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.

A Sea of Red

KathleenHeadshot55But not the Red Sea… as most of you know, France is well known for it’s beautiful wild poppy fields that scatter the countryside like smears of red paint. However, a solid red field is harder to find than one might think because they are quickly covered up with crops, leaving only a hint of red peeking out here and there. So, the group decided early on that if we came across a solid field of poppies, we would stop to take pictures, no matter where we were going or how late it would make us. As we entered the second week of the workshop, we began to feel that we were never going to find the elusive field that beckoned Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. 2014-05-28 12.17.58However, one sunny day, on the way to meet Jerome at the truck stop for lunch (this truck stop in no way resembles an American truck stop, just to be clear) we spotted it. We had taken a different way than normal from the Chateau Monte-Tilly, and it seemed to be fate, because if we had gone the usual way we would not have been able to see them. Poppies. They sprawled across the larger part of a field and seemed to stretch back for miles. We drove the van right up into the field and jumped out of the van, running towards a sea of red flowers. We were running because we were excited. We were also running because Jerome was waiting for us at the restaurant and we were late. Either way, we took a few moments to drink it in, snapped a few pictures, and then forged on to lunch. Most of the group went back the next day to paint our beloved field, and the results were truly lovely. Just another magical day at La Bonne Etoile.

2014-05-28 12.16.47 2014-05-28 12.18.362014-05-28 12.17.48  2014-05-28 12.19.48 2014-05-28 12.19.29 2014-05-28 12.19.14 2014-05-28 12.18.502014-05-28 12.20.16

The Dyer Disciples Have Arrived

KathleenHeadshot55And just like that, I find myself in workshop number two of the summer. This workshop features Margaret Dyer, a highly acclaimed pastellist and La Bonne Etoile veteran. This is her fifth workshop here and the word must have really gotten around because we are FULL. Ten women from across the globe (some quite literally) have traveled to this quaint French village to study Margaret’s exciting approach to portraying the human form in pastel. I have to admit, watching her demo on the first night was so exciting for me that I couldn’t wait to try it the next morning. The way she masses in shapes with vibrant colors and then works to refine the shapes is pretty brilliant, and the results are really gorgeous. A fleshy thigh that appears quite realistic at first glance possesses hints of turquoise, orange, and purple with closer inspection. The first day I was so amazed at the work that this group was able to produce following her method- when I walked into the studio I thought that Margaret had put some of her own work up to serve as examples! As far as the group goes, this is a lively and diverse bunch to say the least. Four returning participants, three from Tasmania (an island off the southeast coast of Australia), and one from New Jersey. We have Texans, Atlantans, and a few from the northeast corner of the U.S. Each meal is a riot- I am currently compiling a list of phrases that I’ve heard around the dinner table, I will report back towards the close of the workshop. The weather has warmed up, the garden is transitioning from white to yellow, and the food may in fact be getting even better. Life is good. I have now finished my Orange Jaipur tea and I think I’ll go for a bike ride before dinner. Until next time.

Note, apologies to Kathleen for the tardiness in this posting. But, many thanks for her notes on the Dyer workshop. Kristina

Birdsall Workshop Wrap-Up


KathleenHeadshot55 I now feel like I can truly comprehend the meaning of the phrase “gone in the blink of an eye.” I feel like I blinked and the workshop whizzed right past me. What an amazing two weeks we have had. Through rain and shine, this group of women painted everywhere and everything. Getting up and leaving by 7:30 AM to capture the morning light in a painting was not unheard of, and on the days that we were confined to studio painting, everyone’s en plein air kits sat waiting, just in case the rain subsided and we could rush off to some garden or vista. Sometimes we were gone for an entire day, painting and picnicking and enjoying the scenery for hours upon hours. We traveled to Paris together to visit museums, braved the bird show spectacular in Provins, and stood in awe at the incredible magnitude of Vaux le Vicomte. Needless to say, I will never forget these women, and I feel confident in saying that they will never forget this experience either. The vernissage showcased the beautiful paintings that they were able to complete while here, and each board showed growth and evolution in the painting of each student. If this workshop is a preview of the remainder of my stay here, then I am in for an incredible summer.

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Summer 2014: What a Start!

KathleenHeadshot55Bonjour from La Bonne Etoile!

