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La Bonne Etoile Blog
La Bonne Etoile Artists Retreat was specifically developed to assist artists and writers who would benefit from an experience in another culture, along with a time of seclusion and solitude. But through the years it has developed into more....a community of friends. La Bonne Etoile Blog has been designed to expand the richness of that community by continuing the quest to create and recreate together.
La Bonne Etoile workshops are ALL-INCLUSIVE, starting and ending with hospitality shuttles to and from any Paris airport. Our workshop instructors are well known for quality, patient instruction for all levels of students. contact kristina@labonneetoile.com for full information. Be sure to visit the individual websites of the artists, you will find links to La Bonne Etoile workshop information there as well.

“So Much Fun I had to Have More”

me My name is Ann Dodys, Kippy introduced me on a previous blog as her new helper and comrade in arms and I’m excited to be taking on this new role. I’ve been asked to share something on the La Bonne Etoile blog about my experiences through the workshops. I’ve had the pleasure of attending two workshops of Margaret Dyer’s and one with Kippy as the instructor. I first started working with Margaret in Atlanta in 2014 where she introduced me to pastels. I’ve thought about a European art workshop for years but always put it off because of other family obligations. When I saw Margaret’s post on Facebook and was facing my 60th birthday, I knew it was time to make a commitment to myself and my art. Each time I arrive at La Bonne Etoile and the front gates open I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, such a magical place! I’m greeted by Kippy’s enthusiasm and commitment to making each workshop one that you won’t soon forget. Standing beside her is Jerome, Kippy’s life partner, who is one of the most delightful and refined gentleman I’ve ever met. Madame Dulaye (sp) has been busy preparing the rooms with white, ironed linens and fresh cut flowers. Later that afternoon the wine flows as freely as the conversation.jerome

The workshop instructors are not new to LBE and each one comes with their unique approach to making the participants enjoy the art making experience whether they are beginners or more advanced, the instruction is catered to each one individually. Studio time is plentiful and what a studio Kippy has created in the 200 year old barn! There’s AC and heat so you’ll be quite comfortable.

On my first visit I never gave the food a second thought before my arrival.  I suppose I should have, being in France, but for whatever reason I didn’t. Chef Marc is one accomplished and incredible chef! Each meal seemed to outdo the one before. When you sit gatesdown for dinner, plan to be there for the evening, course upon course is served- the French way. This year Marc will be adding some cooking lessons for those who are interested, especially those who may be joining an artist at LBE and looking to enjoy an authentic French experience.

Chantal is another part of the LBE family. She’s beautiful, charming and always has a smile on her face with an eagerness to help in any way that she can. I had the pleasure on my last visit to go to her studio to see her art restoration skills in action. She, like Marc, 2014-05-31 19.22.25will also be offering classes this year.

There’s always so much to do and not enough time to get it all done. I guess that’s why I keep coming back (and have worked my way into the LBE cast of characters). One of the things that I love to do when not in the studio is to get on one of the bikes and head out into the French countryside. Jerome is a great tour guide and can show you all the back roads, sharing his knowledge of the area.

I enjoy it so much, my husband joined me at chantalthe end of last year’s workshop, and we rented road bikes and cycled through the small villages around Fontaine-Fourches for a week. We hope to do this again in August but stay longer.

2018 will be another year of wonderful workshops, Kippy and Jerome will make sure of that. We hope to see some returning faces and of course many new ones. I guarantee once you go to La Bonne Etoile you will want to return!

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2018 Meet the new girl

Kippy Hammond

Kippy Hammond

I can’t believe we are entering into our 17th year of La Bonne Etoile workshops. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of someone who has brightened my life as a result of their stay at LBE.  So, we are finally completing the details for another great summer with some exciting changes.

IMG_5791My favorite change is being able to introduce Ann Dodys as my helper and comrade in arms who will be handling the enrollments this year as well as helping to maintain all the social media that our lives require these days.

