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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.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (12) Troyes

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Sometimes it’s past midnight before I make it up to my room, and most of the time that’s after a long day and a few glasses of wine. So I can’t blog. All I can do it flop into the bed.

Yesterday (Tuesday) we worked in the studio until lunchtime, then off to visit the city of Troyes (pronounced something like Trwah). I think this is the sort of place I’ve been longing to see here in France. Its history goes back to before the days of Rome. In the middle ages it was the place of an annual fair, where traders from throughout the western world would sell their silks, leathers, furs, spices, precious wood and silverware. It was a thriving town. The buildings we walked among were, if I understand correctly, built between the 12th and 16th centuries. There had been a fire in 1524; much of the city had to be reconstructed. We saw the Saint Urbain Basilica (1654), with it’s incredible stained glass windows and gargoyle gutter spouts. We walked narrow cobblestone streets, almost gutters they were so narrow. It was difficult to comprehend the history and the lifes spent in the wonderful city.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (11) A new class begins

Monday, June 7, 2010

A new class begins.

Never got a chance to write Sunday or Monday. Sometimes I can’t get online for some reason, no connection to the internet. I also am not able to get onto Facebook because of my older operating system on my used laptop (I think that’s the reason). So if I seem unresponsive to anybody, that’s one reason.

I’ll catch you up on the past 2 days.

Katherine (27, reminds me of my two beautiful daughters very much) arrived from the U.S. Sunday. Kippy puts people to bed for a 4 hour nap if they’ve traveled from the states. While Katherine slept, we went to to brocant: huge yard sales held in little villages all around–meandering streats with tents and tables full of household items, old furniture, clothes. I bought a few things which would fit in my suitcase for people at home (whom I’m missing very much). Eva returned from Paris to model for us for 2 days. She translated art vocabulary words for me to use for the new French students who would arrive Monday morning: sombre, moyen, claire, dessiner comme un carte de geographie, plisser les yeux.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (10) A Day Off


Saturday, June 5, 2010

A day off

I took the day off. I took a nap, read some of my book, “Water For Elephants,” did absolutely nothing that had anything to do with art. Kippy, Jerome, Warren and I rode bikes through the French countryside to the River Seine. I kept telling myself, “I’m riding a bike in France! I’m riding a bike in France! I’m riding a bike in France!”

Tonight for dessert: tiramisu and a 7 layer torte. How can I say no? I’m in France.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (9) Vernissage – end of week one of classes


Our last day. We worked from 9 till 4, finishing our pastels. Afterwards, we hurriedly cleaned up the studio, vacuumed, moved all easels and chairs and slide projector equipment and heaters and tabourets to the perimeter of the room behind screens, collected all the work done during the week and displayed it on walls and easels, grouped by artist. A table cloth was put on what had previously been piled high with pastels and clutter, a vase of fresh flowers from the garden, wine glasses, champagne flutes, cookies, nuts, chips. We had 20 minutes left to shower and change clothes before guests arrived.

Asti and some of her work:

The room was filled by 6:30, with invitees – people I was getting to know by now. People from Caroline and Serge’s dinner party earlier in the week, people who attended my demonstration at the beginning of my class a lifetime ago, most French speaking only. I somehow was able to converse with many, sometimes in only English, sometimes I used my pathetically meager knowledge of French, and sometimes even in Spanish. I find myself resorting to Spanish if I can’t communicate, and several times it’s helped the understanding. By 8, the number of guests had dwindled down to those who were to remain for dinner.


The patio table was set with flowers and candles and was ready for us as we left the studio. Kippy assigned seating. On my left was Stephan, who brought the cheese – a huge platter of about 8 different kinds, carefully chosen to be ripe for the evening. He selected 5 cheeses for me, and in his broken English, described the order in which they were to be eaten. He also bought 2 of my demonstrations, one as a birthday present for his wife across the table. On my other side was Gilbert Shelton, a cartoonist and underground comix artist. Some of his cartoons: The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy’s Cat, Wonder Wart-Hog, Not Quite Dead. He also did the album cover for The Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street! Totally cool, huh?


I’m not sure what time the evening ended because once we were all told if we needed to do anything, we were free to go, I slipped upstairs while the party continued, and fell asleep.


Margaret Dyer 2010 France (8) Cucumbers. Just can’t escape them.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cucumbers. Just can’t escape them.

This is a 19×24 pastel of the restaurant at the Musee Jacquemart Andre. I did it while the others were working and didn’t need much input from me. I’ll be posting some of their work tomorrow.

It’s 10:00 p.m. We’ve just finished for the day. It’s been a long day, in the studio since 9 a.m. , breaking only for lunch and dinner, then heading back to the studio.The artists want to get every last minute they can in the studio, and I want to make sure they get what they want. They have produced some pretty impressive stuff. I had hoped to, but I’m not ready to photograph their work yet; there’s some finishing up to do. I’ll shoot it tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s the last day for this class, which will culminate in a vernissage, or private viewing. Guests are invited over for drinks and munchies, and we from the workshop will display the work produced all week. We’ll dine afterwards.

