I am bewitched by the beauty around me; I want to record it.

This year is the 28th annual Grand Prix de Peinture du Castellet sponsored by the Rotary Club de Saint-Cyr Vallee de Saint Come.

The exposition opened on Friday the 8th of September and the exhibit will be up through the 16th of September. This will be the second time I have exhibited. The first time I won first prize!

The feudal village, as described below, is to me, one of the most charming villages in the south of France, overlooking the Cote d’Azur, and very close to where they make one of the best rose wines I’ve ever tasted… the Bandol winery. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, drop by and enjoy the charm of Castellet and some excellent art.

We took advantage of attending, then doing a bit of sightseeing and having dinner at a restaurant overlooking an incredible view of the valley below… beautiful domaines with their neat, never ending rows of rich green vineyards and the contrasting patterns of the grey green orchards of olive trees.

Read more: The Art Exposition of Castellet

"Alice Williams: Direct from France"

Hagan Fine Art Gallery & Studio is excited to announce the solo exhibition of original oil paintings by South Carolina-born, France-based artist Alice Williams to be on display at our new 177 King Street gallery space from Wednesday, April 26th, through Wednesday, May 26th.

Meet Alice at her CGA Artwalk opening reception on Friday, May 5th, from 5pm-8pm.

"Direct from France" will feature a broad variety of Alice’s beautiful interiors, still lifes, floras, coastal and European city scenes in her personalized interpretation of Post-Impressionist style art made famous by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Bonnard. Originating in France, the Post-Impressionist movement sought to expand the horizons of Impressionism, further exploring distortion of form and richness of color. Alice harnesses this freedom of expression in the energetic wonderlands she creates.

Read more: Direct from France Solo Exhibition

So, life is good.

For four weeks, we vacationed on the island of Mauritius (or in French, Ils Maurice). 2400 kilometers (or 1500 miles) off the east coast of South Africa, 20 degrees below the equator, 3 degrees above the tropic of Capricorn (which is the most southerly point at which the sun is directly overhead, happening in December and called the winter solstice…Don and I have been doing some homework!). And in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Wow.

This was a vacation inspired by our good friends, Caline de Gasquet and Jean Jacques Armand, who, leaving Provence eight years in a row (in the coldest part of winter in Provence, January and February) to enjoy the hot summer on an island in the lower hemisphere; they peaked our curiosity. So, after their eighth time, we decided to join them.

Read more: Ils Maurice

November is the start of the season here in Provence. From November through January, anyone who has olive orchards are busy picking!

So, if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful orchard of olive trees to enjoy all year around, you are now obligated to pick them! Not to mention the delight of having your own delicious olive oil to enjoy for the next year!

Whether you have 30 trees or even 200, friends are invited and their friend’s friends, too, to come and pick. It’s an occasion to get together, to see friends you haven’t seen in a while, to chat, have fun, enjoy the sunshine and fall nip in the air and pick olives. In exchange for all this free labor, the owners are obligated to serve the most scrumptious meals they possibly can.

Read more: …picking olives! What fun.

Several months ago, I was hired by a charming Irish couple newly arrived in Lourmarin to design their garden. They had seen our garden here and liked it. And as they don’t live here in Provence year around, I was asked not only to design it but implement it.

It’s a small garden right on the “principle rue” of Lourmarin. The image above is that of the bistros in the main section of the village, very close to their house. (Our “second daughter", Nichole, and her husband Bret are enjoying a meal). They were able to get permission from the village mayor to build a basin but not a swimming pool. The difference being that a basin sits above the ground whereas a swimming pool is totally in the ground. Whatever, it is charming with a beautiful fountain at one end.

Read more: Latest Garden Commission - Provence

Saturday, the 12thof January, 2013 was a cold, damp evening in Lourmarin. If we had not been invited to dinner, we probably would have snuggled in with a fire and a good book or the next episode of Downton Abbey. But no fire or good book or even Downton Abbey could ever equal the evening ahead.

We were invited by Damion, his girlfriend, and his daughter, Natalie, all whom we had met at Bernadette’s picnic several times and discovered that we shared art in common. Damion (who is nicknamed Picasso because of an uncanny resemblance) is/was… I’ll explain later… a sculptor and painter, Natalie, an aspiring wood cutter and printer, and Martine, just plain beautiful… so much so that I will paint her soon.

Read more: A story of my friend Damion

This was my dream.

Having visited our good friend, Caline de Gasquet, in Aix en Provence for many years, every time I was there, I wanted to stay. My mantra to my husband Don was, ”Why do we live in Atlanta, Georgia? Tell me why?” When we could live where the sunlight is strong and shines a lot, where the air is clear and dry, where the food is beyond delicious, and French… fresh and grown locally, where the architecture is old and oh, so paintable, where the pace of life is slower and seemingly more genuine.

Well, I said this enough that, finally, in August of 2011, he said, “Ok, why not?” So, in March of 2012, we packed up nine suitcases, and two carry-ons, the cats, Ellie Belly and Priscilla, and did it. We moved to Provence!

Read more: Oh... to live in Provence