Provence and Painting

Today I am going to try to satisfy two itches with one scratch: I am posting travel photos AND a painting. So there. A couple of weeks ago, Stoney and I took a weekend in Provence. Ish. We revisited the Pont du Gard, the highest and one of the best preserved Roman aquaducts surviving.

The water was too high and swift to permit playing in it, thus squashing all hopes of canoeing under a Romant artifact.

The water was too high and swift to permit playing in it, thus squashing all hopes of canoeing under a Roman artifact.

We stayed in a truly lovely little hotel north of Arles, between the Pont du Gard and St. Remy, our other destination. I can recommend the Hotel Mistral. Although the proprietor spoke English, he willingly conversed with me in French when I asked for help practicing. Very lovely location.

The only availability on short notice was two twins.

The only availability on short notice was two twins.

My goal was a pilgrimage to St Remy and the steps of Van Gogh, sort of a completion of the one begun with Sherry in Arles. The difference here was a cleaner, prettier, more touristy town, with a LOT less connection between the photos and the actual scenes. To some extent this is the fault of much growth for St Remy, but some is just that they little placards were placed to lead you up to the sanitarium where Van Gogh convalesced more than to inform his paintings.

This one is actually more connected than most.

This one is actually more connected than most.

The St. Paul Asylum/monastery was well worth the trek up the hill on this trail, though. It is still a working art therapy center, and had not only giant tableaus of Van Gogh’s paintings on the garden walls and elsewhere, but also paintings and other artwork by modern patients. We were greeted by a bronze statue of Van Gogh titled “The Sunflower Thief.”

Cool, isn't he? And somehow sort of tortured-looking.

Cool, isn’t he? And somehow sort of tortured-looking.

Stoney posing with the gentlemen at the hospital.

Stoney posing with the gentlemen at the hospital.

Me, attempting the pensive intensity of Van Gogh.

Me, attempting the pensive intensity of Van Gogh.

We also got to see, supposedly, Van Gogh’s room at the asylum, or at least one made up to be. It very well could have been, as the views of the gardens from the windows on that floor seemed kind of familiar.

The picture on the easel is clearly a Van Gogh, while the one on the wall is a portrait by a modern patient.

The picture on the easel is clearly a Van Gogh, while the one on the wall is a portrait by a modern patient.

We had a lovely time, bought interesting chocolates at a renown shop that still couldn’t compare with Cocoa Dolce back home, and was only spoiled a little by the girl who didn’t understand or care that I really CAN’T eat wheat flour in my sarrasin crepe galette. I only ate the insides, but was still sick enough the next day that I almost lost my breakfast in the car on the drive back.

And speaking of the drive back, we made a detour to see the famous Camargue wetlands. What we saw were a LOT of horses and lovely salt-grasses, and rice fields, but no flamingoes. A little disappointing. But we walked the beach at Saintes Maries de la Mer, where the sun was risen but low, and the clouds were low, toying with the sun, wispy and kind of like cheeks filling and emptying, blowing long and softly. The sun sparkled on the sea like diamonds that were floating above the water, just out of reach. And the rocks and sand were so solid, anchoring us to the ground, very different in feeling. I tried to paint this scene, but all the greys turned purple and blue for me, and the dark, dirty sand turned almost golden for me, and I love the painting. It is really reflective of the way the morning made me feel.

"Sparkling Sea from Saintes Maries de la Mer"

“Sparkling Sea from Saintes Maries de la Mer”

And there you go. I had fun with this. I hope you like it, too.

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Learning to Loosen Up

Clearly, I am having more fun traveling and living in France than I am publishing blog posts about it. However, one new thing this fall is a workshop in a Toulouse art studio with a retired art professor. A French art professor, who taught at a university in Paris. Can I say how over-the-moon I am about this lady? She is so kind, and speaks French slowly and clearly for me, the foreigner in the room, and every little tip she gives me seems to REALLY help! Having never had much formal training, this is like heaven for me.

This is the last thing I painted sans aide:

Des artichauts, des oignons, et la laitue...yes, that's right, in French. After all, it IS French produce; it seems more boring in English.

