Tag Archives: expat life

A Virtual Exposition

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.

Sort of beginning and ending.

Sort of beginning and ending.

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.

Impressionism, take 1; and impressionism, take 2.

Impressionism, take 1; and impressionism, take 2.

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!

Going abstract.

Going abstract.

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.

DSCN1173

Some other kind of tree.

 

DSCN1171

A rose tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A window in the countryside near me.

A window in the countryside near me.

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.

Cat 1 and Cat 2.

Cat 1 and Cat 2.

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?

 

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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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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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The City of (Christmas) Lights

The day after Christmas 2013, we packed up and headed for an adventure in Paris. Theo wasn’t feeling so hot, but truly, he had had some sort of cold or bad allergies since before Thanksgiving, so we just pressed on. We stayed at a Hilton at Orly Airport, which was pretty cheap with big rooms, but very, very tired and nothing like picturesque. However, the breakfast was good, it had great access to the metro, and kept us from having to drive into Paris traffic.

It's best feature is size.

It’s best feature is size.

That night we took the metro into Paris, and our first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night (quite fitting for Christmas).

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

up close

An up close view. We went back in the daylight so Stoney could see the engineering, of course.

We took a boat tour aboard the Bateaux Mouches, although we didn’t go past Notre Dame, due to the Seine River being so high it affected our clearance. The night was quite cool and damp, but the boats were heated.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

Ready, cap'n!

Ready, cap’n!

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay.

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Lights at night

Lights at night

The Paris lady liberty

The Paris lady liberty

...and up close.

…and up close.

After the tour we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. And yes, all the French folk in Paris seem capable of a functional English. Tomorrow, Versailles.

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Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

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A Beautiful Day for a Stroll in the Garden

I’m just going to post pics of the lovely Jardin des Martels. We spent hours wandering the many gardens, including water gardens and an animal farm.

Welcomed by dancing water.

Welcomed by dancing water.

Yellow fall color is strong against fading purple blooms.

Yellow fall color is strong against fading purple blooms.

Purple surviving in the shade. This palette really seems French to me!

Purple surviving in the shade. This palette really seems French to me!

I offer more garden photos here, to reduce the homepage load time, a little anyway:

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All Aboard for the Fall Garden! remembering a lovely season

My last post was in October, of activities in late August, so there is no doubt that I am way behind. But I have been having a lovely and busier time here in France, and posting isn’t that high a priority, I’m afraid. When my French class at the marie started again, I was pleased to be moved up to an intermediate group! I know I have made progress, but sometimes the elephant of a foreign language still looms so huge that I can lose sight of how many bites I’ve swallowed so far.

One of our early activities was a field trip, right before the first vacance scolaire, to the Jardin des Martels. We took a bus to a city where we picked up a little narrow-gauge train to the gardens. But first we enjoyed a stoll around town and a picnic.

A walk in the woods on the way to the river.

A walk in the woods on the way to the river.

Our reward at the end. I don't know the name of this river, though.

Our reward at the end. I don’t know the name of this river, though.

The city had lovely character.

This is an old community laundry. I'm not sure what I think of luandry as a social activity.

This is an old community laundry. I’m not sure what I think of laundry as a social activity.

Perhaps the city's patron saint?

Perhaps the city’s patron saint?

The ville was out in the country, really, since you didn’t have to go far for farmland. Check it out here:

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Better luck with French food

The last of our summer 2013 events included two of the better meals I have had in France. And yes, I DO have trouble finding meals I really enjoy here. In fact, Stoney eats a French lunch with his Airbus counterparts many Wednesdays, and some of the stories he comes home with me just give me the willies. The French eat EVERYthing, in three courses with an aperitif and finished off with an espresso. Once he sent a photo of a lunch because it had to be seen to be believed…there were just too many cephalopod arms on the plate.

I did have two meals this summer that I can honestly recommend, though. One was in the enchanting ville of Rocamadour. We didn’t have long to explore, as we were on our way to the grotto and caves nearby (le gouffre de Padirac whose site you should seriously check out), but we did have lunch.

Rocamadore. Stoney and I hope to return and explore it further.

Rocamadour. Stoney and I hope to return and explore it further.

We ate at a hotel cafe, and the guys opted for pizza, thinking that was likely safe. It was pretty good.

The view was of the old town, and the weather was perfect for patio dining!

The view was of the old town, and the weather was perfect for patio dining!

I have good luck at picking well from menus, though, and this time had elected a heavenly chicken kabob. It was really good!

Eat your hearts out, guys! Yummy!

Eat your hearts out, guys! Yummy!

We also decided to brave another Toulousain attempt at a Mexican food restaurant, this time with better success. I’m not saying it tastes like TexMex, but Texxas Cafe definitely had Mexican cuisine with recognizably Mexican flavors. We have been told by some colleagues of Stoney’s to avoid barbecue night, but I can recommend the Mexican.

Stoney always looks too serious about his food; it wasn't too bad. (My tacos al carbon were better!)

Stoney had fajitas. (My tacos al carbon were better!)

Theo wasn’t willing to risk the Mexican fare and, seeing that authentic Red’s Buffalo Sauce was on the table (a rare but not impossible find), he opted for French Buffalo wings. These are invariably just dry seasoned fried chicken wings, rarely very flavored, much less spicy. Theo emptied half the bottle on his basket of wings. A little embarrassing, actually.

juicy wings

juicy wings and an antagonistic model

So, our luck is improving. If you have any great but not too expensive restaurant suggestions, I’m taking notes! Let me know in the comments.

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