May 22, 2014

French Artist Houel Featured in Ligonier Art Walk



Cecile made it through raindrops to Conte's Gallery

Cecile made it through raindrops to Conte’s Gallery

The on and off inclement weather couldn’t cloud the enthusiasm that greeted portraiture artist Cecile Houel during her May 10, 2014 visited to Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Rain poured down as I arrived at the last minute at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, located at One Boucher Lane on Rt. 711 south of Ligonier. The buffet brunch I attended featured Cecile copying a painting of an intriguing woman. The painting will be auctioned on May 31 at SAMA’s 13th Annual Spring Garden Party, The Thrill of the Hunt for Art. Proceeds will benefit SAMA.

Cecile (left) with Gretchen Griffith, co- chair of the SAMA Garden Party

Cecile (left) with Gretchen Griffith, co- chair of the SAMA Garden Party

Cecile, an international portrait artist, currently exhibits her work throughout France and the United States. She says

  • “I paint more portraits because I’m fascinated by humanity, in a spirit of tolerance, respect and love for the other. If I can express those feelings in my paintings, I will consider I have accomplished an important act as an artist.”
  • “…there is two processes in my proposition, one is esthetic and the other is ethical. It forces me to think deeply my choices, and be very demanding when I paint. But most of all, I listen to my heart simply and faithfully and the beat that I hear gives me all the inspiration I need.”

Before she started painting she explained that she used varying types of Pastels and rough paper. “…Pastel, is very subtle, and needs a light hand most of the time, fewer strong strokes rarely.”

Those attending the event watched in awe as the woman’s picture emerged with strokes of Cecile’s skilled fingers: first in black lines, then in with color.

140510 IMG_4769

“It was amazing how fast she worked, two hours…,” said Sommer Toffle, SAMA coordinator.

IMG_4801While Cecile completed her painting, being titled The Portrait, her husband, artist David Garrison, was on the Ligonier Diamond competing with the weather in a attempt to complete a painting. Unfortunately, the inclement weather won the battle.

Cecile and her husband David Garrison

Cecile and her husband David Garrison

The event was part of the Ligonier Art Walk, day-long celebration of a variety of different styles and artistic techniques that featured artists, seven art galleries in Ligonier, and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. “I’m very excited about this coming together,” said George Conte, who co-owns Conte Design-Lifestyle Gallery with his wife, Olive.

The Contes, instrumental in initiating the event, planned to host an introductory gallery show for French artist Cecile. George Conte has known Cecile’s husband, who is from Iowa, for 25 years. He has visited the couple in Paris, her native home.

“Cecile is extremely talented,” George said. “She actually has a collection of over 200 African tribal chiefs and their wives, and it’s incredible. I’m trying to get her to bring the collection to the United States.” He said her collection “is tucked away in an attic, on a dirt floor that is about 6-9 inches thick, which provides insulation. It is topped by a grass roof.”

The Conte’s hosted an afternoon reception for Cecile and her paintings, including both original oils and pastels, at their second-floor gallery at113 E. Main St. in Ligonier. “It was her first single person show ever, featuring over 40 of her paintings. Everyone loved the show and Cecile.”

The gallery will display the paintings featured in the show, at least until August 1, with the exception of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and the paintings which sold. Six of Cecile’s paintings sold during the Ligonier Art Walk event, and two were sold later.

140510 IMG_4819EGeorge thought it would be a nice if all the galleries in town to worked together when Cecile visited.

“We’ve wanted to have a show for awhile now where everyone could be involved,” he said. “I’m thrilled with the amount of interest other gallery owners showed.”


Although my schedule didn’t allow me to take full advantage of the Ligonier Art Walk (I had a mid-afternoon meeting to attend) I was able to attend the reception. While there I asked some persons If you could only take one painting home with you, which painting would you select?

140510 IMG_4832ERick: the Native American—he just has a look about him—it’s majestic and it goes with my home

Gretchen: Mother Teresa is beautiful, but now my favorite is the Red Scarf on the woman

Sommer: the lily pads or the sunset on the beach—

Mary: the little girl in the blue dress—her eyes…

Olive: the little girl ballerina—maybe it is something connecting

Virginia: the skies and lavender, and the portraits of the little girls—there is lots going on in this picture: humanity and the many different faces we have

Sandra Kantor: Mother Teresa, I’m a fan of hers; she was an amazing woman, humbling—that’s how we all should be.

As you see, some persons couldn’t pick “just one.” 140510 IMG_4816E

Cecile, who teaches numerous workshops both in France and the United States, has over 200 faithful students. Her specialty is in Portraiture. She does private and public commission portraits, most recently a portrait of Robert McConnell, Director of the South East Iowa Symphony Orchestra, for the celebration of their 60th anniversary, and Bart Howard commissioned by the city of Burlington, Iowa, dedicated to the Mabel Macer Foundation, New York.


I’ll end with a quote from Cecile:

The act of creation is an endless research of perfection, learning and experimenting until it becomes Art. Art appears when reality is magically transformed into beauty. The unanimous feeling it can offer to the viewers is a powerful emotion both intellectual and physical… I have a wonderful life in front of me, full of discoveries, surprises although sometimes deceptions too. But that’s how I grow and all that is called experience and will keep me happy in the complex path of Art.




Photographic Reflections of Ligonier

A Day in Ligonier Valley: April 27, 2013

From Ligonier to Ligonier: Part I

Zider’s Store in Laughlintown, PA? Part 1


  1. Well Carolyn, nice to see an article with emphasis on the fine arts with the guest artist……… I do want you to know I decorate my front door yesterday with the red/white/blue Uncle Sam clown you made for us many years ago. Not fine arts, but a nice patriotic decoration that will be up from Memorial day to July 4th any way. You are a sewing artist to me !

    Comment by Grace (&Fred) — May 25, 2014 @ 10:47 pm | Reply

    • Grace, could you take a picture of the clown on your door and send it to me???

      Comment by carolyncholland — May 25, 2014 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Carolyn, interesting subject. 🙂
    I’ve had my portrait painted…my daughter had it painted from a wallet photo of me, by a Korean artist.

    Comment by merry101 — May 27, 2014 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

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