2013 in review

WordPress.com prepared a 2013 annual report for Travels With Picasso. It was an exciting year for travel and art. We met many wonderful folks during our adventures in Europe including several artists who shared their works with us. The end of the year finds us back at home, working on new paintings, finishing paintings begun in France, and planning new travels.

Dinner on the Terrace

Dinner on the Terrace

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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On the Road Again

We are traveling again. This time it’s Tempe Arizona to help Jean’s sister who broke her hip while we were in Europe. Jean flew down to get here quickly and I drove, arriving today.

Highlights from driving down alone:

1. A fantastic reunion with my cousin in Oregon. We must stop to see Cindy on our return trip.

2. Stopped for lunch at a wayside and a guy walks up and says, “hey old timer how’s it going?” Are you talking to ME? Actually he was just trying to be nice. Another way to welcome me to the Medicare ranks.

3. A great bumper sticker: I drive the speed limit. If you have a problem with that, call a cop.

4. Visiting friends in Arroyo Grande. We also want to stop there on the way home if Norman and Janet aren’t away on their own travels.

5. Visiting two wineries in search of central coast malbec. One vineyard lost a ton of malbec grapes to bears this fall. They tried luring these ursine lushes with crates of other grapes but the bears prefer malbec. They have good taste!

6. Discovering a route to bypass LA! What a treat. 20 miles longer but 30 minutes shorter and far less stress.

7. The best highlight was seeing Jean standing in the yard as I drove in!

Not sure when we will return or how much we will post, but we will try to keep you informed. We also have art supplies and will do some painting.


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Return Home From An Artistic Journey

We have been back in Seattle almost a week – time to rest, readjust to Seattle’s weather and time zone, and reflect on what this trip meant to me. I wanted to immerse myself in art in a way that seems elusive at home. This involved both soaking up the work of master artists over the ages and a daily regimen of making art. Along the way I knew we would see some fantastic places and meet wonderful people. So what did this mean to my art?

For six months before going to Europe I took a weekly drawing class with Howard Hansen. Howard had us drawing with pencil and, just before we left, pen and water soluble ink. He stressed line and value (shading) to make pleasing images. When I studied masters’ paintings in London, Amsterdam and Paris the wisdom of this training became apparent. All great artists draw beautifully, regardless of their painting style. It is reflected in the sureness of their lines and the use of value to enhance the effects.

During our artistic sojourn I tried to find the simple lines in a subject. One experiment with this was to paint with one color, which increases the importance of line. Here are some apples I did during our art residency at Atelier de la Rose. Crisp lines and sharp edges outline the apples, shadows, and other shapes.

Apples in Blue - Watercolor

Apples in Blue – Watercolor

Near the end of our journey we visited the Ceret Art Museum and we found a room of Matisse ink drawings. He captured so much with so few lines! I was inspired to try to interpret one of his portraits with as few ink lines as he used. Just 32 lines represent this woman.

Pen and Ink

Pen and Ink

The second lesson Howard stressed each week was to use light and dark values to increase interest. He often asked that we go to extremes in light and dark. I kept reminding myself of this while drawing and painting in Europe. Here is another portrait of a woman in ink, but on this one I used the water soluble ink to begin to put some value differences into the picture.

Water Soluble Ink with Wash

Water Soluble Ink with Wash

Of course values play a large role when working with color. I pushed the light and dark values in this painting to dramatize the font and the setting.

Le Benetier - Oil

Le Benetier – Oil

Another of my goals on this trip was to push myself to paint more landscapes, particularly plein air. My greatest challenge in landscapes seems to be choosing what to include when viewing a complicated scene. With my new awareness of line and value I hoped that I would be better able to simplify landscapes.

I did many landscape studies with pen and ink.

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Another method of simplifying was to us a large brush with watercolor and not do a preliminary drawing. This is sort of drawing with color. The large brush means I am forced to lay down large shapes of color. Here’s an example of that from Montcabrier.

Chateau du Bonaguil - Watercolor

Chateau du Bonaguil – Watercolor

I like the fluid look to this image. My oil landscapes did not have this same feeling. I will continue to work on those.

Still lifes or what I call portraits of objects remain the most interesting subjects for me. I did many of these using pen and ink, watercolor, and oil. Here is one in pen and ink that I particularly enjoyed. Although it looks detailed and laborious, it was a very fast drawing. The secrets were to get the lines down quickly without worrying about perfection and then using the water wash to give the pine cone some shading.

Pine Cone in Ink

Pine Cone in Ink

I enjoyed several watercolor object portraits. The fruits and vegetables around Montcabrier presented a bounty of subjects.

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Flowers have always attracted me. I think now I’m getting some of that wild feeling into the images that I’ve had in my mind. It has taken a while to get this sort of interpretation from my mind to the paper or canvas.

Roses - Oil

Roses – Oil

Where does that leave me now that we’ve returned to Seattle? It has been a slow reentry with little painting. What I want to do is continue painting every day and keep pushing myself to try new ideas. Line and value exercises will continue so I can hone my skill at recognizing them in what I see. I want to expand the value range with oils in a manner or style similar to what I’m doing with watercolor and pen and ink. And, I will continue to push myself to paint landscapes.

