Saturday, July 3, 2010


Happy Independence Day! !

I have returned to Argenton les Valleés, comfortably back in La maison hirondelle enjoying the peace and quiet! As most of you know I have been fighting for my health and therefore I did not return to Ted's atelier this summer. I am taking this precious time for healing.

La hirondelle is the french word for the inimitable swallow, and as the summer solstice has already passed, one can see them, feel them, winging, slicing the sky in their joyous flight. I wake every morning to the sound of the birds and the fresh smells of the river. I arrived here in May, and as it is already July we are enjoying a hot summer.

To my delight, over the winter EBRS has been working on the loft. It has been sheetrocked, insulated, electric installed and a small toilet and sink are in place. It is essentially a working studio. As you can see, it still needs some finishing work, but it is full of light and energy and I love being up there. On the east or river-side, the view of the gardens below is amazing. One could waste hours just dreaming. The windows face east and west, but when shuttered, there is north light from the velux skylight.

I was fortunate to enter into a workshop with Gundula Jacobs when I arrived in May. As it was already half way through the session and the other the students were already involved
in a still life, each evening she set up a flower study. In five sessions I really learned a lot!

It is also the season for cherries, so I did several sketches/studies as well as tasted quite a few!

"Being an artist is not an occupation; it is your life, your whole being"
Chogyam Trumpa

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flying south for the winter; ruminations on gratitude

eglise St Giles

Today I am cleaning and sorting and preparing for travel. This morning I was struck by an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that I have learned during my sojourn here in France in this little village, remote, quiet, yet vivant in its own way. As Thanksgiving nears and we all try and express the things for which we are full of thanks, I recall my sister Linda's last post in Facebook, to try and find some thing every day to be thankful for. Truly it is a good daily/hourly exercise.
I am grateful for an unending curiosity, the desire to learn, for waking up every the morning alive!
For family and friends who have supported me with emails and phone calls and prayer

I am lucky to have some of the best painting teachers in the realist school, living in this corner of France and thanks to all of them for their patience, teaching, and for not letting me slack. I am glad to have met a talented working sculptor and dear friend.

winter sunrise
I am thankful for my beautiful house and little garden, for the sounds of the night, for seeing the stars, for bright full moons rising over the river, for sunrises, for
our farmer's market and fresh local veggies, goat cheese, and honey... for beautiful clear Anjou wines, for generosity, for smiles, bonjours, and cows that look at you, for little lambs on wobbly legs, oak trees turning golden, long walks, smells of the country in all its changing seasons....

This is my last study of Magda, reflecting the energy of autumn. The rains took the beautiful leaves before I could finish painting the abundant colors, but I had fun with the idea.

The egg study is perhaps the most important , the basis of rounding "getting the underlying roundness" as Gundula keeps telling me, gradating the light to create form.
This will be my focus this winter when I find time to paint in Florida.

I return to the performance art looking forward to a busy season. I wish all Happy Holidays and many blessings, remember to be thankful!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Autumn Colors

I don't have a lot to show in the way of artwork, but the beauty of the season has me dazzeled so I will share instead, Nature's art, the luminosity of autumn as she shows us her true colors.

I have just finished a still life study with Gundula Jacobs,
I study with her once a week in the evenings and I do look forward to that time.

The hat

I am working on a new study of Magda this week and having only four days left to finish it, I hope I can do it justice. That I will save for the next post, but to give it a verbal preview, it is also a study with the colors of autumn.

Autumn sunrise

This week I heard a man say "Reality is far more beautiful than your imagination has led you to believe."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Colors of the evening

The lights of the autumn late afternoon and evening are clear and brillant, a prelude to the darkness of winter which is not so subtly enveloping the region. The smells in the air are often those of burning firewood as folks begin to settle in to keep warm..

Tonight we change the clocks back so it will be quite dark in the afternoons.

