Some paintings

Visiting roman ruins, eating copious amounts of butter and croissants amandes, and buying old shoes at vides greniers is not the only thing I have been doing during this residency.  I have also been painting almost every day for the last four weeks!


More than 200 people have visited the Exposition over the last two days!

Saturday: The Day to End All Days

1. Wake up and immediately go back to sleep. 2. Wake up again. Get dressed and try to remember how to conjugate etre.

3. Go to the galleries. See that your paintings have fallen. Jerry-rig them again.

4. Monter le chemin for the chateau on the hill with Mme Picarda and watch some Breton dancing.

4a. See amazing cloud formations!

4b. Listen to speeches you can't understand!

5.  Swoon over flower gardens at Chateauneuf

6. Swoon over everything at St. Suliac!

6a. More cloud formations! Yay!

6b. More gardens, more swooning!

6c.  A door! 

6d.  Walk around the church grounds.

6e.  Another perfect door.

6f. See holly hocks.

6g. My receipt from lunch which I will take back to China with me, because that's where I'm from.

6h. A crusty old fart.

6i. Amy's first meal after being sick for a few days. :((

7. Drive to St. Malo. Immediately depart St. Malo.

8. Drive to Rotheneuf, les rocheurs sculptes.  Spend the best 2.50euros of the residency.

9. Drive to Dinard over the bridge from St. Malo.  Take a coffee at one of the hotels overlooking the sea.

10. Return to Lehon. Skype with Toby about the necessity of buying Ikea furniture. Reckon with the impending return to the quotidien and feel depressed.

11. But only momentarily. Go to the Fest Noz and visit the Temple of Mars for the second time. (See previous posts.)

12. Sleep.

Getting prets pour l'Exposition

This weekend the Abbaye of Lehon is hosting "Exposition des peintres americains de Maryland Institute College of Arts" in their galleries. We spent a couple of nights working really hard trying to get the pieces hung, title lists made, and French vocabulary learned (le cimaise: picture rod; l'ecorche (m): picture hook).

This is typical bossy pants Amy behavior.  She is calling Catherine a jerk and is about to slap her around with a bag of ecorches. No, just kidding. It was all good fun- even the shiv we fashioned out of the end of one of the cimaise.

The incomparable Madame La Directrice Jane Shipley at her Mac- tabulating euros and dollars and trying to figure out how to translate "Back of River Rance" without having to use the word "derriere".  What a mal-a-la-tete!!!

Words from the wise from Herr Directeur Christopher Shipley: "Play nice."  Words to live by.

The breath-taking evening upon which we were expelled.

Becherel, the city of books

A few days ago, Amy, Jane Irish and I went to the chateau grounds just outside the city centre of Becherel to paint. We managed to get into the gardens through a small gate lying east of the chateau's formal grounds and through the woods you come to an allee of trees and then slowly but stupendously the allee resolves into a cross into the open grounds filled with rose bushes and topiary.

The petit cite de charactere of Becherel is a really amazing little spot. The town is littered with secondhand book stores and hybrid book store/tea shoppes. I decided to be really lazy and unambitious and buy a French translation of Anna Karenina. Here is the first sentence from the French, which I bet you can recognize:):

"Toutes les familles heureuses se ressemblent, mais, chaque famille malheureuse l'est a sa facon.

I also bought a youth-adaptation of Ivanhoe which I've started reading.

On our way home Amy spotted a typically modest sign for another one of these amazing Breton jewels: a XV century chateau. We found it closed until July, so naturally we found another way in.

The Temple of Mars

Last night, Christopher, Jane S, Jane Irish, Rosie, Amy and I visited a Fest Noz in a town about 20 minutes away.  A Fest Noz in the Breton language means "Night Party", and we did some drinking of cidre and beer and danced in circles to Breton bands playing flutes, fiddles and accordions.

We had to drive back and forth through Corseul which is home to Roman ruins and an incredible, unbelievable ruin called The Temple of Mars.  Amy and I went to see the Temple of Mars last Tuesday right before twilight and found it sitting quietly and extravagantly in the middle of a cornfield on the road between Corseul and Dinan. Visiting the Temple of Mars is one of the most magical experiences I have had in Bretagne.  True to most fantastic old sites, like the dolmen in Dol-de-Bretagne, there is almost no signage, no lighting and no paraphernalia indicating anyone in Brittany is even aware of the Temple's existence.  In a country where such special sites are abundant, the Temple is met with a quiet quotidien respect and acceptance. Tramping about there at midnight thirty on Saturday night after getting sweaty at a Fest Noz was just the right kind of bacchanalian impulse not in keeping with the probably more sober religious rites that took place there thousands of years ago.  Crack Americans.

Halfway mark

Unfortunately, today marks the halfway point of the residency.  There is only one week until the opening of our show in the Abbaye, so in that respect, we only have one more week of painting.  Everyone is working their derrieres off, and I got up this morning early and was in the attic working until around 11:30, when I went out in front of the Abbaye to do a painting of the maisons penchees (leaning houses).  Here is my first pass.  I'll go back out tomorrow and fix some things and re-do the sky.