Des artichauts, des oignons, et une laitue…yes, that’s right, in French. After all, it IS French produce; it seems more boring in English.

This was actually rather challenging for me, in part because how could I capture this amazing lettuce? It is dark and opaque, yet light and fluffy. More importantly, I committed my most frequent painting problem here: I overworked the piece. Trying to get the colors right, the background right, the reflections in the pitcher, and the fluff of the lettuce…it could actually knot up my muscles, because I couldn’t loosen up and play with it.

This was one of my two sample pieces I took to the art studio. I told her I’m concerned with how uptight my painting is…that I struggle with actually playing with my art. The more abstract dandelion/stars piece was my example of “fun.” It is also entirely ME. I have no real style, and my art needs to express ME, not just be a poor camera. So, the first product of Mdm Mierelle’s help is the result of trying to paint something without using a brush.

Pears by knife.

Pears by knife.

So I washed in a gray background originally, but then changed to palette knife for these pears I had found at the market. I’ve never really painted anything entirely with my knife, although I have wanted to for, well, years. Yes, I am a total fraidy-cat. I just couldn’t really commit, and then someone else pushed me to it. I LOVE them! I mean, sure, anyone who knows me and my painting knows I love pears anyway, but I REALLY love these pears! However, Mdm Mierelle didn’t let me keep my background, though. She insisted that an artwork needs bridges for the color for unity. So I tried again, and it took me quite awhile to get a background that felt right. More work than the gray, but it feels soft, more real.

So next, we explored a more impressionist style. The goal is to succeed at recording less visually, while revealing more of how the scene affects me. My model was a photo of a Texas wildflower scene as a storm approaches. Another stretch for me. And we followed this by playing with the same scene, more in the style of a late Cezanne landscape. Both are the first time I have ever tried that sort of style.

An impression of spring in the Texas hillcountry

An impression of spring in the Texas hillcountry

A Bolder splash of color

A Bolder splash of color

Any of these you can check out more closely by clicking on the photo, then clicking again to magnify. I LOVE looking at the knife strokes on the pears.

So this is how I start my workshop with a French art professor. Whatever comes out of it, I am having a blast! I paint three hours alongside 4 or 5 other artists, each pursuing their own dream. I don’t think we have anyone using the same media even at the moment! I am living my dream. Thank you, Father God!

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Hospitality, Part 2B? Sherry’s last days

So, wrapping up Barcelona with Sherry, having toured the Gothic part of Barcelona…

The part of Barcelona where the old cathedral is.

The part of Barcelona where the old cathedral is. Note the Google maps dude on the right actually MAPPING the courtyard! Seriously.

…we stopped at Park Guell, designed also by Gaudi, on the way out.

One of several entrances to the park, which has paying, controlled access to the most popular section.

One of several entrances to the park, which has paying, controlled access to the most popular section.

Truly funky architecture.

Truly funky architecture.

Street entertainers were everywhere, too.

Street entertainers were everywhere, too.

The acoustics must have been very appealing.

The acoustics must have been very appealing.

My friend enjoying the "concert."

My friend enjoying the “concert.”

Quite a few levels at a height above the old city.

Quite a few levels at a height above the old city.

I think he was going for caves, or something.

I think he was going for caves, or something.

It is very detailed. We only saw this section from a distance, because we didn't have time to wait for our paid assigned entry time.

It is very detailed. We only saw this section from a distance, because we didn’t have time to wait for our paid assigned entry time.

We finished up her trip with another visit into Toulouse, and found a classic era church, quite lovely.

A church from the 19th and 20th centuries...positively modern!

A church from the 19th and 20th centuries…positively modern!

The lighting inside was perfect for the windows!

The lighting inside was perfect for the windows!

The modern church.

The altar.

I hated to see her go, but we weren’t alone for long. My high school friend Jennifer took the extra room a week later!

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Hospitality Part 2, Barcelona (or, You Can’t Get Too Much of a Good Thing)

My husband and son accompanied me and Sherry to Barcelona. My friend Sherry is a beach girl; she lived a large portion of her life in Southern California, but she’s been landlocked in recent years. I thought she would really enjoy Barcelona and the Mediterranean, and I loved Barcelona so much I wanted to revisit it and share it with her.

