Monday, September 15, 2014

On Location Lesson 3: International Travel Tips and Karlyn Holman Workshop Announcement

Tuscany Here We Come!!!!!!

 Sunlit Tuscan Hillside

Dreams really do come true!  Thanks to help and encouragement from my friend and mentor Karlyn Holman, my home away from home will very soon be a beautiful and modernized medieval monastery in the heart of the Chianti wine region in Tuscany.  The name of this Tuscan retreat is Borgo San Fedele.  It's location is a short day trip away from some of the most charming towns I've ever visited in the region of Tuscany.  We will have chef/sommellier Andrea Anichini, giving us cooking lessons and preparing our meals all week.  In addition, I will be giving pointers and art lessons to those who are interested.  We will have the opportunity to paint and sketch on location and in the studio at San Fedele.  Under the Tuscan Sun, we will tour, photograph, and taste our way around the area's towns and vineyards during the harvest season.  In the evenings, I'm hoping that our resident minstrels will serenade us on guitar after dinner on the terrace "Under the Tuscan Stars".  Sounds dreamy,  right?

Our chef and cooking instructor
Andrea Anichini

Want to Join Me Next Year?  

If you're interested in joining me for my next visit to Tuscany, it's time to get on board!  I have another trip in the works tentatively set for October 2015.  I hope to combine this lovely location with an added excursion to Venice!  I am going on a scouting mission to Venice in a few weeks. I will check out locations and begin to make the plans for next year.  If you'd like to come along, then please contact me and send me your information!  As details come available, I will be sure to keep you posted.



Borgo San Fedele
Our "Home away from Home" 
In case you're traveling to Europe anytime soon, here's a few travel hints you may enjoy reading...

Cell phones:  I have an iPhone with Verizon on a business account.
  • The rate for calling or receiving calls in France and Spain is currently $.99 cents/minute for a business account.  Non-business accounts have rates available of about $1.25/minute.  Call 611 from your phone to set up an international plan for yourself or check if there are better rates available to you on your account.
  • I plan to disable my Data services while abroad.  This will prevent charges from texts or unwanted push notifications while I'm there.  You disable this by going following this path-  "Settings"-"Cellular"-"Roaming"-"Data Roaming"- "Off".
  • Verizon doesn't charge for WiFi usage simply charges if you receive texts or calls using their Verizon data plan.  If you have apps like Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, or Tango, you can use the apps to communicate free of data charges whenever you access WiFi on your trip.  These apps allow calling and texting, so long as whoever you are calling or texting also has that app.  It's a reason to get your frequent callers, family and friends to download the app before you leave.   
  • Charging: Don't forget your charger!  My iPhone is capable of converting the voltage from European outlets to charge the phone. All that is needed is a plug adaptor- something that changes the shape of the plug on your charger so that it can mate with the wall outlet wherever you are traveling.  A converter is not needed for the iPhone.
Camera/ iPad
Watercolor Painting- Borgo San Fedele
11 X 15 Rebecca Zdybel 
  • Taking photos from my new iPad mini gives me great shots and allows me to paint or sketch from the screen with ease.  This way I avoid dealing with my photo card and the need to download the photos to my computer in order to edit or view them.  The iPad mini does not work well in bright light...the screen is hard to visualize outdoors with glare being the problem.  It also is cumbersome to carry and shoot with
  • Getting photos from my camera to my iPad is a different matter.  It requires a lightning adaptor for an SD card.  In researching the options, it seems to me that the Apple brand is only a few dollars more than some of the off-brands, so I purchased the Apple brand SDadaptor.  
Credit cards/Insurance card /passport/precautions:
Bubble Boys- Tuscany
11 X 15 Rebecca Zdybel
  • I make a photocopy of my cards, passport  and ID and put them in my carry-on.  When I arrive at the hotel, I put them in the safe.  Just in case
  • Contact your credit card company to tell them you'll be traveling abroad.  It avoids fraud protection issues that can impact your ability to access the card while traveling.  
  • Check to see if your card charges foreign transaction fees.  Ask your credit card representative.  If you will be charged fees,  think about getting a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.  I have one from Barclay and also Bank of America. 
  • I always bring my medical insurance card and my healthcare savings credit card.  
  • Always keep your passport in your not set it down or let it go out of your sight with employees of any restaurant or rental companies.  Hotels sometimes keep your passport on tours, and though this really bothers me, I will cooperate if they insist. 
  • There is a new scam around being run at security checkpoints in airports.  It involves theft of unsupervised bags...While you go through the X-ray scanners separated from your bag, someone grabs your bag and goes.   Wait to put your bags into the scanner until just as you go through your body scan.  It will help to minimize your time of separation from your bags.  
  • Another new way to steal is on trains.  Baggage is often stored at the entrance to the train car that you occupy.  I've been told that stealing bags is becoming common when they are out of sight.  The suggestion is to buy a lightweight bike lock and secure your bags together and to the luggage rack.  
  • Consider money belts or bra-wallets to increase the safety of your cash, cards and identification. 
  • I generally make a manila envelope my travel file.  I keep my boarding pass there, and I put copies of my itinerary there and any travel emails sent to me by my carriers or travel companions.  That way I have one place to look when I want to refer to travel arrangements.  I keep this with me while I travel in my carry-on.  I also make a copy for my husband to keep at home if he's not traveling with me. 
New Painting- New Lesson for Tuscany!
Watercolor and Ink on Paper Rebecca Zdybel 11X15 $177