Creating art is a journey. It doesn’t require traveling to Europe, exotic materials, or a great deal of formal training. The basics of line, value and color are quite well documented. What is required is putting time into the practice of art. That’s what we gave ourselves on this trip.


Posted in Art, Atelier de la Rose, Le Petit Mas, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Travel | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Last Look at Paris

Today we ventured on the train to central Paris. After an hour and several delays we arrived at Chatelet…the French train system is great when it works.

We crossed the Seine on our way to lunch at Cinq Mars, a restaurant recommended by Christopher Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated.
The prix fixe lunch was sublime…mushrooms en croquette, broiled cod and mashed potatoes. For dessert I ordered mousse au chocolate and she brought a bowl with 2-3 quarts from which I served myself! It was great and we may have overdone it. This is a little restaurant to visit again.

Then we went to Musee d’Orsay for one last visit. As happens, the exhibits had changed. Much to Jean’s dismay there were no pastels on display, particularly Redon whose work we wanted to see again. It is difficult to be disappointed at a museum like d’Orsay, but we were a bit let down. We made do with all the other impressionist and post impressionists. ;-)

Our ride home was as long due to delays with the hotel shuttle from the train station. It was a long day. Up early tomorrow to fly home.


A view of central Paris.


Swans in the Fountainbleu Forest yesterday.

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Back in Paris

We arrived back in Paris this afternoon after an overnight stop at an Ibis Hotel on the edge of the Fountainbleu Forest. Ibis is cheap and largely you get what you pay for, but it was adequate for one night. For the next two nights we are esconced in semi-luxury at the Best Western near the airport.

Tomorrow we make another visit to Musee D`Osay. We wanted to see a Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit at l`Orangerie but it is closed on Tuesdays. Damn!

Home on Wednesday.

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Goodbye Sally

Time to say goodbye to Sally. We hope to see her in Seattle sometime and to return to Montcabrier ourselves.

Jean and Paul


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William and Aurora

Sally’s new kittens have grown since we left 6 weeks ago. They entertained us last evening as we caught up on news with Sally. She filled us with a delicious duck pie, nettle soup, hericots, salad and a great assortment of cheeses before topping off the evening with creme brulee and nuit calme tea.

Today we’re driving to Fountainbleu.




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Last Artwork in Collioure

When we were leaving our Collioure house I couldn’t resist leaving some art behind on the kitchen chalkboard.


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It has been a few days since I posted. These are busy days. With only one week in SW France we are trying to squeeze in as much as possible. That doesn’t leave much time in the evening for doing posts, however, there is time for photographs, sketching, and painting. With that in mind here is a whirlwind summary of our first days in Collioure.

We went to the Collioure public market on Sunday and our senses were assailed by the sights and aromas of foods, clothes, spices, and people. Today, Wednesday, the public market repeated and we attended. Much to our surprise the vendors were different! Our favorite frommagerie was not present. Our favorite anchoise vendor was not present. Our favorite vegetable vendor was not present. Merde!

On Monday we drove to the Maillol Museum in the Pyrennes near Banyuls-sur-Mer only to find that it was closed on Mondays. I blame this on my poor French because I read the brochure and mistranslated it. Ce’st la vie! We enjoyed the drive in the mountains and ended up with a marvelous visit to a seaside conservancy area. Paulilles Recreational Park is the site of a dynamite factory that Nobel helped the French establish in 1870. The installation was closed in 1991 and the process began to turn it into a seaside conservancy. We enjoyed several hours walking, having lunch, and photographing this now beautiful location. The historical exhibits about the dynamite factory also were interesting. The dynamite from here blasted the Panama Canal!

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Yesterday we decided to visit Castlenou, a medieval town and chateau on the historic register. The claim to “fame” is that this was the seat of Catholicism in SW France during the purge of the Cathars. French Catholics roamed from this castle to kill Cathars and destroy their castles throughout southern France. It is a lovely small village and the chateau was somewhat restored in the late 19th century after being destroyed by revolutionaries in the early 19th century. However, not a word was mentioned of its role in the destruction of the Cathars. We did buy a bottle the Castlenou red wine!

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Leaving Castelnou, we drove to Ceret to visit the art museum there. Our visit there two years ago stuck in my mind as a pivotal point in my artwork. I was anxious to revisit the collection. Pierre Brune was the artist responsible for bringing many Fauvist and other early 20th century artists to Ceret. He also founded the museum. In addition to Pierre Brune, the collection includes Jean Marchand, Maurice Canteuil, Andre Masson, Chaim Soutine, Pablo Picasso, Frank Burty Haviland, Marolo, Henri Matisse, Pinkus Kremegue, Arbit Blatas, Andre Lohte, and Joseph Maragall. Many of these may not be familiar names, but they share an exceptional ability to capture the essence and feeling of a place. Many use Fauvist colors, but drawing is the essential ingredient in their exceptional art. All are representational without being realistic. I was in heaven. There are no photos allowed in the museum, so you will have to visit to see for yourself! The links associated with some of the names above will give you a flavor for their work.

