The truth about painting landscapes in France

betty ming liu Art, Travel 9 Comments

So I had my first full day of painting in Giverny. It was an experiment in letting go. No judgement, no fear, no pressure. At least, that was the goal…

The weather and scenery were both absolutely gorgeous today. The colors are magic. Plus, the sun shines this time of year from six in the morning until nearly 10 at night.

Being here, it’s easy to see why this is the home of the Impressionists. I am thrilled to be soaking in the same fabulous light that dazzled Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh — two of my favorite painters.

We don’t go to Monet’s garden until tomorrow and I was not the least bit disappointed. Instead, we hung out in a garden on Rue Claude Monet which was filled with beautiful plantings and flowers:



The vistas had me both inspired and intimidated. Really? I’m supposed to eyeball the view and somehow capture it on paper? Well, it didn’t happen for me today:


Bleh! Oh, wait — I’m not supposed to act judgmental. Well clearly, I need to get more zen about embracing my process.

I also got nervous today because Rue Claude Monet attracts tons of tourists. By mid-afternoon, everyone wanted to see what I was creating on my easel. The more the hordes hovered, the more nervous I got.

Painters who are used to working in public spaces just ignore the gawkers. But I freaked out!

Well, it was an experience…

If painting is supposed to be a meditation, then today was a chance to do some warm-up stretches. It was a chance to break free of thinking and over-thinking.

I’ve got a ways to go but the good news is that tomorrow, I get to practice some more. :)

Comments 9

  1. One always hears about the special quality of light in various places, especially Southern France, but I never really paid attention to the idea until, many years ago, when i was in Northern Maine. The light was indescribably different from that of New Jersey. Clarity was a big part of it, I think. One could see an amazing canopy of stars at night and could see a rain storm coming from miles away. I don’t really know what other factors are involved but the difference is very real.

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      Toby, I wish I had time to research this and say something smart about sunlight. But I am absolutely dazzled by the glow we get here. I might be in Maine this summer so excited to have you mention the light there. And you’re line about NJ is a classic! I wonder how I’ll feel about NY light when I get back home.

  2. I can’t imagine creating art while being watched. No wonder you felt some pressure! But what you created is pretty good! So don’t stress. Enjoy.

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      Susan, so nice to have you drop by. I wasn’t feeling too funny today in Monet’s garden. The sheer terror of being in the land of the masters nearly did me in. But humor will get me thru this trip!

  3. Remember the stories about how Bobby Fisher would take his portable chess board down to construction sites in Manhattan so he could practice amid the noise and chaos around him? I write at a Starbucks every morning because it has just the right level of “distraction” to force me to focus, and I become really productive. Maybe the tourists could be doing you a favor if you can find the place where they become background noise that allows you to “slip into the moment” while painting? Have fun!

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    Joel, what a novel thought. I like it! If anything, the tourists are teaching me to lighten up myself. Of course, it’s disappointing that they peek and say nothing. Only once did a woman smile and say, “C’est jolie.” I’m hoping the rest of them think my work is so deep that they feel insecure about their lack of art knowledge and are afraid to sound stupid in front of me. Dream on!

  5. Betty,
    I love your paintings! You captured the light, the colors, the whimsy. Keep it up, girl! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!! And, Monet didn’t paint like Monet right off the bat, either. Those garden scenes are a total visual overload and I see you narrowed the field to manageable compositions. Good strategy!
    Next Saturday I will participate in the Nyack Artist Flash Mob when painters line up on the sidewalks (assigned places) and, for 2 hours, capture part of the town on canvas. I did this a few years ago and was quite uncomfortable when people watched me and – goodness, even talked to me! Unlike Karen, I cannot paint and talk at the same time.
    One man thought he was so funny. Just after setting up my easel and canvas and as I was contemplating how to paint the ugly brick building I was assigned to paint, this jerky guy said, “So what are you doing?” “Painting, ” I mumbled. “Really? Well, I don’t see any paint!” Couldn’t fool that guy.

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