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 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… 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  or



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.



2017 Stepping your art up a level!! Come join us

What an exciting year 2017 will be!!  In July, KIPPY HAMMOND will present for the second year the customized workshop “Setting Your Artistic GPS” suitable for all levels and all mediums.  And we welcome MARGARET DYER back for the  7th year? Oh my, we missed her so much last year and are really looking forward to having our Dyer Fix!!  Margaret will be teaching the figure from live models and photos,  either in oil or pastel. NANCY TANKERSLEY  will return for the second time in September 2017 after teaching a smashing workshop to a dynamic group last year. Once again, she will have the opportunity and time to combine the content of her domestic workshops under the single topic of “Painting with Confidence”.

We are so fortunate to have these instructors offer their time and knowledge, (not to mention their great humor) to all who attend this magical 2-week adventure in France. Not only will the instruction be over the top, but you will also experience the french culture, up close and personal, through exciting excursions and fabulous meals by Chef Marc Bost….mmmmm.

Just pick a month, or an instructor, or a subject…… it is as easy as 123 to register and then you can leave the rest of the details to the staff at La Bonne Etoile who will guide you every minute of your preparation for 2 weeks dedicated to you and your art.  Whether you are a beginner…or a professional….La Bonne Etoile Artist Retreat is the place to be this summer….give yourself an early Christmas present and count yourself IN!! Enroll by clicking on the Event tab above, to the list of events on the left, or on the banners below to download the brochure of your choice….





2016 WOW!!! This is the year for you!!

Kippy Hammond

Kippy Hammond

What an exciting year this year!!  We kick off with  JAMES RICHARDS as he returns with a split workshop beginning with a week painting en plein air in Provence followed by a week at La Bonne Etoile to turn these pieces into larger studio paintings, KIPPY HAMMOND  will be conducting a customized workshop “Setting Your Artistic GPS” in July and we are welcoming NANCY TANKERSLEY for the first time this year on our staff in August “Painting with Confidence”.  We are so fortunate to have these instructors offer their time and knowledge, not to mention their great humor to the wonderful students during 2-week grand adventures in France. Just pick a month, or an instructor, or a subject…… it is as easy as 123 to register and then you can leave the rest to the staff at La Bonne Etoile who will guide you every minute of your preparation for 2 weeks dedicated to you and your art.  Whether you are a beginner…or a professional….La Bonne Etoile Artist Retreat is the place to be this summer….give yourself an early Christmas present and count yourself IN!! Enroll by clicking on the Event tab above, to the right, or on the banners below to download the brochure….



2016 Events Banner Richards


2016 Events Banner Hammond


2016 Events Banner TANKERSLEY

A Day in the Life


Time: Après another lovely picnic lunch, about 13:32hr.
Place: A field overlooking a vista in Gumery
Day: Hard to say at this point

We’re moving into week two of the workshop and everyone is hitting their stride. For every less than satisfactory painting there is a lesson learned to make the next one better. Pressure and expectations that we put on ourselves are starting to melt as we sink into the experience. Not every painting will be a masterpiece. Some days you may never complete one at all (or paint on the wrong side of the canvas… oops.) But every day we pile in the van with straw hats on our heads, paint in our boxes, and the holy trinity of wine/bread/cheese in the back for later. Sunscreen so we don’t burn. We’ve made friends with the bugs now. We come home at night smelling of dirt and accomplishment. It’s challenging and luxurious all mixed into one. And that, my friends, that is the best kind of day.

Paris Outing: Premier Partie

KathleenHeadshot55 June 11, 2015

Our first outing to Paris…. what to say about this. In the midst of all the class and refinement of the City of Love, crazy came to town when we rolled up in our 12 passenger van. This began with trying to park said van in a tight underground parking garage near the back of Notre Dame (we did manage success, for those of you keeping track.) From there we piled into the tunnels of the metro, trying to make our 11:30 appointment to view the Velasquez exhibit at the Grand Palais. Those efforts were stunted when the metro station we planned on exiting through was closed off due to a demonstration. Same story at the next stop. At this point all we could do was laugh and continue to count off as we walk to the exhibit from the Tuileries. Post exhibit we lunch at a cafe near the Grand Palais, scoring seats right on the corner with the primo people watching. I ate with Kathy. We shared wine, creme brûlée, and life stories. Kathy compared Jim’s teaching to that of a good tennis instructor. A great tennis instructor will hit the ball to you so you can actually play the game and enjoy the experience. A tennis instructor who claims to be great will slice balls at you left and right to prove to you (and themselves) that they are better than you at playing tennis. We all know that to truly learn something new, one must enjoy it enough to have the passion and drive to continue on, even when it gets frustrating. Jim makes the learning enjoyable- always with a positive spin, a willingness to help, and a calming tone of voice that soothes the stressed voices inside our heads.
After lunch we split up a little. One group painted (because a bucket list is something we don’t take lightly.) Jim really knocked one out of the park with his painting- you should see it. One group went to see an exhibit on tattooing at the anthropology museum. I walked to the Eiffel Tower by myself because I’ve always wanted to and it was on my own personal bucket list. We all began to congregate at the same cafe, discussing our day over tonic waters and beers, until we were all together again. We all piled back in our 12 passenger van and cruised on back to the country. This motley crew is going back to Paris again next week to visit the Musee D’Orsay. Stay tuned for part deux.


