I spotted Mont Saint Michel amidst a field of Queen Anne’s Lace.
It doesn’t get much better than this. Reasons to paint: to relive an experience, to remember the emotions, to bring back that initial shudder of awe. Traveling along the Brittany coast in July, I caught a glimpse of Mont Saint Michel from the visitor parking lot—a lovely series of planted fields that are at sea level, perhaps 1.5 miles from the actual site. What followed was indeed an impressive visit to the abbey and island; it is this view, however, that stays with me as the strongest memory of the day.
Reasons to paint: to recall the sights, sounds, smells of the place. My wonderful trip to France this summer was part of a watercolor workshop led by artist Denis Ponsot. Denis spoke of how he uses his iPhone to record sea and bird sounds—there were so many of them—from his painting locations. Back home in his studio, he plays the audio to remind him of how he felt about the spot and he allows it to influence his work. I get that. My location had light, clouds, flowers and a Disney castle. The only sound I remember was my heart beating quite fast because I was so captivated by the haunting beauty of the scene appearing on the horizon.
Mont Saint Michel, a UNESCO world heritage site, is encircled by a sandy tidal floodplain from the Atlantic Ocean. Located between Normandy and Brittany, the island is anchored by a Gothic-style abbey and monastery and is surrounded by a tourist-friendly medieval village. Butterfly bush (buddleia) grow large and freely and poke out of the most unexpected places. By climbing to higher levels I was able to avoid the selfies and find secluded areas with peaceful views within parapets and hidden openings in old, old rocky walls. Mostly I loved looking out at the expanse of water and horizon surrounding the craggy islet. Perhaps another painting will come out of that memory.
Arches cold press, 300 lb, 21.5″ x 14.25″