Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Painting in Provence #1

I've been very much away (from reality and life as I know it) but have finally returned to earth after a heavenly week painting in Provence with Julian Merrow Smith.

It was an incredible experience and there is so much to say! I had all good intentions of writing while there but we were totally immersed in painting all day! Afterwards we critiqued, talked, ate, drank local wine and ... sang!
Hey, "one does what one must" to alleviate the discomfort of standing all day in the elements.

They say plein air painting can be an extreme sport and now I understand why: we fought the cold, wind and rain; hiked through waist high grass and climbed rugged, rocky, hilly terrain - all to find the perfect vista to paint (well, the rocky, hilly, terrain might have been the stone path to the  kitchen where I made tea, but you get the idea).

Some of the challenges:
  • Paint fast before the light changes! (you may recall that my "3-hour" pear painting actually took 3 days).
  • Paint green that doesn't look like kermit the frog, colored with basic crayola 16-crayon box green.
  • Forget/reverse still life thinking: objects get lighter as they recede in landscapes.
  • Don't freeze (I packed for spring - apparently more experience with traveling is required) 

In an effort to get complex greens, my first painting looked like mud (or the related French word "merde")

Looks more like the rainy, wintery day we were battling than the lovely, spring weather we had hoped for. Although, if you look closely there is a hint of poppies blooming between the rows.

I was discouraged but determined and set forth to conquer green! These are better greens and it's less muddy, but the trees look like the they were made by Lionel for train tables. Sigh.

I hung in there and will post some other/better(?) paintings soon. 

Plein air painting is HARD. Unlike still life painting, you don't get to position the light source and place the objects ever-so-precisely where you like. You have to work fast and that damn sun moves while you're trying to keep consistent light on the canvas and palette! Not to mention the unpredictable weather!  It's frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

Is there any wonder we drank wine at the end of the day?!

Seriously, this was such an amazing trip - with great instruction by Julian Merrow Smith, astounding organization by Ruth Philips and the most awesome, energetic and supportive group of intrepid painters focused on a totally artistic experience for all! Even with the challenges, frustrations and difficulties, I never once resorted to collapsing on my "fainting couch" although clearly, it was tempting!

Did I mention that we stayed at La Madelene, a 12th century priory transformed to a Country French B&B?

No? Well, as I said, plein air painting is a rugged, extreme sport. Sort of.

Oh, it was a thoroughly wonderful week! So much to cherish, so stay tuned for more tales from my Provence painting adventure!

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