I’ve been home from France for a couple of weeks, but I’m still feeding my family baguettes, with cheeses, fruits, salami, pancetta, and prosciutto regularly. I’m listening to French music, drinking rosé, and selecting outfits inspired by the panache & style I saw on the streets of Provence. It was an incredible travel experience, even though I’ve been there before; this was the first time I visited France as an artist.
The swoon-worthy impact of France started on my first trip, when I was eleven. There is so much beauty to absorb; imaginative craftsmanship in architecture, narrative sculptures in village squares, and a layered evidence of centuries-worth of art everywhere you rest your eyes. It’s a feast for anyone visually-inclined, and it’s almost overwhelming if you love art & history together.
While preparing for the trip, I edited and re-edited lists of art supplies and camera gear suitable for travel. I felt frantic to deliver art to patrons & settle things in my studio before leaving (I exhibited for three days at an art festival in San Diego, and flew to France the next day.) The last two weeks before leaving felt double-stacked with To-Do’s, and I was overcooked. But as soon as I arrived – jetlagged & bedraggled – I felt a blanket of calm, woven with yawning & smiling.
I think new places encourage us to yawn; we feel our fatigue upon arrival, and discharge all the combusting adrenaline. I suspect our bodies crave new air while we acclimate to foreign surroundings, as though the length of our core commands us to BREATHE DEEPLY, and soak the amazing in. Have you ever smelled acres of lavender fields, while listening to the hum of thousands of honey bees? I couldn’t stop wearing my glee & smiling every time I looked around and chirped “I’m in France!”
When you travel for an artist workshop, you look at everything as a potential painting in real time. If you like a scene, you sit down and paint it. You absorb the molecules associated with the place in your pigments on the spot. Its one thing to sneak-snap photos while on a family trip for painting later in your studio, but its another experience to travel with a posse of like-minded artists whose sole purpose is to paint and draw and discuss all things art, all the time. (Well, there’s a shared enthusiasm for food and wine too, but lets try to stay focused.) ????
When you attend an art workshop – and in particular, an uninstructed art workshop (like the ones hosted by Workshops in France), you can paint all day long, every day, and well into the night. All the locations, transportation and dinner arrangements are handled for you. You get to discuss painting techniques, strategies for drawing from life, and art supplies for hours, in a castle sprinkled with new art-friends, and no one *ever* gets bored. I know; its sounds like heaven, and it is.
After all the art festivals, travel arrangements and hustle bustle of getting ready for this trip, I arrived in France and strolled – I gazed, I pondered, I watched, I sketched, I painted, I sniffed flowers, I went swimming, I practiced the language, I ate & drank & smiled a lot – all passive activities at a vacation-pace. I also gained 3 pounds (baguettes & cheese), snapped 2000 photos for painting references, shot 2 hours of video, and made 12 new artist friends. And I was working! (I didn’t attend as a guest; I was crew, along with my new pal Linda Queally.)
Have you ever taken an art workshop that required long distance travel? Was it lovely? Did you make new friends, and discover new things about your work to bring back to your art-table at home? Have you signed up for a watercolor workshop? Would you recommend one you attended? Share your stories in the comments, so we can encourage each other to plan new art & travel adventures.
Thanks for visiting, keep your art supplies moving, and I’ll see you in the next post!
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If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that – warm things, kind things, sweet things – help and comfort and laughter – and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett