Kamouraska and Me

The Good

Kamouraska is one of the prettiest places on the planet. It's got everything: friendly people, pretty architecture, the majestic Saint Lawrence river, great panoramas, good food and fine artists and artisans of the kind you only find in Québec.

It's one of the spots where I always stop when travelling to and from Montreal, from New Brunswick where I now hang my hat. In order to enjoy all the beautiful villages along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence, all you have to do is use Route 132 instead of Highway 20 where you see nothing. But most people are in a hurry, I guess, and that's just fine with me because if you travel on a weekday you'll hardly see another car on the 132.

Shari Blaukopf's workshop ran from Monday, June 3 to Thursday, June 6. Four days of instruction from this renowned sketcher and blogger that I've been admiring ever since I discovered her. How could I resist?

Shari took us to this little lighthouse to sketch the salt marshes. Here are two brave souls working outside; the rest of us are inside, painting out from the picture windows.

This is the scene that they're painting. The pools are left behind by the tide. If you're lucky, a heron will come and land in one of them. It happened to us.

On another day, we went and visited this micro brewery. The fig and hibiscus beer was fabulous, and so were the home-smoked salmon jerky and dry sausage. Shari painted this scene as a demo.

I chose to paint this door, but there wasn't enough time for me to finish it, so I took a picture and maybe I'll finish it here later.

The next day, Shari took us to the shore to paint. The temperature had warmed up by then, and I was able to produce this tiny sketch. The red rock formation is found all along that coast. It has always fascinated me and I have taken many photos in the past. The rocks on the right were put there as protection against erosion.

Here is a photo taken in Cap Saint-Ignace, three years ago. There you can walk on the shore and see the rocks up close, but there is no interesting vantage point like the one in my sketch.

On that last afternoon, we went to another spot to paint, but I fell in love with that dead little tree and got the urge to sketch it, so I did.

At the end of the day, it had been arranged for us to meet the artist who drew the illustrations for this fabulous book about Kamouraska, Anne Michaud.

Of course I bought it! I find lots of inspiration in it, and seeing how simply she paints the landscape is very reassuring to me.

Another thing I admire is how brave she is at tackling those complicated skies. (The red flowers are wild roses -- we have them here at home too -- unfortunately they weren't blooming when we were there.)

Here's another one of those difficult skies. We saw one just like it on the Wednesday, and Shari didn't recommend trying it.

I also like her use of just one colour (sepia?) on a few special pages.

You can order the book from the publisher, or at amazon.ca and other booksellers.

Anne Michaud also created the illustration for this postcard of the pizza restaurant where we had our last meal together. The food really lived up to Pizza Mag's reputation.

The Bad

My first mistake was not to arrive a day early, as is my custom. I hate driving and this drive was particularly painful, with the last two hours in pea-soup fog with driving rain that made visibility 90% nil. I'm the girl who won't even drive to the supermarket if it's drizzling!

I needed at least a day to recover, but the workshop started at 9 AM on the Monday, so I went.

My second mistake was not to have enquired about the wind. I did keep a constant check on the weather for a few weeks, and I knew it was going to be on the cool side, but how can someone who hates the wind so much only look at the temperature?

My third mistake was to not have taken enough warm clothes.

My fourth mistake was to have assumed that the demos on the program were going to be held indoors. In my mind, I imagined lessons on watercolour techniques, because that's what I really needed. I am not a landscape painter, and I figured I'd only have to be outside in relatively cool weather only while I painted a scene. But no, the demos were outdoors in freezing weather with the kind of wind that gets through the wrong kind of clothes, no matter how many layers.

(In my defense, I was by far the oldest person there, but even when I was much younger the wind affected me physically. The slightest draft gives me a stiff neck. I lived on painkillers for the whole four days.)

The Okay

1. The workshop participants were a fine group and they produced many excellent sketches in spite of the weather.

2. The motel where I stayed was perfect, recently renovated in very good taste, with a fully equipped kitchen, a deck with a view of the Saint Lawrence, and it was within walking distance of everything. The off-season price of $65 a night was very reasonable.

3. The workshop was an opportunity to get away -- the first one since Barcelona, a year ago -- and I made several important decisions in those few days.

That's so much more than I would have gotten from staying at home that week!

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