Photo: Ziggy Attias
This month I completed my first artist residency at Chateau d'Orquevaux in the Haute-Marne region of France. I don't really know how I would begin to describe the experience. I have only been home for a short time, and my head is still full of the memories of this beautiful region and the incredible people I was fortunate to meet there. But here are some of the lessons of this trip that I have been reflecting on since I returned...
1) Talk to other artists.
I have always treasured the solitude of my studio... until now. After sharing work space with another painter for two weeks and being around other people who are driven and dedicated to their passion, I will say that these kinds of exchanges can be fuel for the soul. Being in close contact with other artists is a unique context in which to examine your work and process and articulate it to others. It is also a reminder that there are an infinite number of ways to be an artist. Seeing how each person defines the role of art in their life and brings their own identity and personality to their practice and profession is an opportunity for valuable perspective.
2) Test your creativity.
One of the best things about this experience was stepping out of my comfort zone. Showing up somewhere on the other side of the world to make art, you probably aren't going to have all the familiar tools and materials that you are used to working with. A new environment will also offer new kinds of elements that you may not have considered incorporating before. But putting your creativity to this kind of test is exactly what is needed to keep it fresh and alive. Being able to go into any situation and use any available resources and make art is really, for me, what it means to be an artist. You can only get there by presenting yourself with those kinds of challenges. Keep testing your creativity and it will never let you down.
3) Get clear.
When you walk away from your life to focus on art for period of time, one important thing happens - you get clear. The background noise of work, spouse, kids, dogs, bills, neighbors, etc. that makes it so hard to hear the voice of your art is suddenly turned off. The clutter of all the things you think you need but actually don't is swept away. No movies, computer, shopping, cleaning, napping, or the last season of Ballers. When these things are no longer clouding your vision, it is like a fog is lifted and the sun comes out. That sun is necessary for your art to grow. My challenge now is maintaining that clarity, creating healthy boundaries around my art practice, and not letting the clutter and noice creep back in.
4) Always to go France.
Because it's... FRANCE! Ok, I'm sure I'm biased because I lived there for a while, but each time I think I've gotten out of my system, I realize that is just not possible. This time I got to visit a region that I had never been to and became enchanted all over again. Champagne-Ardenne is full of hidden treasures, from Renoir's village to the Chateau de Joinville, and all the earthy countryside and tiny rustic towns in between. I only experienced a very small slice of life there since I was mostly busy in the studio, but even in daily life at the chateau in Orquevaux, everything was infused with an air of natural beauty and elegance that, as far as I am concerned, only exists in France. This may mean that I am doomed to spend all my spare change for the rest of my life on plane tickets to this one country, but now I know I will never again deprive myself of it.
I don't know what other residencies are like, but I know that this one was perfect for what I needed. I got to reconnect with my love of France, get out of my shell a bit and interact with other artists, but especially focus on my work and come home with a vision of where I need to go with my art and how I need to evolve as a painter. How can you ask for more?
My deepest appreciation to Ziggy Attias who is the heart of Chateaux d'Orquevaux and created this incredible program, and to those artists who shared this experience with me... See links below to check out their work:
I am also grateful to Hege Haraldsen for spending time with us and giving us the opportunity to be featured on her podcast.
For more information about Chateau d'Orquevaux and the artist residency program, see below...