I wear primarily athletic attire and pack for 1 week.  Then I wash clothes in the sink.  I bring flip flops because floors are cold and sometimes its comfortable to just flip flop around.  Stone buildings tend to retain their sense of cold, so be ready to layer.  For dressier moments, I bring some jewelry that can  take my black top and black pants into evening.  I also bring scarves for pops of color or a dressier look.  Remember that women need to cover their shoulders inside church buildings.  Scarves are good for doubling as a shawl in this instance.  
For a list of Art Materials I plan to bring- see the Travel supply list on my home page.

I wish I could take all my friends and students with me, but if you can't make it, then I hope you'll join me vicariously by subscribing to this blog.  

I'd love to read your travel suggestions.  Post them here and we can all learn from one another =)

Links to my previous On Location Lessons
On Location Lesson 2: "I'm So Dizzy!" Solving Perspective Problems
On Location Lesson 1- Choosing Your Subject

Special Karlyn Holman Workshop

Karlyn and Rebecca in the studio together in France

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

 Karlyn Holman Watercolor Fun and Free Workshop
Dates: Feb 23-27, 2015 
Beach Cove Resort,  4800 S Ocean Blvd. , North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Cost: $500, $100 Deposit reserves your seat

This exciting watercolor workshop will be coming soon with Karlyn Holman!  I wanted to let my friends and students have first crack at registration, and and it's already almost ½ full!  Her workshop at Cheap Joe's has a waiting list of 8 people.  If you might be interested, I encourage you to sign up early before the course fills up.  Karlyn is amazing and we are so fortunate to have her!  Email me and I will gladly send you a brochure.  

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

Watercolor by Karlyn Holman

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

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Monday, September 1, 2014




Sometimes in city landscapes with narrow streets, you end up shooting the scene and almost feel dizzy looking at the photos.  It's like looking up at a skyscraper from the sidewalk below.  Streets and fences can also move across the frame at crazy angles.  Bottom line: very steep lines of perspective are uncomfortable.  The fence in the image of this barn is a good example.
The angle of perspective is a bit uncomfortable in this photo


When I back away and zoom in on my subject, note how much more comfortable the scene appears.
I have a camera which has a 50X zoom capability.  It's nice in instances where I want to shoot from a distance.  The advantage of doing this, when it comes to street scenes, is that it "flattens" the landscape and helps create less steep angles of recession in your perspective lines.  If you paint severe perspective, the image will feel edgy. Changing your perspective to allow a bit of distance, can flatten those angles, and perhaps make the image more comfortable to look at.  Try it and see if this doesn't help your photos!


