During our visit to France, Spain and UK in 2015, the trip included participation in an annual En Plein Air painting competition in the Medieval town of Salies-de-Bearn southwest of France - Le Peintures des Salies.

The theme was to paint views of the town with no photographic  input allowed - artists found to do this were disqualified from the competition. It’s a beautiful town with no shortage of interesting views. The oldest house was built in 1300s but many interesting laneways and waterways, doorways and architecture, including the town square. There must have been over 60 artists painting, every nook and cranny, every lane, every waterway, almost every doorway had an artist working away!

The competition was held over 3 days of painting from 8am to 4pm with the 4th day being an exhibition of the artworks and presentation of awards held on Bastille Day. The artists were required to register on the first day at 8am bringing their own canvases, up to 3, one for each day and paying 10Euros per entry. The canvases were each given a registration number and were to be returned at 4pm, no cheating overnight! At 10am on the second day we were all invited to the Mayor’s quarters in the town square for speeches and a toast to the artists. The speech included a welcome to the Australi’s.

Although most people in these regional areas did not speak English it was very friendly and obvious that the art competition is a highlight for the town and a huge tourist attraction. People wandered around the town looking over shoulders and speaking with the artists all day. Unfortunately my French wasn’t good enough to join in as I looked blankly at the faces as they would make a speech about my efforts. At one stage I had a woman sing to me from her balcony because I was painting her view!

I made friends with a young painter who could speak some English and would tell me what was going on.

I managed to complete a painting of the street outside our apartment on the first day, then started another canvas of the church with war monument including rooster on the following 2 days and then a quick sketch of an old doorway in the last hour just to make the most of the event.

No awards but it was a wonderful experience to see how passionate everyone was about art - artists and spectators - something I have never experienced in Australia. I would love to do it again someday even though it was exhausting!

Painting 1 Day 1

Painting 3 Day 3

Painting 2 Day 2 & 3

2015 LE PEINTURES DES SALIES  - July 11-14

3 Day Painting Event held over the Bastille Day long weekend in Southwest France, a Medieval town with a history built around salt called Salies-de-Bearn.

Amazing experience, nothing comparable to this in Australia!