Today we began by visiting the market as previously mentioned. Then we went to the waterfront to do some sketching and painting. It was a glorious day in the 70′s and there were so many views to paint it was difficult to decide. However we each settled on a spot on the rocks and painted. Then we moved to a cafe across the harbor where we settled in chairs with glace and water to sketch and paint some more. Here are some of my scribblings from the day:

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Late in the afternoon we boarded the Little Train for an hour long tour of Collioure, the surrounding hills, and Port Vendres. This tour took us to the 300 meter mountain that separates the two towns and back along the coast. It was a wonderful trip with unbelievable scenery, old forts, terraced vineyards, cork trees, and roads that I would not care to drive. We met an English couple, Peter and Janet, who now live near Beziers, chatted, and exchanged contact info.

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After the train ride we stopped at our favorite late afternoon apertif locale, Les Templiers. This hotel/restaurant’s walls are covered with an extensive collection of Fauvist art. The famous names have been sold long ago, but the art that remains is impressive. What a way to end the day drinking wine surrounded by art.

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We walked back along the quay at dusk, savoring the light in the sky and the stark outlines of the familiar Collioure waterfront. Tonight we dined on take out pizza – the local special with anchovies and one with creamy chicken and cheese with herbs. This was accompanied by our Castlenou wine of course.

A great several days in Catalonia!


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One Last Look at Provence and Moving to Collioure

On Friday after dropping JP at the Avignon TGV we returned to the Camargue. This time we visited a new area where the saltworks and the mouth of the Rhone dominate the scenery. It was a fitting end to our stay in Provence with magnificent sun, scenery, flamingos, horses, bulls, the vast salt works, and of course the Mediterranean Sea.

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Yesterday we packed up early, said goodbye to Marie-Noel, and drove up into Les Alpilles for the last time. It took us over an hour to go the first ten miles. We drove on the old road to Les Baux, which we hadn’t tried in our month in St. Remy. It is spectacular! The views of the mountains are wonderful and when you reach the crest Les Baux sits across the canyon on its mountain. This required mandatory photo stops every few hundred feet. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but Jean doesn’t think it is.)

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Of course, we had to move on. We attempted to go to Aigues Mortes in western Provence. We had seen this walled fortress two years ago and hoped to spend a few hours exploring on our way to Collioure. How were we to know it was the day of one of their festivals, many streets were blocked with barricades, and they were running bulls? It took a while to find our way out of the bedlam, but eventually we got back on the road to Collioure.

Upon arrival in Collioure the first task was to find parking. Our house is on one of the narrow medieval streets in the lower old city. Parking options include street (chancy) and parking lot (expensive). The parking lot closest to the apartment said “Complet” but we entered anyway. The entry gate refused me six times before it finally gave me a ticket to enter. We found a spot and then found an attendant to purchase a week parking pass. This does not ensure a space, but it does ensure a significantly reduced rate.

We then had to negotiate these sometime unmarked medieval streets without a map and with only our GPS to guide us. There were a few wrong turns because we couldn’t tell which way Suzie (our GPS) wanted us to go or she lost satellite reception. Eventually we found what appeared to be the right address, but there was no key box visible. A woman coming up the street asked if we were English and lost. We smiled and explained that we were looking for our rental. She smiled and pointed out that we were standing in front of it. The house has two apartments. The lower one (which was by the house number) is not the rental. We climbed the adjacent stairs and found the key box as directed.

After exploring our apartment we headed out into the old town for some exercise, aperitif, and dinner. After wine and nuts at Les Templiers we settled on The Safran Bleu for dinner. Les Templiers is a hotel, restaurant, and bar decorated with an extensive collection of 20th century art, mostly Fauvist in nature. The owners collected throughout the century hung their collection everywhere. It’s a great place to have a drink and take in the art on the walls. At Safran Bleu we split a single prix fixe dinner and added an entree of anchovies and wine. It was wonderful.

Today began with a trip to the bi-weekly town market. We walked to the square and meandered among the stalls. After some vegetables and cheese found their way into our bags, we came home to unpack. Then we packed our pleinn air sketching materials and went out to explore the town. After a circuitous walk through much of the old town we ended up on the quay where the old church sits. We each settled into our chosen spots and sketched. Although the air temp today was only in the upper 60′s there were many folks sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean. I was sitting on rocks against a rock wall, facing the sun. It was hot! When the temperature in my nook reached 90 I was sweating profusely and decided to leave.

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Jean had made some friends in her spot so I stopped to chat and took their picture. Lia came to look at Jean’s painting then her father joined her. After that Arnaud’s parents joined them. Jean (John in English) and Monique (happy grandparents) are vacationing in the area and their son Arnaud and his family came down for the weekend to visit. Notice Jean is holding her sketch/painting in the photo. It is so much fun to meet people on our artistic travels. They love to see people making art and enjoying their country. We love to share the French love for the good life.

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Along the way back to our house we found a Russian artist painting a harbor scene. Ilya Komov has a colorful style that suits the bright landscape here.

After making lentil stew for dinner, I was ready to settle down to share this post with our friends back home. We will be back in the US in 10 days.


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