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Sadie Valeri is an award-winning classical realist painter and instructor based in San Francisco, California.
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Since October 2006 I have recorded every aspect of my artistic development on my blog. Here I invite you "behind the scenes" into my studio, where I share all of my materials, class notes, travel journals, and step-by step demonstrations of my paintings and drawings, including video demos

Entries in travel (32)

Thursday
Aug112011

40 in France

This year I turned 40, and to celebrate I planned a month of landscape painting in France, something I have wanted to do since I first visited France at age 16. I chose the Dordogne region in the south-west of France because of it’s reputation for beautiful, varied landscape: rolling green hills, cliff towns, winding rivers, forests, and most important…… castles!!

Chateau Feyrac, 9x12, oil on paper

We rented a house in the gorgeous little town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, which is a network of steep cobblestoned streets and adorable stone houses crowned with a 12th century castle at the top.

Veiw of Chateau Beynac from the Dordogne, 9x12, oil in paper

I decided to paint on paper for a portable, lightweight material perfect for plein air sketches. Before the trip I cut sheets of Rives BFK printing paper in various tones into standard sizes, mostly 5x7 and 9x12. Then I primed the paper with 2 coats of Golden Acrylic Medium. Each day I just taped a piece of paper to a foamcore backing and mounted it on my Open Box M setup. It was a wonderful surface to paint on!

See my previous blog post post describing my plein air setup

As it turned out, it ended up raining for 2 of the 4 weeks we were in Beynac, so I did not get to paint nearly as much as I’d planned. But instead we hung out with visiting friends and family who shared our rental house and rented other houses in the same village.

Chateau Castelnaud, 9x12, oil on paperAt the very end of the trip the rain cleared and I got one last painting day in. I found a beautiful quiet spot next to a field of corn with a view of neighboring Chateau Castelnaud. The day was warm and lazy, and the #1 BEST thing about painting in France is….. NO MOSQUITOS!!!!

To see all of my paintings from France this summer:

Picasa Google+ Album: France Plein Air 2011

Facebook Album: France Plein Air 2011

See my photos of Paris, Beynac, and the Dirdgne region of France:

Facebook Album: Artsy Shots of France 2011

Wednesday
Apr202011

From the Hudson to the Dordogne

A view of the Dordogne River in France

In Summer of 2009 I was accepted into the Hudson River Fellowship started by Jacob Collins. I blogged during the month-long trip, posting all of my plein air sketches and paintings as we learned to study the landscape as the pre-Impressionist painters of the 19th century did: With careful, detailed contour drawings of foreground elements, and precise color analysis of the landscape.

This summer I’ll be spending the month of July with my husband in the Dordogne region of south west rural France,where we have rented a house and plan to set up a home base. I’ll be doing landscape study using the same Hudson River School methods and techniques to draw and paint the medieval villages, castles, and rolling countryside of this historic region.

I’ll be posting everything to my blog, and hope you’ll follow along with my plein air adventure! If you’d like to be notified the moment I post new artwork during my trip you can sign up for my mailing list by entering your email address in the column to the right of this post.

Wednesday
Nov172010

Plein Air Setup

 

 

 

Painting outdoors is inspiring, beautiful, centering, and so adrenaline-rushing as to be addictive!
However, it is also uncomfortable, frustrating, full of distractions, and when your umbrella topples your easel over in a breeze, exceptionally maddening.
I have finally assembled a setup I find to be ideal - a good balance of lightweight, sturdy, and flexible:

 

This is how I pack it:
Instead of carrying around tubes of oil paint, I load up my Open M pallete with fresh nuggets of paint before I leave for the day. Sometimes I pack a small tube of white, if it’s going to be a long day out.

 

I can fit my Open M pochade box, brushes, and solvent can in a backpack or shoulder bag, along with paper towels, lunch, etc.

