Recently I traveled to Nice, France to join a group of ladies for a week of painting watercolors on location. My experience with watercolor ended about 2o years ago. I painted for a few years and never really achieved the level of expertise I desired. I stopped painting when I discovered textile art and I have not painted since. When I heard about this opportunity it appealed to me for a number of reasons. I love Nice, I wanted to meet new people and I thought it would be fun to try painting again especially on location and what a fabulous location it was!
Instead of painting a complete scene we narrowed the focus down to small vignettes on 5×7: paper. This enabled editing and minimizing which took less time (and helped me to not overwork it).
I had a great time. Each day we went to a different town and setting.
Walking around and in between the tables to find interesting items to paint was challenging as some of the vendors were not pleased to have someone blocking the flow; I had to work quick. Several vendors told me to move on. I was surprised that I was able to paint at all. It was very tempting to stop and shop…but there wasn’t enough time. I spotted some beautiful linens that I would have bought for sure and I manage to return the following Monday to shop on my own. There were fabulous things displayed unlike what you would see here in the US. I spotted a collection of antique perfume bottles which stayed in my mind. When I got home…I did a search and found some to buy on line. I plan to paint these in the future. They are charming and I think they will make excellent subjects.
The ceramic bird was the first item I spotted and quickly started to sketch and paint it.
There were two of them and I quickly bought them and moved on; now I can paint them over and over.
The second item was the vase. It was porcelain delicately detailed with flowers and very intricate metal work for the stand. The third item was the perfume bottle. The seller came over to see what I was doing. She smiled and seemed pleased so I could stay longer at that spot. I wrote the name Caline on it, as this is the name of one I have and bought in Nice many years ago ( I still have the bottle). The fourth item was the porcelain basket. The handle was made of fragile rope like strands that wove together. The edges had delicate ridges. I really should have bought that one, but it was very fragile. I added a bit of wrought iron that was visible. The name of the market was Cours Saley.
The next day we took a train to Ville Franche and walked to the Rothschild estate.
What an amazing place! Everywhere I looked was beautiful. The estate and the grounds were fabulous. I painted from 10:30 till 5 p.m. I spent the first 2 hours painting random flowers.
After a fabulous lunch there, I spent the remaining time painting a collection of features. A rose, a small landscape and a beautiful stone pot. The design on it was very intricate. I simplified it but it still looks intricate. I plan to add something more on the top open space.
The next day was spent at Menton. This was my favorite day. The town is know for citrus and I love anything lemon. I became interested in the shutters which were on every window. They were a similar shades of aqua green. I started to take lots of pictures of shuttered windows. My painting began with the one window and shutter as I ate lunch at the Le Balico . The building was on a corner and was rounded. The window was on one side of the curve and the shutter opened onto the opposite curved side. This proved to be a challenging perspective. The shadow helped to explain the curve. Next I became fascinated with a stone statue nearby.
I tried to decide what color stone would be? What colors should I mix to get the effect of stone? This was intriguing. The sun was shining just perfectly from behind and over the shoulders to highlight the details. Later that day I added the all important lemon.
The next day was spent on an island off the coast of Canne, Ile Saint Honorat. This island is small and has only a Monastery and vineyards. A stop at the farmers market in Canne prior provided an opportunity to buy fruit. I decided to paint the fruit; fresh ripe figs and apricots that was the brightest yellow orange ever. The inside of the figs were rich shades of coral red. The view was beautiful. On the walk back to the ferry, I took some fabulous photos of the vineyards and the coast. Both had a wonderful fence with very old and narrow pickets. I knew these scenes would make great subjects to paint.
The remainder of my stay was spent on the beach. I painted there too. I used photos which was totally different than painting on location. I definitely liked painting on location the best. The elements that come into play add to the experience and make it real.
The main benefit I realized was that painting on location required lots of editing. This is good for me as I tend to over work when working with watercolors….and this is not a good thing.
My stay in Europe spanned 24 days. My travels took me on to Majorca where I found additional subjects to paint. I was inspired and motivated.
Now that I am home, my vision is expanded; I see plenty to paint right here in my yard and nearby. The Seattle area is full of glorious scenery. The component that compelled me to go on this trip was the allure of Nice, which is definitely worth experiencing; however, travel is expensive and has its challenges. My eyes are open now and I see my surroundings in a completely new way. This awakening is great as most of my time is spent in the studio.
I still struggle with the tendency to overwork the painting though. My goal is to overcome this; only time will tell.
I have ideas about painting on location here. It would be fantastic to bring some like minded people together and join me. If you are interested, let me know.