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.

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!


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!


Michelle Wells Grant Blog – France 2014 – Part 2

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 5, 2014

Beyond the Turquoise Door

Is anyone tired of seeing this photo of the turquoise door?? Because this is probably the 5th time I’ve posted it, in one place or another. But it symbolizes so much! Beyond this door is the artist studio of La Bonne Etoile in France, where we spent blissful hours learning the amazing pastel painting methods taught by the great Margaret Dyer!

We started off our first night in the studio with a demo from Margaret, shown in progress here. Her process is so unique, with emphasis on value and the layering of warm and cool colors to give a vibrant, energized effect. Our beautiful model sat for us for several days and we usually painted one pose in the morning and one in the afternoon. For me that meant working much faster than I was used to and so my paintings didn’t feel very accomplished or complete. In the beginning this was so frustrating, but then I began to realize  that I was there to learn the process, not to turn out polished paintings.

It was so exciting to see the beautiful work appear day after day. We had some really amazing artists in our group.

As paintings were finished we clipped them to a wire overhead. After about a week, there were so many paintings hung that you couldn’t find a spot anymore! It was a beautiful sight.

Jane hard at work. She created some beautiful paintings while we were there.

In addition to our paintings of our model in the studio, we also had some photo shoots in the garden and  the house, using ourselves as models. This is one I did of our young resident assistant, Kathleen, hanging laundry. Btw, all laundry done at La Bonne Etoile was hung on the clothesline to dry, which was so fabulous! It smelled so good! (I just realized I’ve already put this one up as my blog cover photo… I guess you’ll have to see it twice.)

And I am proud and honored to say I now own this one that Margaret painted of us (Margaret and me) at the piano. We had a photo shoot where we donned robes and I pretended to play while Margaret  enjoyed my imaginary talent. I could not resist buying the painting. AND I bought another one she painted while in the studio, shown below.

I had to have this painting by Margaret Dyer, not only because I think it’s breathtaking, but because it is such a beautiful example of what she achieves in the skin of her nudes. Her method results in the most beautiful colors coming through on the skin, the drape, sheets, everything. I will forever have this as a wonderful reference, not to mention a memory of my weeks studying with Margaret.

Here’s one of mine. Eek! I must be nuts to post this following Margaret’s.
Love this! Four artists in a row, painting with focus!
Check out all the hung paintings. That’s just one wire … there were several.
One more of mine, painted on the last day in the studio.

Next up: our Vernissage, which was the party where all of our work was displayed and friends and neighbors came to see! Stay tuned ……..

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


After more than a week of painting in the studio, we held our Vernissage, the reception and showing of our work.

It was a mad dash to get the studio cleaned up but it looked so great. Our beautiful gallery!

Lots of Kippy and Jerome’s friends came and joined us for champagne, appetizers, interesting conversation and to view our work. So exciting! As Kippy said, now we can say we’ve shown our work in Europe!

(I think I missed the memo to wear red.)

Here’s Jane standing next to her board. She didn’t have a lot of experience painting figures before coming to France but she could have fooled us! Her paintings were wonderful and accomplished!

Kippy and me in front of my board.
I reluctantly show you my entire board because I was teased mercilessly by a certain fellow student from Tasmania (yeah, that’s you Vicki) about the one nude painting on the lower left … you know, The Full Monty? I can’t help it!! That’s the pose I saw from my easel position!
But once I got home and taped my paintings to the studio wall, that painting kept whispering to me … “TMI, TMI.” So I gave her a little makeover. Er, uh … down under. Happy now, Vicki?  😉
 Next post: our day in Paris. Stay tuned!

Michelle Wells Grant Blog – France 2014 – Part 1

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, June 7, 2014 Hailing! And not the icy kind.

One more post before heading off to France on Tuesday where I will be learning to paint figures in pastel (and more) under the tutelage of the amazing Margaret Dyer. Two weeks of painting plus some day excursions to Paris and other local places to break up the studio time! So very excited about this!

I’m going to try to blog from there but will be using my iPad instead of my computer for that, something I’ve not done before, so this post is kind of a test. Hopefully it will all work out and I’ll be able to share photos and descriptions of the fabulous experience I’m about to have.

In the meantime, here is a painting I’ve almost finished of my daughter hailing a taxi in the rain in New York two weeks ago. Maybe just a tad more tweaking required. Suggestions are welcomed … there are a few things about it that are still bothering me but sometimes I can’t see what they are! Feel free to jump in.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bonjour, France!

Nope. I wasn’t able to blog from France after all. Access to wifi was limited and time was even more so. We were busy, busy, busy with painting both in the studio and en plein air, touring charming villages and amazing museums, shopping at the local brocantes and oui, oui … eating lots of beautiful French food.So I’ll play catch-up. This will be the first of a series of posts I will write to share my fabulous experience. For those who may not be aware of my reasons for going to France, here’s the thumbnail. My good friend, neighbor and fellow pastelist, Jane, and I decided that we MUST jump in on the great opportunity to study under the tutelage of award-winning and master pastelist, Margaret Dyer. She would be teaching this two week workshop at La Bonne Etoile in Fontaine-Fourche for the 5th year, I believe. Jane and I followed her daily blog posts from her workshop last year and we fell in love with the idea of it. So as soon as registration opened up last fall, we were the first two students to register for this year’s workshop. Voilá!Off we went to France on June 10. We were exhausted but exhilarated upon arrival. It was so beautiful there! The weather, the gardens, the food …  all gorgeous! Day one in the studio was challenging but fun and so informative. Margaret Dyer is an amazing teacher. Enough words … see for yourself!

Through these gates we found a wonderland waiting for us on the other side.

In the village of Fontaine-Fourche (east of Paris) is La Bonne Etoile, the magnificent home and artist retreat owned by Jerome and Kippy, the greatest hosts ever. The house and gardens are breathtaking!

This is the massive barn where the studio is located, right through that turquoise door and up the stairs.

Jane and I stayed in the gite (pronounced zheet) across the road from the main house. It was a charming little place that housed four of us. Jane and I were in the spacious upstairs bedroom with bath and there were two other ladies downstairs, where there was also a common kitchen and dining area.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of our magnificent bathroom sink. We found most bathroom fixtures and faucets in France to be grand and beautiful.

We even had our own private garden at the gite. Here’s Jane enjoying her morning coffee.

Here we are … the fabulous artists and soon-to-be-friends attending Margaret’s workshop. There were 12 of us, hailing from all over the place; New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and three from Tasmania. Aka the Tasmaniacs. Which they are. We adore them. See Jerome, our fabulous French host, hiding amongst all those women!

Every night we were served a five course meal on this beautiful patio, lasting three hours from about 7:30 to 10:30. The food … magnifique! I returned home with extra baggage … and not in the suitcase!

Beyond the turquoise door lies the studio, where the magic happens. Next post: painting in the studio. Exactly what we came to do! Stay tuned!

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of Michelle Wells Grant’s wonderful blog of 2014

Come create and recreate in 2015

Create and Recreate at La Bonne Etoile in 2015



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!!

  •  Our most popular instructors Margaret Dyer and James Richards are returning again plus the addition of Olga Krimon.
  • Special Madrid/Sorolla add-on for James Richards workshop. Customized excursion add-on following Margaret Dyer’s workshop.
  • 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

2015 Richards Trip Agreement

2015 Richards Flyer

2015 Krimon Trip Agreement

2015 Krimon Flyer

2015 Dyer Trip Agreement

2015 Dyer Flyer

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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

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.

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

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.


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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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