Thursday, 10 April 2014

From Lezele en Plouye

old mill at Pont Morvan
 
Well, I’ve finally made it to Lezele en Plouye, Brittany, France!  I’m finally ensconsed in my ancient/new, temporary abode where I hope to find inspiration and be able to paint.  If not the surrounding scenery, then other places within Brittany, while I explore; or further south, where I KNOW I feel the inspiration!  Getting here wasn’t easy....and has taken all I had in reserve,  as hidden expenses, unforeseen problems, and just  time got in the way.  I’m here now, and am already itching to get settled enough to begin to paint.  I have been reunited with my beloved mare, Dancer, after nearly 6 months, and am now exploring creative ways to get my cat, Ceilidh here with me. 

Incredibly, I had an easy drive, once I saw Dancer (who was in Wales temporarily), and headed on to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel in my car (no ferry this stormy time....) I found myself in the  beautiful, big skies of Normandy, and landed with a dear friend I’d not seen in years.  She generously made her little gite available for my first week in France.  The perfect place for me to settle, get my bearings, and get my head around this huge leap I’ve taken in my life – if even for 6 months!  As you might guess, I got out into the sun each day and explored more of the Normandy coast around LeBourg Dun – returned to Sottieville for more photos and sketching, and Vuelettes  sur Mer, which is like a mini Etretat (just a bit further West along the coast, unsurprisingly!) .  This part of France has always inspired me, and I’m not surprised to be beginning there with my sketching. 
 
I then landed with new friends at Kervalen Organic Farm (www.kervelenorganicholidays.com) , in Kervalen, by Plouye (just a mile up the road from Lezele), where I waited for Dancer to arrive a day later!  A week there settling my very patient horse, then moved to Lezele, where I will spend the next 5/6 months, while I explore this new world!  So far, its been rolling hills, sunlight, riding, and finally, a bit of inspiration at an old mill, still fairly intact – although the mill works have been removed and stored in a barn...  A nice gentle beginning. 
 
I’m actively marketing my sketches now, as a way of raising a bit of cash to keep me afloat in between painting sales. It IS a way for people who can’t afford the oil paintings, to have a Wendorf – and many love the immediacy of a quick sketch.  And to  add to the mix, I’ve met with a Scottish neighbour (yep, in France, I’ve got a Scottish neighbour... ), and he’s asked if I’d be interested in a little summer exhibition with himself and a few other local artists in a wonderful space in Huelgoat.  I said unequivably, “Yes!!”  At least a chance to get my work out!  In the meantime, I’m also putting one foot in front of the other, as I spoke about before, leaving no stone unturned, looking for ways to make up for the loss of “potential income” of those two cancelled summer exhibitions.   
 
But what I really need is to find my focus, my rhythm – which seems a bit hard won at the moment, with so much on my mind.  I need to find that quiet place inside me that sees and hears the need to paint something; that understands, trusts, and knows that all will be ok.  I’d not have had all the help to get here if I was going to fail!  I saw on Facebook the other day a quote from Georgia O’Keefe, who basically said she never had a day where she didn’t have to face fear in her artistic life.  I suddenly felt in grand company, normal, not so alone. 
 
I’m ending this missive, by posting a few of the new sketches – note, I’m a bit homesick for Scotland as well as New Mexico, thus two large Scottish sketches....if that isn’t a muddle, I don’t know what is!!

 
 Loch Shiel scketch, autumn 2013,  approx. 11 x 16 in., charcoal on paper £200
 
Mill at Pont Morvan, sketch  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100

 Sottieville sketch, spring 2014,  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100
 


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

the Business of Being an Artist

Etretat Spring, 9 x 12 in., oil on board, £700


As I write from a small Normandy village not far from Etretat, I'm reminded that in spite of the stress and fear associated with living constantly on a financial edge, I live quite a charmed life.... traveling, answering to no-one, not having to get up early, drive horrible commutes, etc., etc.  But there are paybacks to this charmed life.  There is the constant knowledge that at any one moment, your fortunes could change, you might not pay your rent, your loan payment, your food bill; your carefully laid plans for exhibitions and sales might evaporate into thin air, and through no fault of your own.  Yes, I lead a charmed life and answer to no-one, but I also live my life by the generosity, support and good will of others.  Without their patronage, whether it be a gift of a house to live in for awhile, or the sale of a painting or planned exhibitions, I would have to return to the world of punching a time-clock. 

