Workshops in France Gave Me a Chance (of a lifetime!)
I'd just wrapped up hosting my first plein air painting retreat, Field & Flow, in a small shrimping town just outside of Charleston when I arrived in France as a crew member for Workshops in France. I changed hats literally and figuratively. I couldn't have been any more excited to have the chance to be back in France with a behind the scenes advantage. I'd been two years prior as an attendee for their Carol Marine workshop. It was that retreat that made me fall in love with the South of France and a retreat style painting workshop.
As a crew member, I got lots of additional time with the team and featured painting instructor, Jane Hunt. This was our first dinner as a little group before all of the food shopping and preparation for the attendees later that wee based at a chateau in a sweet little village near Avignon.
There was work to be done as a crew member, but there was still plenty of time for all of Jane's incredible slideshow presentations and demos. I got in some quality paint time as well. I particularly enjoyed trying out two of Jane's go-to materials: Prismacolor Premier Markers (in 3 different values) and Gamblin's water miscible oils. I brought my regular oils, but Jane was nice enough to let me explore with some of her black and white water miscible oils. I'd like to test them out more in the future as I'd love to get comfortable and make the switch for safety reasons and the idea of one less material to have to purchase (that $50 jug of mineral spirits).
The entire group got to travel lots to several villages that surround Chateauneuf-de-Gadagne, the village where our chateau for the retreat is located. Sometimes the adventures were just for sight seeing and other times for painting. The hospital in St Remy where Van Gogh spent his last years painting was a treat for us all. Hello irises!
Another painting destination highlight was this amazing poppy field in Les Genevriers. Stumbling upon these fields scattered throughout the south is quite breath taking.
Jane proved to be a terrific teacher each day and she really practices what she preaches about thoughtful value sketches before every painting.
Here's a little work in progress of mine from this lovely poppy field.
This is some of our group pausing to take in Jane's demo. Demos are always my favorite part of workshops. I learn so much by watching.
I had a real pinch me moment as I kicked back in this beautiful field while taking in so much of Jane's explicit teaching. For such a tonalist painter, she sure knows how to explain color and using color temperature to create atmospheric perspective.
More demoing by Jane and more practice by me in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
I tried my best to escape each day and jot down highlights of this incredible trip. Here I am enjoying un cafe creme by this glorious emerald river while reflecting in my new Van Gogh sunflower journal purchased in St Remy.
This reflection is only a tiny glimpse into this incredible experience. This speed limit sign found at a yard sale seemed so fitting. I was ending year 30 of my life in a way that I couldn't fully express in my journal, but a feeling of bliss I'll carry in my heart forever (corny but TRUE). This sign now hangs in my home as a reminder to always go after life as I did in year 30.
Once the retreat was over, I took the fast train up to Paris where I met my husband for our two year anniversary. Two years prior, we spent just a weekend in Paris after my first retreat with Workshops in France and our wedding next to a poppy field!! A weekend in Paris is not enough so we were both thrilled to have a week this time around.
Brice was such a trooper and allowed me time to get lost in the works of Monet, Degas and lots of other Impressionists at Musee d'Orsay and Musee de l'Orangerie. The above were my two favorite pieces by Monet.
You can't see the painting by Monet that gave Impressionism its name and not get a photo
in front of it!
Seeing several paintings that most would at least say they've seen in a book or something before was so surreal. I enjoyed gazing into this Degas piece. I was also getting excited thinking of the stories and pictures I'd be able to share with my summer art campers during our French Impressionists week at the Gibbes Museum of Art.
I'm typically drawn to COLOR! But this Cezanne self portrait was my favorite for his luscious brushwork!!
Checking out the art supply store that Monet and others shopped at in the 1800s... YES please!
As if the art in the museums wasn't enough, we met a sweet lady who invited us to view the collection of Jacqueline Marvall. She and her father manage the collection. She was happy to share it with me when she found out that I am an artist traveling and painting in her beloved country. I knew immediately that I'd be adding a LADY artist to the list of Impressionists I'd be teaching the kiddos about during summer camp. Making connections and getting a private art tour just don't happen everyday. I am so grateful for Camille's generosity. I'd be delighted to offer a sincere thank you by getting this collection to the states, a dream she and her father have for this incredible collection. Good thing I have a connection with a local museum. We shall see what I can help make happen...
My desire was to spend the majority of my time exploring Paris WITH Brice, but he encouraged me to go off to paint because... when in Paris! This flower garden was recommended by the kind owner of the coffee shop, Yellow Tucan, we frequented during the week. I painted as adorable little French children froliced around laughing. I feel the cheer came out in this one and I was delighted with the process and the finished product. I did only quick studies during the retreat so I was pleased to have at least one completed piece.
I squeezed in one last painting before catching the shuttle to the airport on our final day. Plein air painting in the city where it was born...certainly a memory I won't ever forget. The two young girls who sat down to watch me instead of following their Papa to the bakery will certainly be a part of that memory. They were so curious and enthralled. We didn't have to share the same language to connect... art did it for us.
Painting evokes emotions for people of all ages all across the world. MY painting included! Whew! Heart flutter!
A Van Gogh documentary just seemed fitting for the flight home!
My stories from this incredible adventure are as expansive as this poppy field. I am grateful for the chance that Workshops in France gave me to explore and grow and stamp 30 as one heck of a year! I am also grateful for a husband who supports my dream and wanted to help put a cherry on top of this trip with all that Paris had to offer.
If you're an artist and want to know more about this retreat, please reach out. I'd be delighted to share all the details. If you're interested in traveling to Paris, let me hook you up with a list of the best wine, dinner and attractions in the city. If there's anything I love doing more than painting, it is connecting and helping others.
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