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Our lodge was on rue Blanche Hoshede Monet, named after the wife of Claude Monet. I would be instructing students in watercolor and acrylics and we would be painting daily in Monet’s Garden, a dream of many painters. We had studied Monet – who has inspired many a painter with his palette of limited colors and his impressionistic technique – and loved his work.
The streets of Giverny are so picturesque. At each turn there are gardens: a flower garden, or a vegetable garden lined with rose bushes, and the gardens of the American Museum. Then, as we arrived in front of our lodge, we were welcomed by a garden of hanging pots of red geraniums. The sounds of a farm yard around in back of the lodge (near the painting atelier studio) produced their own unique bonjour; chickens were clucking, a rooster was crowing, and even the subtle thumping noise of a bounding kangaroo all formed a chorus. A grand proud male peacock strutted and opened his tail feathers to fan a brilliant hello.
Such was our arrival! After unpacking and being driven to the Monet’s Garden – only a block away – we were able to enter Garden after the public had left for the evening. With the benefit of the Normandy light, we photographed, sketched and generally prepared ourselves for eleven days of painting in one of the most famous gardens in the world.
The flowers seemed to be woven into patterns of warm and cool colors. As a colorist painter, a lover of brilliant patterns of color, a plein air artist and an instructor, I felt so honored to have the opportunity to teach and to paint in this very special place. The beauty of it was resplendent, yet when it was quiet (and available only to the few of us), a special peaceful aura settled through us. It was the most beautiful painting experience that I can recall.
Not only did I teach in the garden, we took many trips in the countryside and the nearby village of Vernon. I love painting in markets almost as much as painting in gardens. On Wednesday morning, as I waited for my students to scan the freshly displayed delights, I enjoyed painting a little sketch of the outdoor market from a coffee shop. I arrived early to find a good spot to view the market and to watch the vendors setting up their colorful displays of fresh vegetables, cheeses, olives, fruit, and often to taste some offered samples. The flavor and the hustle and bustle of the local folks doing their daily shopping gave me the feeling that I was gaining insights into the customs of each town or village.
There is so much to do and see, so much beauty, so much to paint, and to capture on our sketch pads, on our canvases and in our hearts. Each day brought even more fun and painting experiences. And there are also things to do relatively close by: two of my students took the train into Paris – just 45 minutes away – to view the city on a double-decker sight seeing bus, and, of course, to shop for some lovely underwear and perfume. The museums would wait for another day! We all know that we will want to return to paint in France, as there are not enough days, enough sunrises and enough sunsets. We want more light, more time, and more of Monet’s Garden.
The Café Baudy in Giverny
Each student was working at a different artistic level and often even in a
different medium. Some were working in acrylics, but nevertheless, when teaching, the elements of a painting are much the same. For example, the composition, emotional quality, color mixing, and balance remain constant. After spending the morning painting, we gathered for lunch outside under umbrellas in the courtyard. The view of the countryside was splendid, and once again, while sketching, painting, photographing, all were inspired. How marvelous that even as we were eating omelets, and tarte aux pommes for dessert, we knew that the evening would bring us an elegant dinner at our lodge, prepared by a noted French chef. Each day in Giverny had many special flavors: special wines and cheeses to be sure, but also breathtaking vistas and the camaraderie of fellow artists as delighted to be there and enjoy each inspiration as yours truly.