Well, we are packed up, folks….shipping out of France and back to the States. All fall and a touch of summer I had the incredible privilege and blessing of working in a studio in Toulouse under the coaching of Professeur Mireille Racine, retired from teaching art in a Paris university. It was sort of like having a stage, or internship, as a graying woman instead of as a college youth. I wish I could continue! But, since I can’t, I have decided to host myself a little exposition, all virtual of course, of just those artworks that were done under the influence of Prof Mireille. Most of the paintings have already been individually posted, but I like the contrast and the growth evident with them gathered together.
She asked for my goal for my art, and I told her that I wanted to loosen up, to be able to be more expressive and playful, even as I continue to develop in my basic skills. I apologize for the poor lighting of this exposition. My indoor lights were mostly sold for the move, and sunny Southwest France isn’t so sunny at the end of November.
The first is my pears painted with palette knives, a first for me. It really did make me a little looser to work with something that wasn’t a brush. She pushed me to incorporate my pear colors into my background for unity. In November Stoney and I visited Van Gogh’s museum in Amsterdam (I should probably post photos, eh?), and when I returned, Mireille pushed me to take my fall still life and overcome my intimidation of Van Gogh’s brilliant style and attempt it myself. The results rather surprised me. It was fun, and one of my last paintings.
My composition (or lack thereof) has been a point of repetition for Mireille. I tend to paint in bands and leave things looking too separated and linear. The landscape on the left, a Texas oak tree standing before an oncoming evening storm, was a fight for me. We did a lot of repair rework to get the light effects of French impressionism. To work the whole canvas quickly is just not my habit, but it is necessary for this sort of painting. The second landscape is a garden in Lyon, and it came noticeably more easily. I worked around the canvas as I had been coached, trying for a spiral composition. Big improvement!
To some extent, these are both studies, not really finished works. In fact, I began the one on the right first, trying to improve my palette knife skills. They actually have these wild cedar trees here in France, all twisted and agonizing. I started it before the Cezanne-inspired tree on the left, but didn’t really feel comfortable with it, so moved on. Mireille helped me see how to keep the visual lines clean so your eyes aren’t arrested or derailed, and its rework shows improvement. The other is clearly (to me, anyway) another iteration of the Texas oak tree. The goal was broken color that is incorporated throughout, like Cezanne, but clearly…NOT. Definitely a different feel than the impressionist version. It was fun, though difficult, and prepared me more than I knew for my pumpkins.
My favorite acrylic is still probably The View of the Sea from Sts Maries de la Mer (shown at the bottom).
We also tried to branch out some in my media as well as my technique, and so worked some in watercolor. One thing I learned is that I don’t just dislike working in watercolor because it is difficult and uncooperative with a mind of its own; I actually don’t like watercolor because I just don’t much have fun with it. I enjoy a lightness and sense of being out of time with acrylic; watercolor is labor and a fun-sucker. I don’t know why this would be for me, because it is true even when the results are to my liking. I worked some en plein air, in the studio garden.
I still prefer using my acrylics for something more like a watercolor effect. I’m still not sure I got the lighting effect right on this one, but not for lack of her trying to help me see it correctly! Still watercolor-y, but fun. I gave watercolor one last chance, though. I thought maybe if the usage was abstract enough I would quit trying to make it do what I want, and just how it turned out, no angst. I tried it with a portrait of my cat, inspired by a cat portrait on pinterest.
The first attempt was on the left, which didn’t quite do what I was looking for, but came close. So I tried again, using more water. Bad idea! Mireille gave me the confidence to try to salvage it, the cat on the right is inferior in many ways, even after her help.
So that’s my exposition. Prof Mireille pronounced my stage a success. I do think what I gleaned has been quite effective. What do you think of my progress? Is my work showing more life and vibrancy than before?