The tripod, cane, Manfrotto arm, and umbrella I lash together with 2 short bungee cords. All those things combined are not very heavy, and I can carry it by the cane handle, or under my arm easily. For a long hike I might get a strap for it so I can carry it on my back.
Travelling with oil paints
I have traveled now many times with oil paint, and despite the horror stories we have all heard about having oil paints confiscated, I have never had a problem with this procedure:

 

Here is what I do:

 

  • Download and print a couple “material safety data sheets” (MSDS) which describe the contents of the paint - there’s a different sheet for every color, but I just choose 2 or 3 and print those. Each manfacturer writes up and makes data sheets available online as PDF for all their colors, just google search one your paint brands and a color name with the phrase “material safety data sheets” and you’ll find it.
    Here is a list of links to of many of the of MSDS paint brands
  • Print out a sign with big font that says:
    These are vegetable oil based artists materials.
    They are not flammable.
    Data sheets enclosed.
    DO NOT USE THE WORD “PAINT”. The word paint is a big problem.
  • Fold the MSDS sheets and the sign together so the big message shows up on top.
  • Put all the tubes of oil paint in a gallon-sized heavy duty ziplock, and put in the folded packet of sheets so the sign is visible through the plastic bag. Make sure every tube is tightly-capped and there are not any holes in any of the tubes, the pressure changes during the flight will make a mess of any leaky tubes.
  • Place the bag near the top of your suitcase with the sign-side up so it’s immediately accessible if security searches my bag. (I always get that little note saying they searched my bag, but my paint has never been confiscated.)
  • Check the bag. I wouldn’t try to bring paints on board.
  • I also packed a tiny tin of the “natural turpenoid” (in the GREEN can) along with my painting supplies in my checked bag, to use as my medium. It says non-flammable very clearly right on the tin. I wouldn’t use it as a medium in major paintings, but for sketches and all prima work while travelling it’s probably fine.
  • I wouldn’t bring any solvents, oils, mediums, or any kind of mysterious liquids in bottles. I usually buy those or borrow them when I arrive
  • Finally: Don’t forget your palette knife! :)


Hope that helps! It would be terrible if the paints got confiscated and that’s always a risk, so I can’t guarantee it will be fine, but it’s worked for me.

 

Sunday
Nov142010

WPW on Expedition: Final Recap

Sitting at the airport gate, I realize that out of our group of 12 artists, I am the last to leave Charleston, SC, if only by a mere 30 minutes. Starting on Thursday, members of our little group started to reluctantly peel away, each of us returning to our studios, family, and the demands of daily life. Enormous duffels of painting equipment were trundled down the porch steps and loaded into cars, the furniture was returned to its original positions, and as the last of us closed the door on the beach-front house, there was no sign of the easels, tripods, drop cloths and rows of drying paintings that had made their temporary invasion.

The impact of the week on each of the 12 artists, however, will be more permanent.


In the beginning, we were all a bit apprehensive. A dozen women in a house for a week? But after the first couple days, a sense of relief seemed to fall over the group as we realized it was actually working: We were painting for most the hours of every day, talking art every minute we were not painting, and quickly becoming attached to one another.

Many of us were sleeping 2 to a bed, the rest on inflatable mattresses and couches, all 12 of us negotiating just 3 1/2 bathrooms. But despite the tight quarters, the trip was nothing if not organized, mainly through the efforts of Alia, and with help from Diane, who between the two of them had anticipated every conceivable need over the months leading up to the trip. Cooking and cleaning duties had been assigned in advance, massive grocery runs were organized the first days, an improvised but elegant method for reimbursing shared expenses was soon devised by tacking envelopes to the bulletin board. Locations for plein air painting had been scouted, models had been scheduled. Everything was set up for us to work!

Before the trip, most of us only knew 1 or 2 of the others. The idea had started among the three of us who founded the WPW blog, Alia, Diane and myself, and the two artist bloggers Cindy and Lisa of ArtStudioSecrets.com. The five of us then each nominated other artists we knew and admired, and the group quickly took shape. However at the last minute we were all disappointed when life events conspired to prevent Lisa’s attendance. (In the end, we were an even dozen, and next year we are determined that Lisa will make us a baker’s dozen!)

