Last days of France and return home...

I'm home from Ireland and France and still absorbing it all- knowing I'm changed from the experience and curious how the change will show itself in my life. I wanted to show you a few images from the last four days in France...

This is the Abbey at St. Florent le Vieil, a town along the Loire river west of Paris, where the International Pastel Festival was hosted so beautifully. Every artist and organizer we met was lovely and made our little group of Texas artists feel very special.

Coming into town, we stopped to take pictures- the one above was among them- and when we returned to the rental car we found Diana Moya, our leader and driver, unable to find reverse on the stick- shift Renault. Each time she released the clutch the car moved a few more inches toward a plunge into the river Loire. I want to you to picture four very well-dressed dainty women pushing a full-sized sedan up a hill with the car in reverse with me (in jeans and tennis shoes) behind the wheel. Never underestimate the power and determination of women artists! I expect to find a video of this event on YouTube someday, posted by some startled passerby.

L-R: Yours truly, Debra Richardson, Sue Wiley, Mary Beth Martin, the Mayor of St. Florent le Vieil, Patrick Martin, Francoise, Libby Peters, Chris, Diana Moya

An article about us in the newspaper in France...

Here are my two paintings at St. Florent (two others are at the other Festival site in Feytiat, France)...

Evening Flight, and Morning Flight.

Posing with the Mayor of St. Florent le Vieil

The street between the Abbey and our hotel on the water. The whole town was just charming.

Back the next day to really look at all the paintings....
Then we (the Texas artists) went to lunch at this terrific crepe restaurant. This was my salmon crepe with white asparagus and a to-die-for sauce and that's, yes, a mojito to the left of my plate and a glass of wine to the right... uh huh... and an assortment of cheeses, some made locally, and crusty bread. We laughed, we talked art, we stuffed ourselves. Mango ice cream was involved.

After this meal, my dear friend and portrait artist, Libby Peters and I took a walk back to the hotel. We sat down in the grass along the path by the Loire river and talked for hours. Funny- we live an hour from each other and had to go to France to get time to talk. My internal art compass got reoriented by talking things over with Libby. I owe her BIG.
One last look at the Abbey...

Ginette works with the Abbey and generously offered to drive me the 40 km to the train station at Angers on Sunday. She spoke no English and I spoke no French but together we sang along to the Beatles' Penny Lane when it played on the radio and hugged each other and grinned when we arrived. People are wonderful everywhere.
Joanna and I had one last night in Paris before our VERY early taxi ride to the airport on Monday. We sat at this sidewalk cafe by the Seine for a long, long time over our dinner
and coffee and talked about what the time away from home had allowed us to see more clearly about our lives: Our lives are good and it's always worth becoming more conscious about what is now habit and what could be fine-tuned to something better and more authentic.
Back home....
This painting was a portrait (commissioned by the man's son) I did just before leaving, so was now dry and ready for varnishing on my return. He picked it up yesterday, was delighted, and has three other portraits in mind, one of which will be of himself from a sitting. I'm really looking forward to that- it promises to be very special.
Thank you for going along with me on my summer adventure! An adventure that requires a passport is always wonderful, but the one I have sitting in front of my easel with a paintbrush loaded with one juicy color after another can be just as transporting and life-affirming and exciting.
Heck, just a conversation with a good friend can change your life.
Here's to our next adventure!

Paris images

Ok, I finally see what all the fuss has been about. Paris is unbelievable. I got in on Monday and saw the length of Rue du Temple on foot as I carried and pulled my luggage. (I had walked right by my hotel/apartment and kept on looking...) I was happy the whole time. When I reached the Seine, I knew I'd gone too far and headed back. My friend Joanna had flown in from Phoenix that day and had waited for me for hours, bleary and jetlagged, but she seemed happy, too. Especially when I finally showed up!

We went to the Musee D'Orsay on Tuesday. The photo above was taken there. I got to stand in front of Vincent's self portrait inside and just exchange a few personal and artistic ideas with him for a minute or two. We agreed on a few of them. My time in this museum was almost a religious experience for me. Some people take pilgrimages to Lourdes or Mecca. D'Orsay and the Louvre do the trick for me.

We went to the Louvre on Wednesday, Bastille Day. It was cool and rainy and perfect. I saw Winged Victory and Mona.

Mona and I never got eye-to-eye, as they have her locked up behind glass and velvet ropes and so far away... plus way too many other people were angling to lock eyes with her for me to get much of a chance. But did blow her kisses and I think she winked in my direction.

Then we headed for the Eiffel Tower. Can I use any more superlatives to describe my amazement?

We sat on the grassy lawn to await the fireworks. Then I got antsy and walked 4 or 5 miles to Pont Neuf to take pictures for someone who'd asked me to do that. I was closer to our apartment by then, so walked the many blocks there to recharge my camera battery and look up the Metro stop nearest the Eiffel Tower. I've never been so squashed up against humanity as I was that night. The oxygen level on the train was very low, but the excitement of everyone heading for the fireworks was high.

