Postcard From Provence – No. 3 – Painting in Port, Beginning With Audacity

“Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the painting,” said Winston Churchill, who  knew a thing or two about audacity–and about painting, too, it turns out.

Daybreak at Cassis by Winston Churchill

 In the 1920s Churchill took painting lessons in the picturesque coastal village of Cassis, France, where our group also painted during the workshop I attended in May led by Jill Steenhuis. See my Postcards No. 1 here and No. 2 here. Paul Cezanne painted there as well, so we were in good karmic company, n’est-ce pas?

Sailboat in Cassis
Cassis, France

What happens when you go out to paint en plein air, as I explained earlier here, is you walk around for at least an hour trying to figure out what to paint, and then you take another hour to set up…

Setting up to paint on the boat ramp, Cassis, France

…and then you have to tee-tee, and then you go get a Coke, and then you come back to your spot–in this case a boat ramp–to find a huge boat being hooked up to a trailer in the exact place you want to paint, and then FINALLY you paint there, and afterward you think, I wish I had painted in that other spot.

Port of Cassis, by Frances Schultz

And by teacher Jill:

Port of Cassis, by Jill Steenhuis

One of those other spots, a view of Cap Canaille, was where where Churchill himself painted.

Cap Canaille, Cassis, France

Okay I’m not 100% sure the painting below is of Cap Canaille, but it’s close enough, don’t you think.

Sunset Over the Sea, by Winston Churchill

There was actually a 1983 French film called Cap Canaille that was entered in the Berlin Film Festival. (The amount of perfectly useless information I learn in the course of writing this blog could have its own Trivial Pursuit category.) This below for sure is Cap Canaille, by fellow workshop student Edwina. It is in oil but has an almost watercolor-y feel.

Cap Canaille, Cassis, France, by Edwina

Another lovely spot was on a jetty, looking across the channel at a pretty house perched on the cliff.

House on cliff, Cassis, France

Fellow student Anne-Kathrin painted a charming rendition, even after her palette blew away and landed face-down (naturally) on the concrete.

A House in Cassis, by Anne-Kathrin

As I’ve conveyed in previous posts, plein air painting can be a perilous business. So can using a lot of Ps in a sentence if you are standing close to someone while parlaying. Hey, watch me, Monsieur Promenade Dangereuse…

Promenade Dangereuse, Cassis, France

This part of France is also famous and unique for its calanques, or steep-walled inlets, that are beautiful to sail in and around, and also lovely to paint.

Marina at Les Calanques de Cassis

And by Sir Winston’s:

Les Calanques de Cassis, by Winston Churchill, in the National Trust Collection, Great Britain

So Churchill, like, helped plan D-Day and World War II, negotiated numerous international treaties, navigated decades of treachery and politics, served as PM of Great Britain during its darkest and finest hours, and still managed to paint more than 500 paintings. I, on the other hand, am trying to figure out how I can finish this blog post, go to the farm stand, and pick up my friend at the Jitney. And I haven’t even gotten dressed yet. SRSLY.

Carol painting in the market. Intense.

But here is what Churchill, and painting, are teaching me: Confidence; and failing that hutzpa; and failing that, faking one or both of the above, are a big part of anything worth doing. Even if you fail, you have more fun doing it because you think you are a badass. Or pretending to be one.

A few years ago when I was hosting the TV show Southern Living Presents, I drove a Nascar car a few times around the track, causing the camera guy to remark, “She looks like she’s driving to he Piggly-Wiggly.” Then I rode with Kyle Petty driving, and not to the Piggly-Wiggly, unless it was the one in Daytona. I asked him if he was ever afraid. He said, “Hell, I’m afraid every day.” Well, dang, he seemed like a badass to me.

Market Day in Aix en Provence

How did I start out writing about painting and end up writing about fear? Oh yes, Winston Churchill, whose immortal words spoken about D-Day the 70th anniversary of which we  observe this month – Fear, like D-Day itself, is and was, “the end of the beginning.” And if, as he said, “Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the painting,” it sure as hell was a great part of the invasion of Normandy. Isn’t it a great part of any courageous decision? To leave your job, to get sober, to stand up to your husband, to come out, to wear red … to do anything you feel called, but fearful, to do. You might, like my buddy Kyle, be afraid every day.

Then you do it. And sink or swim, a part of you has let go of who you thought you were supposed to be, to embrace who you are.

Market Day in Aix en Provence, watercolor by Frances Schultz
Frances painting at Chateau Noir, where Paul Cezanne had his studio for 25 years 

To see more of teacher Jill Steenhuis’ work, her Art in Provence website is here. If perchance you find your lucky self in the south of France between now and June 28, you can see it in person, along with that of her sculptor husband, Serge Ruffato.

Steenhuis-Ruffato Exhibition in Aix en Provence June 13-28

Au revoir from France. Next stop, Italy with His Grace. Have a magnifico weekend.



  1. Your paintings are on an equal to our beloved Winston Churchill. I am even thinking of taking lessons. I just love your pictures that you are doing.Betty From Ontario,Canada.

    1. Thank you dear Betty from Ontario, and if this is something that is “speaking to you,” by all means listen. Take those lessons, and keep us posted. Sincerely, Frances

  2. Last year I attended a lecture at Ft Benning Georgia given by Duncan Sandys, Sir Winston’s great grandson.. The talk was about Churchill’s paintings. It was so interesting to me that he travelled with his easel and paints as a cure for the “Black Dog ” as he called depression. Loved your post as always !! Becky

    1. Oh wow, Becky, that must have been really interesting. Yes Churchill was famously plagued by that “black dog,” as are so many, and the healing power of painting was a major force in his life. And of course painting might be substituted by any number of activities/passtimes/passions that take us out of our heads and into our hearts – and the moment – in order to raise our vibration. Thank you as always for writing, xo Frances

  3. great post, timely for me as I’ve had a big harp hiccup. I did love your painting so much, you’re doing great!

    1. Dearest Alison, Anyone who names her (wonderful) blog “The Gracious Posse” has got a head start on audacity, and I am betting it looks good on you. xo Frances

  4. Your best blog ever – encourages one to go out and DO IT. Have a great time in ITALY with himself

  5. Dear Frances,
    I think you are a badass and I LOVE your plein air paintings….please just pack one up and mail it to me! I promise to frame it and hang it in a special spot in our home!!! Love your writing and get a thrill out of your busy life with “His Grace”! Have a great time in Italy…can’t wait to read all about it!

    1. Oh Tricia I am so glad somebody thinks I am a badass! Srsly – how great to hear from you, thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to write. I am looking forward to coming to Richmond in October! Love, Frances

  6. Best blog ever! Kyle Petty & you are prima bad asses! Now please put your radishes from the market last year into a limited edition printing & I will buy #1. You are looking so Katherine Hepburn in your panama hat!

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