I’m all packed up. I created a lot in a month, some of it good, some of it pure process that I can toss or remake. I guess that was the point. Making. Painting.
But you know, Despite having my guard up, I was totally seduced by the beauty of the place. Ziggy Attias, the owner and conceptual lead has created an experience I have only ever dreamed of.
We artists have resided together in the utmost comfort of our own spacious, castle like rooms above shared living areas decorated in a luxurious style true to the Napoleon Trois building. The shared, beautifully outfitted bathrooms have served us easily and the studio rooms gave us inspiring views of the little valley. Importantly, the natural light was fantastic during the day and the walls and floors could be dripped on without worry.
As a surprise, we also had most of our meals prepared for us by a gifted French chef, Marie. The food was excellent and Marie was always happy working in the kitchen. It freed us up to paint and it created a jovial family like atmosphere for evening meals.
Ziggy’s house rules were few and easy to live with. Generally, any minor tasks we shared in were carried out without discussion. They just got done in a manner that was respectful of everyone’s time. With that level of respect in a communal space, it’s easy living together.
I will miss my new friends but I suspect we’ll all keep in touch and meet again. They’ve touched my heart and become a part of me. I also plan on returning to this beautiful place one way or another. It had the best double rainbow I’ve ever seen anywhere before. There was actually a golden shimmer beneath it. How could I not want to come back?
I am filled with gratitude for this experience in France coming on the heels of my retirement. It has transitioned me.
Thank-you, Ziggy. Thank-you, Universe.
Today I’ve been working on what will likely be the last painting I create at my Art Residency at Chateau Orquevaux. As I painted, the last in what has become a connected series, I began to examine why it was important for me to do such a thing. Here they are, in order of importance for me.
I’ve been painting in relative isolation for the past years, in my home studio, and loving it. I realize now that I applied for the residency not just for the place to paint but for connection with like minded people. I love the artists I’ve met; they are my extended family. We share ideas, philosophies, dreams, and aspirations easily and without judgement. We see the world as possibility in colour, shape, line, texture and design. Picasso’s wordless book of bridesmaids has a storyline we can interpret easily together. Between us, there is only support and sharing, competition just isn’t a thing here. We laugh together when we could be crying and we cry together when we could be laughing. Everyone here is whole and rich and perfect because that’s what we notice about each other first and foremost. We just generally get each other.
Having a tribe, a tribe that I’ve lived communally with for a month, that I’ve shared meals and wine with and created with, who come from all over the world, who are a variety of ages, who have distinctly different styles and experiences, who came with the same awe and excitement I came with, who have the same reverence for art and creating, well, that’s as golden as it gets in the work world. And yes, making art, creating, is work. Important work. Valuable work. The French get that. Connection is belonging.
I’ve loved the studio spaces just above the bedrooms, the rhythm of each artist’s working days, and the chats about creations and processes when studio doors are open. Learning is one of my drivers. When I’m learning, I feel alive. Yesterday, I found out about the brute art movement in broken English. My heart was filling up as I listened. I’d already viewed the exhibit. I knew how it made me feel. Yes, I feel art. At lunch today, while articulating how my painting morning was going, I generally like to paint uninterrupted from 9:00-2:00, I understood how much more exhausting it is for me to paint a series than it is to paint completely intuitively. Intentional painting, for me is less enjoyable. My bucket gets filled when I feel free. April, a writer in residence, understood this feeling and expressed how she noticed it come up for her in her practice as well. Having an opportunity to discuss our inner observations really helped me to consider freedom as one of my basic human needs even beyond art.
I have new rituals that I will integrate into my home practice. Eating breakfast, slowly, as well as drinking coffee every morning, is going to happen everyday even without the croissants. I will put more attention into line and into learning about the New York art scene and emerging artists. Opening my home to artist gatherings and work stays will be on my radar. A residency or two every year will become a regular part of who I am and what I do.
I always say, gratitude paves the road to joy. I feel it here x’s 10. This place, Orquevaux, is beautiful. Discovering it and each other; I am so grateful. This is magic and coincidence at its very best! Thank you Ziggy Attias, for your vision and your invitation.
Yesterday, the painterly lot of us decided to go see Renoir’s Home in The village of Essoyes. My car got sidetracked as soon as we spotted the vineyards. We knew it meant one thing, Champagne! So, when we came up to our first vineyard, and the chorus sung Please stop, I did.
