Sometimes, despite all the potential sources of inspiration around me, artist’s block sets in. I typically use this time to do other things like updating my websites, tidying the studio and sorting out my paints and brushes. I enjoy cooking and gardening too.
But the ultimate cure for my artist’s block? A painting trip abroad!
My first painting trip involved several months in Greece, but now I take short trips away whenever possible. Having just got back from the Cote d’Azur in France, I am feeling inspired and refreshed as an artist—and I highly recommend it to any artist who needs a break from the everyday (along with a good dose of inspiration.)
During my recent trip, we stayed in Nice by the Promenade des Anglais. We followed in the footsteps of Monet, Picasso and Matisse as we walked by the azure Mediterranean Sea and took in the Venetian architecture of Vieux Ville (the old town).
The flower market is a mass of colour well-worth painting, and the beautifully displayed shops and ice-cream parlours make interesting subjects too. Colourful cafe scenes play out below the terracotta rooftops and overflowing window boxes.
When we climbed Castle Hill we were astonished to see a magical waterfall overlooking stunning views of the city and bay. Afterward, we went down the steps to the Port, stopping there for salade nicoise and brushetta, and just enjoying the view of the ferries and yachts.
Nice boasts several fantastic museums including Musee Matisse, Musee National Marc Chagall, Musee d’Art Naif A. Jakovsky which offer further inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the use of bright colours in the Musee d’Art Naif and Chagall’s stained glass auditorium.
While I’m on a trip I usually sketch and take lots of photographs, sometimes doing quick watercolours in situ. The real work starts after returning to my studio back home, where I go through all the material gathered and assess which could work as a painting.
I sketch from the photographs and work out tone, colour and composition. I try to stick to as few colours as possible, since I find those compositions the most effective. I’ve noticed that strong Mediterranean light needs deep shadows in ultramarine and burnt sienna. And painting those terracotta buildings against a cerulean blue sky. . . beautiful!
Of course, if you’re on a trip and the weather lets you down, there is still art to be done. Right now I’m working on finishing a piece in my studio called Monaco in the Rain, which shows a view of the old town and a figure reflected in the wet pavement.
It seems like anywhere you go in France, there’s an opportunity for a painting. Saint Paul de Vence, one of the famous Perched Villages in the hills behind Nice contains cobbled streets and narrow alleyways lined with bright window boxes and artisan shops offer great painting subjects. Often the street views open up to the dramatic vista below, with deep green trees fading into the blue hills beyond dotted with white and terracotta villages.
Overall, it was a successful trip. . . having built up my collection of sketches, photographs and colour studies I’m now back at home, refreshed and ready for work!
All that to say, if you get a chance—go to Nice! Visit France. You’ll be inspired like never before.