Bonjour, Art Friends!
Hard to believe it’s now one month since Carly and I returned from our three month adventure in France and Spain! At the moment we’re back in New Hampshire hanging with my brother and his family, hiking and painting in the White Mountain National Forest just as we did last year. Speaking of last year, a selection of the paintings I made will be displayed at Artistic Roots gallery in Plymouth, NH this October through January in a group show. Check it out if you are in the area! Here is one of the paintings that will appear:
Mt. Washington, First Snow. Oil on linen, 16×20″, 2015
France was absolutely incredible as it always is. Our adventure began in Aix-en-Provence where I was awarded an Artist Fellowship with the Marchutz School of Fine Art, the school at which I studied during my junior year abroad as a twenty year old young buck. So amazing to be back in Aix, so incredible to indulge once again in French culture and cuisine (think wine, cheese and bread!), so incredible to interact with the same professors who taught me so many years ago! As part of the fellowship, an apartment was provided, and it just happened to be directly across the way from the beautiful cathedral of St. Saveur where something was always happening: masses, tours, ordinations, weddings, concerts, and the odd ranting street person just outside its oak-carved doors.
Front Facade of Cathedral of Saint Saveur, Aix-en-Provence
Painting went fairly well in Aix despite, or perhaps because of, the blazing upper 90’s degree heat. I explored one particular motif several times, as I often do, a motif that included Cezanne’s famous Mt. Sainte Victoire!
Olive Trees and Ste. Victoire IV. Oil on linen, 16×20″, 2016
Olive Trees and Ste. Victoire V (diptych). Oil on linen, 20×32″, 2016
I also did some studio work, mostly floral motifs, the flowers for which I gathered in the daily markets that take me back to imagined days of old when each person was a maker of something, typically one thing that they did very well.
Les Fleurs du Bonheur. Oil on linen, 24×36″, 2016
France and Europe in general seem to preserve this old world sensibility with markets abounding and specialty stores still going strong, like “boulangeries” where one buys bread (baguettes) of various types and “patisseries” where one can indulge in delectable pastries, like eclairs or Tropeziennes. Never easy to pass by such a shop with a craving for sweets, particularly chocolate, as I have!
Fruit and Vegetable Market, Aix-en-Provence
As a component of the fellowship, I was asked to deliver a presentation of my choosing to the university community. Since my Ph.D. studies took me so deeply into the realm of writing and rhetoric, I decided to explore this facet of my life in relation to my current pursuit of art. My presentation, “Painting and Writing: The Intersection of Image and Text in the Life of the Emerging Artist,” did just this as I talked about the ways that writing about the art one makes can further one’s thinking and thus one’s development with respect to his or her pursuit of art. I also explored how persuasive writing can assist the artist in securing grant money, fellowships, gallery representation, and the like as one moves from beginner to emerging and eventually to professional artist. The presentation was well received, though I did entertain some pretty tough questions from the audience that helped me refine my thinking on the topic for future presentations, teaching possibilities, or perhaps an article.
In addition to daily painting life at the Marchutz School, the group of nearly 20 of us, students and visiting artists alike, took some field trips to nearby areas where famous painters like van Gogh and Cezanne created some of their finest works of art. We compared the actual scene (relatively intact though somewhat changed, mostly due to tree growth) to color reproductions of the work. Two of these comparisons stand out in my mind: one at the asylum of St. Remy where van Gogh stayed and painted near the end of his life, and another just outside of Aix where Cezanne painted his late Ste. Victoire masterpieces. What an opportunity to have such a rich artistic history at our immediate disposal!
Professor Alan Roberts guiding a comparison between Cezanne’s motif and color reproductions of the actual paintings.
Following our two month stay in Aix, Carly and I traveled to south-west France, to a beautiful rural region known as the Tarn. There, I have a few friends with whom we stayed in the quaint village of Itzac where the only amenity is a bread truck that passes through upon occasion and the big event of the day transpires each evening when a local fellow walks his horses up from the field. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, the hooves of the hooded horses echoed on the tarmac.
Sunflowers near Itzac in the Tarn Region
Each day, Carly and I would ride into nearby St. Antonin with my good buddy and fellow painter Alan who runs his own gallery in the town. There, we painted, discussed art, chatted with visitors to the gallery, drank coffee and tea, and ate delicious pain au chocolate (bread pastry with a stick of chocolate in the middle). Now that I think of it, we may also have enjoyed some tasty and cheap local wine and delicious Belgian beer.
St. Antonin, France
Our big excursion outside of France involved a 10 day trip to Girona and Barcelona, Spain where we visited my good friends Noe and Xose with whom I traveled in SE Asia in 2011. Such wonderful, happy, generous people, we enjoyed many laughs, a somewhat treacherous boat ride on Costa Brava, walks through their beautiful city of Girona where major scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed, as well as much good food and drink. In fact, I ate more paella in just one week than I’ve consumed my entire life, watching in awe during the preparation process as Noe deftly cut the eyeballs out of squid and striped them of a filmy outer casing. The Mediterranean diet is a much different and presumably a much healthier one than the comfort food lifestyle of the midwest that I know and love!
Barcelona was extraordinary, a cool city to explore on foot and revel in the sights, sounds and smells of coastal life. The highlight was, without question, Antonio Gaudi’s architectural masterpiece La Sagrada Familia, a Catholic church still under construction since 1882. Inspired by the forms and geometry of nature, the massive interior pillars of different widths and materials create a forest-like space as the enormous stained glass windows allow sunlight to illuminate the forest in radiant hues. Absolutely glorious and incredibly inspirational as a place of worship should be!
Stained Glass Windows, Sagrada Familia
Our journey came to a close with a brilliant five-day stint in Paris. We hung with the gargoyles in the Towers of Notre Dame, picnicked along the Seine, strolled around Sacre Coeur, drank champagne (the real deal!) beneath the Eiffel Tower, and explored the artistic masterpieces of le Louvre, le Musee d’Orsay and l’Orangerie, just to name some of the highlights. So amazing to be in such a culturally rich city, one of the finest treasures of humanity, no doubt. Let’s hope and pray that the madness that has infiltrated Paris and, in fact, all of France will cease so the City of Lights and the beautiful country as a whole will remain a place for all to experience in peace.
Me, Luxembourg Gardens
Much love to you all!