Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beautiful St. Lucia: A small part of the story

Balenbouche Estate 8x10 plein air

While most of you were receiving record amounts of snowfall, I was happily teaching a plein air workshop in sunny St. Lucia. Kudos to Patrick Mahoney and Toscana Americana Workshops (TAW) for putting all of this together for me. There were 9 participants in the workshop at various levels in their painting development. Some were oil painters; some were watercolor painters; some were both! The mix of backgrounds and experience brought made for rich discussion in this beautiful setting.

We stayed in a remote area of St. Lucia (instead of the typical American resort thing). That is one of the reasons I enjoy working with TAW. Patrick is interested in building a program that marries local culture, beautiful landscape, and learning all in one package. The Balenbouche estate, the family there, and the staff, brought such richness to our experience. Ute prepared authentic meals with fresh fruits and vegetables from their land, as well as fresh fish, chicken, and game, all served on their large porch and surrounded by a tropical paradise. Our rooms and cottages were truly 'open air' living with many of the showers having at least one "wall" of banana palms and wild green forest. At night, we tucked ourselves under our mosquito nets, and enjoyed the tree frogs singing in the total blackness. The temperature was a balmy 85ยบ for most of the week with a glorious breeze that kept us comfortable. We painted on the estate our first day. There was plenty of choice: tropical foliage, beaches, architecture, farm animals, an old mill...

During the course of the week, we visited several small towns and villages. The view from the Vieux Fort Lighthouse was stunning, but the wind gusts made it too difficult to paint there. We took lots of resource photos, however, and this group shot (top of the page). The rest of that day was spent at Anse de Sable beach, painting the surf, sand, distant hills, and wind surfers. This is my painting of an old shanty located on the beach. As I was painting, Malcolm (a local man) used his large machete to crack open a dried 'armand' for me to taste. The fruit, before it dries, is edible as well, but in this instance he had laid the fruit out to dry. Once dry, he cracks it open (much like a walnut shell) to reveal a nut similar in shape and taste to almonds.
Open Air Living 8x10 plein air

Fish Comin' In 8x10 plein air

The following day we visited the village of Laborie, part of the larger quarter of the same name. Laborie is a small fishing spot with several coves and bays, and black and white sand beaches. We met with volunteers at the community center and learned about the delicate trim work on the original homes, and some history on the area. This demonstration was painted along its main street. That evening, we returned to Balenbouche estate and dressed for a beach bbq being offered at Piaya Beach. The entry fee of 10 e.c. (about $3 u.s.) was collected for Haiti relief efforts. We were supposed to dress in white. Picture 11 white people in white dress on the beach under the full moon. Needless to say, we stood out... I dare say with our fresh sunburns, we glowed! Several local bands played and the local cuisine and rum were abundant.

Laboring in Laborie 8x10 plein air

There was still so much left to explore at Balenbouche, that we offered another day painting there. A few of the students, eager for a day off, went to Soufriere to snorkel. The rest of us painted the beaches at the estate. Another glorious day in paradise!

Ute's Beach 8x10 plein air

One of the larger places we visited was Soufriere, another coastal town, that invites tourists who arrive mostly by boat to tour the town and church, and eat at the Hummingbird. (Our group had dinner there.) The school children found us curious and smothered in to learn all about us and our painting. They were all very respectful, and wanted to feel (and taste!) the paint. Here is a painting of Debbie's, the town's souvenir shop.

Debbies 8x10 plein air

Ah, a day in Choiseul. We painted the MORNE SION WINDMILLS in the morning, before heading to the tiny, tiny village for lunch. Phoebe prepared fresh chicken, lamb, and fish plus all the local vegetables for us. These beautiful people were so incredibly hospitable. Think of it... 11 tourists show up in a fishing village the size of a pin head. Amazing feeling. This is where Shawn, who along with Zik, had been driving us around all week, lives. We painted the boats and fishermen in the afternoon before visiting the Arts Center and learning about the local crafts. There were incredible sculptures from coconut trees, jewelry made from jumbie seeds, coffee, cocoa, and other interesting items to add to our "gifts for friends back home."
'High' above Choiseul 6x8 plein air

Every student, without fail, made huge advancements in their work. Hopefully, some of that was my teaching style. Mostly, I think it was the total absorption into this passionate culture. With such beautiful people, food, and surroundings, you just can't help but paint your best here!

More images of work available at