Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Landscape painting workshop in Provence, France

A study of the recessional planes at the Wall of Lioux
where I erroneously made the trees on the top of the cliff too dark

At our orientation on Saturday, Maggie laid out the daily plans and her expectations for us. Our original correspondence told us the workshop would be intensive and to plan any touring before or after. We would be taken twice a day to painting locations where we painted for four hours each time. In between we feasted on the best food I had had in over 3 months! In the evening we often spent time in the studio after dinner for a presentation or critique from Maggie.

Variations to the schedule included picnic dinners on Tuesday and Thursday on location so we could paint later in the evening. Wednesday we would have the afternoon free to shop in the town of Apt or stay at the house. Friday we would paint in the morning, have individual meetings with Maggie in the afternoon, and clean the studio in preparation for our art reception where we displayed our most successful work.

Maggie told it like it is. Bring your toilet paper; there are no bathrooms in most of the areas where we paint. David left us with drinking water. Joan and I ended up being mostly under hydrated all week in our efforts to avoid bushes as much as possible. I joked about art being an extreme sport, but of course, I exaggerate.

As we prepared our palettes, Maggie instructed us to load them with just 6 colors, a warm and cool of red, blue, and yellow. That would be sum total of paints used for any work done during the week. Like many watercolor painters, I own lots of colors and in truth, use very few. I found that when I sent my art supplies to Joan before I left on my bicycle tour that I had left out two necessary colors: cadmium yellow and raw umber. For the first few sessions I made do with Hanza Yellow and Burnt Umber and struggled mightily with mixing good greens. Then I had an "ahhah" moment and I asked David, a fine artist, if he had any of the paint I needed. He nicely found me two small Winsor Newton tubes of the paint and life was good. I replaced them for him later in the week.

Sunday morning at 8:30 under clear blue skies, we headed down the road in David's van to lavender fields where we learned to capture the planes of recession in the landscape. Maggie started with the basics and would work up to the more complex. We did many simple studies of the fields and surrounding mountains, turning our easels in different directions as we practiced seeing the subtle changes in value and color as the landscape receded. Maggie would come by with encouragement and also with statements such as, "I don't believe this" when we missed the mark. "Seeing" would prove to be very important all week. Maggie asked us to leave out the lavender fields as they were too distracting for this exercise. I kept pinching myself to make sure I was really painting in such a breathtaking setting in Provence.

Maggie sets up her easel for the demo

One of our many views where we completed studies

One of my successful studies
Another successful study

Our late day session was the Wall of Lioux, about a half hour into the mountains on very narrow roads. The drives to and from our locations were such a pleasure. First I practiced more simple planes of recessions, trying mightily not to do opaque studies after watching all the oil painters. Maggie helped me with a demo on my paper, even though she does not paint in watercolor.

My view

Loosely painted study of my distant view

Then I moved on to the more complex study of the wall, which is an amazing geological phenomenon and almost unbelievable in a painting. There is a village snuggled up to one part of the wall and not visible where we painted. The painted study at the top of the page is a dramatic part of the wall.

Our day ended with a delicious dinner and critique.


hw (hallie) farber said...

I think workshop is an apt word; it sounds like a wonderful learning experience. I love the new painting in your header, and I love following your adventures. Keep it up.

AutumnLeaves said...

Beautiful and fun times, Mary! It does sound intense indeed too. Still it sounds as though you and Joan had a blast. The studies are exquisite!

Marie Theron said...

What lovely adventures you are on, Mary. Studying technique in that heavenly venue sounds fantastic. The works are very gentle and I love them!

Mary Paquet said...

Hallie, thanks for your encouragement.

Sherri, the workshop was indeed, as Hallie said, aptly named.

Marie, I like that word -- gentle. The villages and landscape are gentle.