I have been fortunate to come into the second half of Studio Escalier's workshop so I am continuing to train with a live model under the tutelage of two very talented artists Timothy Stotz and Michelle Tully. Look up their website if you are interested in seeing some beautiful work.

unfinished sketches

On Wednesday evenings I drive to Gundula Jacob's still life workshop in the small village of Tigne. I love that evening and am learning a lot more about rounding and light effects, about seeing and comparing; and as Ted used to say, not trusting one's first impression, but really looking.

I celebrated my 54th year on the planet this month with a lovely fire, friends and roasted chestnuts. In these years, I have learned that love is the most powerful tool we have, forgiveness is essential, and that we are all part of the web of light.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009


a supply of firewood

The autumnal equinox has come and gone and days have grown shorter, sweaters and shoes and socks are in order. Perhaps that sounds rather trite but for a Floridian these changes are quite extreme! I did buy some firewood and have already enjoyed a fire with friends that were visiting from Hawai!!

My friend Pasqual arranged for me to buy nine cubic meters of firewood. I, not knowing how much that quantity was, agreed. I asked a couple of the students from Studio Escaliers to help me load/unload the wood. Five willing souls joined in the adventure and we piled into Pasqual's truck and my little Renault Twingo to Argenton L'Eglise where a wiry old man was chopping the wood, smoking a cigarette, readying the load for pick up. We arrived at a little farm and were invited 'a table' for some sparkling wine before working(!) Ah, a pleasant way to start.

Well as you can see from the above photo, nine cu mtrs of firewood is a lot! But by the time we returned chez moi, Nearly the entire group of students was there to unload the three truckloads chain gang style! After the work was done, we enjoyed beers and snacks on the deck accompanied by a piper! Thanks Stephan for making the day so festive with your beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. I only wish I documented it.! And thanks to all the students of Studio Escalier!!! What a gift.
With September comes closure and new beginnings.

glass study with wing

Here it is the first of October, and the six months studying with Ted Jacobs have come to an end. I have so many tools to work with now and plan to keep on. I believe it is like the many hours and years that I put in to dance, I still have a lot of work to do to absorb and put into practice all that I have been studying. The passion that I had for dance is being transformed into painting. I never thought I would again find something that made me feel the freedom and beauty of the human form in space.A few of us went in and cleaned the studio and now it is just an empty space, ready for another group of painters.

I did leave two of my still lifes set up in the studio and plan to rework the 'three graces' and continue with the study of glass. I thought this photo of the glass study and wing might be interesting, because it shows the poster study(the tiny little square on the left of the painting), the study itself, the model and the palette.

Sunday the 19th of September was the ' jour de patrimoine' which means the museums are free and the little village of Les Cerqueaux du Passavant opened its doors. We had our final exhibition in the Salle Comunal for those interested in seeing the work of Ted's students. He of course had his house/museum open as well.

Stepping Out

My final painting was a lovely vignette of Magda in which I experimented with a little 'trompe l'oeil'. It was a rather spontaneous decision and was based on the fact that she barely fit on the canvas. The frame is faux as well and will look quite nice in a real light wood frame I think.

I spent a few weeks working on cast painting, nothing special, but very helpful in learning the structure of human form and the way light creates it..... no problem with them moving!

look often at the model


I met a lovely woman this last month who is a sculpter. She and her husband live in a wonderful big house, that in reality was the cloister of the church in Les Cerqueaux. There she has her beautiful garden and studio. The entry is a wooden door that reminds me of the Magic Garden. Her name is Martine Vaugel. Visit her website to see some amazing creations.

I have enjoyed some plein-air painting, this is from the Chateau d'Ebaupiney, a ruined chateau, privately owned, that sits in the middle of a cattle farm. I was painting in the cool of the ruins, looking out the window at the guard tower reflected in the moat, when the owner stopped by to show the place. Evidently it is for sale. He asked me if I wanted to buy it!

