Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Different Kind of Color
miles of walking
Musée Picasso Vallauris
My month long art residency at AIR Vallauris began on March 29.
Dale (director of the residency) introduced to me to Leslie Parke, 
a painter from upstate New York, and the only other artist for the session. 
Over a very french lunch, Dale, Leslie and I got acquainted.
The house is a small narrow four story stone building in the center of town
We each had our own floor with a monk-like room, bathroom and small work area.  
The kitchen/living area is on the second floor 
and the ground floor houses the AIR Vallauris office and gallery.  
Dale handed us our welcome packages filled with maps, bus schedules, 
and our own tight art making schedule.  
He gave us an overall view of our artistic and domestic responsibilities 
and most importantly said he needed a piece of art 
and our bios for our show's postcard, 
by the following week. 
Nothing like jumping in on day one!
We saw our ceramic studios,  
located in two separate buildings up a steep hill,  
and then toured the town.
Pablo Picasso Linocut
Vallauris, a very small working class town located 
in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France, 
 just north of Golfe-Juan and midway between Cannes and Antibes.
It is best known for ceramics and AIR Vallauris is primarily, 
but not exclusively a residency for ceramic artists.
Ceramics have been in production in Vallauris since Roman times 
but it really hit it's artistic stride in the 1940's when 
Picasso and pals came to town. 
Picasso ceramics from Madoura
In 1938 Suzanne and Georges Ramie founded the pottery workshop Madoura in Vallauris.
From the late 40s, an influx of potters from different parts of the country gravitated there,
 drawn to the attractive living and working conditions of this small, old, picturesque, town.

In 1946, Picasso came to Madoura where he experimented with painted, sculptural ceramics.
He lived in Vallauris from 1948 until 1955.
Vallauris is still very picturesque, rich in artistic history and
is still home to many serious artists and ceramists.
But, it is a bit tired and rundown
Lots of buildings are empty and 
 the too many kitschy souvenir pottery shops are unavoidable,
 selling every shaped cup, plate, vase, or urn 
decorated with the ubiquitous Provençal themes 
of grapes, lavender, olives or sunflowers. 
And the tourists who flock to town love them!
As I looked around, my enthusiasm waned...
My original proposal was to do watercolor paintings of the markets, streets scenes and sea.
Having previously done that at the residency in Biarritz,  
 the idea now seemed bland and repetitive.
The closest water was in Golfe-Juan,  
a popular spot for beach goers, retirees and the yachting crowd
but not my kind of painting place

So the next day in search of inspiration I walked to
Le Cannet
March 30, 7.91 miles
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) is one of my favorite painters. 
He lived and worked in Le Cannet for almost 22 years, 
depicting the sea, gardens and light of the Midi. 
Pierre Bonnard  Paysage du Cannet
I was sure that something along the way there would appeal. 
 I walked and looked, just about every promising vista 
was obscured by hedges or those fake green hedges.  
YIKES it was the SUBURBS! 
Everyone seemed to want to hide their little bit of heaven from any interlopers!
 There were glimpses of landscape but nowhere to sit, 
no water source and an uphill hike all the way to Le Cannet.
So far everything seemed to be conspiring against me
I had a nice lunch in town, went to the Musée Bonnard, couldn't find his house, 
then walked back, tired and discouraged 
Cannet then and now
For the next couple of days, I worked on watercolors (A Different Kind of Color
based on the towns I had already visited, and started playing with some porcelain.
 And I studied every guide book in the house trying to find somewhere suitable 
on the sea to paint outside
until finally
Just off the coast of Cannes about 20 minutes away by boat are the Lérin Islands

Cannes/ Île Saint-Honorat
April 2, 6.26 miles
 With paints, paper, and provisions,
I caught the "dollar" (1 euro) bus to Cannes, about 1/2 hour away. 
It was my first time there and
it took a while but I found the tourist office and got a map of town and directions to the quai.
With seconds to spare, I made it to the boat.

I chose Île Saint-Honorat, the second largest of the Lérins islands.
 Its bigger neighbor Île Sainte-Marguerite, home of Fort Royal prison
and known for its infamous inmate the Man in the Iron Mask,
was too crowded.
Saint-Honorat is only 1.5km long and 4km wide.
It is named for Saint Honoratus, the Abbot of the monastery of Lérins, 
which was founded there around 410. 
Today the island is inhabited by about 22 Cistercian monks. 
They are the only ones who live there,
cultivating 8 hectares of vines, the gardens and the numerous ancient olive trees.
 The vineyards produce 6 different grape varietals and 
the island is known for its wines, lavender and olive oils.
Aleppo and maritime pines edge the coastline, and razor sharp looking rocks stud the water. 
It is quiet early in the day, breezy with beautiful views of the sea, the vineyards 
and the mainland.
The vines were just opening up, the trees beginning to flower and 
the wisteria in full bloom, when I arrived
Abbaye Lérins
After an initial recon, I did some really bad paintings.....
(not shown here!)
but was finally 

Île St Honorat
April 6,  6.56 miles
Rock the Casbah 1
Rock the Casbah 2
Rock the Casbah 3
My second day there, I relaxed into a routine:
grab a pricey café crème at La Tonnelle (the only restaurant)
fill up the water bottle
find the right spot empty of people
start working
try to ignore 
all those other visitors getting off the next boat

the vacationing families
the school groups
the monk groupies
the wine drinkers 
the yachters
the curious watching over my shoulder
 do three paintings 

 Back in Vallauris
Leslie and I settled into a companionable routine too
Leslie Parke
She was painting ceramics and, painting "Goya on Garbage
tiny studies of Goya's paintings on found materials
in one of the ceramic studios
 On the days I wasn't off on the island,  
I continued working on my "A Different Kind of Color" watercolors in our kitchen 

Nemesis....Pigeons at Night  Vallauris
and used the other ceramic studio to work on my porcelain Coasters d'Azurs
We'd meet up late in the afternoon, sometimes walk downhill to Golfe-Juan for a café
or go food shopping.  
At night we'd chat about the day over dinner and a glass of rosé.
Every Tuesday we'd meet with Dale, discuss our progress, 
get supplies and plan the next week.

By the end of week one, we had our images ready for the postcard!

Feeling better about work having an escape hatch to Saint-Honorat, 
Vallauris began to grow on me.
I liked walking around town discovering things.
I visited the Picasso Museum, and Madoura, found a decent boulangerie
and discovered the joys of the Intermarché, an enormous supermarket. 
A real plus for a town without even a cheese shop!
After dinner we'd go to our separate floors, netflix and books on our separate devices
Outlander for me and Un Village Français for Leslie

April 11,  5.25 miles
The weather improved, with brilliant skies and water, le Côte d'Azur..... eye candy
My twice weekly trips to Saint-Honorat were theraputic, the boat rides, 
fresh air, the shocking turquoise water  
and the peacefulness were a bright change.
In such a beautiful natural place, I thought a lot about my father and
liked to imagine his spirit in the clouds above watching me paint, playing cards and golf with his pals,
hanging out in the vineyards   
communing silently with the monks,
and sharing a glass of their best rouge.....(380 Euros a bottle!)
and my paintings progressed
Parsien du Nord
End of the island day, before catching the boat back

 next up, more island, paintings and
Antibes  etc...
Musée Picasso  Antibes