What does an artist do when plans change, when other peoples lives and difficulties create their own changes and difficulties in your own?  (And I'm NOT drawing those obvious lines, because these are the chances I took on when I began to paint full-time).  What do I do?  Well, I keep working, and talking, and selling and FIND the next exhibition; try to fill that space that has been emptied, with a few sales to make up for the inevitable lost revenue, and keep planning ahead.  Most dealers and artists plan exhibitions a year or two, even three, in advance.  So immediately filling a space in 6 months is a tall order, but not impossible.  Cancellations happen, schedules open up.  And more importantly, its an opportunity to find new clients, patrons, and new exhibitions. 

I have unfortunately had two scheduled exhibitions cancelled this summer - in two different countries.  And BOTH were incredible opportunities!  One is postponed, but the other just gone.  In addition to changing countries - and all that entails - I'm now looking to fill those two voids, with either exhibitions or new clients.  I guess I'm reminding myself that being an artist means more than just the painting (or music, or writing, or sculpting) -- the act of creating.  It is also the nitty gritty down to earth need to get out there, hussle and talk and meet people when you don't feel like it.  Take a few days or weeks to assess and regroup, and let solutions come to the fore; and above all, don't spend time complaining about the injustice of it all. We artists lead charmed lives, and there is also work involved that means sometimes being a little tougher. There is no room for fear, so when it haunts you, turn and face it down, never let it keep you from moving forward. No matter how hesitant those new steps feel, keep putting your feet one in front of the other, keep peering through and trying new doors, and keep the work happening.  NEVER, never, never give up! 

I've been fortunate to be staying with a friend who over the years has never hesitated to remind me to get up, dust myself off, and that I have NO reason to fear, to never forget what an incredible life is possible as an artist, and I am incredibly grateful, as always.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

In France, Finally....

Dieppe Harbor, 14 x 11 in., oil on board, £1,000.00

 



Grand Mare, Sottieville, Normandy  (pleinaire) 8 x 10 in., oil on board, £700.00

I'm writing today from a small village not far from the coast of Normandy.  In fact, the two paintings above are images from the part of France I'm currently passing through.... the top painting is one I did several years ago of the harbour at Dieppe, the lower one is a pleinaire painting  I did during the Grand Mare in Sottieville.  I can feel the stress of starting this move begin to melt away as I sit in a Normandy farm house, watching the weather come and go, and thinking of doing no more than going for a walk (no, not even a run).  I can feel the hope and excitement begin to fill my heart, as I consider the next 6 months.... nothing to do but explore, paint, do the business of being a painter (ie exhibit and sell those paintings) and enjoy my horse for the first time in four months!  I want to get my brushes out, am itching to get to work!  Not time for THAT yet, but I will set out with the camera and sketchbook today! 

Change is difficult for everyone, and some artists absolutely can't handle it; but this artist seems to thrive on new inspiration.  This change has been hard won, but I believe truly that it will prove to be another momentous shift in my work.  Even the hiatus from painting since late October 2013 will, I think, prove to help my paintings leap forward! 

Friday, 28 February 2014

more tales from the Hotel California
 
Or perhaps, further adventures in checking out for Gail, Dancer and Ceilidh.  Its an adventure trying to change countries, and not for the faint hearted!  Dancer is currently out of the Welsh rain in a paid stable, awaiting a ride to France, Ceilidh has her passport and will follow once I settle into the house, and me, I'm healing my cracked rib, and trying to settle the 'tab' in the Hotel California so we can all leave!  Glenfinnan feels good right now.  It is my trusty cave in the Highlands while I work life out.  Thanks again to the kindness of friends, this time in Scotland is soft, perfect.  The hooks are sinking deeper every day. 
 
