Retreat from the Every Day

I have been home from France for two weeks now and I find myself reflecting on my painting retreat. I also find myself thinking about my retreats which have been almost yearly for 15 years.

All of my retreats have included some time in France, ample alone time to paint, an almost total lack of knowledge of what was happening in the world, sharing some of the time with friends, teachers or my partner, Tim. They have all also been based on pleasure and joy.

Retreats with Friends

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He was perplexed, they were 8297 nanoseconds too late. ©Karin Hillmer

Several years ago I shared my retreat space with the photographer, Karin Hillmer. It was interesting to see what she photographed during the day and what little treasure she would bring home to include into her photographic montage. I also shared time with the composer Donna Miller who played lovely music on the second floor while I painted in the studio on the third floor.

 

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Provénce, 2007. ©Tim Anderson

 

My partner, Tim Anderson, a photographer, has accompanied me to France many times. He has photographed scenes from Paris to Provénce and his own retreats along with mine.

This year I shared a house with my friend Gail who drew on her iPad or with pastels while I painted.

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©g forbes shannon, digital impression

 

Retreats with Teachers

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Sunflowers. ©Suzanne L’Hoste

I have spent time with a mentor, Suzanne L’Hoste, and my first painting teacher, Carole Watanabe. I love being with people who are creating their art as I am doing mine. It is a very interesting and refreshing experiencing for me.

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Watermelon Time. ©Carole Watanabe

 

 

 

This year, I listened as I heard Gail tell people how disciplined I was because I went upstairs and painted almost every day. As I told her, it is not discipline, it is love of painting.

This year I painted in France and Italy for two months. Two years ago I painted in France for three months. No one has been able or wanted to stay that long. Fortunately, I also have loved my alone time there, when it is just me and the paints and my affection of France.

Theresa Sweeney: Eco-Art Therapy

THERESA SWEENEY 1961-2014

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Howler. © Theresa Sweeney

I first became aware of the work and writing of Theresa Sweeney a year before she died when one of my paintings was featured in the journal, Stone Voices: Connecting Art with Spirit. Dr. Sweeney wrote a column in the journal for three years. Her writing centered on healing the self and the earth at the same time through art. She was an artist and founder of the new blended psychology, Eco-Art Therapy.

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What’d Up?  ©Theresa Sweeney

Baby Ella Theresa sweeney Theresa Sweeney: Eco Art Therapy

Baby Ella. ©Theresa Sweeney

 

Since my art focuses on painting nature in order to emphasize its fragility and beauty, I was immediately drawn to her perspective. Here is a segment of her writing that appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Stone Voices.

“My art is a celebration of our connection to Nature. It inspires us because it reaches that non-verbal knowingness deep inside that we are part of something much larger and wiser than ourselves. I like to think of my art as a porthole into that world.”

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Theresa Sweeney was on a mission to reconnect people with the purity, wisdom and spirit of nature within and around us. I think that I now want to read more of her work.

Home from France

Tuesday, I returned home from France after two months. When I am gone from New Mexico for such a long time, re-entry can be a little daunting.

Looking back on those two months brings me insight and questions about my art. During the last two weeks in France, I began to realize that my work is again going through an evolution. Everything is in limbo. I am not sure in which direction the change will take me but I believe in process and waiting to see what develops.

This is my last unfinished painting that I did in Soréze. I just ran out of time.

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Last painting in France-unfinished

When I came home, I learned that I was accepted for an artist residency in 2015 in Sonoma County, California, the area in which I grew up. Sonoma County inhabits a large part of my psyche. My love of the natural world and my inspiration to paint it comes from living there for the first twenty years of my life. That area left a profound imprint on my imagination, and It shaped my idea of beauty and my desire to see that beauty preserved.

Sonoma County Residency Home from France

Sonoma County Artist Residency

So, already in my state of limbo, I seem to have a future creative focus. I will be exploring why my paintings still reverberate with my heartfelt ties to part of northern California.

But what to do between now and then? I will be waiting for direction.

Perspective and Inspiration

Tomorrow will be my last day in Soréze. This past week has taken a burst of energy to finish one more painting, walk around Lake St. Ferreol as many times as possible, find everything that I have scattered around this big house and pack.

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Soréze, France

I have painted as much as I can, gone all of the places that I wanted to visit, and eaten all the yummy food that I wanted. I have walked almost every day and now I need a new pair of shoes. It is time to come home, which I always do with mixed feelings when I leave France. I come to this area and stay so long because I love everything, including having the opportunity to paint at all hours of the day and night.

Traveling gives me new perspective and inspiration. While I have been here, I have experienced a desire to change the way I paint to a more abstract manner, and I have. Here is painting #8.

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Untitled #8, acrylic on canvas, 14×14-inches. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I feel that my work is moving quickly in a new direction and I am not sure where that will take me. I have found a painter in Ireland who does abstract landscape workshops, so maybe I will go there next year. If I do, I will probably need to visit briefly in France.

