One might think that after years of periodically witnessing our art students wander aimlessly up and down the grand hallway searching desperately for inspiration, I might have been more sensitive to the burdens of a creative block. I guess you can’t know until you’ve been there- and more than ever, in the last 14 days, I’ve been wandering that hallway myself. I had a moment of self-realization last week, and pumped out some thoughts that came straight from the heart- but that’s about all I’ve had. Now, I’m fessing up. I am standing on a wordless dead end corridor. By admitting it, I’m hoping that I can turn around, go back down the stairs and wander back to where I started, finding the inspiration I’m looking for without the pressure of production. That said, I also suspect you’ll all sleep fine without my blogs and will happily make do with the more visual posts on FB and Instgram.
So, what did I want to write lengthy and lovely blogs about? Adventures in the historic marketplace at Troyes juxtaposed with a visit to their impressive modern art museum, musings in the garden and atelier of the one of my personal favorites, Pierre August Renoir, and finally, a wonderful visit from our dear friend Claude and his lovely granddaughter Zoe, as he returned once again to share in his talent and passion for water color.
So, there may be some slight irony here- I am writing this bit, aren’t I? Fingers crossed this self-proclaimed block is close to over, and I can stop wandering aimlessly in the hallway.
PS- The students are having fun and working hard! They are not wandering helplessly and will have lots of fabulous work on Friday night for their exhibition.
The days are longer here, but we are finding this to always be a good thing. As darkness doesn’t arrive until after 10:30 pm, time is on the students’ side to do both what they need and what they like to do. The drawing session are rigorous and require a stillness and degree of concentration that would make most people squirm. These seven dedicated students however have not once questioned the need to spend seven hours a day on their work. They are using both traditional and unfamiliar mediums and methods, challenging themselves, and creating an artistic dialogue with the other students and their teachers. Such good work is balanced with enough free time that the students are able to re-energize themselves while taking in some wonderfully authentic experiences. For example, during one of their breaks yesterday, they actually all played an energized game of cat and mouse with our children. Legs, bikes, and even Remy’s favorite “mobile” were employed, and this game went on long beyond dusk. Without those extra hours of sunlight, it would be harder to find a balance of work and play. We are grateful for the daylight and all that she affords us here.
Today this students are headed off to Troyes with JP and Bud. Here’s an interesting article, written by our new friend from Essoyes, about the dazzling little city.
I generally avoid tuning into the news on a daily basis while abroad. I typically wait until I’m in an airport hotel, and give myself 25 minutes worth of BBC information just so I’m prepared for my travels. However, this is the first year that we have had a strong Wifi (Weefee as the French say) signal in the chateau itself, and it has impacted our program in a number of ways. Especially today.
At first the internet and world-wide access to information was a simple annoyance, as we tried to redirect our teenaged students back to their work. That took care of itself, as the kids began to immerse themselves in their work and let go of the proverbial security blanket that their smartphones tend to be. I would say, it was quieter here when they were tuned in, but I’m happier to hear the banter across sketchbooks now that the thrill of French YouTube has waned.
Next, it proved to be useful tool. I have not had to wander the mile down to the local hotel to blog, and all of our participants have actively uploaded fun photos and stories to share. Our first hashtag, #drawininfrance2016, which sounds utterly tacky coming out of my 30 something mouth, has been a success. This is what makes the internet great, right?
But the internet woke me up with a less joyful jolt this morning, as I tuned in to check the FB account, the weather, and then ultimately, the news. America is writhing again, troubled with gun violence, police violence, political turmoil, and cheap celebrity news. The students got word of the most devastating of these current events as well- and it changed the tenor of the discussion across the table. It was good discussion, heated discussion, and ultimately a discussion that made them think about where they are right now, where they will ultimately return to, and what their role is in the world. Maybe this made the WeeFee all worth it.
We will keep connected in the next few weeks and maybe these difficult stories, coupled with the immediate sensations that the students are experiencing while here in France, will fuel their creativity further. For good and for bad, we will create art with extra access to the dynamic world around us and beyond.
Seven students, two teachers, and a whole lot of sunshine has resulted in dozens of beautiful renderings already. We have only had our full group since Sunday and already the artistic flow has been found. For many of our students, it is their first time in France, and the inspiration is coming in from everywhere. New foods, new faces, new facades, new flora and fauna. They have already begun to capture these things in their sketchbooks and tomorrow will start preparing larger scale images. A subtle buzz of anxiety reminds them that they will be putting these works on display for the village in just over a week- but all enjoy the thrill of the challenge.
Tomorrow will mark our first day off-property, as we venture to a local mountain top to view and draw the vineyards from the peak. The adventure will offer yet another new experience, but also let the kids look forward to “returning home to the chateau” that evening. Familiarity comes fast around here, and we always look forward to that.
Follow our photos on FB, Instagram, and Twitter with #drawinginfrance2016
I will send out a lengthier update soon, just warming up and settling in!