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How a French Art Retreat Blossomed a World of Inspiration: My Journey in Hyères

A year back, I was casually scrolling through Instagram when a picture of one of my favorite Portland artists caught my eye. She was standing in front of three rows of hanging artwork. Intrigued, I tapped on it and learned she was in Hyères, France, teaching at a week-long art retreat. The artworks on display were everyone's creations from the retreat.

#1 Seriously, Southern France? Count me in! #2 An art retreat with fellow creative souls – could it get any cooler? #3 Fresh art hanging on lines, surrounded by more art? I was sold.

Fast forward to this year – I attended the retreat, and I'm still riding the wave of excitement from it. I got back just a few weeks ago, and it exceeded all my expectations.

Hyères, France turned out to be even more charming than I imagined, with palm trees lining the streets and a charming hillside town by the Mediterranean.

Our mentor for the week was Victoria Johnson, whose portfolio is absolutely mind-blowing. She's collaborated with top global brands and has now ventured into teaching. Her artistic style is worlds apart from mine, and her medium was something I had zero knowledge about.

I formed connections with eight incredibly talented women from all around the world – Scotland, Germany, California, Montreal, Italy, Texas, and Michigan. Three of us were celebrating major birthdays. Yep, I hit the big 5-0! Some were pros in the art world, while others pursued it as a passionate hobby. But we all connected on that creative wavelength!

Our workshop, guided by Victoria, centered around painting vases upon vases of vibrant local flowers. We used watercolors, ink, tissue paper, and gouache. Each day started with her showcasing techniques and perspectives, and then we'd dive into hours of painting. By the end, I had four flower paintings to bring back home.

Our hosts were a local family, oozing creativity in their unique ways – from cooking to crafting. Their mantra was living art. Nestled in beauty, they graciously shared their space, cooking, and surroundings with groups like ours every year. And when our brushes weren't painting on canvases, our hosts had us covered with daily plans – like exploring the Hyères Saturday market, enjoying sunset dinners and swims in the Mediterranean, and even biking to the heavenly beaches on Île de Porquerolles. If it all sounds like something from a novel, well, that's because it was.

As I glance over what I've penned down, I realize it might lack a touch of emotion or depth. But believe me, there was an abundance of both before, during, and after the journey. Tears, of all sorts, flowed – tears of happiness, wonder, and sheer contentment. I took deep, soul-renewing breaths and laughed with a kind of intensity I hadn't experienced in ages. I've etched numerous chapters in my journal, capturing the lessons this once-in-a-lifetime storybook escapade taught me for the years to come. Oh, and I discovered a newfound passion – painting flowers.


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