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The Université Laval conducted an International School for the Visual Arts at Percé, Quebec, in the Gaspé region on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, during the summer. I returned there in 2004 and 2005 to teach the week-long seminar Aquarelle de Voyage -- travel watercolour painting. Again, they were excellent groups, with whom I painted for the week.
Besides working with the students and spending the week en français, the pleasure for me is in painting in a light and landscape completely different from my native British Columbia. It's no surprise that the Percé area -- indeed, all of Gaspé -- has been attracting artists for more than a century, including the New York painter Frederick James, whose summer house is the venue and atelier for the week's work.
Students painting in the sunshine at the top of the cliff near the studio -- a study that might end up becoming a three-coloured silkscreen or woodblock print.
Above: the coastline from Barachois, with the Rocher Percé (the Percé Rock) like a huge ship, and L'Ile Bonaventure low and blue in the distance on a grey July morning.
Below: from the nearby lagoon later in the day. The colours change so dramatically and become so luminous even with just a slight shift of the clouds. It is a fabulous and challenging place to paint.
August, 2004, looking along the beach towards the Rocher. The yellow farmhouse is the Maison Biard, whose interior I painted during the first trip in 2003.
August, 2004: la groupe took the boat over to L'Ile Bonaventure to explore the abandoned fishing cabins, the natural habitat of the gannets (les fous de bassin), and the view back across toward the ubiquitous Rocher.
July, 2005: we all motored a few kilometres down the coast to the village of L'Anse-à-Beaufils, with its sheltered fishing harbour, picturesque and usually ffull of boats as there are practically no fish anymore and no reason to venture out to sea..
Another view of L'Anse-à-Beaufils, a historic and picturesque little town with an authentic general store from the 1920s -- part of the area's Anglo heritage.
Above: final day of 2005, the seminar finished, I hiked up to the première étape -- the first stopping place -- on Mont Sainte-Anne, the backdrop of the Village of Percé, and managed to complete a watercolour of the view without fainting from vertigo. (I can stand on the edge of a cliff or a building without feeling at all uncomfortable, but there is something about sitting in a chair and looking back and forth between a precipitous view like this and a small piece of paper that almost makes me plummet over the cliff.) L'Ile Bonaventure, its profile like one of the balleins -- the whales-- that are a common sight offshore, frames the distant view.
Below: later on that hot, long, energetic day, I hiked about 3 kilometres out to Cap Surprise, an angle from which one can see the famous piercing in the Percé rock.