This is what I saw when I finally rejoined Joanna (yelling her name to locate her, as the crowd had gotten incredibly dense). The program started at about 11 p.m. because it took that long for the sky to get dark! They played music from every culture and the fireworks were choreographed to go along with the songs... Wonderful!

Yesterday we went to the Montmartre district and saw where Renoir and Dali and Toulouse-Lautrec and many other such painters hung out. On the way up to Place de Tertre, we marveled at Sacre Couer, above. It's high above the city and I'll bet it's beautiful to look out over the city at night from there.

One of the many, many artists on the square at Place de Tertre in Montmartre.

Today I leave in just a minute for the train station where I'll meet up with some artist friends from Austin take the high speed TGV train to St. Florent le Vieil for the pastel festival. More news to follow...

I've been soaking in art over here and am kind of curious what sort of thing I'll want to paint when I get home.
Thank you so much to those of you who've left comments and sent me emails while I'm traveling. It means a LOT.
Ok... got to head to the Metro station.... talk with you later!

Ireland Images

I know, I thought I could post something each day of my time here. I'm leaving Ireland for Paris tomorrow and only posted twice. I love this place SO much. I hope there's some way for me to return often- Believe me, I'll be working on that!

This demo was on the second day. I didn't develop it very far, but it's of my nephew Jake, so I like it even in it's raw unfinished state.

This is on the last day of the workshop. The model was on break... why are these artists still painting? Hmm... I loved all these painters.

I did this little demo on the second day, too, because one of the artists was painting from its reference and it was giving her trouble. I found out why when I gave it a go- very tricky for some reason. She's given me a copy of her reference so I can someday return to this and try to finish it. Now it's a matter of pride!
These are my funny, smart, happy hosts Jan and Janetta. I've had such a good time in their company.

After the workshop, Jan and Janetta and I crossed the country to the west coast, past Galway to the the Connemara region. Oh my.

(That's me on the rise to the right.)
Horses and cows and sheep and rugged shoreline and sandy beaches and beautiful towns and sailboats and wide blue sky and people speaking with the richest accent that goes right to the center of my heart and mind, and cider and seafood chowder and prawns and salmon and potatoes done every way possible and incredible brown bread. In the 8 days I've been here I must've eaten loaves and loaves of brown bread. I've never had anything like it and yet it's on every table- imagine! The conversations I've been privileged to listen to (and be part of) will bounce around in my brain for a long time.

These last two days I've spent with Janetta and her partner John. John is a literary agent, and of course Janetta is an artist, so the house and conversation is filled with books and art. We've walked along one of the two Dun Laoghaire piers today and Janetta and I visited another one of the artists from the workshop in her beautiful home on the sea.

The pictures I'm posting have no real way of showing you what I've seen, but may offer a hint of some kind.
Tomorrow I fly to Paris! Although I'm having trouble letting go of Ireland, I'm looking forward to exploring the little bit of France I'll get to experience in the coming week. With any luck I'll be posting again soon.

First day of workshop

I'm in heaven. Thirteen enthusiastic Irish artists (plus yours truly) in a gorgeous room overlooking a gorgeous landscape, painting away all day, breaking only to have lunch in another gorgeous room. I wonder if I could work it out to live like this all the time?

Our view from the balcony of the Dun Laoghaire Golf Club.

My demo painting from our first day.

My hosts, Jan Hyland and her husband Colm, and Janetta Mellet.

I'm racing to get this out to you before I run out the door for our second day of painting...
Will report back soon....

I'm in Ireland!

This is the completed portrait of the Henager Sisters. Their father commissioned the painting and drove down from Austin to pick it up the night before I left.  I think he’s as happy with it as I am.  Thank you to all who kept me company online as I painted it.

With lots of help I got packed and to the airport on time, only to have an hour and a half delay waiting for the plane.  It still left almost an hour to make my connection in Newark for Dublin, so all worked out fine.  A miracle happened and I was the only passenger in my row- so I got to tip over and sleep a bit on the overnight flight!   I hadn’t slept well at home for a while, so I really needed all I could get. I took a bus to my hosts- Jan Hyland and Janetta Mellet- and had a beautiful lunch in Janetta’s beautiful garden.
Jan took me to her house afterwards where I’ve been the last two days, hosted so graciously by Jan and her husband Colm, and recovering from some wicked strain of jet lag. We’ve walked the Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leery) pier and we’ve visited the Royal Hiburnian Academy in Dublin and I’ve crashed for emergency naps several times. But it’s now 6:41 on Monday morning, the workshop starts in less than three hours and I feel great. I hope to still broadcast on my regular Wednesday, but much earlier than my usual 7 p.m. Central time.  Most likely it will be 11 a.m. or noon, but I’ll post more as I know.

The workshop is being held at a gorgeous place- The Dun Laoghaire Golf Club.  Oh my.  I can’t wait to show you!

Stay tuned….


Happy Susan