My name is Kathleen Hilliard, and I’ll be the resident assistant, blogger, and coffee maker for the first few workshops of the summer. I’m a recent college grad from Valdosta State University and I am here to learn from these wonderful instructors, eat French cuisine, and see as much of this beautiful country as possible. This being my first time in France, I am so fortunate to have this opportunity to learn about art and culture in such a wonderful setting. This workshop features Stephanie Birdsall, a painter who specializes in floral paintings and en plein air. Her work is outstanding and her techniques are clean, polished, and efficient. The ladies and I have already learned so much and made some serious strides in our work after just a few days of Stephanie’s tutelage. We’ve also had a lot of fun! Just yesterday, we were painting en plein air in a neighboring village when workers came to pull up the flower beds that some of my classmates were in the middle of painting. It was truly like a scene from a movie or an episode of “I Love Lucy.” We all had a good laugh and decided to take a break for lunch at a local pizzeria. Speaking of which, I tried gizzard salad at the recommendation of Kippy, and it was divine! One thing I have learned since arriving is that it is a mistake not to try foods just because they are unfamiliar. Every single meal I’ve had has been out of this world. The ingredients here are so delicious because they are fresh and local, something I have to seek out (and pay extra for) in the United States. Last night we attended an art opening for local sculptor Jean Paul Guenver in a big barn one village over. His woodwork is amazing and it was such a cool experience for the ladies and myself. We socialized to the best of our ability and just took time to examine and enjoy the product of a fellow artist.  Being the youngest one here, I was uncertain what the group dynamics would be like once the guests arrived. What a silly thing to worry about, as these women (and Jerome) are so fabulous I can’t even stand it. Being able to discuss art and experiences with them over a candle lit dinner of vegetables au gratin is such a treat; there is just so much knowledge that each of them brings to the table. Everyone contributes something different which results in a well-rounded and interesting group where dull moments are rare and boredom is nonexistent. I feel like a sponge just trying to soak everything up. Well, that’s enough for today- it’s almost lunchtime, after which I’ll be joining the ladies for an all white still life study (how fun!?)

Until next time, au revoir!

2014 – The Best Year Yet —-Enrollment Open—-Don’t Miss Out!!

2014 is the year for you!!  PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO A FRIEND
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Don’t miss the BEST YEAR EVER at La Bonne Etoile

Every year we think, “How could it get better?” and it seems we have hit the nail on the head with this summer’s offerings. Here’s how!!

  • Four of our most popular instructors Margaret Dyer, Monique Carr, and James Richards are returning again plus the addition of Stephanie Birdsall.
  • Road trips to PROVENCE and NORMANDY included in some workshops, and Bonus add-ons for others
  • Once again an ALL- INCLUSIVE format makes your stay a breeze.
  • ONLINE REGISTRATION, enroll today with just a few clicks.

Click on the workshop banner of your choice to view the brochure…….OR…..for detailed information click on the Trip Agreement link below each workshop banner.

Visit our website and our blog

Click to preview the 2014 Birdsall Trip Agreement.

Click to preview the 2014 Dyer Trip Agreement.

Click to preview the 2014 CarrTrip Agreement.

Click to preview the 2014 Richards Trip Agreement.

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Time Traveling in the “Artist’s Way”

Honey Hilliard

Honey Hilliard

Monique Carr’s fabulous (and challenging) plein air workshop ended, the students left yesterday. Now, before the next adventure revs up, I’ve been catching up on business related activities and checking out the La Bonne Etoile library. This morning a book caught my eye; The Artist’s Way, a workbook by Julia Cameron, where I read a part with an exercise whose purpose is to remove creative blocks. One of the tasks listed was to time travel and locate an experience that gave you positive encouragement, then use this to replace a negative censor. I went back to a time when I was 11 years old,  a student in an art class Kippy taught. After class, Kippy took me aside and we sat on the steps outside her studio looking through my sketchbook. My book, a 16″ x 20″ spiral sketchbook, was full of drawings of dolls, shoes and toys that belonged to my then 1-year old little brother. I clearly remember discussing with Kippy a pencil drawing of a toy wooden dog on wheels, and her pointers on how varying your line widths can give weight and dimension to your subject. The conversation was validating and helpful, and I felt that my creative work was taken seriously. So, thank you, Kippy Hammond, childhood mentor and creator of La Bonne Etoile, for being a positive affirmation in my mental creative dialogue. Here’s an excerpt from my sketchbook Kippy and I reviewed that day on the steps of her studio, and here is a photo of me and Kippy on the steps of Musee D’Orsay in Paris last week.


photo copy              photo copy 2



Vernissage* at La Bonne Etoile in….. 5-4-3-2…1!!!

