Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mike Snow Art Retreat pART 1

 Deep in the south west of France lies the tiny picturesque village of Saussignac.  
In this village is a chateau.  
In the chateau lives a creative duo of expats who have opened their home and studio 
for visiting students, like me!
Please meet Mike Snow, artist extraordinaire and a thoughtful guiding instructor.  I spent a week with Mike and his partner Timothy White, improving my painting skills, and getting a mere taste of their idyllic life in France.
Here is their sweet dog, Picasso.
We painted 6-7 hours a day, ate glorious meals, and even toured a bit of the country side.  But i am getting WAY ahead of things...
 About 10 months ago i started doing research on vacation locations - in Europe mainly.  My husband passed away two years ago and i wanted to take a special holiday, one that would not be overly depressing to do alone. I happened upon the pretty little town in the south of France, called Collioure.  it is a mecca for artists - so that got me thinking - hey, why don't i look for an art class or retreat in France.  that lead me to http://snowwhite.fr/.
I got in touch with Mike and started to make my plans for September.  i went ALL OUT.  i booked first class seats on points.  I spent a few days in Paris in a luxury apartment with a girlfriend. then I took the train to Bordeaux, then connected to Ste Foy la Grande - where Mike picked me up. 
I met my fellow student, Joelle, a lovely French woman from Breton.  We were the only two students!  Mike dropped us off at our "gites" - a french sort of bed and breakfast, only without the breakfast.
It was a converted french farmhouse/barn.  Gotta love them blue shutters.
La Shertane was located a couple of miles from the Chateau in a lovely setting with a pond.
Although it was mid September, the weather was quite mild. Leaves were not yet changing colour.  We got settled in and Mike came to pick us up for dinner.
 Well, the meals at the Chateau, prepared by Tim, were to DIE for.  Each meal begins with a question, "what colour? red, white, or rose?" The table was nicely set with candles and we are called, "a table!" We started with some pate and tomato salad.
 Then some coq au vin.
 And some cheese.
For dessert some ice cream with berry sauce.  Simple, but perfect.  
then  we headed back to the gites for a good night's sleep in the peaceful countryside.
 At 8 am Mike would pick us up and bring us back to the chateau for breakfast.  
Cafe au lait, fresh baked croissants, yogurt and granola, fruit, toast, jam.  
I cant tell you how wonderful it was to be pampered this way.
 Since it was dark the night before - this was our first real look at the chateau. It was like a fairy tale.
  Here's the view through the gallery windows.
 And out onto the lawn.
 Just look at the old world architecture.
And here is the studio where we spent our days creating.

Our first task was to write down some goals. then we sketched these rugged boots. 
not bad? 
 then we were asked to sketch them a little looser - not to worry about the details or the scale so much.  Put our own spin on it.
 Then a lesson in brass eyelets and laces.  always several colours on the brush - creates for interest and depth.
 Next we painted the boots.  i thought a picture of boots would be boring (or at least not something i'd want to put on my walls) so i added a bit of a farmhouse backdrop with some blue shutters.
Mike encouraged me to think about the painting and assess what is good, what could use some more layering, shadows, etc.  originally i had detailed stone walls - but it was too cluttered. So i toned it down.  then we changed it to a yellow ochre blend.  added more depth to the flowers. sign it and done!
Here is the majestic boot done by my classmate Joelle. 
 The next project was the find a balck and white picture in a stack of photography books that caught our eye.  I chose this little minx.
Next sketch it out. 
 we started with a background of our least favorite colour. and sketched the outline on that.
then paint outlines in black .
rough in some of the details. 
Trying to figure out the curtains.  and he looks too sad.
Smoothed out some of the folds in his shirt.  add a wash of white to the curtains.
et voila!  a few final details - like the edge of the window sill.  some laugh lines. the big thing we changed, was to add a frame to the right edge.  to help draw the eye back in.  Suggestions like these were what made a difference. 
 it still could use a few finishing touches.

and in no particular order - we ate:
 roasted peppers, fait a la maison, on toast
 a little polish influence
every salad was so fresh and tasty and so simple. 
more cheese please 
 apple tart
After a few days of painting we spent some time in Bergerac at the weekly farmers market. 

 Booths and tents were set up all around this magnificent Eglise Notre Dame.
 Hard to get it all in one photo!
 Inside it was Gothic and charming.

 With some brilliant stained glass windows.
Did anyone say wine? here is the Chateau Monbazillac  - a highlight of the region. 
Some local wine.
There are literally dozens of chateaux all over the place. and acres and acres of vineyards.  Kind of like Napa and Sonoma (where i work) - but just a wee bit more, well, old for sure, but also more romantic and authentic.
 here we are back in Saussignac a town of 350 people.
Gotta love them shutters....
That evening Joelle and i dined at the Gites.   Mini quiche, bread and salad purchased at the Bergerac market. 
  it was a nice change, because after all, dining every night at a chateau can be a bit tedious.....


liz said...

Hi Dianne,
I too am from Northern California, and am thinking of taking Mikes art retreat. Your blog is very thorough and wonderful. Just wondering if you can tell me anything else, or give me any advise. Great photos!
Liz Collins

Diane said...

Sure liz - i'll need your email.

Duda said...

Looks beautiful! I am going there in September.
How big are paintings you made and how did you bring them home?
Thanks for describing your experience in such a great way.

Pretty Widow said...

Hi Duda - we had a choice of canvas size for each painting we did. I completed 5 paintings. they ranged in size from 10x14 to 24 x 35! Mike packed them all up and mailed them to me for about $50 euro. A pretty good deal to not have to deal with the shlep back home.

have a great time!