Asti leaves Saturday. It’s going to be sad. I’ve gotten used to her beautiful German/English accent. She’s from Hamburg and paints the seashore there.  Warren is staying for next week’s class. We may see Meg next week, if not in class, then afterwards.

It’s been a small class. I’ve felt bad that we didn’t have more attendance, but the students were ecstatic about it; they got lots of attention from the teacher. Monday, a new class begins; we are expecting 9 students, most of whom speak only French. I’m going to learn some vocabulary words so I can communicate with them.

For lunch, Kippy seved magret de canard (domestic duck with an apricot sauce) and cucumber soup, served cold. Those of you who know me well may be surprised to know that I actually ate some soup. OK, the photo shows how much of it I allowed into my bowl, and I didn’t finish it, but I did actually take, of my own will, not being forced or coerced, several sips. Had I not sniffed it before tasting it, I might have had more than 3 sips, because it actually did taste pretty good, but the cucumber smell was still in my brain, and occasionally I’d bite into a little lump of the detestable stuff, so with each sip, I had a more difficult time trying to forget what I was eating. Kippy promises to serve it again today.

One of my very favorite quotes:
“A cucumber should be well-sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out.”
Samuel Johnson
English author, critic, & lexicographer (1709 – 1784)

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (7) June 2


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It is 9:45 p.m. here and it’s as bright as 6 p.m.

We spent the whole day in Paris. We began with the Musee Jacquemart Andre, where there was an exhibit of Spanish masters: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, El Greco and my favorite, Joaquin Sorolla. We had lunch at the Museum restaurant and headed to the Musee l’Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies. Before we left the museum, I slipped downstairs to see a Paul Klee exhibit, and discovered rooms and halls full of Post Impressionist works: Modigliani, Matisse, Sisley, countless others, A wonderful surprise. We’ll catch the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre another day. We were exhausted. One more stop–Sennelier, maker of artist paints and pastels since 1887, for pastels and paper. Dinner time, we searched for a restaurant, but discovered Parisians don’t eat dinner when we do, no restaurants were open. We settled for wine and cheese. We were rejuvenated and headed back for the hour train ride to La Bonne Etoile.

Tomorrow, 9 a.m., back to the studio to work from photos. We will work long and hard to make up for lost time. In tomorrow’s post, I hope to put some work done in the studio up.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (6) Monday May 31

margaretdyerMonday, May 31, 2010

It was a long day yesterday. We were busy from early in the morning until late at night, exhausted when we went to bed. Kippy had to wake us all up at 8 this morning for class. I never had a chance to get on to the computer. So I’m writing for 2 days now.
Here’s how Monday went: At 9:00 a.m. we were at the easels. Another student, Meg, arrived. Meg, an American, is a journalist who has lived in Paris for 30 years. We worked on poses for about 3 and a half hours. By the end of the day, each student had 3 pieces. At 4, after Eva quit for the day (or so she thought) several of us worked from photos of the last pose until 7ish. We were served wine as we walked into the house, guests (Chantal and Paul) arrived, the table was set: pork roast, wine, cheese, more wine. After dinner, probably 10:00 or so, we put Eva back to work. A photo shoot in the bathroom: we set up the lighting (lightning as Asti keeps saying), filled the bath, Eva disrobed, got into the claw-foot tub, bathed, got out of the tub, dried off, brushed her hair…all while Kippy, Asti, Warren and I (Meg is not staying here at the house) frantically photographed her from different angles We probably each took about 200 photos. Eva earned a little money and took a bubble bath at the same time! After her bath, Eva went to sleep, we stayed up and oohed and aahed over the photos on the computer. Once we figure out how to put them all together and print out the good ones, we’ll have some excellent references for night times in the studio.

For lunch yesterday, we had terrine, a salad and cheese. Here’s wikipedia’s definition of terrine: A terrine is a French forcemeat loaf that is served at room temperature.Similar to paté, a terrine uses more coarsely chopped ingredients.

Today, Tuesday, at the easels at 9:00 again. Eva posed–a nude. Lunch, back in an hour and a half to the studio. This time we work from photos of Eva. I did another demo, using one of the bathroom scenes we took last night.

The objective of this workshop is to acquaint students with my pastel method, using the figure as the subject. We start with a live model, then we’ll work with photos of models. The purpose for using photos is to teach them how to make it look like you’re not using a photo. Once they’re fully acquainted with the method and constructing the subject as if working from life, we’ll go out to the nearby villages and Paris to take more complicated shots like people at cafe tables. We’ll then return to the studio for a full day working from those photos.

Margaret Dyer 2010 France (5) The class has officially begun.

margaretdyerSunday, May 30, 2010

Warren, student #2, arrived today. There he is front and center, sitting next to Asti. I’m back there at the projector, Eva is in the pink robe. Kippy is somewhere in the front of the room.

Warren’s from Albany, NY. Both of my parents were from Albany. Almost all my cousins still live there. I’m sure we’ll find something in common besides art before the class is over. Another student is expected tomorrow, and there will be some local students coming for the day throughout the week.

