I’m in France, and had the most amazing day yesterday! I have to tell you about it…
It began with a quick stop in the town of Giverny at Hotel Baudy. This is an old place that has welcomed many famous artists over the years…Renoir, Cezanne, Pissaro to name a few. They came here following their friend and fellow artist, Claude Monet. The studio out back is picturesque and worth a look. Some of those artists painted in this studio. Isn’t it adorable? Just crying out to be turned into a painting!
Next I went to Monet’s home and Gardens just down the street. The lines were long, but it was worth every minute. I requested to stay after hours as an artist, and was informed that after 5:30 PM or so, the gardens begin to close and I should come back at that hour. I decided to go another route. I went early and never left!
When I arrive somewhere new, I like to run around and take lots of photos, getting the lay of the land. It helps me know where my favorite places are and decide on what spots actually move me. Once I feel visually drawn to a location, then that is where I sit and paint. So my first stop was the water garden. Of course, this spot is iconic. Monet painted it over and over. There were so many people there that I decided to draw rather than paint. I found a comfortable seat on the bench near the bridge in the photo below. That’s where I spent my afternoon…
I pulled out a new brand of paper that’s caught my attention. It’s called Terraskin. It’s smooth (like yupo). It’s also environmentally friendly (biodegradable, made from a very sustainable materials, no trees, and no water is used in it’s production). It’s also naturally white in color without the need for chemical bleaching. I love the idea of using environmentally friendly materials, especially when they perform well.
I did one drawing, and liked it so much, that I decided to do another one looking in the other direction. I used a technique for drawing shapes that is a really fun way to draw. My friend Karen Knutson showed me this method, and it makes for really cool drawings. Here are the two sketches I did while sitting there.
Monet’s Japanese Bridge. Sketch with ink on Terraskin paper
When I finished the drawings, it was apparent that the crowds were gone. It was finally time to get out my paints, and be able to use them without getting in anyone’s way. I moved back toward the house and into the garden nearby. This was my view. Talk about color!
After spending a bit of time sitting right there on site I did the painting below. Since time was short, I decided to go for it without any drawing. I forged ahead with watercolor paint and color trying to capture my impression of the moment. Inspired by one of the founding fathers of impressionism, it just seemed the right thing to do. Such fun!
I can’t describe the thrill of painting so intimately in the garden! Perhaps you can see it in my face here. It felt like I was alone for a couple of hours with the garden and the ghost of Monet. It was romantic to say the least. As it turned out, there was one other artist who stayed to paint. As we were both leaving, she found me and took this photo. We were both giddy with excitement at the experience. After closing down the garden, we had to figure out how to to actually get out. The front gates were locked, and we were to exit through the garage door. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. After pushing all kinds of buttons and trying not to panic, we finally opened the locked door and took our leave. I’m left with a smile as I think about it. The memory will truly last for a lifetime. Someday I hope to bring my students and friends here for a similar experience.
Monet spent the latter years of his life devoting much of his painting to his water garden and his lily series. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about Monet’s water lily paintings, you might enjoy reading this blog:
At this point, I’m off to explore the Cathedral at Chartres and the Loire Valley. Thanks to those of you who have checked in with me, I appreciate hearing from you so very much. Your messages and comments help me feel like I have company on the road. Stay in touch and stay tuned y’all!