Meet Ann….. a three time alum of La Bonne Etoile workshops who jumps into this new position right after retiring from a career as an art teacher to thousands of lucky students over 27 years in the Atlanta school system. Thank you Ann…in advance for all of your help.

Along with welcoming back Margaret Dyer in July and Nancy Tankersley in August for our quality instructional workshop, we are introducing an Open Studio special workshop format uniquely for LBE alums. Full details will be up on the website tomorrow….just a peek….it will be three weeks for the price of two…..plus other surprises.






2018 This is the year for YOU!!

IMG_0344Come join us at La Bonne Etoile Artist Retreat for your 2018 artistic and magical adventure.  Margaret Dyer will return in July and Nancy Tankersley in August……and a special surprise in May for La Bonne Etoile Alums.

To be the first to get details….reserve your space by emailing Kippy at khstudios4@gmail.com  or kristina@labonneetoile.com.





We are sooo excited to host new and old friends for another magical adventure!! Can’t wait to see your smiling face coming through the gates.



The Secret Garden

Peggy Prugh artist and author from Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Peggy Prugh artist and author from Jackson Hole, Wyoming

While on our way to La Bonne Etoile, our driver and host, Jerome, was posed this question: “Why did you choose this place?”  He politely responded with a  “You will know the answer after you see La Bonne Etoile”.  We drove up onto the sidewalk in front of a high, ivied wall and a green gate and stopped.  The gate swung open and before us lay a movie-set, out of which could have strode Pierre Aumont or Brigit Bardot, in apron and broom in hand, of course.  But this was’t just any setting, it was Kippy and Jerome’s home, lovingly reconstructed beam to wattle to flooring.  Let me show you around before dinner is served.  Imagine a large crushed stone courtyard: to the left a flower-edged 2-story home, to the right a large ivy covered barn and straight ahead an expanse of lawn, laced by daisies and blue bonnets, stretching into a deep dark green bank of trees.  A white bench and chairs on the right invite guests to warm in the sun with a chilled wine.  Through the door to the white country kitchen, one senses a step back into mid-century comfort, closeness and beauty.  Photos of the kitchen and over-flowing living room look like old dutch Masters, the light diffused the decorations authentic finds from the nearby brocante.  The dining table is laid with full formal settings and the fireplace throws a light over all, inviting guests into the life of a French/American  family.  Up stairs the bedrooms each welcome with washed and hand-ironed sheets and duvets by Madame Delahaye and open windows  let the garden inside, From there one can see the barn/studio across the courtyard.  The entire loft was made into a studio where riotous pastels reside on those shelves, objects of white over there, easels stand at attention in that corner, frames askew line the walls, paintings lean on this and that stand, and perhaps a table of towering potted flowers balance  in the middle of the vast room waiting to be admired and painted, a cad red poppy there, a fountain of permanent rose petals flow this way, a scattering of cobalt purples hide behind the stems.  Wine anyone?  The glasses are in that armoire, the music switch is here, raise your baton brushes and go for it!   Time passes as it must.  Paintings are created.  Conversations late at night are enjoyed.  The two weeks are over, the goodbyes are said and I take one last look at the secret garden as the gate closes gently.  Jerome, I know the answer.

visit Peggy’s website http://www.peggyprugh.com

About the Artist

“The thing to remember is that this moment will never come again.”  —
                                                                              Emily Dickenson

“An idea remembered in prose, a moment captured in painting, both are a part of a fleeting instant that gives great joy.  A painter brushes a canvas with color and the story lives on.  I paint to capture that beauty of light, the patterns of shadow, the tilt of a sail, the earthy profile of a Masaai warrior, the slash of blue hills against dark pines. My paintings tell the story of my life in God’s exquisite world.  It is my way of never forgetting.”

