Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Painter's Journey: "The last for which the first was made..."

"Sunlit Olive Grove"
Near Croagnes, Provence, France

Yesterday I returned home after being on the road for 108 days. Since flying to the East Coast on March 30th, I attended a family wedding on the beach at Hilton Head; completed a solo tandem bicycle tour with Bob from Key West, FL, to Portland, ME; and with artist friend, Joan, attended an art workshop in Provence, France, and visited Ireland. My art is my response to life. This morning I found myself asking, "Why do I travel?" Perhaps because I am the first-born of seven children to Vermont parents, and unlike most in the family, I lived in a half dozen places in several states before the family became firmly anchored in my parents' native Vermont when I was 8 years of age. After my marriage we moved several times, eventually settling in California. The answer to my question: I crave the challenge of getting outside my comfort zone, likely fostered by my earliest life experiences.

My bicycle tour is documented here. Bob and I wrote daily of our adventures and misadventures as we pedalled 52 of the 74 days we were on the road moving at bike speed through the history of this country, learning that which is similar and that which is unique in 2081 miles of riding a fully loaded tandem bicycle. Slowly accents morphed, scenery changed, and good people crossed our paths. I did a bit of sketching in ink and watercolor and surely more will emerge in time.

Day 49: 10 miles south of Woodbridge, VA,
making our way north to Portland, Me, from Key West, FL
Photo by Mike Miller

We arrived in Portland, ME, on June 19th, and it was time to think about that workshop in Provence that I agreed to attend with Joan, the latest in our annual art treks. Joan and I met at a watercolor workshop in Maine nine years ago, and she has long since moved on to painting in oils with great skill. The Maggie Siner workshop would be made up of oil painters and we had to go through a jury process to attend. Would a lone watercolorist be accepted? I realize now that not only did Maggie and Trish, her able administrator, consider our level of accomplishment in art, but also the energy and zest for life we would bring to the group. This would be a very active workshop with no tolerance for whiners.

You can read about Maggie, a tiny dynamo, superb artist, and successful teacher, and her landscape workshop here. Joan and I arrived at Marseille Airport after an overnight flight from JFK via Dublin, arriving in France at 9:30 am on July 2. We were picked up at the airport at noon by David, the owner of the workshop location, and were greeted with fruit, cheese, and wine in the tiny hamlet of Les Bassacs in the Luberon region of Provence at 2 pm. At 4:30 pm we were sitting in the studio for our briefing from Maggie. This would be an intensive art experience and save for one morning while painting in a cemetery in Goult wondering if I would ever successfully incorporate all this wonderful art instruction into my medium, I was on an art high. Over the next several posts, I will describe the workshop experience.

Our home in Les Bassacs, Provence
The website

The painting at the top of this post was done on the final morning in an olive orchard near Croagnes, and I consider it my most successful piece. Maggie's instruction on the planes of recession in the landscape and the color of light and shadow had finally come together for me. Joan and I left the following morning for a delightful five-day stay in Dublin with a terrific sense of accomplishment and memories that would last a lifetime.

Our early morning view of the Luberon Valley
from our patio breakfast table on the morning of departure


hw (hallie) farber said...

First--welcome back, Mary. I am very impressed with "Sunlit Olive Grove."

Second--I loved every mile of your bicycle trip. I know the East Coast; especially NC to md; I'm glad the natives were friendly and made room for you on the road.

Third--After Maggie's workshop, I look forward to some great work.

Nina Jørgensen said...

Hello Mary! And welcome back!! I did notice you were gone for a long time, its good to know that you had a great time and did so many different things! I love cycling and it must have been amazing to travel so long on it! I love the photos of the place you stayed in France, it looks beautiful and the art workshop you attended must have been exciting.
Hope to see new art from you!!

Dan Kent said...

Glad you had a great trip. I love this painting! Atmospheric, shifting, layered, and muted. Very well done.

AutumnLeaves said...

So glad you've had a wonderful summer thus far, Mary. I never realized just how petite you are yourself! Gorgeous photos! I love the painting you've completed at your workshop too!

Barbra Joan said...

I;m following you every step of the way Mary... thank you for sharing your experiences to those of us who don't have the chance to get far from home. BJ

Mary Paquet said...

Hallie, it was so nice knowing you followed our trip and I appreciated your e-mails.

Nina, thanks for checking in. You simply must spend some time in Provence!

Dan, what a terrific description of my painting. I worked very hard to get those muted tones.

Sherry, good to be back and checking in on your blog.

Barbra Joan, your visits are like sharing the special experiences I had to others.