By EMMA CORNFORD
ALMOST a year ago, highly respected Belgian watercolour artist Guy Gruwier received an unexpected email from a lady who lived in a small city called Grafton, half a world away.
The lady was Fay Boyd, president of the Grafton Artsfest committee, and she was asking Mr Gruwier to be a part of the 2005 arts festival by taking a masterclass in watercolour.
"At the beginning I thought it was very strange; there are so many good watercolourists in Europe, but she picked me out," Mr Gruwier said.
"I have attended lots of workshops and taken some ... so to be asked to do that and visit Australia is a great achievement for me."
The inclusion of Mr Gruwier and American portrait tutor Linda Ruhl has made Grafton Artsfest a truely international affair.
An engineer by trade, Mr Gruwier had never been to Australia before he arrived here earlier this week for Artsfest.
While he will be incorporating still life painting into his 12-student masterclass, which was booked out before he left Belgium, he said he will concentrate on his preferred genre of landscape painting.
"I find it's easier to express my- self in landscape painting ... and the landscapes here are so different to our own. Not just the vegetation, but you have a different sunlight," he said.
"You see pictures of the trees, particularly the fig trees, but until you see them in front of you, you don't realise they are so amazing.
"The foliage is rich and the branches are large and so broad ... and the roots above the ground look like natural architecture."
Aside from the workshops each day, the Artsfest schedule includes events every night, from ballet to informal pub dinners, and Mr Gruwier said he would attend them all.
"I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people because I see this also as an exchange of culture," he said.