A Change of Scenery

This past week I took a few days off from painting and drove down to the coastal town of Collioure, France for a change of scenery and for new inspiration. Collioure is on the western side of the Mediterranean, where the Pyrenees meet the sea. It was lovely to be around such blue clear water and sea breezes.

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Collioure, France

Collioure has always been a source of inspiration for artists. Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse and Marquet all painted Collioure to capture its special light and colors of this once small, historical fishing village.

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Collioure, France

These works displayed such vibrant colors and brushstrokes that the artists were referred to as “la cage aux Fauves” (wild beasts) and it is from these artists that the Fauvism movement began.

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View of Collioure (The Bell Tower), Henri Matisse, 1905

On a completely different topic, before I left for the Mediterranean, I completed an image of part of a home here in Soréze. I wanted to see if I could continue being loose with something more structured and architectural. It was a little more challenging, but I continued with my palette knife. It was difficult to get the result that I wanted doing the casings around the window and door with my knife, so I did use a brush for some of those details. For now, I am happy with the results.

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Untitled #7, acrylic on canvas, 14×4-inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

To Paint More Loosely

Although I consider myself an abstract or sometimes an impressionist painter, one of my goals for this trip to France is to paint more loosely, more abstractly.

All too frequently in a quest to represent a subject with the correct perspective, color, and composition, I tend to go for precision instead of flow. The countryside of southern France generally consists of two types of landscape. One is rolling hills and fields planted with numerous crops (below, right). The second is hilltop villages or fortrages (below, left). In the following paintings, I wanted to combine some of the essence of both in an abstract way; loosely.

AHM 3 To Paint More Loosely

This is the first abstract landscape (below) that I did here in France (painting #4) and it was fun to do. I liked the feeling of not wanting to be precise. I had the landscape in front of me, I decided on my palette, and I just let the paint flow. I did very little after the first application of paint. It was fun and I finished it in about half a day. Painting #1 took three days.

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Untitled, #4,acrylic on canvas, 14×14-inches. ©Ann Hart Marquis

The second one was a little more challenging because I wanted to change my palette somewhat, but not completely. I also wanted to try painting in less intense colors. This is how it turned out. I also did it relatively quickly.

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Untitled, # 5, acrylic on canvas, 14×14-inches. ©Ann Hart Marquis

In these two paintings I primarily used a palette knife, which allows me to to just layer one color of paint on top of another until I get the effect that I want. My next painting is going to be more architectural, so I will see how much I choose to stay away from using a brush. I am just having fun with little thought of how anyone will respond to what I paint. But I always appreciate your feedback.

Total Sensual Experience

Many of you know how much I love France. This week was no exception. It was filled with morning walks in the nearby fields, a wonderful farmer’s market, a village antique sale, and painting almost every day for about five hours.

I also walk around a nearby lake (below) as much as possible because it is in a lovely forested area with water gushing into it from a local river. It takes about an hour to complete the circuit.

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Lake Saint Ferreol

France is a total sensual experience for me. Every morning I open the old green wooden shutters to my second floor bedroom and let the sun shine on the mural that goes from floor to ceiling, which means that it is approximately 12×6-feet. Carole Watanabe, the artist who owns the house, painted it. It is a copy of a Matisse painting. Seeing it every morning is a joyous experience.

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Mural on my bedroom wall

My housemate gets a view of this mural that is about 5 x 6 feet.

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Polish Madonna

I am now on my fifth painting and I am about to run out of white paint. I can never have enough white paint. I allowed myself to do one tree painting. It was a necessity for me. There are so many lovely old trees around this area.

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Painting #3

Painting #2 is in limbo due to a possible gesso problem, and paintings 4 and 5 will be included in next week’s post.

I still have no names for any paintings, so feel free to offer suggestions.

Rooftops of Soréze.

I have been in France for 14 days now and I am loving it here. I started painting the day after my friend Gail and I moved into the house in the village of Soréze. It is a medieval village. All of the houses are three stories. During the middle ages, the bottom floor was used to house the farm animals so that they could contribute to the warmth of the house.

I paint in a lovely studio on the third floor that is quite large and has windows that open onto views of nearby rooftops. It also has a great view below of the cobbled stone street. It has skylights so the painting light is perfect. There are exactly 30 stair steps from the first floor to the studio. I go from the bottom to the top about 8 times a day.

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Third floor studio

Here is the first version of my first painting in process. When I took the photo, I thought that I was about half finished. It takes me a little while to get into the French painting groove.

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Beginning of First Painting, Soréze, 2014

Here is the next version.

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Revised version

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Final revision in Soréze

I never say that I have finished a painting here because when I get home it will be stretched onto wooden stretchers bars by my stretching department, better known as Tim Anderson. Now I have canvas taped on a plywood board with green Frog tape, the color of which is somewhat annoying. By the time I get home, which will be in about a month, my paintings sometimes need a little touch up.

No title has come to mind for this painting. Any suggestions?