After a tasting…I had no idea pink champagne was a real thing…we left with the trunk jingling. When you can buy a big bottle of the best for 14 Euros, you do! So much thanks to Matilda, who provided a loving explanation of her families long history and of the process, in English. She explained that she’d just spent time in Australia, really, but not waltzing.
On the road again, we caught up with the other car in Essoyes. They had chosen the perfect bistro on the river for lunch. I very much enjoyed duck confit with a fresh salad and sharing a creme brûlée, my first one here.
Once we’d eaten and enjoyed our expressos, there is no way to rush in these little villages and I love it, we were off in search of Renoir. Here’s what we found.
1. The houses in these old villages go cheaply.
2. His studio, above was super cute both up and down.
3. His house was not a typical small village home it was very well appointed and lovingly cared for. Credit to his wife, for sure.
I fell in love with the lace curtains!
4. His gravesite was not the most beautiful thing in the graveyard.
5. The river that he used to paint beside is in fact incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
It seems there are no bad days in the Champagne region of France!
Yesterday, as planned, all of the artists at Chateau Orquevaux hopped into cars and headed convoy-style to shop a couple of brocantes.
We browsed stalls and soaked in the jumble. The difference between a brocante and a typical western garage sale is that at a brocante you can find a tool or piece of art from the early 1800’s next to a Limoges tea set, next to a made in China plastic toy.
I found an ancient pair of reading glasses, some traditional French linens, some lovely buttons and tin of old papers with which to collage. When I got back to the chateau I found it quite disturbing that the tin contained relics of a deceased man’s life. Letters, passports, pictures, readers, a pill case with a pill still in it, and his obituary. This was the detritus of a life, the things one saves. Private things that shouldn’t be sold at a garage sale, but apparently at a brocante, might turn up. I sat with this tin a long while at the Chateau. I know the face and name of the divorced man, and I know the faces and names of his children. I felt called on to paint him, in forgiveness for inadvertently purchasing his personal remnants. I may choose not to collage his paperwork, I don’t know yet. The bonfire last night seemed to be calling for him but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I’ll figure it out.
I’m happy with the linens. They’re in great shape and will become surfaces for art. Except the red striped towels. I bought them for that but their value lies someplace else. They are heavy, whole, and still meant for the kitchen.
Finished at the brocante and feeling a thirst and hunger, we drove into central Joinville. This is a picturesque town with shops, a cafe or two and a bakery. The baguettes and croissants here are so light and buttery that it is no wonder they are a French staple! We made our way past the bakery, however, and into a Bar/Restaurant for a delicious lunch. I had a crepe filled with goat cheese and fresh basil. Honey was drizzled on top and it was accompanied by a small salad. Heaven! And a new use for honey. Honey and soft goat cheese are perfection together.
After cafe creme we walked up and into the church. It was built in 1544 and is quite remarkably. The ceilings gave it a Roman feel, the stained glass added colour and story, the statue of Mary provided gentleness, and the angel striking down from the heavens contacted that. A turn and a walk toward the back of the church showed off the magnificent organ pipes and a relief that was carved in 1567. My goodness, belief has power! I would say that the church was just as artfully beautiful as it was awesomely fearsome.
Next up was a stop at the Poisson Karsts. After so much rain it was a surprise to see how dry this particular area was. The area is a winding drive up a narrow road (that is a thing here) before a quick walk to view the karsts. Karsts have something to do with springs underground drainage, caves, limestone, and calcium. I wasn’t able to figure out much about what I was seeing because of my lack of French but I could see what looked to be caverns. I also noticed that mountain bikers had shaped and enjoyed the terrain.
There is so much to explore here in just this small corner of France!
We ended the day with a bonfire at the front of the chateau. With the river and falls behind me, I could imagine the ocean sounds I’m used to for a minute. This place, has a different beauty than the ocean, mountains and forests I know. It has the accessible remnants of a very human history. It has rivers in canals, green rolling hills, and forests of young growth. It is alive despite it’s patina.
After Paris, I rented a little car. Doing this from home, before I left, was much more economical than doing it as a walk up. I used sixt and this was what was waiting for me when I arrived. A brand new Citroen.