This is a quick sketch of a willow tree. We have two big beautiful ones that hang over the Argenton River. I wasn't going to include it, because I am not sure I like it, but here it is.

willow on the Argenton River

I must close as I think I have gotten a little long- winded, it is just that I have so many things I want to share and I did miss posting last month. I have been keeping a little notebook of quotations that will hlep me in this new world of painting light. So I close with this one by Rabindranath Tagore.
"Not hammer strokes, but the dance of the water, sings the pebbles into perfection"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Well here it is August already and before I go on on with my rambling, I wish to thank you for all the wonderful responses I have gotten. I love hearing from you, it makes my work so much easier. To be honest, though, it is not all paradise. There are days of absolute frustration and often loneliness. Some days I think I will run away and join an ashram in India and meditate all day. But then again that might be just as difficult!!
We have had a perfect summer, warm days and cool nights. The hay has been harvested and hints of autumn are already in the air. The seasons change so quickly here it seems.

I have been working on a painting from a cast in the afternoons. It is a Greek copy of the Three Graces. It has been a learning experience. You can see the painting and the model behind it. The form and structure of the cast are those that we are working on with the live model.
In the morning, we have begun a long pose with Magda (our model) and after doing the block in(the initial sketch on canvas), I did a poster study and a rounding study to prepare for the form painting which I will start this week. It is an exquisite pose and I will attempt to apply all the principles that I worked on with the cast.

Sometimes the studio can be very quiet as I mentioned in a previous post, and as we are in the countryside, often flies come and annoy us and the model with their fly-ness.... (I don't know how else to describe it) buzzing around, in general being a nuisance. One day there was a big horse fly being a bother for a half an hour or so. Suddenly we heard a little tiny fly scream eeee! and realised that the resident spider in the upper corner had captured our marauder, and lo! nature took her course and the quiet of the studio returned.

I have also begun studies for a plein air painting. I am enjoying painting outdoors in the quiet by the river. The ducks come and preen themselves and laugh at my fumbling then are on their way as I sit and observe.
I have done a couple of sketches and a poster study. The thing is, I must wait for an overcast day to get consistency. This is the view I would like to attempt to paint. It is one of the old bridges that mark the gates of the village. It is beautiful!

Nantes, a city vivant, we visited the Museum and enjoyed a "city"day.
No one makes crepes like the French!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Painting en plein-aire

searching for the form in stones

finding the large masses in the tree

As I mentioned in the last post, I took a three day landscape workshop with Gundula Jacobs, an amazing painter and wonderful human being. If you get a chance to see her work, look at the site:

We were a group of six, three French women, one German girl, a Chinese lady and myself. Gundula was teaching in French, German and English! oolala

sunlit field

les fleurs

la tour

These are my first, and I went at it in a typical spontaneous mode,

Go-for-it- joyousness and w/o any knowledge...

I have begun the baby steps toward finding the light and form outdoors and found great satisfaction in the work. Particularly the stones were a struggle. How does one paint a pile of beautifully lit stones?

By the time I figured out to create some semblance of the form, the light had completely changed and was nearly gone.

One really needs to make quick accurate decisions because life does not hold still! Perhaps this is the challenge and that which gives us anima, the vital force!

All for now, this week back in the studio, a new pose and a new still life!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bon Vacance! Happy Summer

Passage de Gois

As the heat of summer descended on Argenton Les Valleés this week,
we had a brief respite from the studio,
a one-week break.

Off to the Isle of Noirmoutier, a two and a half hour drive... In the photos one can see the bay and what is left of the passage de Gois that one can drive across at low tide! As we reached the island the water began to cover the road as you can see, within a short amount of time completely!
I took the two day trip to the island to "put my feet in the Atlantic." Well I did much more that that, pitching a tent right on the beaches of the bay of Bourgneuf, an early morning swim, and a day on a beautiful stretch of sand and beach, swimming and swimming until the tides brought in the little jelly fish and tired,
tan and happy headed back to Argenton.


dancing and singing

I enjoyed a "randonnée" or walk called Les ponts et passerelles. Accompanied by a chorale group. called
Cant'Amus and a guide we visited the medieval granite bridges (ponts) that were the original entrances to our village and traversed the numerous beautiful passerelles. The group sang, standing on the dam of the Lac d'hautbus as we all passed, under the old tramway, and on bridges, stopping for a dance among the trees and picnic picnic in the shade by the river Argenton. We finally reached the village square for the closure with an authentic Renaissance music group and their show called Cromorne mem'pas peur.

