Southern Belles--the Artists' Way

Sarah, kiddies, Howard and I visited an intriguing museum, once a beautiful chateau, majestically over looking the turquoise waters of Lake Geneva. I remember best the sky packed with energy, clouds swiftly casting lavender shadows on the ground below. It was one of those transcendent moments, etched in one's memory. I brought the photo to class, hoping I would be able to recall the beauty of the moment last summer.
(This is the back view from the chateau, looking into the immense estate gardens.)
Charlotte, North Caroline--February 2009
Eighteen eager painters, one teacher (Connie Winters) and workshop organizer (Sharon Schwenk) results in a well planned, fun painting workshop. Host it in Charlotte, North Carolina and you have the added ingredient of SOUTHERN CHARM. My second workshop with Connie was as exciting as the first in 2008. The gracious friendliness of the women still the same. There were about half of the women who attended last year in attendance. It was fun to renew acquaintances.
Connie is a well known, highly respected artist, represented in many top notch galleries through out the states and France. She has a distinctive style, rather like the southern mystique: refined, quiet but with healthy doses of energy, color and sparkle. She is a prolific painter, keeping the galleries filled with beautiful paintings.
We arrive at the Matthews Community Center each morning at 9:00. Everyone is chatting and eager to start the day. Connie, a true professional, starts promptly at 9:30 with her daily demonstration. Working from a photograph she has personally taken in France, she works through her steps "on stage." She is patient and happy to answer the questions, which are numerable. Periodically she stops so that everyone can line up and take a photo. This is always interesting as some of the women with "fancy-nancy" cameras really aren't sure how to use them!!! You have never seen so many lah-de-dah cameras in one room.
This painting is as complete as Connie will make it during the workshop. She completes the painting at home. The women can purchase the workshop demonstration canvases, completed and framed.
Connie has "time proven" steps in constructing a painting. The steps help us be more successful with our own paintings. It is a real treat to have a teacher who knows how to share her style of painting, is patient and wants her students to succeed. This is the last day of the workshop. Sharon is moving paintings around for Connie to critique.
On Friday, after the last demonstration and a delicious lunch provided by Sharon, we clean away all of our painting gear...packed off to our cars. The room suddenly looms vast and empty. Moments ago it had been overly full.
The rest of the afternoon is spent listening to Connie individually critique one canvas each painted by the artist. For me it is an opportunity to look at other's art, see for myself what are the strength and weaknesses, then compare to what Connie has to say. Sharon looks pretty tuckered in this photo. She has such a big responsibility to keep the workshop flowing smoothly, help anyone who needs help and prepare three delicious lunches.
This year there was a couple, Melanie and Tony Alexander who attended the workshop. She is a faux finisher. They have been taking workshops together. I stood next to them. They produced some lovely paintings. The easel to the right of the photo is the "Cadillac" of easels....way over my budget!!
Another view of the classroom. The first day of class, three different floral still life arrangements are set up. The floral arrangements are lit with spotlights. We all juggle around to find the still life we like and a spot to put our easel. My first choice arrangement was too crowded, so this was my second choice. This is my version of the still life. I love the yummy yellow. It is a happy painting.
My easel is next to the women, back to viewer, bending over the table. I was by the outside door and the table where the participants got their paint thinner, paper towels, etc. People were always passing by. A rather "chatty" corner of the room.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday we would line up for a fun lunch. Sharon was once head of the school district's school lunch program, and herself an accomplished cook. The food definitely had a southern sensibility to it. Eating-in was fun because it gave us time to visit with one another.
Here we are eating. Sharon is in the left corner, Connie next to her and Lynda Baddour with the silver hair and glasses is from Chapel Hill. Her husband is the athletic director for the North Carolina University. Hunter and Howard were pretty impressed when I told them who I had met....not that I knew he was so famous! She was one of the ladies who went to the Thai dinner with us on Wednesday evening. (previous blog) Lynda is a newer painter, caught up in the painting fever!
This painting was inspired by a photo in a little village outside of Aix, Provence. Matthew, Sarah, kiddies, Christopher, Howard and I climbed the steep hills, peeking into charming homes and patios, spotting views from the many slate rooftops standing as sentinels over the lower valley. I recall turning a corner, happening upon this little cubby hole of charm
Cezanne's atelier in Aix, Provence is where we spent a few hours, day dreaming inside Cezanne's studio. It stands as it was when he passed away. Props we have seen in so many of his paintings lined the walls, bushy brushes, tattered hat and coat casually tossed on a coat tree, dusty frames, unfinished canvases, bent and spent tubes of paint gently coaxed us into his world. One could feel his life force within the walls.
Outside, the sun was brilliant, the shadows deep and purple casting long fingers on the dirt paths. Tables were filled with visitors and sleepy lazy cats. How could one not want to paint it?

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Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you take to say hello. Warmly, Sharon