Women, art and travel: A journey to France

Picture of art box stained with paint
Our stained art box

Amelia Murray was so enthralled by the horizon on board the Halifax on her way to Canada that she turned to art to enliven her reactions. Women travellers were often very knowledgeable about art and artists. Some women  sketched and painted whilst abroad and some even travelled specifically to pursue their love of art.  Marianne North’s botantical drawings, which are held at Kew, are one example of art merged with extensive travel. Below I’d like to share my experiences of an art  holiday I took in France last year. On this  holiday  it gradually dawned on me why women felt that, whilst abroad, they could explore and expand their artistic talents. Having the space and time to draw, paint and sketch was amazing and I found myself doing the same thing. I returned to London after a week with chalk drawings, collage, sketches and a half filled sketch book! A true lady traveller!

“Last summer I travelled from Poitiers by train to Angouleme a town famous for its annual comic festival. On the way to Chateauneuf-sur-Charent, the small town where I would spend 7 days on a painting course, I saw fields of sunflowers and miles of vines. The natural light was startling, and I immediately understood why so many French artists painted the landscape.

Firstly we experimented with water colour by making nebulous colour wheels; then we used collage to make sketches and paintings. Overall, we used the wonderful nineteenth-century painted house as inspiration.

The most challenging task for me was finding a composition showing a door through a door. I couldn’t get the dimensions right and swapping between spectacles wasn’t working – I became frustrated. That I cannot always see detail frustrates me but in my art it’s not important there’s always a solution. Eventually I relaxed and looked for the blocks of colour and the dark and light tones. So as I shaded in the darkest objects, I made a whole drawing.

20150713_174525 butterfly
Sketching butterflies and insects …

Making wet on wet was also interesting – I wetted thick water colour paper and drew on top with watercolour paint and pencils. An elderly lady passer-by said of my paintings “yes they pass the time don’t they?” Although I like to think I did more than just ‘pass the time’ it was in some ways true. My holiday went by quickly, the brilliant light came and went and before I knew it I was back at Poitiers airport with my symbol cane which saw nothing of France for 7 days.”

Interested in reading more about my experiences of travelling with a visual impairment in London and beyond? Check out my regular blog posts on Living Paintings Blog