Honey Hilliard

Honey Hilliard

Yesterday afternoon we hurriedly put away the pastels, cleaned and prepared the studio for the vernissage, putting final touches on the pieces created in previous days under the tutelage of Margaret Dyer. Getting ourselves gussied up for the event was fun for a change, too, after having worn nothing but “studio gear” for days at a time (black sweats, dusty jeans, t-shirts and pastel smudges covering our faces and hands). We all have commented on our recent hygienic habits, or lack thereof, there’s just no time for a whole lot of bathing and primping when there is a master in the studio willing to bestow her guidance, and Kippy yelling in her South Georgia-tinged French phraseology “Come on,  ya’ll now HURRY, let’s go let’s GO… ( to Paris, Notre Dame, Fountainebleau, a brocante, etc.), at which point we frenzy into “fluff” sessions 5 minutes prior to group excursions. So, last night, with adrenaline and refreshments bubbling, and guests from the village, we experienced the culmination of our recent endeavors with Margaret Dyer. Seeing works of seven students displayed as collections, we surely grew leaps and bounds as individuals, travelers and artists. After the bulk of the crowd left we had a grand finale of a feast with our beloved chef, Marc; and the cherry on top… Absinthe for desert! Oui Oui, thanks to Jerome’s fulfillment of Margaret’s special request.

Check out photos of art, food, absinthe and the vernisage at:

*A vernissage is a French term that comes from the word “varnish”, used for a preview of an art exhibition, which usually is private, before the formal opening. Guests may be served refreshments as they discuss with artists and others the works in the exhibition. At official exhibitions, such as the Royal Academy summer exhibition, artists, in the past, would give a finishing touch to their works by varnishing them (J. M. W. Turner was known for making significant changes to works on varnishing day while his fellow academicians were simply varnishing).










How to Look More Parisian – Lesson 1

Honey Hilliard

Honey Hilliard

Yesterday during our museum marathon in Paris, I started compiling a bullet list of the elements that make the Parisian women look so darn ‘je ne sais quoi’. I came up with a few things, and you are welcome to add more items to the list if you are privy to any solutions to this mystery:

  • Wear very little makeup OR pile it on with lots of eyeliner
  • Load up your closet with horizontal stripes (it’s not a cliche, you see tons of stripes and berets here!)
  • Even if you don’t smoke, dangling a cigarette would help
  • Consider going braless
  • Stock up with scarves, flowy and BIG ones
  • Wear layers of lace and ankle boots, and put your hair in a messy top bun
  • Trade the tennis shoes for heeled leather ankle boots (this just presents a real challenge for ambitious and passionate travelers, could anyone help me find footwear that’s truly stylish and comfortable?)

In Paris yesterday, I stole a few blurry snapshots of some stylish gals, and plan to take lots more today at Fete de la Musique! (I’ve been working hard as Kippy’s assistant, she decided to send me on a play date with Jerome for the day, stay posted for fashion and musician photos!)



What a Pleasure to be at La Bonne Etoile!


 We welcome to the staff of La Bonne Etoile 2013, Honey Hilliard.     Follow her blog posts during her stay as she discovers more about France, her art, and herself.     And be sure to leave comments….always the highest encouragement to a blogger. Kristina (Kippy) and Jerome


Honey Hilliard

With a gracious plenty of gratitude, I quickly accepted Kippy Hammond’s invitation, 10 or so days ago, to the incredible, unbelievably beautiful La Bonne Etoile! So here I am now, for the Summer 2013 Artists Retreat to be a student, an assistant, and soak up every morsel of this beautiful cultural atmosphere, where the creativity, paint, pastels, flowers, conversation and gourmet cuisine flow freely. Kippy was my art teacher in Tifton, GA when I was 12 or 13 years old, and has always been a mentor to me, representing art, beauty, independent thinking self expression and creativity. As an adult, I’ve continued to stay in touch and be inspired by her, her art and her life and am thrilled to be spending time here with her. Kind of like my penchant for photographing food before I can take a bite, I am compelled to share this experience somehow with others. So, here at La Bonne Etoile blog, I’ll be posting some photos and a few words, with the intent to inspire.

Wheat fields in the Seine et Marne region.

“Cannelle”, second year on staff


Poppies, the most glorious, beautiful weed.

Rainy days don’t stop the fun at La Bonne Etoile.

More poppies….my all time favority.

I visit to the online art supply store in a village close to La Bonne Etoile.

A bientôt!!

Carolyn Schlam at the Smithsonian

Carolyn SchlamHello to all fellow alumni of La Bonne Etoile. I had the good fortune to visit this marvelous place in 2005 and 2008 and am hankering to return. 2014 peut etre? I am so happy to announce that I have received a remarkable honor this year. I was named one of the only 48 finalists in the prestigious Smithsonian Museum Portrait Competition and my painting “Frances at 103” will be on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery for a year. I’ve just been notified by the curator that “Frances” has been selected to advertise the Museum on bus shelters all over Washington D.C. this summer so Frances is getting out there. To view the compeition, here is the link: Wishing you all well. Please write to me at, or visit my website at J’aime La Bonne Etoile!!!!! Carolyn

Here is “Frances at 103” by Carolyn Schlam.Frances at 103 by Carolyn Schlam