However, challenges aside, I AM getting excited!  I've no idea where I'll start, painting - wise!  But this change for me and my little family has been hard won, and much needed.  By the time I can pick up the brushes, I've a feeling it'll be when I finally arrive and settle into Lezele.  My days are spent preparing myself and my painting supplies for 6 months of focused work.  I've begun to run again, to rebuild my strength in preparation for the next 6 months.  Its a slow process, the cracked rib gives me a bit of grief, but not so much that I feel I need to slow down.  Its so strange to me here, to write about mundane things....but I can't even THINK about picking up a brush right now.  I can only focus on breathing in and out and keeping my eye on the horizon and one foot in front of the other, and ear to my inner voice that tells me to "trust, its going to work out beautifully..."  I leave you with a favourite image of mine...  Autumn on the Muidhe, 16 x 24 in., oil on canvas, £2,000. 



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

CHANGE!!


 

A dear friend said to me, when I gave an account of some of my travel tales from the past three months, that I should at the very least be a blues player.  That like all blues players, my best work should come of the incredible adventures and challenges of the journey.  I hope he's right!  I've not picked up a brush since late October when the arrangements of this trip took control of my life! 
 
On November 15, Dancer (my very forgiving and patient horse and companion of 24 of her 26 years) and I set off for Trecastle, Wales, where she would spend the next three + months in the loving care of dear friends who know horses and had offered to take her so I could leave for an extended trip!  I can't tell you the number of times in my life lately that I have been humbled and offered help from friends unexpectedly, and its made it possible for me to keep moving forward through this lengthy time of transition!  But I digress.....  Dancer and I arrived late that night, and I had one day to settle her (NOT recommended, and I knew better, but circumstances demanded it).  I left for London 24 hours later, and on to the USA the following afternoon. 
 
Long story made shorter, after several months travelling, visiting, feeling supported by and loved by family and friends, I returned to the UK and quickly took a ferry over to Basse Normandy and Brittany to investigate leads on my next place to explore living and working.  After days of looking around Normandy, and waiting - knowing that none of the places I'd seen were going to work for me and my little 'family'; I headed to check out a friend's cottage in Lezele (by Plouye).  Zing!  This place is a beautifully restored 16th century Braeton house (or 3 cottages cobbled together), in a very small, quiet village in nearly the center of Brittany - not far from Huelgoat or Carhaix. I've been offered this place in beautiful Brittany for 5 months from mid-April ish, taking care of this house. There is a place for Dancer with other horses a mile away, and Ceilidh the cat is also welcome with me.  Its a small step; to try on living in France, without the big commitment of moving Dancer to the south of France before I've had time to make sure its what I want or need to do!  And, since I've decided to take this offer, things have begun to fall into place.  At least there is the illusion that they're falling into place! I also feel I have EARNED every bit certainty after the adventures of not only the last 3 months, but the last year.
 
Brittany is hilly and more forested than Normandy and yet I'm fairly close to the beaches and cliffs that I've painted there in the past!  AND, I'll have the opportunity to explore more into the South of France, and possibly other locations for painting.  After months of fear, I'm beginning to feel excitement!  Even that isn't without its fear though....  change is hard - even if the change is needed.  I now have Ceilidh's passport, and am working on getting Dancer moved from Wales; and in the meantime, am nursing a cracked rib which I earned by slipping on the door stoop of the Lezele house.  And now that I have my computer and broadband back again, hopefully there will be more to say as I take these seemingly huge steps in the next few weeks!
 
In the meantime, from Glenfinnan, stay tuned!!
 
 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

SKETCHES AND PAINTINGS



I started writing this from Dallas, Texas and am now in Arizona; where I'm visiting family and friends, making new friends and clients, and selling the odd painting - always a good thing!

I've been on the road since Nov. 15, so there is no focus on painting at the moment, but on marketing and letting the world know I'm still here.  After an intense 5 days, suddenly moving into action: time to get my beloved horse down to her holiday farm in Wales (a 14 hour trek for her which she did with great aplomb), with only 24 hours to settle her in, then on to London for a night to get to Heathrow and catch a noon flight out to DFW on the 17th; I landed in Dallas and the bosom of my family .  Dad and his wife, Christy live there, and a brother, along with a number of friends - some of which have known me longer than most people.  It has been an incredible, action packed, fun-filled, and bittersweet trip.  As always, when I come to Dallas, an army of friends and family envelope me, glad to see me, and rise to the challenge of introducing me to new friends who perhaps might also become clients and begin to collect my paintings.  For me, first and foremost, I enjoy meeting the people and making new friends.  The painting sales are important, but in the end, always secondary and actually, almost unimportant.  But this is an important side of being an artist; being in the world, and getting support and love from those who care for and know you, and meeting new people - always, meeting new people....  talking about your art and selling it. 

