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quarantine creations

How has your creativity taken flight?

Many of us have had more time on our hands during this past year. For creative types, this can mean all kinds of projects! Baking, learning a new instrument, writing a book, redecorating a room ... Have you learned something new, or just had more time to dive deep into an old favorite?

Isabelle Skoog has used this time to sketch, draw and paint. Her favorite subject? La belle France! Isabelle is a kindred spirit, finding beauty in things both great and small in France. Unlike me, she is a talented artist - something I admire and respect, having absolutely no artistic ability whatsoever! She has a lovely way of capturing the essence and evoking the emotion of things such as strolling along the Châteaux de la Loire, or biting into a pain au chocolat.

I discovered her stunning art quite by accident. She had donated a series of paintings of châteaux gardens for an Alliance Francaise - Minneapolis/St Paul virtual gala, somewhat in the same style as these garden paintings.

I set my sights on producing the winning bid! (Which I did). Then I found her on Instagram (@izartwork) and was blown away by the diversity of her work. As I was busy "liking" every one of her posts, I realized I had to meet her. As with most people who share a deep passion for France, the conversation flowed easily. Although we have yet to meet in person, we have decided to embark on a new project together. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Meet Isabelle

1. What fostered this deep love of France? (Well, Isabelle is half French! )

Growing up with a French mother I was fortunate enough to experience the French culture at a very young age. We would spend summers visiting family all over France, then settle with our grandparents in the Southwest to enjoy the sea and countryside. We enjoyed the company of many friends and family.

2. Are there special places or things that really make your heart sing?

I have been fascinated by the lifestyle and culture of the French Basque Country. The liveliness of their towns, the flavor of their food and the unassuming warmth of their people is something that is easily remembered and perfect food for artistic expression. Additionally, the Loire valley holds a special place in my heart, as its rich history and castles painted perfect canvases for childhood daydreams.

3. Tell us how you got started drawing and painting.

I got started at a young age but seriously began on my artistic path when I trained at the George Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy, where i studied sight-size portraiture. Once I became comfortable with realistic drawing, I was able to create my own style, which I am still developing today.

Additionally, graduating with an art history major gave me a solid intellectual foundation that allowed me to explore my preferences for mediums and subject matter. Recently, instead of photos and photo albums, I am able to relive my travel memories when I am sketching, drawing, and painting, and through those, share my travel stories with all who engage with my art.

Quarantine Collaboration

Talking with Isabelle, it became clear that we both love to focus on what makes each region of France special. While she displays it beautifully through her art, my "talent" is being a research geek! Before I travel, I spend countless hours seeking out the specialities to savor, the authentic artisans, and the "insolite" - unique places to visit. What makes these people, places and things so special is the story behind them. There is a a tradition, a savoir-faire and a sense of local harmony that always comes out, which brings about a greater appreciation.

It has been a while since I have been able to talk with artisans and film them in action. However, it is a great time to prepare for our next trips, n'est-ce pas?

Isabelle and I have decided to collaborate on a series called "What to Buy and What to Try" for each region of France. This series is taking shape in the form of blog posts and classes, and eventually magazine articles and mini guidebooks.

Provence - Les Bouches du Rhône

We begin our adventure in the department of Provence called "Les Bouches du Rhône".

While our first article is in still in the works, we are offering a Virtual class this Friday, February 26th sponsored by the Alliance Francaise of Greater Phoenix. It will take place from 6-7 pm MST (Phoenix). , or 7-8 pm CST (Minneapolis) You can register at:

A sneak peak of some of the things on our list:

I watch in delight as Isabelle's artwork comes to life, and am grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with her! We hope that you will join us in our unfolding adventures throughout each region of France. Stay tuned!

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