Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We've settled into life in the village where we're living in a gîte owned by Francis and Anne-Marie Brune who welcome us like family. Auvillar is a hilltop village and le Moulin à Nef is situated on the river, la Garonne, in the port at the base of the village.

La Garonne taken from up in the village. Le Moulin à Nef is situated near the bridge on the left of the photo.

Professor Robert Reed from Yale University, his staff and students are installed at le Moulin à Nef for a month long program, ISS@YSS, and are intensely at work in the studios.

I spend my time offering support as needed, looking after the facility, making new contacts, planning events, booking whatever is necessary for upcoming programs and groups, and this year preparing for a major event, VCCA Virginia's 40th anniversary celebration in Auvillar.

Shortly after our move
Nancy and David, our new Vancouver neighbours, stop by for a few days of their French road trip. We enjoy getting to know them and scouting the countryside together hoping to find some illusive French birds.

June is not all about work, there is some time for play. John's brother Geoff and his wife Judy arrive from California and we manage to escape to Barcelona for a few days and immerse ourselves in the work of Gaudi and the Spanish cuisine. I find that the tapas is an interesting break from the French meals we've been enjoying and we have an especially wonderful experience when we are invited to lunch by locals, friends of G & J, who take us to their neighbourhood restaurant el all i oli!

Gaudi's Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.

Casa Battló

A stop at the Dali museum in
Figueras is a sureal ending to
our journey!

Back in Auvillar John, Geoff and Judy kindly stretch my canvases for my upcoming exhibit while I resume my role as Resident Director.
The annual weekend long festival of St Noé takes place as it has for some 400 years. St Noé is the patron saint of winemakers and the festival is filled with traditions; the planting of a tree, processions, mass, dances, music and of course sampling the local wine.

June 24th arrives and my exhibit opens in la Chapelle Ste Catherine. At the end of our first year in Auvillar we came upon a thicket of trees bordering a small river called the Arrats. It immediately commanded my attention and was the start of a long exploration, first of its surface patterns and relections and more recently including it's shore.

La Fête de St Jean is celebrated in almost every French village and Auvillar does it with flair. It is held on the banks of la Garonne, across the street from le Moulin à Nef and starts with a community dinner complete with a French chanteuse.

Everyone awaits darkness when the huge fire, le feu de St Jean, will be lit. The ISS@YSS program is in it's third week and the Fellows have bundled the artwork that they will discard and placed the bundles around the bonfire like large stones. There is an added surprise to the celebration, large balloons that are lit and released to drift into the indigo sky.

End of June and into July.......Etchings, a contemporary music festival, takes place in partnership with the VCCA. 2011 marks the third season for the festival and it is bigger and better than ever. 28 participants attend (Directors, composers and musicians) this year from 14 different countries. They perform 3 outstanding concerts in the stunning chapel.

Introductions in French by Cheryl, welcome
in English by VCCA's Executive Director, Suny Monk,
two of the festival ensemble musicians, This year's
group of outstanding composers, musicians and the
festival directors. (all photos except the first by John

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's May and We're On Our Way!

January, February........... lots of paintings to paint, classes to teach.
........... a glorious month in residence at the Virginia Centre for Creative Arts (VCCA) making paintings for my upcoming exhibits in France.

VA8, my favourite studio at VCCA.

April ................ it's time to pack home and studio, visit with family and friends, say our good-byes and we're off......... for our third season in southwest France where I have the good fortune to be artist in residence "Directrice Résidente" of le Moulin à Nef, the international branch of VCCA.

May ........ we arrive on the first of the month to Auvillar, the village we've come to love. We are reunited with our French friends, sunshine, fresh cherries and the start of an extremely lively and interesting season!

Our first batch of cherries.

John in the backyard cherry tree, 5/8/11

(photo by John Alexander)

To our delight we find at least 6 different varieties of strawberries at our first Tuesday market of the season. Um, how would I create those rich reds in a painting?

Professor Agnes Carbrey from James Madison University arrives for her third year to teach her summer painting program. Her students paint in the studios, village and local fields and head out on fieldtrips near and afar.

Also in May....... a lively group of poets descend on le Moulin à Nef for a poetry workshop with Marilyn Kallet. John and I are surrounded by painters and poets, c'est merveilleux!

Here I am making an introduction in the garden of the Maison Vieilhescazes, la Chapelle St Cathérine in the background. Lecture de poésie dans le jardin.

The energetic and always smiling Mme Dassonville. (Last 5 photos by John Alexander)

I love the people here and am so grateful for their friendship and the many kindnesses they offer us.
Our first month is coming to an end and we are about to move into the village for 6 1/2 weeks as the next group to arrive will use the entire facility including the little house that we live in, la Cloucado!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First of The Year!

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are opposite forces that form a whole. Everything contains both yin and yang in a balance that is always changing.

The painting on the right, Trees at Dusk 1, was one of two canvases that I painted a while back. Ever since Trees at Dusk 2 sold this painting has seemed unbalanced. I ended my 2010 and started off 2011 in the studio working on a new partner for the painting.

Here's to a balanced life in 2011! Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Artwork is a part of life here. A fifth gallery opened today in this small village of Auvillar. I've been soaking it all up like a sponge. My most intense sponging has been in Paris, 2 trips, one in September and one last week. On the first trip we found ourselves in the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay (my favourite of all) and l'Orangerie. Here I am in action in front of one of Monet's "Les Nymphéas".

One of the museums that we visited this past week was Musée Marmottan Monet Paris. As well as seeing many awe inspiring pieces by Monet, including some of his quite abstract paintings, we were treated to a special exhibit of French Fauvism and German Expressionists. Many of you know that I've been working towards a more emotional, expressive and colourful style of painting and this exhibit was the best school that I could have attended. I can't describe how exciting this exhibit was except to say that I left there feeling like I was on a chocolate high!

Here are a couple of my favourites: Blue-Black Fox by Franz Marc and Young Girl With Peonies by Alexej von Jawlensky.

Trees and Water

Just when I'm about to give up......voila!

It was early November and I'd been wandering around southwest France for months, completely entranced by its colourful landscape, ancient houses, ruins and quaint villages. I'd done several lovely sketches and plein air paintings but nothing had completely grabbed me as the perfect subject for a series of larger studio pieces. The paintings that I'd completed of local scenes were good but I couldn't believe that they were mine. I was frustrated, I had thought that I'd return home with almost enough pieces for an exhibit.

A few weeks ago, while wandering in our usual style, John and I came across a tree lined creek just east of here that curved and meandered through the countryside. The breeze rustled the leaves off of the trees and they were spiraling down into the water. I was mesmerized by the patterns, colours and movement and buzzing with excitement and inspiration. I've been back to this spot a few times, I've done several studies and they look like Cheryl paintings. Tomorrow am the series of larger pieces begins.