The Chateau is a dream! It’s the vision of Ziggy Atticus. He’s an artist, originally from New York, who is now creating an oasis for artists in this beautiful French hamlet.
A family of coypus are what create the dirt piles in the foreground.
The bedroom I’m in is just gorgeous!
It looks out over and beyond the scene above.
There are chickens for fresh eggs and goats for cuddling. (They smell exactly like goat cheese)
When I’m not enjoying the little village and the grounds,
I paint! That’s why I received the scholarship to be here, after all!
Ziggy jokingly said that he changes the locks after every residency but I think he actually might have to. It’s a perfect spot for anyone who loves to create!
I’m so grateful to have been chosen to attend while also receiving a scholarship to do so!
If you are interested in the residency you can apply through Instagram. Just post your work and tag Chateau Orquevaux. Dreams can come true.
1. Walk everywhere. But choose an adroitment or two to really get to know.
That way you take home a piece of Paris as yours. You’ve seen the sights, but when you can name shops and streets and gardens, you feel a part of it.
2.Choose a cafe, sit out front and sip. Relax. Give your tired feet a break. Everyday. Once or coffee, once for wine.
I’ve visited Starbucks in Canada, the USA, Peru, Bali, and now Paris. I love their products the free wifi, and the familiarity away from home. They’re the only big brand I look for in faraway places. In Paris, though, it just felt wrong. There are super cute cafes on every street where one could sip great coffee (or a glass of wine) and sit and watch, instead. I did some of that everyday of my visit. Go to the same spot, or try many. It’s all good.
After the Louvre, I visited three more wonderful galleries. Each was somehow more wonderful than the last. Here they are in order:
Musee d’Art moderne
4. Walk Through the original Bon Marche
It’s an amazing place for food and clothes. Think mini boutiques for designers with phenomenal names. You’ll definitely wish it was in your home neighbourhood, just like it is …. because everyone needs these!
…unless you’re after fashion, delicious bread and cheese, and beautiful old art and architecture…and that’s according to the Parisian sales lady at Lululemon, Paris, the least peopled store I’ve popped into here.
She specifically said the west coast of the two Americas are ahead in wellness attitudes. And, she actually did say that the women in Paris are still all about fashion, good cheese, and buttery bread.
So why are there no fat French women I thought to myself after I sheepishly answered yoga to her question about my sport. It’s got to be that they eat less, eat purer ingredients in what they do eat, and climb at least six flights of French stairs a few times a day, because they aren’t doing yoga or meditation or jogging yet! Either that or the French lifestyle is so much more relaxed than ours that their bodies actually function properly.
Did I mention that a fair few of the women here smoke and drink spritz to top off those buttery buns of theirs?
I bought a pair of the new Lulu light pants because I was the only one in the store, I felt sorry for the sales mademoiselle, and those six flights of stairs in jeans are very uncomfortable. I think they could become a best seller here if they were marketed right! Haute Couture=Lulu on the best coast!
Originally, I had planned on visiting the Louvre every morning of my trip. I thought I would get up early and just go and be with the beautiful paintings. I imagined sitting and gazing and sketching. I did go to the Louvre my first day ever in Paris, with those intentions, but Louvre reality was not my vision.
The Louvre is huge. Huge even for a palace…I think…but I don’t really know palaces outside of the one at Disneyland. And it’s got layers to it. Wide titanium white passages, ups, downs, and sideways, and amazing light letting ceiling on the top floor. And in this huge space are huge masterpieces; huge and dark masterpieces. I had a really hard time believing that the crushing crowd I was part of was being trusted around so much priceless art. It made me dizzy, or maybe that was the jet lag.
I mentioned they were huge and dark, these masterpieces. I’ve long been enamoured with the idea that language is unique for each of us because we give each word a meaning that is constructed by our own experience. For me, I think I gave masterpiece a meaning something like….best of the best, beautiful, makes me feel wonder and awe in a lifting sense. My new meaning is a highly revered work painted by a man during dark times for women.
I guess I knew this is what was at the Louvre but seeing so many of these pieces together was startling. I thought a lot about what I was seeing in this collection and what it represented as a period in art history. I noted the absence of femal artists and I wondered what they would have painted. I recognized my personal love of light and colour were needs not being met. I became so grateful for living now, when I can compare art of different periods, turn on the lights, and be free to say, the work of the old masters doesn’t really appeal to me.