Dang it, Jim.

KathleenHeadshot55 Or should I say “Damn it, Jim.” That’s exactly what ran through my head today as I watched Jim Richards’ second painting demo in a local garden. During his first demo I was excited, motivated, and ready to conquer my first painting of the workshop. He made it look so simple. But this morning, after a decent start, I began to lose control of my painting and grew frustrated. With a little help from my kind instructor, I was able to finish it (it’s an OK start) but I still felt a little defeated.

During his demo today, the fire was begrudgingly restarted. You see, it wasn’t because he made it look easy again. It wasn’t because I had become a better painter over night. It was because I realized that I was finally able to push myself mentally to get better at something that I love, and that I needed to embrace this. This notion was a little foreign to me. Like most of us, during the year since last summer at La Bonne Etoile I had gone back home and become once again absorbed with my job, my life, my dog, etc leaving little time for myself and my art. As a high school art teacher, it’s rare for me to get to exercise my own painting muscles these days and that’s a problem. I realize that now. I promised myself to get out of my own way and really use this experience for its intended purpose.

Because there is more to this artists retreat than beautiful landscapes, long dinners, and relaxing in the beautiful French countryside if one will allow it. Perhaps the most important aspect is pushing yourself to learn, to improve, to grow as an artist and a person. To walk up to an easel, leave it all on the canvas, and whether it’s good or bad, to get up and do it again. I may be the only one who doesn’t practice this as regularly as I should, but I suspect that is not the case. Take time to do what makes you happy. Even if it makes you mad at first.



Preparing to Depart (Again.)

KathleenHeadshot55 This time last summer I was already in the middle of my first workshop as an assistant at La Bonne Etoile. Fresh out of college and a first-timer at overseas travel, I remember how heavy my pack was when I arrived at Charles de Gaulle. It was full of fancy clothes, shoes, and junk from my daily life that I was convinced I would not be able to live without. However all of these things became so meaningless the second I arrived at La Bonne Etoile and began to realize what I was really there to do. I wasn’t there to be looked at or to spend time with my things. I was there to learn, paint, create, laugh, taste, smell, feel, and soak up every second of the experience that would be over before I knew it. Two weeks whizzed by me in a haze of turpentine and chocolate mousse. It was marvelous.

This time my pack is lighter. No need for a second small carry-on. No fancy clothes I won’t wear. Only clothes that are suitable for plein air painting in lush fields and impromptu bike rides through the French countryside. Only the necessary toiletries because the light on a candlelit terrace during dinner is very forgiving- no make up required. Paint brushes to be dipped in thick oil paints. Shoes to take me in search of the perfect vista. A journal so I can write down and remember everything. Only the essentials so I can spend my second summer at La Bonne Etoile fully immersed in the experience. Stay tuned.




Meet Olga Krimon – coming to La Bonne Etoile, July 2015

NEWFLASH –  FYI Today’s currency exchange makes this year’s workshops 20% less than last year and the best exchange since 2001.

Kippy Hammond

Kippy Hammond

We have two challenges when we invite instructors to join the staff at La Bonne Etoile. We are looking for an artist who can inspire the most advanced students AND an instructor who can calm the fears of the beginning and intermediate student. Helping students to master basic fundamentals gives them the solid foundation necessary to enjoy their art making to the maximum and to advance to whatever level they desire. Margaret Dyer and James Richards have proven themselves every year to be that type of teacher and we are proud to introduce to you the latest addition to the roster, Olga Krimon.


I first saw this painting of hers at the Portrait Society of America Convention in Washington, DC last year where she was chosen as one of the prestigious finalists in the International Exhibition.  I actually cast my vote for her painting in the people’s choice award.Okrimon_Ania_24x24_oil
Later in the year, someone shared some of her paintings on Facebook appearing on our timeline and we  were smitten. After we had an initial interview on Skype, we were sure that she would be a wonderful addition to our staff….which means….we liked her a lot.

Not only does she bring cultural diversity, having come up through the wonderful Russian Beaux Art system, but when we explained that many of our students were fresh to painting and could be intimidated easily, she gave us the most beautiful smile and said….”But, that is where we all start.”

For those of you that need a little nudge to join us this year, take the time to read Olga’s story Krimon Artist Statement and Bio.pdf  plus….read her blog on her website to see how she addresses a lesson in composition for the advanced and beginning students.Red_Arrangement_oil_16x20

And you never have to worry about a thing when you join us at La Bonne Etoile….all of the details are taken care of in our all-inclusive workshop fee….Like Margaret says…it is a no-brainer….just get on the plane and arrive in Paris….we take care of all the rest.

Olga Red Scarf