Roadtrip!!

Roadtrip!!

I made sure our hotel had easy access to the beach.

Dirty window, but that is definitely the sea.

Dirty window, but that is definitely the sea.

 

And to the right...

And to the right…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we made sure to have at least one seafood dinner on the beach. The size of my prawns was SHOCKING. Honestly, I couldn’t eat them alone. Sherry had to crack them open for me; I was just too grossed out.

Each of these things are as big as my hand. Look at those eyes looking at me!

Each of these things are as big as my hand. Look at those eyes looking at me!

Then we toured the most-visited site in Spain, the Sagrada Familia, designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Oh my! It really was different than any other cathedral I have visited.

Our tour guide explained in both English AND Spanish, which was a nice exercise for Theo's beginning Spanish.

Our tour guide explained in both English AND Spanish, which was a nice exercise for Theo’s beginning Spanish.

Click through to follow us on our tour… Continue reading

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Spring…the Season of Hospitality: Part 1 in Arles

April proved to be a very friendly month…two of my friends came to spend time with me! It takes quite a bit of devotion to give up more than a week of time and work, and a sizable chunk of weak dollars to come all the way over here to share France with me, but they did it! The first was Sherry, one of my dearest friends.

She's here! Sheer joy! The adventure has already begun.

She’s here! Sheer joy! The adventure has already begun.

Her first morning with us was April First, which in France is Poisson d’Avril. This is a time of practical jokes, consisting almost entirely of children attaching drawings of fish to adults, accompanied by many giggles. Chocolate fish are also frequently given to kids at this time, invariably filled with, well, more fish.

Haha!

Haha!

Petits poissons.

Les petits poissons.

Sherry and I spent some girl-time visiting Arles in Provence. It was a little early for the stereotypical lavender and sunflowers, but it was still lovely. Arles was one of the dirtier, more run-down cities I’ve visited, but it was still charming, and the hunt for Van Gogh sites was a lot of fun.

Our hotel front, which would be striking in another couple of weeks.

Our hotel front, which would be striking in another couple of weeks.

The hotel proprietor was very friendly and helpful, and the breakfasts were great, as deluxe continentals. I didn’t take any photos from the room window, though, as I am accustomed to, because it was a very unprepossessing alley. Come visit Arles with us! Continue reading

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Filling the Spirit in Limoges

(And why, one wonders, is worshiping spelled with one ‘p,’ but shipping is spelled with two?)

But anyway, the end of March was blessed with a ladies’ retreat of the AECM community of churches, in French. I was privileged and delighted to be a part of this, and encouraged that I was able to participate and follow a significant percentage without the printed notes this time. It is wonderful to sing and worship with so many different Christian women from all parts of France.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Creating prayer calendars

Creating prayer calendars

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Before returning to Toulouse, our carpool chose to make a visit to the ceramics museum. I get to add yet another museum to my list! I really need to make a page to collect my museum visits. I enjoy going back and remembering them.

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

More detail of the museum.

More detail of the museum.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

You can see a few of my favorite displays here. Continue reading

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Junior High in France

French students in what are essentially 8th and 9th grades do a one-week shadowing internship, observing someone doing what they think they want to do for a living. This year, Theo’s 8th grade year, he is in a small private French school, so he was expected to do this “stage d’observation.” And what Theo is interested in doing as a career, is sustainable farming, imagining his own restaurant and maybe using this knowledge and platform in developing countries. Our part of France is amazing for family farms and sustainable farming. I don’t think we have ever passed a field of more than 20, 25 cows. The local produce is preferred, and it’s amazing. Unfortunately, his stage was scheduled at the end of February. Farms aren’t really all that busy in February, and so we were having some trouble finding a farm willing to take on this American kid no one knew.

At the last minute, an acquaintance of another parent at the school who is a farmer, who happens to also have a church and food pantry and bread ministry on his farm, agreed to take on Theo. It was a match made in heaven! He spent four days working hard in an all-Francophone environment, and instead of finishing the day weary and near-silent as usual, I would pick him up, energized and talking constantly of all he had done! And he did a lot.

