If it’s Friday, it must be France …
This Sunday, October 1, is the launch day for my fifth novel, Drawing Lessons.
I’m happy to finally share this story with readers and owe a big thank you to the amazing team at Lake Union Publishing for making this launch happen. Writing the story is just part of the journey. The other part is the expertise and guidance of acquiring editors, developmental and copy editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and marketing wizards along with an indispensable author relations manager … and even that list may not cover everyone. Forgive any omission and know your contribution is valued. Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency, it all began with you. Merci!
Writing this story was a challenging and rewarding experience for me in many ways. In particular, was the opportunity I had to connect with several visual artists as I attempted to learn as much as I could about their world, in order to write with a degree of credibility within the story. I’m grateful for, hopefully, grasping a smidgen of understanding of the philosophy and craft of creating visual art in many different ways. Thanks too for the detailed information about materials and their use. I couldn’t have written this story without that help.
It was Irish artist, Patrick McCarthy, who sparked the idea in my head of Arianna, the protagonist, being an artist.
In June, 2016, a few of us were spending an evening at a dinner party at the always rolicking home of dear friends, perched in the hills overlooking the Côte d’Azur. I was fascinated as Patrick took out his traveling box of paints, his case of brushes and pens, and his sketch book, and began to draw the panoramic view, high above Saint-Paul de Vence.
Thus began the unfolding of a new story in my imagination. I had already decided the setting would be the area around Arles and the Camargue, where my husband and I had recently spent two weeks. But it was news to me that Arianna would be an artist. It’s fascinating how story details develop sometimes. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction!
I realized I had a lot to learn about sketching, drawing, painting and … gulp … the entire world of visual arts.
Little did Patrick McCarthy know what he unleashed in my mind.
To honour the aspect of the artists’ workshop/retreat that plays a major role in Drawing Lessons, I asked three of the artists with whom I spoke to write a few words for this blogpost.
Here are three brief contributions, each expressed from the artist’s slightly different perspective.
First, please welcome, JoAnn Sanborn. Our serendipitous meeting at her studio on Marco Island, led to an incredible coincidence. As I explained the basic premise of my story to her, she gasped as she said, “You’re telling my story.” I was covered in goose bumps as she explained. Read on, please.
“I’m a landscape painter whose main subject is the Florida Everglades. When my husband was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease, I began to spend more time in my home studio to care for him. When he passed away, someone at the funeral said to me “Now you will be able to do whatever you want.” Her words disturbed me. I didn’t want to do anything but to have him back.
I barricaded myself into the studio playing sad songs of love and loss. Two months later, I received an email from an artist friend offering to take a small group to paint in France. Did I want to come along? France! At first I didn’t consider it. Still, the idea tugged at my mind. I made all sorts of excuses. I’m in mourning—it’s too soon. I’m an acrylic painter—how would I manage with oils? Would I be good enough?
My friend’s words popped into my mind. I didn’t have to ask permission of anyone—but did I dare?
I trusted my heart and jumped. At La Vieux Couvent there were stone buildings, Caribbean blue shutters, climbing pink and yellow roses, church bells, sheep in the fields and delicious farm-fresh food. I painted in the studio, in the gardens and at the lily pond. Painting “en plein aire” in a landscape so different from my usual Everglades was refreshing. Other artists shared ideas and encouragement. Sketching, journaling and shopping through the small French towns was fun. There was even an exhibition of our work for the neighbors at the end of our trip.
The decision to go had been the right one. Taking that step renewed my faith in myself and taught me that although I will never get over my loss, it’s OK to keep on living.”
See? Goose bumps. Thank you, JoAnn. Please visit her beautiful website.
Next, please welcome Tessa Baker, a British artist living in Provence, who offers workshops just like Juliette and Maurice in Drawing Lessons. Tessa’s stunning property and website offered inspiration as I developed my story. We met online a few years ago through our mutual friend, Kristin Espinasse.
“What do you do when you are an artist living in an old tumble down Provençale farmhouse, surrounded by vineyards and hills with endless inviting views and entrancing medieval villages perched high on hill?
What do you do when you live 35 minutes from some of the most scenic of coastal land and seascapes in all of France and 35 minutes from one of the most luxurious turquoise lakes deep in the valley of purple and ochre mountains, scented by lavender and wild herbs? With gorges of such extraordinary natural beauty you stand and gaze in awe?
Well, perhaps you do as I do. I run One Week watercolour workshops. You are looked after and catered for from the moment we pick you up at the airport or train station to the moment we drop you off. Anna is one of the best chef’s I know and provides us with gourmet meals and picnics.
I teach techniques and colour mixing, observation and composition. We paint plein-air as often as possible. If the weather is rainy or cool, I have a spacious studio for us to use.
The whole week is filled with creativity, learning, joy and laughter and plenty of wonderful food and local wines. Every day we travel to yet another glorious location and everyday your art will improve.” An experience like Arianna’s! Connect with Tess at her charming home ~ www.paintprovencewithtess.com
Next, please welcome, California-born, Australia-based artist Georgia Mansur. We met, quite by chance, at the Monastère Saint-Paul de Mausole, in Saint-Remy de Provence where Vincent Van Gogh spent 53 prolific and often tormented weeks, beginning May 1889.
Georgia travels the world teaching and mentoring groups of artists. Approachable and friendly, she and her students kindly gave me permission to photograph some of their materials and shared thoughts about painting in that remarkable setting.
“I have been taking students to Provence to paint in the footsteps of the impressionists masters for the past 8 years. The beautiful soft light and the gorgeous rural countryside inspire me to tell its unique story in paint so others can also enjoy it.
I am very passionate about sharing my creativity and art with others and helping them express themselves, whether they are a beginning artist or a seasoned professional.
My students have given me the nickname ‘The Art Whisperer’ and I hope to inspire, move and engage people more each day with art and the creative process.
We are all creative but some have lost touch with that part of themselves. I get a lot of joy helping others gain access to their artistic side and love sharing my favourite painting spots that only locals know. Although i teach about 8 months of the year around the world, Provence holds a special place in my heart.
In my workshops I share everything I have within my power with my students ~ in the words of Vincent Van Gogh,
“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in with all my heart.”
Please take some time to visit Georgia’s website.
My sincere thanks to JoAnn, Tessa and Georgia for everything you shared with me. In large and small ways, I gained valuable insight from each of you. It’s my distinct pleasure to have met you.
To you, dear readers, I hope this gives you interesting information about some of the research involved in writing fiction. I have another emotional and meaningful conversation to share with you in another blog post. This was with a friend who has also lived part of Arianna’s story. See you next week.
Bon weekend and thank you to everyone for celebrating the launch of Drawing Lessons with me. You are the reason I write!