I had a different sort of problem in Benajarafe, Spain.  We had come to the beach to paint boats, and the landscape was incredibly level.  No crazy lines or angles here.  I was probably the only dizzy thing on that beach!  This is what I saw...

"Anything but Dull" is a motto of mine.  So something had to be done! If I sat on the beach, my eye (the horizon line) was even with the sides of the boats, and it didn't make for an interesting image.  I needed a different (elevated) perspective.  I tried pointing my camera differently and framing the shots both in landscape and portrait compositions (as I suggested in Lesson 1 of my Painting on Location Series).  That strategy didn't change the fact that my horizon line was not high enough to see anything but the near edge of the boats.  I looked around for a hill.  I thought perhaps I could telephoto the boats from a higher vantage point...but there were no hills nearby. That's when I spotted the stack of pallets on the beach! Ahhh, do you hear the choir of angels singing?? I did!  I'm not sure why these pallets were stacked up on the beach, but they looked as if they might allow me to get a better perspective on my subject.

Sometimes an Artist's got to do what she's got to do...

Against every common sense instinct, I climbed up onto those pallets and sure enough, I had a much more interesting view of the beach!  My 3-legged stool is not the most secure perch, but  there it was ready for "such a moment as this".  I set up my stool on the stack of pallets, and all of a sudden it looked like a scene with elements I'd like to draw!  Woo hoo!

My great idea was seconded by a fellow artist on the beach.  Wei Lan Lorbor carefully joined me atop the stack of pallets, (thankfully she is petite!) We laughed, but we really didn't think much about it...after all, sometimes an Artist's got to do what she's got to do, right? They seemed like the best seats in the there we sat and enjoyed a gorgeous day on the Costa del Sol of Spain. It doesn't get any better!

Hint: Photograph your subject from wherever you draw it.


I am not a hard-core guerilla painter.  After about an hour in the sunshine on my 3-legged stool, I was no longer comfortable.  My "painting" was just a drawing at that point, but often my body is done before my painting is... even so, I captured an impression of the beach scene and took multiple reference photos in order to paint it later (in the comfort of a studio). Here is my little drawing...

Sketch of Benarafe Beach based on my time on Location that morning

I got off the pallet stack and made my way back to the café, where other (possibly smarter) artists from our group were happily painting in the shade and drinking cappucinos.  I was hot and thirsty and a little stiff.  Though I was happy with my drawing, it was pretty apparent that these smarty-pants in the shade of the café truly had THE best seats in the house.  In fact, they had found inspiration for their paintings in the view of our backsides.  Look what Karen Knutson came up with...isn't it fun?!
"Best Seats in the House"- sketch by Karen Knutson- Tombow markers on paper.  Love it!

I didn't come away with a great painting that day, but I had an experience and a drawing...and a story! Sure it's not always comfortable...and you don't always come away with a masterpiece...but you make a memory.    In some ways painting on location is like camping; not always a simple or comfy, but there's joy to be had in overcoming the obstacles, and some experiences can only be had out in the open and on site. That's what I love about Plein-Air painting...the memories and the experiences.  My drawing and photos from that day allowed me to come up with this little painting once I got home. A happy momento of my visit to Benajarafe on the Costa Del Sol.
Finished painting
All Along the Watchtower- Benjarafe, Spain
Watercolor and Gouache on Paper 11 X 15  $225

The painting above was completed in the studio.  The image is entirely based on elements drawn from the beach.  Their locations and the time of day are "imagineered" by me, but it's still an homage to my time on that beach.  So fun!

If you haven't tried painting like this, I encourage you to give it a go...Take a hat, perhaps a small stool, paper, pen, pencil, eraser, some kleenex, and a camera. Don't worry about doing a finished masterpiece.  My goal is simply to capture elements from the scene which are impressions of my experience there.  Give it a try and report back!

Not sure what to bring?  My complete Supply list for Travel is near the calendar here on the homepage of my website. 

In a few weeks, I will be heading back to Italy with the interesting group I've assembled for my Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany.  We are going to eat, paint, cook, and sip our way around that beautiful region during harvest time...ahhh!  I can only imagine the excellent memories we are about to create!  Interested in going on an international trip of this sort?  Contact me about my next fabulous adventure, and perhaps you can join me...

Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there reading.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blessing Beads- New Video How to for Easy DIY Yupo Paper Jewelry Project

Blessings embedded into the beads make these a special craft project!
Follow the link below to watch my video explanation of how to make these meaning-filled beads which embed thoughtful wishes or prayers right into each bead.  It's a great way to create a unique jewelry creation for someone special. We made one for our niece's baby shower, and recently made another for a friend who is battling cancer.

I'd recommend writing down the prayers or intentions on a sheet of paper and letting that list accompany your final creation.  

That way the recipient will know the contents of their beads.  All in all, a meaningful and fun way to use your yupo paper!  

Blessing Beads-How to Video for Easy DIY Yupo paper jewelry project 

Have fun and let me know how they turn out!
Here are some photos of our creations...

Materials you'll need:  heat gun, sturdy non-melting work surface, needle nosed pliers (I like having 2), scissors, yupo paper, acrylic paint, metal nails or thin rods

Our soon-to-be-a mommy Niece Katie Zdybel with a necklace full of blessings from her baby shower.

Paint your yupo, dry, then cut into narrow strips. Write your blessings or prayers on the unpainted side of the paper strips

wrapping the yupo strips tightly around a wire support rod is key
Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there reading.
Contact me if you'd like to join me for art classes.  See my calendar of classes on the adjacent calendar.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

Saturday, July 19, 2014

On Location Lesson 1...Choosing Your Subject

On Location...Lesson 1

Tips for Choosing Your Subject

All the Painters at work in St. Chamarand, France

Painting on location is one of my favorite things to do!  In preparation for my next trip with students to Tuscany Sept. 27-Oct 4, 2014, I thought I'd begin a series of posts oriented toward helping you get great photos and pick where you should paint when you're out of the studio and on location, or "en plein air" as they say in France.  This first lesson gives some hints on to how to frame your shot. Whether you're a photographer, or a guerrilla painter, hopefully you'll find food for thought here...
St. Chamarand, France
Vue de la Rue- St. Chamarand, France
11x15 watercolor- Rebecca Zdybel

When on location, deciding on your subject...what to paint and how to paint it can be difficult.   Once you find an interesting subject, the next decision you face is how to frame your subject to best advantage?  These are some good questions to ask yourself:
  • What angle will you use? 
  • Where is the best view? 
  • Will your subject be most interesting viewed from head on, from the side, from below, or from above? (hint: look for interesting shapes and angles)
  • How much time do you have to paint or draw?  (if not much: then pick something simple.)
  • Is there a good pattern of lights and darks?
  • What interesting features do you want to highlight?
  • Is there shade or a place to sit and be comfortable? 
  • Where is the nearest bathroom? This is NOT A JOKE, lol!
  • Do you hear thunder?  Also NOT a joke...Take shelter!  (I learned this the hard way right after the photo b!)
Setting up to paint in St. Cirque la Popie-
Don't ignore gathering Dark clouds even if it's bright and sunny...
Needless to say, I didn't get very far before we had to RUN for shelter!

Hint: Use Your camera as a Viewfinder

If you have a subject which excites you and you're not sure whether or not it will make a good painting...TAKE A PHOTO. It used to be that artists would carry little cardboard viewfinders in their bag, but these days, we all have cameras.  Cameras have essentially made it unnecessary to bring an extra viewfinder.

When possible, make an effort to view your subject from multiple perspectives through your camera.  Assess your photos, and then let the best photo help you decide how to compose your painting.  Digital cameras, phones, and iPads or tablets make this easy.  
(I have found that tablet screens e.g. iPads are very difficult to see in the bright sunlight.  They are also cumbersome as camera's...often taking a long time to focus and shoot).  

