Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Summer Vacation in Collioure France

After teaching my workshop for French Escapade in Provence, my friend Sylvia and I took 4 trains from Avignon in Provence down to the Mediterranean Sea to a cute little medieval village called Collioure.  We had rented an apartment in Collioure from the American artist Carole Watanabe for 8 days of vacation. 

We managed to catch all the right trains and meet some nice French people along the way.  Arriving in Collioure we found our cute little apartment with the welcome sign on the door quite easily.  The apartment is on the third floor up very steep stairs over Carole  Watanbe’s gallery and her studio apartment.  She and a friend were there too so it was fun getting to know them.  The village is full of art galleries and studios, all the artists are French accept two dutch and Carole the lone American.  The quality of art in the galleries and open studies ranged from really really good to marginal.

Our apartment or “nest” as Sylvia called it.

Here is Sylvia with the painting of the apartment she purchased from Carole.


Our first morning was a beautiful sunny day so we walked down to the beach, found a park bench, sat and sketched this famous landmark of Collioure.

Here are some of my favorite photos of Collioure:

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One of two beaches in the town with the Royal Castle that sits high on rocks that divide the two sections of the town. 



I painted this colorful corner but the painting is not done yet, I will post the painting when I get it completed.


This is a very colorful town.  No wonder so many artists make their homes here.

Love these laughing pigs!

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One morning we decided to hike up to Fort St Elme on the hill, but we did not follow the map, we just started heading up figuring we would get there.  On the way we passed this old ruined wall, there is a painting here!

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Farther up hill we came across this vineyard with the gnarly vines.  More paintings here…

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After hiking for an hour we realized we were going to end up on the wrong ridge and it would be faster to go back down and walk around the beach to the far end of town and hike back up that way.  Anyway it was time for lunch.  This is Fort Elme, our destination.

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On our second try for the fort we climbed to this windmill along the way.

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After a good bit of climbing up a mountain goat trail we got to the Fort only to discover the tourist train unloading a group of passengers it had brought up via a road that went behind the hill!  Oh well we got some good exercise.  The fort was closing for the day but this view of Collioure below was worth the climb.

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Carousels can be found in towns all over France.  This one was tiny but cute.

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These ceramic down spots were all over Collioure.  Oh so French!

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Not every French village has its own Royal Castle but Collioure does, and we had a great time exploring it.

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Sylvia checking out the tiny slit in wall where they probably shot arrows at the enemy below.

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Looking out through very old glass in a castle window.

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Sylvia on the walkway on the very top of the castle.

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A portion of the view from the top of the castle.

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Old mossy roof tops viewed from top of the castle.

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Relics from ancient times were displayed in the museum inside the castle.

More photos of Collioure:

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Hey Bill and Dan here is an idea for making a bit of extra money using your bike as a billboard.

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Ad hock art gallery, the artist is the guy in the beret of course!

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We loved our apartment and we loved Collioure, the perfect little town for artists and art lovers to kick back and relax.

Monday, June 20, 2011

French Escapade - Oppede le Vieus

Our last day of painting on the French Escapade Watercolor Workshop in Provece, Jackie drove us through the countryside and up a winding road to the top of a rocky ridge in the Luberon mountains to Oppede le Vieux.  This village is so tiny and out of the way that even Rick Steves has not discovered it!

The villagers are busy restoring its twelfth century collegiate church and for those with hiking legs and safe shoes there are ruins of a medieval castle to explore on top of a rock outcropping.  Several artists writers and celebrities have found this site and restored old sixteenth and seventeenth century homes to their authentic character.  Needless to say I saw paintings everywhere I looked.

Here are some photographs to make all you painters out there green with envy.   If you wish to create a painting from one of my photos and need an enlarged image just email me (click here) or use the comment section in this blog and I will email the image to you.  Please do not copy any of the paintings posted on this blog, they are copyright protected by the artists.

I wonder who lives here…an artist?  A writer…perhaps Peter Mayles?  He wrote his popular book “A Year in Provence” somewhere in this area.

This lady must be a local artist.

These walls were built all over this area with “dry stacked” rocks meaning no mortar or cement.  Look at the way they stood the rocks on end on the top of the walls, very clever.

Several of us hiked to the church that is being restored.  Then we climbed up to the ruins of a castle from the Middle Ages and took photographs.  However, perching on the rocky outcropping to sketch did not seem to be a wise idea, so we returned to the village below and found wonderful scenes to sketch and paint.   Here are some views of the old ruins, there me be a painting in here somewhere…

Linda and Barbara ordered drinks from one of only two cafes in this tiny village and spend the afternoon sketching.

Linda parked under a tree and tackled a stone cottage with the church on the hill above it.

Jan created this fun painting looking up at Oppede le Vieux from the parking lot.

I plan to return with Jackie on another French Escapade to Provence in the future.  So start saving your travel money and frequent flyer miles now so you can join us next time.  To request to be on my mailing list use the contact me page on my website, here is the link  To see more about Jackie’s French Escapade trips click on this link

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Following Van Gogh’s footsteps to St Remy

We painted along the paths were Van Gogh used to walk during the year he spent at the old monastery Mausole of St Paul in St Remy near the end of his life. He created 150 paintings here and 21 of them are displayed as reproductions on sign posts on the property.

We posed for our group photo with one of the sign posts featuring a Van Gogh reproduction.

Wow poppies! They were finished blooming and mowed when I last visited Mausole of St Paul in 2005 so this was quite a surprise! I took many photos hoping to paint them when I get the chance. I started an ink sketch of them on the airplane on the flights home, I will post it when it is completed.

Linda A, the color co-ordinated photographer!

Jan, our most serious photographer.

The courtyard of Mausole of St Paul

St Remy September 2005

Here is how it looked in 2005, or at least how I sketched it in my watercolor journal back then.

Margaret measuring to get the proportion correct.

Here are the olive trees Van Gogh painted.

You can see the same tree on the left in his painting.

We liked this tree in the same olive grove.

Linda C’s wonderful sepia ink sketch of the big olive tree.

Here is Linda with another sketch of the olive trees.

Barbara and Linda A. at work sketching the olive trees.

It rained a few drops and was cold for a couple of hours that day. Then the sun returned….nothing like what was happening at home back in California! I got an email from Burke that said, “Hail, rain, thunder, tornado warnings, just another spring day in California!”

Jan found a comfortable seat to sketch in the van.

As teacher, I try to spend my time helping students so if I do get a sketch done it is a quickly. I did the ink sketch of this tree in less than 10 minutes, added the watercolor in about a half an hour. I thought it was kind of a comical tree with its huge twisted trunk and just a few small sprouts for limbs at the top.

St Remy, Bonnie's tree

I did not see this little sketch Bonnie did that day until I read her blog. It is so free, gestural and perfectly captures the twisted shapes of these trees.

Bonnie enjoys creative writing as well as painting so she spent part of her day here writing. When she returned home she posted her story about St Remy and painting in France on her blog. She is a wonderful writer, I urge you to click on this link and read her blog