We were to begin the workshop tonight at 6:00 with a slide show and demonstration. Kippy had invited artists from the area to watch. Since I’ve got such a small class, I was a little apprehensive about nobody showing up. But by 6:10, the room was filled with an enthusiastic audience, very few of whom spoke English, most of whom were from the dinner party the other night at Caroline and Serge’s. Kippy translated for me. We got through half the slide show and the projector decided to misbehave, so we went on to the demonstration.

Eva was a wonderful model, which made my job very easy. The evening lasted almost two hours and went very well. Everybody seemed impressed, several people were asking about getting into the class, the demo piece itself wasn’t embarrassing like they sometimes can be. After the crowd departed, Warren, Asti, Eva and I went into the house to have dinner with Kippy and Jerome. Eggplant au gratin, salad, cheeses, wine (I think Catherine may have been right about French wine not making you drunk, because I’ve certainly tried to prove her wrong). We stayed up way too late at the table talking about art. Such a passionate evening we all should have.

Tomorrow morning, 9 a.m., we’re to be at our easels. The class has officially begun.

A few thing’s I’ll do differently, if I get to come back next year: get a watch, bring a stylish blazer, speak French.

Un belle vie


Author: Kathryn Nichols, writes on her third visit to La Bonne Etoile

Author: Kathryn Nichols, writes on her third visit to La Bonne Etoile


Everything is beautiful at La Bonne Etoile. Every flower, every crack, every corner. Every crumb. Enter – buzzing with an intoxication of the senses. A choking thick sweetness, you swallow it drunk. I remember my first visit here… neck sore from craning in every direction – trying to take all in at once. The flowers, the food, the wine, the incredible people.

When surrounded by so much beauty one might find themselves contemplating the concept. What makes this place, this experience, so very beautiful? What is it, really? And how did I arrive here?
Is beauty a place, a thing, a feeling? Is it a chemical reaction? Is it old, or new? Or just a perspective maybe? And how do I create beautiful things?
Watch an experienced painter compose a picture.  To start, a blank canvas, then, the emotion of a first stroke. Excitement buzzing as the story unfolds – ever changing – until suddenly, an incredible scene appears like magic before you. “It’s beautiful!” you might say.
Perhaps you approach the finished piece, and the process, with a purely aesthetic attitude… appreciation. Or, maybe you hear your ego (its ok… everyone’s got one). “I wish I could create something as beautiful…”
But wait, you can!  You do! You create with your every thought, right? (Hint: think good ones.)
If you’re a believer that every experience is happening just as it should – that you are in the exact moment and at the precise place you should be; and perhaps that every moment is a reflection, a reflection of yourself in that experience… then you might say that you, yes you (!), are the epitome of beauty.
La Bonne Etoile just helps you see it a little more clearly…
Creativity allows us to shape our emotions into reality. Which is why LBE is such a genuinely sweet place to create… relax, retreat, let us take care of you.
Come. Indulge. Create your own belle vie.


Michelle Wells Grant Blog – France – Part 3 Paris and Provence Excursion

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, July 19, 2014

We’ll Always Have Paris

It was touch and go but we made it to Paris.Despite the transit strike that was going on when we arrived in France, our artists group managed to make it into Paris by train one day. Jane and I had never been to Paris before, so we were going to be mighty disappointed if we were that close but couldn’t go. It was a bucket list issue for us.

First we all walked over to the Musée d’Orsay where a few of us lunched in the exquisite restaurant before touring the museum.
(It’s possible that you might be seeing the remains of some absinthe cocktails.)

Jane and I then went through the Impressionists wing of the Musée d’Orsay and because we were so awestruck we wandered through too slowly. So we didn’t have time to view many of the other rooms in the museum before it was time to meet up with our group again. I think that means a trip back to Paris is necessary, n’est-ce pas? (Alas, we weren’t allowed to take pictures.)

Then off we went across the Seine river and through the Tuileries Gardens to the Musée de L’Orangerie. Monet, Degas, Matisse … oh my! Again, sorry I don’t have pictures to show.

We crossed one of two bridges in Paris with the “love locks,” the tradition of lovers writing their names on a padlock, locking it to the bridge and throwing the key into the Seine … a symbol of their undying love.

The bridge is packed with locks on both sides … you have to see it to believe it! Recently a portion of the railing collapsed from the weight of them.

As our day in Paris neared the end, we walked a different route back to the metro, through some elegant areas.

The window shopping was phenomenal.
Paris …. CHECK!
After 10 days, for Margaret’s 5th year bonus…we packed up the class and headed to Provence for a grand adventure.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Las Portes et Fenetres de France

By God, I’ve done it again! I’ve neglected my poor little blog for three whole months!Last I checked with myself, I was going to continue sharing my painting excursion to France with y’all. Oh well, as fabulous as it was I’m now onto the next exciting thing. But I did come across this draft that I had all ready to publish … photos I took of doors and windows of France. They are all so beautiful and interesting …. worthy of a blog post.

Enjoy! Then I’ll share some of my latest work. Thanks for stopping by! Au revoir!