Scene from Gigouzac, France (Landscape orientation)

Same scene- Gigouzac, France portrait orientation with sunshine
Once you find the right vantage point and get ready to begin your sketch, here's another TO DO LIST:

  • I will frequently take a photo with my iPad if I have it.  Sometimes I use it onsite as a quick reference to begin my drawing.  
  • ALWAYS TAKE A PHOTO ONCE YOU ARE SEATED AND BEGIN YOUR DRAWING.  This will record your unique seated perspective for future reference if you need to alter your sketch or complete it once you get back in the studio.  Remember: If you take a photo while standing, your horizon will be at standing eye level.  If you sit down, the seated position lowers the horizon line and changes all perspective lines. 
  • TAKE ANOTHER PHOTO IF THE LIGHT IMPROVES OR CHANGES.  (Shadows change, and some light patterns are more interesting than others.)

In my next installment I'll give you some tips on solving some of the perspective problems which can arise on location.  Subscribe to this blog so you'll get them delivered to you as soon as they're posted. 

Thanks to those who have been leaving me comments.  I really enjoy hearing from you!

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Angelic Warrior Joins Me to Fight Arthritis!

Children have a wonderful way of being open to ideas and welcoming of new experiences without expectations.  Think about it...we all began that way! Yesterday, I was reminded of how fabulous it can be to experience painting with the heart of a child.  Join us for this fun watercolor art lesson.  It's great for young kids or the "young at heart".  

It was my privilege to participate in the SC Arthritis Foundation's Fundraising Project for 2014. I was asked to work with a child from Myrtle Beach who has been diagnosed with arthritis.  My role was to help her develop a piece of art which could be sold for fundraising purposes.  With that in mind, I met this little Art Angel...

Arianna Sanchez is READY!!!

This little Art angel is a warrior!  

She is in a battle with arthritis.  

But she is not about to let that stop her!

She came to my studio along with her sweet mom and brother, and we set off to CREATE something!
Perhaps you'll enjoy her journey as an artist and want to share it with a child in your life.  In fact, maybe your Inner Child will be so inspired that you may want to give it a try...I hope so!  We all had fun with it, and you may too...
Rebecca Shows Arianna some of the materials they will use
I showed her some of the materials and gave her lots of verbal instruction. Given her age, I approached it as a color exercise.  Our First Step: Crayon lines as "wax-resist"... we made random lines and got loosened up with some mark making on the page. 
Adding a bit of yellow watercolor
Then I had her use large hake brushes and with a pure lemon yellow color, she created a winding path of yellow on a wet piece of watercolor paper.  You can't see the crayon lines, but they added some "resist" to the watercolor, creating white or relatively light lines. 

Setting a pure Manganese blue in beside the yellow and then helping it find a path to the edge was the next step. Try not to mix the colors, just set them next to one another. As I often say: 

"Water paints better than I ever could."

Next comes blue and then comes pink!
Along the way, I had her note what colors resulted when blue merged with yellow (green).  Then we added some pretty Opera Pink, but the stipulation was...add it next to any color except "Green".   When she added the pink, we noted what color resulted when it merged with Blue (purple)  and when it merged with yellow (orange). She and her brother had big fun naming the colors and figuring out where she could put them.

We continued to add strong mixes of watercolor, all the while placing colors next to one another rather than mixing them together.  Instead, we sprayed with water to encourage their mixing.  We continued our guessing game about what color would result from our additions.  We added Winsor Red, and avoided placing it next to "Greens".  We added American Journey's Arctic Ice, but avoided placing it next to "Orange". Then one at a time, with instructions of what colors to avoid, we added more pink, blue and yellow.  (Avoiding the complementary colors helps to keep the colors bright.)  As she did her additions, a variety of beautiful colors emerged on the paper.

How about some RED! 
Once the page was full of color, we added some salt for texture in places where the paper was not as "shiny".  At least for a while, we were able to restrain the application of salt to the dry areas...then it was so much fun pouring salt, that things got a bit salty!  But that's ok, we have to let go and have some fun along the way, right?!

Then it was time to paint with the blow dryer.  Some of the deep wells of color could be moved in lines with the force of the blow dryer.  Things also need to dry before we could move on...soooooo
Painting with the blow dryer!

After blow-drying our paper, and blow-drying her brother, and lest we forget, of course we had to blow-dry mom... 
After everything was dry, we ended up with a beautiful bright page full of color and texture.