A graduate of Florida State University, Peggy Prugh taught English to American service men in the SS officers’ barracks at Dachau, Germany. Later she moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with her husband and continued English instruction to high school students, assigning illustrated journals in order to interpret prose and poetry.  It was a love affair, matching art with literature, so much so that when Peggy retired, she traveled extensively to study painting with masters such as Albert Handell, Richard McKinley, Tim Lawson, and Skip Whitcomb.  Today she lives in Jackson Hole with her husband and continues to paint landscapes and man-made settings.

One van, 9 artists, 9 wet canvases and 9 wet palettes….oh my!!

Kippy Hammond

Kippy Hammond

One of the wildest, and craziest experiences here at La Bonne Etoile, is the trip home from an en plein air outing. One van, up to nine artist, painting gear and 9-18 wet paintings along with 9 wet palettes. Oh dear, you should see the strange manuveurs to get all of that together in some kind of an orderly fashion. With three en plain air workshops this summer, we are giving a little more thought to transporting wet paint and are thankful that Arden Boyce, who is arriving in July with Monique Carr’s group offered the following instructions for a portable palette. Here is one of her charming paintings I grabbed off the internet.  Thanks Arden for this wonderful contribution to the blog.

Arden Boyce

Arden Boyce

Dear Kippy (Kristina),

Here are some photos of my travel palette I made 18 years ago for my first trip to paint in France.  It measures 15×20″ with 2″ sides.

Portable oil palette from Arden Boyce

Portable oil palette from Arden Boyce


Some good things about this palette:

  • -It is relatively light weight.
  • -The paint doesn’t slide off the sides making a mess.
  • -I use the top on the easel and then use plastic clips to secure my canvas.  This doesn’t work with stretched canvas because it is too thick, but I use boards anyway.
  • -Also, you can lay out your paint before you go, and you don’t have to clean up until you get home.  You won’t get paint all over the place.
  • -For airline travel, I put the top under the box and then fill the open box with other items. But after a trip, I make sure it is clean before putting things in it.  I’ve also covered the inside with waxed paper if I’m not sure it is clean.

Palette 2If you are wondering what that black rectangle on the side of the box in photo 2 is, it is a square of Velcro.  That is where I attach a box to hold my brushes.  It actually is on the side toward the front…backwards in photo.

I set the palette on the easel. Also, I have a hook that I slip on the front or back side sometimes to hold my turpentine.  Or I put the turp in the back right corner.

The bungee cord doubles as a paper towel holder.  I slip it through the roll of paper towels and hook the ends on the sides at the front of the palette.

Another two plastic clips or hooks hold plastic grocery bags for trash.
A few years ago, I did add more strapping tape on the sides, after much use.


Palette 3Here is how I made it:

  1. Cut 2 pieces of foam board the size you like.
  2. Cut 4 pieces of foam board for the sides…measure carefully.  The sides are 2″ wide times the length.  For the 2 long sides, they will be exactly the length of the bottom.  But for the two shorter sides, they must be measured holding the long sides in place (they sit on top of the bottom board) and then measuring the distance between them to get the exact size.  It helps to have another person to help with holding them in place, or lightly tape them in place with masking tape just to get the measurement.
  3. Glue the 4 sides on the top of the bottom piece, so you now have an open box
  4. Paint the inside of the box a 4 or 5 value gray….the gray should be completely neutral.  Use acrylic paint.  I mixed mine.  To keep the box in place you might need to put masking tape on the corners.
  5. Using strapping tape, go all around the outsides of just the sides of the box.  I did this several times to add to the strength.
  6. Cover the ENTIRE box with wide clear plastic tape. You will do this twice.  Once going from the  long sides to the opposite long sides.  And then from the short side to the opposite side.  To do this, start at the inside corner where the side of the box meets the bottom.  Go up the side and all the way around on the outside to the opposite inside corner.  Keep this first strip along the outside edge so it will be straight.  Start the second strip overlapping the first strip a little.  Continue all the way to the end.  You now have one layer of tape on the box.
  7. Now, turn the corner and do the same thing with the short sides.  When you finish, the box will be strong and completely waterproof.  The inside bottom of the box is not covered. (Photos 4 shows this….it looks like squares)
  8. Take the box to a glass company and have them cut a thin piece of Plexiglas to just fit the bottom.  I’ve had this also done at Lowe’s, but you need the box to make sure that it fits.  Then drop the Plexiglas in.
  9. Wrap the top piece in the clear wide tape, but one time is enough.  Be sure to cover the rough edges when you do this.
  10. Purchase an adjustable bungee cord to hold the box and top together when going out to paint. A cord that is too tight might bend the box.