Despite the daunting prospects of travelling with plein air gear, navigating a high-profile opening at Robert Lange, and then embarking on a “Real World” -style living situation, we set a single goal: To make painting the number one priority of the week, putting aside all distractions. And as soon as we started working with a model at 9am our first morning at the house, the collective energy began to carry us all.

Mia was the first one out painting on the beach, and banged out an oil sketch that set the bar high for the rest of us. For the rest of the week, day trips to surrounding marshes, parks, historic cemeteries, botanical gardens, Charleston’s French Quarter, and the lovely home of artist Shannon Runquist, kept us more than busy during the day. We then hired models in most the evenings, so we were often painting until 10pm. Several of us tried our hand at cooking for 12, and we did a good job of feasting in addition to painting.

But the most amazing part of all was how our conversations penetrated to deeper issues during the week. Discussions that began with the best way to prepare a plein air canvas, or about what colors to use in a sky, began to evolve into interviewing each other about how we each address our personal struggles with studio life: Managing time, finances, commissions, galleries, and family; combating isolation and depression; sacrificing other goals and interests for the undivided pursuit of painting. Over and over were heard exclamations of “me too!” when these struggles were confessed. I know for myself, and I am sure for each of us, issues I thought were only my problem turned out to be shared by every artist in the house.


As artists, we work alone most the day, and our solitude is necessary and closely guarded. But peaceful, fortifying solitude can easily slip into lonely isolation. As women, there are both evolutionary and spiritual reasons it is necessary to our survival to connect with other women, to find common ground and form deep bonds of understanding, to navigate conflicts and find abundance where we thought there was only scarcity. To cheer for our competition and feel true joy in their successes.

I do know that this week for me was so deeply satisfying, so soul-nourishing, that I am sure in my bones that this kind of connection with sister artists is essential.

To Alia, Diane, Cindy, Mia, Alex, Cathy, Linda, Kate, Stephanie, Terry, and Rachel (and to Lisa who could not come but whom we thought of often):

Thank you!!!

Thank you all, for catching the spirit of the trip and bringing your energy and enthusiasm, for being flexible with your needs and generous with your help and advice, and most of all for being so willing to trust us and to reveal yourselves.

UPDATE:
Several of the WPW Expedition group have now blogged about the trip, you can read their posts here

Friday
Nov052010

Women Painting Women On Expedition

Twelve of the brightest rising female painters from across the country will be convening  November 4-12 2010 for a week of painting the figure, the city and the beautiful marshes and beaches surrounding Charleston, South Carolina.

We have arrived in Charleston!  Amazingly I woke up at 7am here this morning just in time to see the dawn, despite still being on West Coast time after a day of flying yesterday. I arrived into a small cyclone of artists, it feels like a reunion even though many of us had never met in person before last night.

9am the first day and we are already all set up and painting and drawing a live model Alia hired for us:


The living room of the Sullivan's Island house

This morning we are already set up to paint and draw with a live model in the living room of our beach house.

The following are the On Expedition 2010 participating artists (click the name for links):

Alexandra Tyng – Narberth, PA

Alia El-Bermani – Cary, NC

Catherine Prescott – Harrisburg, PA

Cindy Procious – Chattanooga, TN

Diane Feissel – Philadelphia, PA

Katherine Stone – Toronto, ON, Canada

Linda Tracey Brandon – Phoenix, AZ

Mia Bergeron – Chattanooga, TN

Rachel Constantine – Philadelphia, PA

Sadie Valeri – San Francisco, CA

Terry Strickland – Pelham, Alabama

Stefani Tewes –Laguna Beach, CA

This inaugural painting retreat and exhibition represents the first effort by Women Painting Women to encourage women artists, advance art education, and showcase some of the best painting happening today. Women Painting Women founder Sadie Valeri states the following:

“The quality, professionalism, and high level of training and vision being expressed by women artists have the potential to alter all of our ideas about who is making art and what they are saying. The paintings we have displayed on the Women Painting Women website express the wide-ranging and constantly shifting issues of identity and self-expression women face as they navigate their lives – including choices about how, whether and when to raise families. We have noticed that many women feel they are struggling with these issues alone, but seeing all the artwork together is developing a sense of community among us.”

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