Finding my "fluid threads" within the fields of France


Written by Shannon Plourde

It turns out the rooster crows as dawn unfolds, just beyond my barn studio, here in Amish country. The same christening that beckoned the beginning of all my painting days as a visiting artist in the South of France some eleven years ago this September. And it turns out the bell tower chimes every Sunday at worship hour here at the historic church, just across the street from the 1840’s Amish farmhouse my husband and two sons moved into two years ago. 

These Sunday worship hour chimes are holding time for me, so I can salvage the rhythm of the village clock tower that marked every hour, when I was living and painting with my husband and son for three months in Lacoste, France. Crows & Chimes. Held and recorded all those hours of endless and pure painting from the brisk beauty of Fall into the first snow of Winter.

These repeated patterns hold time and my heart still, so I can be here now and see from this place that beckons more than my heart. It is these hands and this soul and this story, my story of mending that I have been painting since I can remember and accepted the painting fellowship from the Savannah College of Art and Design and journeyed to the South of France.  My husband encouraged me to write my story of mending, to keep time with all the canvases of drawn lines and paint washes. This process would become the fabric of my purpose as an artist-To paint and write the story of mending, with every canvas ever created since France until now. 

I began with these words from Rumi- “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field,  and I will meet you there.”

As the fog lifted each crisp, autumn morning and the scents of harvested lavender filled the air, there was a field. The quilt-like valleys and vistas of the Luberon valley. With every drawing in my sketchbook, every canvas upon my easel, every word on a page, I was keeping time with mending. I was going out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. I was finding my faith in fields that stilled my heart to heal with every line, brushstroke, word, and prayer. 

Andrew Wyeth said, “It is not the country, it is what you carry to it that makes an artist.”

So as I write this, I live a mere fifty minutes from the home and studio of Andrew Wyeth, the renowned painter of the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania. My parents admired Wyeth’s paintings and on the walls of the home I grew up in, one of his prints adorned our stairwell. Now living so close to an artist who painted primarily within a two mile radius, the awareness being the same is true of the heart and how near it is to the canvas, a mere 20 inches. My heart is very close to the canvases, yet it has taken years to transform the unseen part of my painting process, pain into Beauty. 

Pausing to remember, the miracle happens in this, pain into Beauty. 

I have come to tell the story of mending, my story, here in Amish country, a mere hour from memories of my childhood. The same processes that have held these canvases continue. Drawings and drips, palettes and paint. Crows and Chimes. Pain and Beauty. Exchanging lavender scents for farm fresh air, daily I journey the mere 20 steps to my studio. I lift charcoal and brushes. I pour water into jars.  

And I begin with these words -“I covered it in the leaves of eleven autumns,  a way to say goodbye to the past.” -Beverly Lewis

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