He returned in the 1990s, but says the trip that really hooked him was a one-week stay in St. Rémy about ten years ago. “This time, I was traveling with my wife Huguette, my daughter Roseline and Roseline’s husband to be,” he says. “I took the time to walk around and discover the beauty of the village and its surroundings, with my sketchbook and a box of watercolors. I found the place so attachante that I’ve returned several times since…for two or three weeks at a time so I have time to explore and sketch to my heart’s content.” The title of one chapter in Claude's newest book, in fact, is One Never Returns from St-Rémy.
So what is it that draws him back again and again?
“It’s the ambience and the people,” he replies. Their love of life. The pleasure of the moment. Walking in the oliveraies where Vincent spent hours painting. The softness of the landscape. The food. The chocolates. The olives of all kinds. The market. I love Wednesday mornings in St.-Rémy when everyone goes out to make provisions for one day or one week. The accent of the villageois. Everything inspires me in St. Rémy. I feel like a kid who fell in a box of candy when I sit on the steps of the Hotel de Ville and draw draw draw the market.
,” Claude continues, “all places are full of beauty. The most banal road and the smallest village turn into subject matter. I like driving through the Alpilles and looking at the stones that time has created and the olive trees that tint the grey landscape a tender green…” Provence
Professionally, Claude has an international reputation. He has had 25 solo exhibits since 1974, done eight postage stamps for Canada Post and completed a number of major mural commissions. His career and garden (called Jardin Bon Accueil) have been the subject of several major articles and TV shows. He has also published two books--Inspiration and Painting and Planting the Garden--and been the subject of a third: Claude A. Simard by André Juneau (Presses Université Laval, 1991).
Should you find yourself in
this month, you can catch Claude’s newest exhibit, at Galerie Walter Klinkhoff in Canada , Montreal November 5 to 15, 2011. Claude's page on the gallery website is here. His website is here and his blog is here. Meanwhile, I’ve shared just a few of his paintings and sketches above...but there are many more. Provence
Claude’s next voyage to
will be a three-week trip this Spring. While he has no plans to lead a formal workshop, he might arrange a get together with five or ten people who love the region and want to bring it back in a sketchbook—“along with a few extra inches around the waist!” Interested? Contact him at email@example.com. Provence
Photos: A few of Claude Simard's Provence paintings and sketches, plus a shot of artist in his element.