chance we ended up staying overnight in a town called Meyrueis, which
was an unexpected treat at the end of the Gorges de Tarn. We lodged
at the Grand Hotel de France and had superb French cuisine. As is
traditional in France, one eats late and the stores are also open
late. After our lovely meal, we walked around the immediate area of
the hotel and came across a Galerie d’Art and stepped inside.
As the walls were covered with brightly coloured paintings, I fell
in love with them right away and identified with them as being my
style. Many of the paintings contained animals – cats and a
dog, women and passionate interpretations that depicted friendship,
love, the feminine and flowers. We developed a rapport with Evelyne,
the salesperson, who spoke no English except a few words, and through
Bob, we were able to converse. She explained some of the paintings,
one being of a cat who had a bad eye and in poor health and in three
parts it told the story of the cat having the eye removed and sewn
shut. This same cat showed up in other paintings. Evelyne was insistent
that we meet the artist, Michelle Seewagen, so just phoned her up.
The next thing we knew, we would meet Michelle at the gallery at 9:00
am the next morning and she would take us to her home where we would
see many more paintings. We bought three postcards of paintings with
cats on them and left to go back to the hotel. Evelyne was a wonderful
and expressive, loving person and in the tradition of the French style,
we were kissed on the face, on our cheeks with three kisses –
right, left, right. I didn’t know what to expect but I was very
excited to meet Michelle.
arrived at the Art Gallery and she was there and had ridden her
bike over. She was pure energy, bubbly, outgoing and expressive.
She had genuine warmth and a gracious spirit with a tomboy appearance.
We walked with her to her home, which was a few blocks away and
she explained that this was also her husband’s office and
he was a GP. We went through the side entrance into their home but
learned they also had another wonderful house that they’d
been fixing up for a year and had moved in a month prior. We met
Michelle’s husband but he was in the midst of seeing patients.
Michelle took us upstairs
to several rooms of paintings and I was in 7th heaven going from
canvas to canvas and then I found a huge painting that spoke to
me, and even though there were many more I loved, this was the one.
She offered us a free painting if we bought 2, but as Bob liked
this one, we would just get it, as the cost was 500 Euros, or $750
Canadian. It was decided that she would take the canvas off the
frame and we could see that this would take her an hour to do as
she had to pry up each tack. She also said she would take a cheque
dated for September 15th. A bond of trust had been created between
us and I learned that we were her first Canadian buyers, so we felt
privileged. It was agreed we would come back in an hour so we toured
around, got our car, and went back to her place.
Upon our arrival, she
asked if we would like to join her for a drink at their other house
and she would ride her bike and we would follow her, so off we went.
The house they lived in was filled with many of her paintings, had
many rooms, was kind of Victorian, and we loved all the windows.
Without even going in the front door, we saw her 3 cats in a downstairs,
glassed-in sunroom. She toured us through the entire house and then
we went to the cellar to get munchies and drinks and we left this
area via the cat-sitting room as it consisted of 2 rooms –
one with a bed and furniture and the other a paradise for cats to
sit in the sun of the sunroom. Michelle has a dog – a beige
Lab, and we had already met him at the front door and he was out
in the yard already. I took pictures of the cats and I met the cat
with one eye.
We sat in the sun with
Michelle and talked, going back and forth in French and English.
I learned her birthday was in February, she was 58 like me, this
was her 2nd marriage and she had 7 children. Her previous husband
was an artist and we had seen some of his artwork as well. Michelle
has always been athletic and continues to this day and, in particular,
swims 2 hours every day. Her husband works long hours so she has
a lot of freedom to do what she wants. I see this as working well
for her because she needs time to paint. She has another cabin,
which we did not go to, where she paints and she says that she paints
from the heart on a daily basis. Her subject matter includes swimming
scenes and rounded, robust people. The dog in her paintings is her
happy dog so she paints still life around her and doesn’t
do scenery unless it is to develop the control character feature
of the painting.
We met a couple of friends
who, she told us, would stop by and they were picking up paintings.
We sat in the sun and ate chips and olives stuffed with anchovies,
which were delicious. She had mint syrup that you mixed with gas
water and another apple drink. None of us had opted for wine. Michelle
is interested in selling her paintings in Canada and we exchanged
some ideas and we told her about the Gallery in Calgary that I could
connect her with. She promised to write and we gave both she and
Evelyne our business cards. These ladies like to write and e-mail/the
Net is not their forte. It was time to say goodbye and I hated to
leave, but we knew the distance we had to travel and with this delay,
an unexpected meeting with two lovely ladies, we would not be going
back to the farm, but staying somewhere else in our travels. We
kissed the traditional French kisses and off we went. Michelle didn’t
want us to help clean up, saying that some of her family was coming
over tonight. Off we went, leaving our lovely artist friend at the
large entrance gate to her home and I took the opportunity to hug
Michelle one more time, knowing she has inspired me and that we
would connect again.