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

He helped build a pen for the new little chicks coming in, and helped them settle the next day. He accompanied the tractor mowing the grass around the bees’ hives, helped build parts of the electric fencing, and sautered and painted a cow pen. He also ate lunch with the family each day, a nice French farmer lunch!

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

Another view from the farm.

Another view from the farm.

He spent the next week preparing the report of his stage, and he is more convinced than ever that this is what he wants to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paris: the Day of the Musee D’Orsay

The next day was a Sunday, and found Theo still sick, and he seemed to be getting a cough. But our museum passes were all pre-purchased, and Theo still had hopes of seeing the beaches of Normandy Monday, so we decided to see if he would improve. We left him to his internet and manga and headed back to Paris, Myriah to the international service at the Cathedral du Notre Dame, and Stoney and I to Sainte-Chapelle, apparently once a royal chapel, and an amazing collection of stained glass.

The chapel is under renovation, it’s third one, I believe.

The chapel isn't far from Notre Dame, and the is the smallest church we have visited.

The chapel isn’t far from Notre Dame, and is the smallest church we have visited.

The difference between restored windows and yet-to-be-restored is clear. These are dirty.

The difference between restored windows and yet-to-be-restored is clear. These are dirty.

The restoration process is extensive and painstaking. They remove panels and take them apart, cleaning each piece, replacing the leading, before putting the puzzle back together. It must take FOREVER.

The restoration process is extensive and painstaking. They remove panels and take them apart, cleaning each piece, replacing the leading, before putting the puzzle back together. It must take FOREVER.

See some of the results, and our visit to the MO, by clicking here. Continue reading

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Paris: the Day of the Louvre

Our first day, having left Theo surfing the net on his iPhone in the hotel room with meds at hand, we began (via metro) at the Arc de Triomphe. We saw it from across the street, where plenty of people were congregating, yet saw no way across the exceedingly busy round about. We did see people darting across the round about, and opted to view from afar. We later found there is an underground access, for future reference.

The Arc de Triomphe...bigger than I thought.

The Arc de Triomphe…bigger than I thought.

Thus begins a very broad, very long road to the Seine, the Champs-Élysée. On it we passed a store my younger daughter would have enjoyed visiting.

Louis-Vuitton. The Sun King would have shopped here, I'm sure.

Louis-Vuitton. The Sun King would have shopped here, I’m sure.

We passed through many Christmas shop stands and landmarks, re-entering the metro at the Jardin des Tuilleries, after the Egyptian obelisk.

I can't even remember what this post is.

I can’t even remember what this post is, but I liked it.

Christmas comes with roasted chestnuts.

Christmas comes with roasted chestnuts.

A close up of that roof.

A close up of that roof.

Coming up on the garden...

Coming up on the garden…

And the Egyptian obelisk...actually brought from Luxor.

And the Egyptian obelisk…actually brought from Luxor.

With Egyptian writing.

With Egyptian writing.

And from here we began our day at the Louvre. Click on through to join us… Continue reading

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When all that glitters IS gold…

Glitter and glint are EVERYWHERE at Versailles. I mean, you hear that the Sun King was a liberal fan of gold, but wow. This was extreme.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Even in the distance, on a rainy day, the chateau gleams with gold.

My family joining the crowd.

My family joining the crowd.

Guarding the entrance.

Greeting all-comers.

 

Gold at the gate.

Gold at the gate.

A tiny slice of this enormous castle.

A tiny, less ornate, slice of this enormous castle.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

Suffice it to say that this theme was continued indoors. Doorways, mantles, fabrics, ceilings, stairways, well…everything was covered in its fair share of gold. By the time we reached the end, I was actually tired of it. Some things are special and lovely because they are rare. To me, gold is pretty garish when it’s not an accent, but the main palette.

Also by the time we were finished, Theo had grown quite a headache. We took the metro back to our hotel and began dosing him up with decongestant and Advil. The next day he wasn’t really better, so we went into Paris with just Myriah. Coming up, the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

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