One memorable thing I've done is to attend an exhibition of Edward Hopper's sketches (and process) at the Dallas Museum of Art.  I went with some of my extended family of women (way to complicated for this short missive), and discovered how much more I liked the immediacy of his preliminary sketches as he worked out composition, figures, hands, feet, lighting, and focus before committing paint to canvas.  I loved discussing these things with my family as we wandered through the amazing exhibition.   They really didn't know that I also did much the same thing (as most painters must do) for any painting.  Interestingly, suddenly in the last few months, there has been an interest in my sketches.  I produce them only for me, for my eyes, for my work - not for the general public, so it was a scary thing to photograph them and place them in a portfolio of sorts for some new clients - many of them next to the paintings they were for - and put a price on them.  I attended another exhibition on the 3rd Dec that also is sketches, thus the process of painting,  AND the massive, wonderful portraits in heavily laid on oil paint that depict the artist's family and neighbors in his Ft. Worth neighbourhood.  This exhibition of the work of Sedrick Huckaby at the Valley House Gallery in Dallas was inspiring.  The artist wonderfully unassuming, younger than his years, but wonderfully able to talk about his work; which is unusual.  So many artists find it difficult to speak about their paintings and yet its one of the most important things you can learn outside of the process of creating; the ability to speak about your work. 

Another incredible memory that perhaps one day will find its way into my painting is dancing with my Dad.....  reflecting back to my series Waltz Across Texas, I found myself two-stepping in place with my Dad.  Sadly, he's being taken from us slowly by alzheimers, but for now, he's able to communicate with song and dance  - my own passions which drive my painting, even the landscapes.  In the landscapes I paint, I still feel passion, music, and movement.

The images below are a short illustration for you all of the journey from sketch to finished painting.  The
 sketch for Up Through the Olive Grove... approx. 11 x 16 in., charcoal on paper £200
 sketch for Sharing A Joke, approx. 11 x 16 in., charcoal on paper £200.
 Sharing a Joke, 22 x 18 in.,  oil on canvas, £2,000.00
Up Through the Olive Groves, 16 x 24 in., oil on canvas, sold...

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Gail Wendorf Studio in the "Hotel California!"

"....Last thing I remember, I was
running for the door,
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax", said the nightman ,
We are programed to receive.
You can check out anytime you like,
But you can never leave!""

Many of us will remember these last lines of the Hotel California, by the Eagles.  Over this past month, I have come to realize just how apt these lines are in describing how I feel about living out this transition phase of my life.  Being an artist, to me, means sometimes embracing the float; waiting and holding on until the next step is under my moving feet.  That has been particularly difficult this last month.  Continuing to put one foot in front of the next, and trusting that I'm not just walking in circles; each door leading back into the room I just left.  And in the middle of it all, keeping something moving on the easel.  Its been slow, painful work.  But I've managed - and the result is below.  I know you'll enjoy this view of St. Agnes, in the Provence Alps Cote d'Azur region of southern France.  I was on my way to Fontan, I believed, when turned away by an avalanche (seriously!), and was forced to stay in the area I had originally planned to end up - seeing new friends at a party I'd been invited to - the beautiful village of St. Agnes, in the hills overlooking Menton on the French/Italian border.  I spent the day walking in the village, exploring the hills, and just absorbing the spirit and soul of this enchanting part of France.  So, here's the first of hopefully many... currently off the easel in the Hotel California (Glenfinnan).

 Old St. Agnes, Provence Alps Cote d'Azur, 16 x 12 in., oil on board, £1,250.00
On the other side of all this amazing change, is the sad fact that soon I AM leaving my home of 10 years.  And it is breaking my heart - Glenfinnan, in fact the Highlands, have been experiencing one of the most gorgeous autumns that I've had the pleasure of experiencing in the last 15 years since I began coming here to paint! I WANT to paint right now, and am forced to wait even for that since I have so much business work to take care of first!  What makes I bearable is that I KNOW I'll be coming back.... at the very least, to paint and visit my dear friends.....  You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave...
Another place I've had the honor of living in, that has also sunk deep hooks into my back.