PS: Here is an image of the lettuce that we buy at the farmer’s market every Saturday at a nearby town. it makes three salads for two people.

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Market day lettuce

Work in Progress

Guest Post by Dotty Seiter

A painter sometimes copies a master’s work to explore aspects of painting-Imitation of a Masterpiece.  Similarly, I appropriated the structure and gist of master poet Billy Collins’ I Ask You to give words to my experience of a total-immersion painting weekend with artist/teacher Ann Marquis and longtime best friend Sylvia in May.

 I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in more than this one,

a sunny morning in May at Sylvia’s kitchen table,
floor-to-ceiling window panes letting in light,
pale walls cocooning our makeshift studio space,
no computer in sight,
my hand held high on a paint brush?

It gives me entrée into here and now—
the play of light and reflection on the glass table,
cadmium yellow and mars black yielding to my palette knife—
while past the backyard oaks the world spins round,
ideas, thoughts, chores, and projects swirling in a frenzy.

Beyond this table there is nothing that I need,
not even a hands-off job with passive income,
or a house by the ocean with an enormous front porch.

No, it’s all here,
muddied rinse water in a plastic container,
a glazed vase holding dried lotus pods,
a nine-inch color wheel,
not to mention Ruth’s still life leaning against the wall,
and the way three hearts—each a different hue and value—
are painting together in perfect harmony.

So forgive me if I cock my head now
and watch Ann bring acrylics to life on her canvas
while my eyes light up in my hand—
sparklers after dark on a summer evening—
and my attention lasers to a whole universe
made of one small canvas
and roughly a million possibilities.

I had no idea when I headed into the weekend with Ann and Sylvia that painting—something I’d never done before—would grab me by the hand and hold fast. No idea.

I returned from Chicago and immediately set up a makeshift studio in my home, north of Boston. I paint nearly every day now, even if only for a few minutes, even if my already over-busy schedule doesn’t allow. When I paint, time falls away completely. I remember this kind of timelessness from when I was eight years old, clambering over the rocky shoreline in front of a summer cottage in Connecticut while a wordless conversation took place between my eyes and feet, and all senses were alert and activated. I pick up a paintbrush now and enter that kind of zone again. All that exists is what is in front of me—that which my hands, eyes, and mind create.

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North Rustico Lighthouse

My first paintings, all five of them!, were mostly realist—pods in a vase, a pear, a tree, an apple, a lighthouse. The lighthouse, in particular, is highly representational, capturing a likeness of one that sat a few hundred feet from the cottage where my husband Dave and I savored a sweet vacation together on Prince Edward Island early in June.  In painting the lighthouse I grappled with perspective, shadow and detail, and I was pleased with its photographic qualities.

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Keeper, Dotty Seiter, 2014

But … something in me was restless. I wanted to paint that lighthouse again. Quickly, playfully, inventively. I wanted to venture into what I think of as impressionism, not that I even know exactly what impressionism really is.

I was paralyzed for a few days. I couldn’t think of how to start. If I didn’t paint exactly what I saw in the photo I was working from, i.e. the white clapboards, the red roof, the deep blue sky, the green grasses, the accurate-as-I-could-get-it shape of the structure, what would I paint?

This, it turns out!

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First Impression, Dotty Seiter, 2014

I completed a first draft in an hour.  That alone was bold and freeing for me.  Though I later fussed a bit with details, I had taken an important step away from my go-to inclination to be literal.

Now I’m restless again. Much as I might have loosened up with my second lighthouse painting, it is by no means loose! Painting keeps pushing me to let go, make mistakes, start again, make more mistakes, stop being tight and stingy, stretch past comfort into new territory. I’m calling First Impression complete and moving on, perceiving with enlivening recognition that whether any one painting is complete or not, painting is a gateway for me and I will always be a work in progress!

The Unexpected Gifts of Travel

Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane in Albuquerque, New Mexico and arrived relatively rested the next day in Rome, where I got on a train to Poggio Mirteto, an hour north. I was then met by one of the owners of the B&B La Torretta, located in the small village of Casperia where there are no cars. Casperia is all up and down walking on cobblestones. It is 1,000 years old and feels like it. Every day I walked up and down numerous narrow walkways trying to walk them all. It was a lovely experience.

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Casperia, Italy

One week ago, I arrived in France. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Toulouse, I felt a change. Although Italy was lovely, I did not feel at home there as I do in France. Even in the countryside, it just feels different although much of it looks the same. I was immediately greeted by the ubiquitous sunflowers that are everywhere in southwestern France. There are not just acres of them, there are miles, and they are huge. There are so many that to paint them seems to me to be a cliché. I have just started painting now that I am settled in a lovely home in the medieval village of Sorèze.

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Ann Hart Marquis- French Sunflowers

With its challenges and marvels, its exquisite food and menus, and trying to speak French, being away from home for a while makes me feel marvelously refreshed and renewed.

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Ann Hart Marquis, French Sunflower with bee