Palette 4

Michelle Wells Grant Blog – France 2014 – Part 4 the French Truck Stop

For those that are still on the fence on whether a stay at La Bonne Etoile is in your stars for the summer of 2015….pull up a chair, and have a good read.

It is always a blessing to experience La Bonne Etoile through the eyes of our guests.  10520846_10205246069459761_8159841505932365027_nPlease welcome Michelle Wells Grant from Austin TX as we share her blog from 2014 while attending the summer workshop of Margaret Dyer.  Reprinted by permission of Michelle Wells Grant.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jist yur run-of-the-mill French truck stop

 Note from Kippy, it really is a truck stop…les routiers are part of a specific classification of restaurants with certain requirements, such as parking for large rigs, open daily, quick service, and communal tables available.  We have to admit, this one is exceptional….if you aren’t a truck driver, you need reservations.
Four months later and I’m still writing about my artists’ trip to France with Margaret Dyer. This will be the last of it I think, but I just had to shoot this little pictorial your way. Our hosts, Kippy and Jerome, called this a local “truck stop” but it shore ain’t lookin’ like any truck stop we have around these here parts in Texas. Welcome to Le Relais, near Fontaine-Fourches, France. It was a collectors paradise and truly a visual experience!
The vintage teddy bear collection was next to my place at the table. At first I was a little creeped out but soon enough they became my friends. One of them held my cell phone while I ate.
Our fabulous group of artists!
These were the most charming porridge bowls for children. They are hollow on the inside, you unscrew the little gold birdie, and fill the inside with hot water so that the porridge stays warm. I wanted one. Good thing the teddy bears were watching closely … one of these might have found its way into my purse. ;-))
A beautiful collection of pitchers. Most of them seemed to be Majolica but I didn’t dare pick one up to check.
These gorgeous enamel coffeepots were my favorite collection there! There were so many! This photo shows  about half of them.
Embroidered samplers galore!
Antique sewing machines and baskets.
There is a name for these precious figures. Kippy, help me out … what is it?
Last but not least … my dessert. A lovely little cherry clafouti. Délicieux!


Margaret Dyer 2010 France La Bonne Etoile

This is Margaret Dyer’s last post after her workshop at La Bonne Etoile. Keep scrolling down to follow her delightful blog from beginning to end as she experienced France and La Bonne Etoile for the first time. We look forward to Margaret returning in June 2011…..JOIN US.

Friday, June 18, 2010

La Bonne Etoile

Now that I’ve caught my breath, I have to talk about La Bonne Etoile.

I’m naturally scared of everything. So it was a big step for me to go to France all by myself. But Kippy prepared every detail for me and all the artists who attended the class. Kippy, an American artist who has lived in France for over 10 years, and Jerome have turned a 250 year old farmhouse in the village of Fontaine-Fourches into a beautiful, cozy home with room for 8 guests. Lunches on the patio, elegant dinners at the dining room table, good French food and wine, excellent company, a lot of laughing, all while surrounded by the beautiful French farmland and wild poppy fields. La Bonne Etoile is about an hour from Paris and a half hour from some incredible medieval sites. Kippy and Jerome made my first visit to France all that I had hoped for. If you’re looking for a place to take an art workshop (if you’re interested in attending mine next year, let Kippy know so she can keep you on her email list) and experience France with all details handled for you, look here: http://www.labonneetoile.com/about.html.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (15) Student Work/Provins


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Student work

It’s been a whirlwind the past few days. Our class is over; everybody has dispersed.