Next came the lines....To add the lines, we made big sweeping gestures with Elmers Glue.  Once the lines travelled around the paper, we added more salt...(oh yesssssss!) but we did so by pinching a bit between our fingers and dropping it directly into the wet glue lines.  Here we are doing this step.  (Since Arianna's arms were a bit short for our big painting, I gave her a had with the glue)  We all helped put salt into the wet glue.

Once the glue lines were salted, we set about adding the same colors next to one another along the lines.  This requires a gentle touch.  Simply touching the glue lines with a loaded soft brush full of paint works best.  There were so many lines that Big Brother, Christian needed to lend a hand!

Beautiful colored lines begin to form all over the much fun!

Then it was time to get out the blow-dryer out mom!

After drying completely,  it was time to do a little coloring with American Journey Watercolor Sticks.  They are a fun water media product that goes on like a crayon, and dissolves like watercolor.  Arianna used those to intensify some of her colors and create a few strategic dark shapes.  I limited her choices to ones which would keep her out of color trouble, and encouraged her to search out a shapes that had been formed by the lines we had created. I had her color till she was tired of coloring in each shape, and then spread the color the rest of the way  with a wet brush.  She liked being able to quit on a shape when she felt like it, and just letting the water do the rest...

Once she had a page full of beautiful colors and lines, I thought giving her composition a calm border might be nice.  So together, we added a white acrylic border along the edge.  
 Finally, the painting needed her signature.  She looked at the piece from all directions and decided which way it should hang.  I suggested a place for her to sign it and she used 2 pieces of paper as a guide for placement, and for how large to write her signature.  I had her use graphite, to make it easy to write her name.  She did it perfectly! 
"Keep On the Sunny Side" Painting by Arianna Sanchez
Mixed media of Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper.  18"X24"
Painting will be available for sale 
Don't you just love her painting?  Comment here and I will share those comments with Our Art Angel and her sweet family.  If you're inspired to help her and other kids like her, join us in the fight against Arthritis, and attend the Masquerade Event in Charleston, SC follow this link:

August 3  Gallery Show to celebrate each piece created this year at Lowcountry Artists Gallery 1-3pm Charleston, SC

September 6 D'Vine Affair Masquerade Gala Benefitting the Arthritis Foundation. at Memminger Auditorium  Theme: Masquerade--Faces of Arthritis7 pm
Charleston, SC

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cave Art Mystery!

The mysteries just keep on getting bigger!  Cave paintings similar to those found in Europe have been found high in the cliffs of the Great South African Escarpment.  REALLY?!  How is that explainable?

If you are as intrigued by all this as I am, be sure you read my previous post, and then you may enjoy this video...Let me know what you think~

Let me hear from you! I'd love to know your theories...
Ancient Apparitions -Watercolor, acrylic gesso, ink on paper  11X15 $300
Rebecca Zdybel

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cave Paintings at Cougnac and Pechmerle

France: Cougnac and Pechmerle Caves-  Go and GO SOON!
A page from my trip journal...

Sometimes the things you see on a vacation are a complete surprise. These caves were fantastically surprising!  The definition of great art for me, is a painting that intrigues me, with mystery or a sense of story that draws me in and captivates me. These caves and their paintings have all that and more...  

Talk about other-worldly!  The caves of France are incredible and a MUST SEE, as far as I'm concerned.  Cougnac caves are near Le Vieux Couvent in Frayssinet, which was our home base.  Pechmerle is also nearby. Once I experienced the Cougnac caves, I vowed to see as many others as possible.  Thankfully, a small group of us took another trip and made the effort to see Pechmerle while in France.  Thanks to Karlyn Holman for helping us to make that arrangement!  It was another moving glimpse into our connection with artists from our ancient past.

Cougnac Caves-

The idea of artists painting in caves is not news.  We've all heard about it, but experiencing it is another thing entirely!  I thought the drawings would be like frescoes or decorations which might be found just inside the door or cave entrance.  Well I couldn't have been more wrong!  First of all, there's no door.  Second of all, it was an incredible effort just to make your way to the place where the first artists created  their paintings.

