Watercolor in Provence

As the temperature plummets and winter settles in New York, all I can think about is the time I spent in Provence last June.  Those were some hot days filled with site seeing, eating, wine drinking, and watercolor painting.  Now that's what I call LIFE!

Provence is a beautiful place, every where you turn you can see stunning landscapes and vineyards spread throughout.  This photo is of the view of the Alpilles mountains which surround one of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux-de-Provence.

With that kind of view you can't help yourself but to paint it!  There is something magical one can experience while painting in plein air a scene such as this.  There is a connection to the energy of the day and place, and the elements feed what gets put down on the paper, or canvas.

Even if you're not looking at mountains and valleys there is always a good view in Provence.  A simple breakfast such as this one of peaches has great potential to be the subject of a watercolor.  With many open markets in almost every little town or village, you are sure to have an endless supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for painting or better yet, eating.

When there is no subject matter to paint it's good to play around with color, to familiarize yourself with the materials you're working with.  Here I'm trying some mixtures of green for landscape painting.  Nothing fussy about it, just getting myself acquainted with my new watercolor box by A. Gallo.

Friends and I rented a house in the little village of Lauris, which sits on top of a hill on one side.  If you are an explorer and like to get lost in little streets that seem to lead no where, you can always get lucky and be rewarded by something beautiful.  In may case, one afternoon I found the beautiful garden of Chateau Lauris overlooking the valley.  The Chateau is privately owned and not open for tours but the gardens are open for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

And what do you do when you have spectacular views in a beautiful place such as this?  Ya paint it!  This was the most challenging outdoor painting/drawing session I've had in years.  The biggest challenge was dealing with the wind, which is intense in Provence.  It actually has a name, Mistral, and residents of this area have learned to live with it since the beginning of Provence's history.  On that day the pages of my book kept blowing, it was hard to keep them down, there were times when I felt the whole book would fly out.  My water cups blew away a couple of times, and so did my brush and pencil.  I had to go find them three stories below from where I had set up.  I rand down the Chateau's stairs three times.  Having to dig and comb through bushes of the garden to find my brush and pencil was definitely new to me, but it's all part of the fun and charm of painting outdoor.

Walking around the town I found myself on the outskirts, I was on my way into the valley and to be honest I could have kept on going in search of inspiration.  To my luck I didn't  have to go too far, like I said, there is always a beautiful view where ever you turn.

If you would like to experience Provence, it's food, wine, and culture, and would also like to spend your days creating then you should join me this June.  I will be teaching a two week plein air sketching course from June 13-26 in Arles.  Early registration is open, sign up by January 20 to save some money.  Click here for more info and to register.


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