so I think a class is much more approprate.
Plus you can probably attend class — or wander the Big Apple — virtually unrecognized. Being in New York means that no one is watching me, so I can do or try anything I want. That’s the beauty of the city. Everyone you come across is an artist. So I suddenly had that freedom to do whatever I wanted, and it didn’t have to be good. I just had to like it.
IF YOU GO
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Tickets: $39.50 to $45
Contact: (888) 929-7849, www.axs.com