The artists who decorated the walls of ancient caves were painting with saliva and ground minerals approximately 25-30,000 years ago! Imagine's awe inspiring and difficult to even comprehend.  What that means is that art was an impulse and a form of expression present in our earliest ancestors.  Homo sapiens were vying for domination of the humanoid species, but Cromagnun man (and woman!) may have been among the first artists.  In fact, published research from 2013 indicates that the MAJORITY of cave painters were female! How about that?! We didn't hear about the female artists during our tours of the caves, but my research confirms this factoid. Since handprints were often found as part of the imagery in the caves, researchers have done analysis and come to the conclusion that over 60% of the paintings were likely done by females.   GO GIRLS!  (look for this research described in publications dated October-2013 including Smithsonian magazine and elsewhere)

Some of the images are wild, and make you wonder if they might represent fantasy creatures.  Many are images of now extinct animals. You'll find wooly Mammoths, and deer with huge "moose-like" horns, as well as spotted horses in these ancient paintings.
Scientists speculate that these leopard spotted horses may actually have been in existence during these paleolithic times!  Maybe early relatives of appaloosa or paint breeds? (my non-scientific speculation) 

One of the artists may have even been an early relative of Kilroy (just kidding!).  Like the Kilroy graffiti which GI's left behind at places they visited, there is an odd geometric/avian symbol found in a few different ancient cave sites in France.  Some of the sites are more than 30 Km apart from one another.  This means that one artist got around to various sites, or that various artists found meaning in  that same symbol.  That meaning has been lost to us over the thousands of years since it was made, but here it is below:

The art is obviously practiced, and was done without photos or real subjects for reference.  To create these images, we all agreed that the paintings we viewed were not the work of a novice.  The artist had obviously painted these images many times in order to be so certain with their lines.  Sometimes the contours of the rock would be used to advantage of the image.

It was not possible to peek around the corner and see their subject either...there was no running outside to get a look at what they were painting.  The sites where they painted were often circuitous,treacherous  routes which were only reached by winding your way through stalagmites and stalactite  riddled passages and multiple tunnels, often about half a football field underground.  That seems to rule out the idea of a carcass being nearby for reference.  These images were done from memory.  Impressive!

Each painting must have been executed by the light of a small hand held oil lamp made out of rock.  I kept thinking...what if they ran out of oil?  How would they ever find their way out?  No one would ever hear you if you called for help.  The pathway was treacherous, filled with stalagmites and stalactites.  The path was also winding and a long distance from the surface in order to get to the chambers where they painted. No rope would be long enough to mark the trail.  Cave bears inhabited the caves, so if you got past them and didn't break your neck on the way, you had better be sure you didn't run out of oil!  Finding your way out would have taken more than a trail of bread crumbs!  Yikes!
stalactites drip limestone from above and form the stalagmite below

The caves are in danger of contamination from visitors.  Our breath and the contamination from our fingers introduce changes which threaten the environment of the caves.The real Lescaux caves have been closed to visitors, and all you can see now is an exacting replica.  I've heard it's wonderful, but seeing the real thing at Cougnac and Pechmerle may be something future generations may not be able to do.

That's why I say, "GO!", and "GO SOON!"  Enjoy these photos, but understand that they DO NOT do the real experience any justice. The environment is mystical and imparts a sense of the supernatural to these ancient works of art.  I found myself wondering if Gaudi may have visited these caves and been inspired to create his drippy style of architecture found in the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona...What do you think??

We could not take photos of the art while in the caves, but we could photograph the rock formations.  My photos of the rocks were done while I was underground, but my only record from the cave paintings are the quick sketches I did while in their presence.   Thankfully, the internet allows me to share these photos of the actual cave paintings here.  I used my sketches of the images while in the caves in order to do a painting which was inspired by all that I saw.   A photo of that painting is below.   I can't wait to introduce this subject to my students as an interesting and playful lesson for us to paint together in the studio when I get back home...
Ancient Apparitions -Watercolor, acrylic gesso, ink on paper  11X15 $300
Rebecca Zdybel

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Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

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