Nature nurtures: Hameau Farm Studio retreat offers artists peace, inspiration

Regional artists who register for the 15th annual Hameau Farm Studio Artist Retreat in Belleville will have a week of peace and inspiration — the perfect opportunity for plein-air creatives to immerse themselves in their passion for painting.

Organized and taught by award-winning pastel and oil painter Susan Nicholas Gephart, the retreat offers artists the opportunity to relax and learn. The Hameau Farm Studio offers plenty of serene scenery and bliss as found on postcards and in snapshots.

“This is a unique retreat in that there are two instructors,” Nicholas Gephart said. “I also bring in [American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society member] James Farrah from Arizona to share his expertise, and the artists that come to the retreat range from all levels, from beginners to professional artists.”

Nicholas Gephart received a BFA from Penn State in 1979 and has more than 30 years of painting experience as an instructor. Given her impressive resume, Nicholas Gephart serves as the perfect teacher to those who are inspired by the brush, and the Hameau Farm Studio’s gorgeous setting is incomparable.

“Being at the retreat with Susan and Jim, who have very different styles and approaches to painting, allows me to experiment with colors in a way that I wouldn’t if they weren’t there,” said Arlington, Va.-based artist Jean Stark, who has been coming to Hameau for the past couple of years.

The spring 2013 installment of the twice-yearly retreat continues the strong and proud tradition of hosting an assortment of artists to be inspired, to mingle and to take advantage of the truly incredible landscape that surrounds the Hameau Farm Studio.

“I was personally looking for a peaceful place that could be stimulating and exciting and I saw the potential here,” Nicholas Gephart said of Hameau Farm. “It’s a large property, 100 acres, and the natural rawness of it with the beautiful fields and the sounds down by the water just make it a haven. But really, the essence of Hameau is people coming together; it just feels like a family.”

“I have attended the workshops for 11 years and it’s really great,” said Holly Fritchman, a botanical artist whose exhibition “Nature in Detail: Botanical Art” ran last month at the Schlow Centre Region Library’s Betsy Rodgers Allen Gallery. “It’s an awesome place and it has artists from all over that go there to paint.”

In addition to the scenery, the retreat will offer artist critiques, demos and dining that just might unleash the inner Andrew Wyeth or Frederic Edwin Church in those who attend.

“I like to create relationships with people. I actually speak with each of the artists before they even come to the retreat to find out what they’re looking for and to better understand their background so I can really support them,” Nicholas Gephart said.

“What I like most about the retreat is that returning students and new students are all able to bond in an atmosphere that’s very nurturing for the soul and the body,” Stark said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends and to having uninterrupted painting time. It’s a place to go to unwind and relax. If you want instruction, you have it, and if you don’t want it, you can just soak it all in and do what you want.”