This is music to our ears, when we host a group of artists to Provence. And it’s what we heard, over and over this past week, during Bill Davidson’s excellent week-long workshop held at Les Murets, our home away from home overlooking the Luberon valley in Gordes, France.
We had a gentle little fist fight at the gallery about who got to accompany the repeat group of delightful artists this year, and it went something like this: (Me) Hey, I know I got to go with them last year, and I really don’t deserve to get to go again, but I really really like them and am dying to do it again this year, so please, can I go? (Meg and Linda) Oh OK, if you insist. (Me) I do! (That’s how we fight, at Huff Harrington Fine Art!)
So I happily got to accompany this avid group of plein-air painters and their eminent professeur, Bill Davidson, back to France for a repeat performance of last year’s trip. What I really love about this group of artists is that, a) they are all serious about painting, b) they are supportive of each other, c) although they’re accomplished artists, they’re all hungry to learn more, and d) they like to have fun too. But painting always comes first, which means getting up early, dressing for the elements, painting for several hours in the morning, taking a break for lunch, painting for several hours in the afternoon, and then enjoying a long, leisurely dinner “at home” where the main subject of the conversation, interspersed with a few glasses of wine, is all about art. For artists, it’s a rigorous week that is challenging both mentally and physically. For me, it’s pure heaven. And if for some reason this great group suggested another year, I’d be the first to jump on the bandwagon, again.
Why is it challenging? Because painting in “plein air” is one of the most difficult things an artist can do. Although many of these artists actually prefer studio painting, they practice plein air because it stretches them in ways that studio does not. Outside, they have to deal with the elements of light that are always changing. They have to make decisions quickly, before the atmosphere changes. They have to identify the key shapes and then design their painting. Unlike a still life, or a live figure drawing, where the elements are either posing or all laid out, in plein air, they have to edit the painting on the spot, deciding quickly which elements to keep and reinventing other areas to fill in the gaps. It’s like charting new territory, all the while quickly mixing a palette that reflects the true colors of nature … and doing it all with no bathroom breaks!
Every night, after cleaning their palettes and setting their paintings out to dry, we would sit down to a long leisurely and delicious meal and talk about, among other things, art topics. One night, after a particularly challenging day painting the rooftops of Gordes, the topic was: What was your take-away from today? Here are some of their responses, by artist. Instead of identifying them by their photos, we’ve chosen to display their works in progress. Although the topic was Gordes, the paintings here are of Les Murets.
My take away that night? How much I love being with artists because they are always observing, seeing and recording. In fact, on the last morning we woke up to amazing cloud cover over the Luberon Valley. These artists all rushed out to grab their cameras, knowing that they wouldn’t have time to capture it in paint on their last day. Observing, recording, creating and loving all the wonders of nature, every minute of the day!
Would I go back again? In a heartbeat! Afterall, there is nothing better for us gallery owners than to be around artists who “just want to paint.”
PS: Come see the finished versions of these little jewels during our annual Bastille Day show this year, which will feature the works of these artists along with those who studied with Nancy Franke last fall. Save the date of July 13th, 2013, and stay tuned for more!