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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Surface Texture

Mary Anne requested a closer look at the vintage linens that I have been painting on so here are a few photos. To the left is a selection of fabrics found at various sales. They are waiting to be painted and are unprimed. You can see why they present a challenge as each piece is quite different in texture/weave. Some pieces are embroidered with simple initials or elaborate monograms, some are fringed, a few pieces have little tabs as though they had been attached to something.

In September when the tree was laden with figs I did some small studies. I love the natural colour of the fabric that I chose and I didn't want to hide it with white gesso. I decided to try mat medium as a ground, using 2 coats. It worked fairly well, didn't seal the surface completely. When I used diluted acrylic as you see in the shadow under the fig it created a lovely watercolour effect. Paint was applied in a thicker fashion on the fig but it still bled a bit giving the edges a diffused look.

Several of the pieces of fabrics purchased at the local brocante have the intials "C S" in a corner. Here is a close-up as well as a painting in progress where you can see the intials in the upper left corner. On the right hand side of this painting is another prepped fabric which shows you the tabs I'm talking about. I really like the texture of these particular pieces of fabric. They remind me of a Gauguin painting that I saw in Toronto and fell in love with because of the burlap-like coarseness of the canvas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Painting On Vintage Linens

My lovely little studio is on the bottom floor, le rez-de-chaussée, of La Cloucado. It has a high, beamed ceiling, terra cotta tile floors, a door and window that let in lovely soft light when the gray-blue shutters are open. The door opens onto the back terrace and hillside behind le Moulin à Nef. It is perfect!

The photo was taken in early August when my studio was barely set up and I had done my first few paintings. The pile of cloth on the floor is a vintage sheet that I bought at a vide-grenier (empty attic sale). The paintings on the wall were done on pieces of fabric that I found in a dark, dusty corner at the village brocante (antique dealer). Rather than canvas I've been painting on a variety of old pieces of fabrics that I have found at local brocantes and vide-greniers. I had wanted to paint on French linen but when the linen I found in the closest art store carried a 30€ per metre price tag I quickly changed my mind. I could have shopped around but was somehow drawn to the second hand store and voila! I am loving the challenge of painting on the various textures and enjoy my curiosity regarding the history of the pieces of cloth.

Towards the end of the summer there were vide-greniers and brocantes in many of the villages in our département of Tarn et Garonne including here in the port of Auvillar. I found some of my favourite pieces in a quaint little village near here called Montjoi. I also purchased a vintage slip to wear as a nightie and a lovely pillow case monogrammed in red and edged with beautiful lace, too pretty to paint on! I gesso each piece of fabric before use so that my paint will sit on the surface rather than be absorbed. The gesso was too heavy to carry from Vancouver so I ordered it as well as some paint from a French online art supply company, Géant des Beaux Arts. I brought one suitcase of art materials from home that carried my pochade box, some watercolour blocks, a couple of sketchbooks, a few drawing pencils, a selection of my favourite paintbrushes, a few painting boards, some tubes of watercolour paints, small tubes of my favourite Kroma acrylics and some palettes.

I can find everything that I need here, there are some very good online stores in France as well as art stores in various villages. All I need to do now is to lock myself in my studio!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Soaking Up The Colours

It is fall in Southwest France. The temperature has cooled but it is still bright and sunny. The light is amazing, casting a warm late afternoon pink glow onto everything. Yesterday as we drove the winding country roads of the Lomagne, the sight of the fields took my breath away. Acre upon acre of glowing ochre! Chunks and ridges and patterns of an ochre that is nothing like the colour that I squeeze from my tube of acrylic paint. My studio is a sampling of landscape studies of ochre, I'm trying to capture the essence of the fields of Lomagne.

This summer has been one of my brightest ever, day after day of sunshine, glowing carpets of sunflowers in July, the most amazing orange flesh of the August melons and the velvet purple grapes. The luscious red-pink of the figs picked off the backyard tree, quinacridone magenta or rose madder? Shutters, doors, storefronts and flowers, a feast for my artist eyes and soul.

The last group of VCCA fellows has left le Moulin à Nef, the season is coming to a close and it's quiet. John moves up and down the hillside on the tractor mower. I prune the plants, pick walnuts from under the tree, sweep the leaves that have gathered on the terrace all the while trying to come up with a recipe for the glowing ochre of our Saturday adventure.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I packed away my Vancouver studio in June and left for southwest France mid-July loaded with art supplies and good intentions. I was heading to Moulin à Nef in Auvillar to act as Resident Director of an idyllic artist residence owned by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I was eager to put my various artistic and administrative skills to use and looked forward to painting in the French countryside. I imagined returning to Vancouver with "The French Collection - Paintings of Southwest France".

Approximately 15 years ago, while in Nanaimo as Arts & Crafts Coordinator of a French Children's Festival I visited a tea house and had my tea leaves read. Sitting here on the terrace I'm remembering part of what revealed itself in the leaves: you expect everything to happen quickly, you put a lot of pressure on yourself.

Here I am resurfacing 2 1/2 months after my arrival in Auvillar. I have only a few paintings on my studio walls, some sketches and a fair amount of confusion as to what I want to be creating. Change is most certainly around the corner!