On Friday we worked in the studio from 9 a.m until 10:30 p.m. Back to the studio Saturday morning for our last day of the class. For the first time, we were dragging our feet a little. We were tired. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, we put away our pastels, moved everything to the perimeter of the room, hung our work, set a table with wine and munchies and met the people Kippy had invited to the Vernissage. The students’ work was plentiful and impressive. Here are some pictures.




Guests were gone by around 8, and we piled into the car for dinner in Provins, a 12th Century walled city, about 15 minutes away. I was enthralled with Provins, though it was very difficult to comprehend the history surrounding me. The city was built in the 1100’s to host the great annual trading fairs, which linked northern Europe with the Mediterranean world. Remarkably preserved, today Provins is still a thriving city, with people living and working in these 900 year old houses. Provins is celebrating its annual Medeival Festival this week. The narrow streets were crowded with people in costume, Vendor booths lined the cobblestone streets, interspersed with tents, so vendors camped by their booths all week long. Young, old, lots of teenagers, all in costume. There were performers, typical of the time, reenactments, crafts, roasted pig on spits. I want to come back and see more. It’ll have to be next year.

On Sunday I said good-bye to La Bonne Etoile and headed to Paris. Kippy and Kathryn stayed with me in an apartment on Sunday night. Kathryn flew home to Georgia Monday morning, My friend, Merry Leigh from Atlanta, flew in and joined me. We have 4 days.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (14) Empire of Death


Friday, June 11, 2010

Empire of Death

The Paris catacombs were created at the end of the 18th century out of abandoned mines to house the dead; filthy conditions of Parisian cemetaries had been causing sickness. So all the remains in the cemetaries were transferred to the abandoned mines. Wikipedia says: “The removal of the bones began after the blessing of the place on April 7, 1786 and was continued until 1788, always at night, a ceremonial made up of a procession of priests who sang the burial service along the way borrowed by the tipcarts charged with bones and covered with a black veil. Thereafter, this place was used, until 1814, to collect the bones of all the cemeteries of Paris.” Read Wikipedia’s description of Paris’ previous burial conditions. They were horrible.

We spent a good part of yesterday wandering through the dark underground tunnels on the outskirts of Paris. We climbed down a dizzying narrow spiral stone stairwell, which seemed never to end, passed through a long and twisting dark stone hallway, which seemed never to end. I got ahead of our group–I wanted to experience the catacombs in silence, without laughter and chatter. But the passage was so long, I was beginning to think maybe I had come to the wrong place or taken a wrong turn. After maybe a 20 minute walk through the dark tunnels, I finally arrived at a doorway with a sign “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la Mort” (‘Stop, this is the empire of Death’).

I was glad I was alone. It was of course morbid, but it was respectfully and artistically arranged, with quotations about death and life carved in stone thoughout the tunnels. Organized by originating cemetaries, It was much larger than I had expected, with ‘occupied’ tributaries going in many directions, all gated and locked, so you couldn’t take a wrong turn. Toward the end there was a quotation, which made me glad I had walked it alone. The last line read, “The number here is nothing. In every crowd one is alone.”

We also visited the Musee D’Orsay. A significant number of pieces are currently in San Francisco while the Museum is being renovated, so we only had 2 floors to explore. But two hours were not enough. I will go back next week. I had to run through the Art Nouveau section, my favorite period, and never got to see Vouillard, another of my favorites. It was a beautiful collection. Just beautiful. I’ll need a good part of a day to really enjoy it.

Today: back in the studio. Hopefully we’ll get to do some Parisian city scenes.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (13) Change of plans

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Change of plans

We decided early this morning to stay here and work today instead of spending the day trudging through the rainy streets in Paris. Tomorrow looks like a better day. So as it rained or drizzled under gray skies all day, we got lots done in the studio. After dinner, we plan on going back up to the studio and work till about 11.

No travel pictures for you today. Instead, I’m attaching some of the pastels I’ve worked on from our photo shoots with Eva.