Here's a painting I did of the front of the abbaye a few days ago. It was a really busy day- and when I say busy, I mean there were LOTS of people who wanted to stop and chat with me.

Tonight, Amy and I are going to go to La Marmite for dinner if they are open. If not, I guess we will make some pasta.  Tomorrow is my birthday and I am going to wake up and do exercise class with Katherine and Pahl, and then go on to the market. I'm excited!

This is a little blurry, but you get the picture...

Here's what I finished this morning. I made the sky a little bluer because today was a perfectly cloudless day. Some tourists have come by to let me know that in Brittany, the sky always has to have clouds and I should add them. May be I will.

I bought these tomatoes on the vine at the market in Rennes and kept them intact in case the weather wasn't cooperative and I needed to set up un nature mort (a still life).  But I got hungry and now they are gone.

Attic paintings

Today was another perfect day here in Brittany.  I woke up at my regular hour of 8ish and exercised with my roommates Catherine and Pahl: we lifted bottles of water and did sun salutations. It was awesome. I went to the cloister this morning to finish the painting that I'm doing there, but wasn't able to complete it, so I'll try again tomorrow. Here's a photo of what it looked like yesterday (don't have a photo of it from today):

This afternoon, Catherine, Pahl and I went up to the attic of the Abbaye. We agreed that it was a perfect visual instantiation of an idea: complete in itself.  The pigeons scratching at the rooftop sounded like large rats trying to get in, adding to the gothic feel of the attic.  Around 4:30 the organist started to play some Bach, and everything was rather perfect.

Combourg and Eight Oysters of Cancale

The other day a few of us decided to go to Combourg to have lunch and see the castle of Chateaubriand, who claimed his home as the birthplace of Romanticism.  We ate lunch at Les Terraces of the Hotel du Lac on the calm lake.  I had the menu formule with oysters, monkfish stew and black rice, and a chocolate pyramid.  Here are some of the salivating-worthy photos of the meal:

Here are some pictures of the chateau:

Yesterday we went to the market and then had a great feast in the evening, all the residents.  I got some paintings done, and will post them tonight.

First Full Day Painting in Lehon...

Today was our first full day painting in Lehon.  I woke up early and went and did an hour of painting on the Abbaye before meeting Madame Francoise Picarda for a tour of the place.

Here is where she performs marriage ceremonies.

The abbaye was founded by a bunch of monks from Wales who-- in order to start the  abbaye-- had to find relics and went over to another abbaye in a nearby town and pillaged  their relics and brought them back to Lehon.  These monks fell asleep underneath an  apple tree that blossomed just on the side that they happened to be sleeping on, and they  took it as a sign from God that what they'd done was a-okay with him.  Some of the  abbaye's stained glass was destroyed in WWII. Here's the new stuff:

Here's the sketch that I'm working on of the Abbaye from the side.  Hopefully I'll work on it again tomorrow though there has been talk of going to Combourg for the day and checking it out.

Here is the back of a house that opens up to the garden in the derriere of the Abbaye:

Lehon, Day 2

I got into Dinan on Saturday straight from Charles de Gaulle and spent the day traipsing around the medieval town. Here's a picture of the town, which is in Brittany, just northwest of Rennes. I ate a very good crepe avec confiture de lait. It was incredible. Here's a picture of Dinan from the ramparts.

Oh and here's a picture of a restaurant called Clafoutis, which is one of my favorite desserts/breakfast menu items (thank you, Sarah Marriage!).

I tried to get some sleep that night but I wasn't too successful (though this was no fault of the hotel's). On Sunday, Christopher Shipley, the director of the residency, came and picked us up and took us to Lehon which was a five minutes drive from Dinan and is the base of the residency.  This is Val Rive, which used to be the mayor's house a couple of centuries ago, and is where we're staying.  I know. It's pretty awesome.

Here's a picture of the diggs from the inside. Not too shabby....

We spent the day getting accustomed to the small town and looking at the Abbaye and meeting our gracious hosts, David and Victoria (not Beckman, but close: Jackson).

We spent the evening drinking wine from a gigantic bottle and eating cheese en plein air.

Here's me with the empty bottle of Rioja.  We opened another, smaller bottle later.  (I don't know why I look so happy.)

This morning we all got into the cars and went to the Intermarche to stock up on provisions.  I took this picture of Casal Garcias that they had on sale there- they were the first bottle of wine Toby and I ever ordered together (at a Brazilian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan).

Here's me at tonight's welcome dinner with le maire de Lehon, who spoke not un mot of anglais, but we managed to understand one another.  I think he got a kick out of my Norman-name. He apparently is a Norman himself.

Here's one last picture that I thought would make a great painting, so I'll probably go back there at some point soon and do some drawings.

I haven't gotten too much time to work yet-- just because we are getting ourselves situated. Tomorrow we have a little orientation meeting at the Abbaye, and then I'll continue to do some painting out there, and hopefully I'll have some shots of what I'm doing tomorrow.