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.

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.

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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



Rehearsal Sighting at Basilica Saint Remi

Honey Hilliard

Honey Hilliard

This video gives me chill bumps every time I watch it. The actual experience was far better, walking into this eleventh century Basilica and chancing upon this a capella rehearsal was moving, beyond words, immediately transcending. There was a tangible buzz of a higher frequency in the air. The high, pure notes you hear in this recording are from the younger boys’ voices, which,  in person, sounded absolutely angelic. The large group (75-100 or so people), were standing in a circle in Basilica Saint Remi in Reins, France, where the acoustics were… incredible. We are so lucky (fortunate? serendipitous?) that Jerome decided, on somewhat of a whim, to stop by the Basilica on our way home from exploring the Champagne caves of Pomeroy. The video shows just a tiny bit of what we witnessed when we entered the Basilica.


On an entirely different note, here is a fun video of ‘Kippy and the Seven Students’ at La Bonne Etoile’s Margaret Dyer workshop. We were quite proud of this Snow White spoof, performed while on a picnic in the beautiful park at Thorigny Sur Oreuse.




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

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

Luther and Agnès….catching up with friends


Lady Jane and Robyn catching a look at Agnes' work in Manual Canovas Paris window.

Lady Jane and Robyn catching a look at Agnes’ work in Manual Canovas Paris window.


Kippy Hammond

Kippy Hammond


For so many of you, lasting friendships have developed from your stay at La Bonne Etoile. I thought you might like to see how two of your friends are faring.  First, Agnès Hardi is flying high in her career these days. As you know she is one of the top fabric designers in the world and I am so proud to count her as a friend. Here is a photo of Lady Jane Gillespie and Robyn Rogers in front of the flagship store  Manual Canavos in Paris, October 2012. The design in both of the windows for the season were Agnès’ and I understand there will be a repeat next season. Congratulations, Agnès!!  Here are some other photos I snapped when we visited her studio in Thorigny-sur-Oreuse in April when Agnès was one of the artists featured for LES JOURNEES EUROPEENES DES METIERS D’ART 2013. Throughout France, select artists open their studio to the public with a program to explain their particular medium.



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For those that don’t know Agnes…here is her website…it is in French…but just click away and enjoy



Last August during James Richards’ workshop, we were painting en plein air on the Rue Mouffetard, Paris and lunched at Restaurant Lucia, one of our favorite Italian restaurants. After lunch we planted our easels and painted on the spot for the next few hours. Here is an introduction of Luther Sehib, whose parents are the owners of this charming restaurant. As you can see, not only is Luther a budding artist, but even the salad buffet shows there is an artistic slant in everything this family does.  If you find yourself in this area, be sure to make plans to eat and you will see this wonderful exhibit of Luther’s work. Here is Luther….and his work.

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Lucia    rue de l’Arbalete, 75005 Paris, France