artificial dam creating the Lac d'hautbus

What a super break week! I did not let my studies slide, however, and was fortunate to be accepted in a small group of students to learn landscape or painting in plein- air! Our lovely teacher was Gundula Jacobs, who chose delightful spots in the Anjou region. We worked three days, mornings and afternoons. As it was unusually hot a sunny, some days were a mixture of clouds and sun which makes difficult conditions for consistant light. I learned a lot in those three days an am anxious to continue. Working outside was great!
Poster vision is so important, compare, contrast, color and value, keeping the global vision dancing across the canvas and back to the model, making quick decisions. As this was my first experience, I tried to choose relatively basic studies, sketchs, done within 3-4 hours.
I will include the studies in the next post as then it is easier to add the photos
tout à l'heure(very soon)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Hugette's flowers

Wow. here it is already the summer solstice and a new moon. I celebrated by opening my lovely house and terrace to a dance party for all the local art students. We had the hoola hoops going, music, of course dancing, good food, drink and company. I felt it was a good warming of my beautiful dance floor and although the temperature was a bit brisk, it was a clear night and lots of stars appeared as we are near to the dark moon.
I do love this time of year with the long days and sandal weather.
Here you see the grand willow tree some of you will be sure to recognize down by the river, a good place for quiet contemplation, lots of irridescent dragonflies, water lilies and a stone wall.

Already three months of the course with Ted Seth Jacobs have passed. We have one more week before the break. My Still Life of the pulcinella mask is for all practical purpose finished! I am working hard on understanding the concepts of light on form in the drawing portion of the day in the morning, working more with sepia and white chalk and find it very rewarding.Of course our model is very inspiring and unbelievably good as she must maintain the same pose for four weeks!
I thought it might be fun to make some observations about the day in the studio.
We arrive at ten a.m, the model is very punctual and is ready to start a twenty five minute set. Once we start, all that is heard is the scratch of the pencils on the paper, a pencil sharpener or graphite being sharpened on sandpaper (which sometimes sounds like a scalpal being sharpened) and an occasional sigh of frustration or a. Hmm... When one's stomach growls or the body makes some other decidedly embarrassing noises, everyone is aware of it, and a giggle or 'pardon me' may occur. After the first set there is a five minute pause where we usually say our good mornings because by then we are all settled in at our easels. Two more sets of 25 minutes of work, a five minute pause, then again concentration, intense quiet and the scratch, scratch of drawing tools on paper.We then have tea break of 20 minutes for a relaxing time of conversation, jokes, biscuits, a breath of fresh air or personal space, what ever one needs in any given day.
..Then three more sets before our lunch break.
At lunch break we all go our separate ways to eat, chill, sleep, exercise, what ever it takes to get back to the studio for the afternoon of painting. In this afternoon session, I worked on my Still Life and earlier in the course this was the time I was doing poster studies. It is a really exciting time for me because I am learning to paint and understand oils, each day something new. Some students who are more advanced are painting the live model but some are also just doing exercises with the understanding they are the foundation to a good painting just like a dancer does a barre and class every day. Poster studies, rounding studies and sketches are all preliminaries to mastering the art.
We get critiques daily, two days in the mornings and two days in the afternoons, but much of the time one is working on whatever bits and pieces Ted gives us to chew on as he passes from one to the other. Often I will stop and listen or observe the critiques that he gives to the other students where one can learn so much more. I try and remember that it is not about making a pretty drawing as much as it is a workshop and a learning space. I remember once being in class with Jurgen Schneider of ABT, he stopped the dancers and scolded us for trying to be beautiful. "Class is a work space", he said, "You are here to make mistakes. If you don't make mistakes how can you learn?" And so it goes.

Well I have been very wordy this time, so I will stop now and add some photos of the garden, my herb harvest and the yellow pansies for my mother, who has her yellow pansies in Reno Nv!
Happy Solstice and love from Argenton les Vallées FR