France! April-May 2019

A Visit with My Friends/Collectors in their Palatial Home

Beziers Residence of Bonnie and Robin Priest
Beziers Residence of Bonnie and Robin. Before my pastel art workshop started with Art Provence Experiences and Workshops, I had a few days to visit my friends Bonnie and Robin in their palatial home.

Visiting Beziers and Making Amends

About 6 years ago I flew in and out of France to give a workshop. When my European/American friend Bonnie found out that I’d been there, she was terribly disappointed that I didn’t visit. This year I gave Bonnie and her husband Robin notice that I had 3 extra days before my art workshop would begin in Provence. To my great delight, both of them managed to come from London (main residence) and Germany (work) so that I could stay with them at their Beziers home!

Artworks Are Like Puppies

My painting curtains in the guest bedroom in Beziers
The guest suite where I stayed had my little acrylic Curtains and the Turkish Windows.

It was an opportunity to catch up with dear friends, to get updates on their adult kids –who I knew before they were born – and revisit some of my works and those of some of my past students. People say paintings are like the artist’s children, but that is hyperbole. Perhaps a better analogy is that an artist is like the head of a dog shelter and the pups are under his care until he finds loving homes for them.

Newberry, my guest quarters in my friends' home in Beziers
This was the landing between the master bedroom and one of the guest bedrooms. My plein air oil painting of a view from New York’s Washington Square. Their kids are living in New York now – one of them a block away from this location. Beyond the doors is a pastel study for my Puccini painting, and reflected in the cabinet on the right is a 1988 pastel of the Crusader walls of Rhodes

Bonnie and Robin attended my biggest art show in 1990 in Beverly Hills and when they started their art collection they had the confidence to collect art they liked. One thing they did that enormously impressed me was that they visited and bought at art school shows. It is incalculable how much hope and inspiration they gave to young students by purchasing their art!

My friends' home in Beziers artwork by Hefferlin and Newberry
In the dining room, next to my pastel Orange and Red, hangs Coat by Melissa Hefferlin, an ex-student from decades ago.
Newberry, friends' home in Beziers, charcoal by Anita Murphy
This elegantly simple living room is the perfect setting for a stunning charcoal by Anita Murphy, also an ex-student of mine.

Our travels and visits have overlapped, connecting in Hollywood, Greece, New York, London, the southwest of England, and now France. We went on a “British” picnic that ended up in the pouring rain. We took a splendid bike ride on an idyllic day, passing River Piddle, and seeing Lawrence of Arabia’s grave in the small church of St Nicholas, in Moreton, Dorset. We’ve shared good and bad life events and the realness of mortality. We’ve hiked and seen the same landscapes.

The most important thing was that we enjoyed each other’s company. Throughout these stages, Bonnie and Robin always bought something of mine.

Newberry, friend's home in Beziers, my 1-minute conte life drawing sketch
Also in their living room is this one-minute sketch I did in 1977. It looks great with the ornate French couch. I drew this when I was twenty-one, and living in Den Haag, Holland going to art school full time. Bonnie and Robin joked that for this drawing I was paid an impressive $150 a minute!

Patronage and Poverty

A delicate aspect of a friendship with an artist is patronage. Most artists are poor. Pulitzer winning art critic Jerry Saltzman mentions that if you want to be an artist expect to be poor. He is absolutely right. Most people work their butts off making money to be able to buy the things that add value to their lives. Artists work their butts off 24/7 to make meaningful art even if that means poverty for them.

Newberry, my friends' master bedroom in Beziers with 2 of my paintings.
Their master bedroom suite, with two of my most finished alla prima paintings. Hollywood Hills and Cups. Hollywood Hills was painted from my 11th story apartment in the famous Fontenoy Tower. Making it I painted the same ½ hour every day for a month. Bonnie and Robin, when I met them, had a Spanish style house in the Hollywood Hills (my grandparents did too). And Cups was done in Rhodes. I had to leave and re-enter Greece every six months as a tourist, often I would fly to London and visit them.

Built into art’s DNA is a special aspect that only humans have. Art makes us feel universally connected. It soothes our souls and inspires our creativity. When you mix that with meaningful interpersonal relationships, it comes as close to love for existence as it gets. Thank you Bonnie and Robin.

2 Replies to “France! April-May 2019”

  1. This is a wonderful reminiscence, Michael. Love seeing your artwork in situ. And, the Beziers residence is absolutely magnifique…now *that* is a front entrance! Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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