Sunday, April 30, 2006

Two Days of Rest

Early Saturday morning, we gathered the usual stuff for two days at our country house. Suddenly, we remembered that when we closed up for the winter, we brought all the linens home. This brought discussions of "Where did we put them?"

When we arrived, we did minimal cleaning of the winter dust, turned on the refrigerator, hung the hammock between the oak tree and the house and put the cushions on the big swing under the locust tree. It was cool but we bundled. We were warmed by the sight of the lavendar blooms of the chinaberry trees (which we usually miss) -- they're not French lilacs, but they have a unique beauty.

Lucy and her Mamma came, too, and she got reacquainted with her high-flying grandmother. Maybe one day I will introduce her to France. It was a restful two days.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Weeds, Glorious Weeds

We marveled at the 'weeds' in France - every blade of grass was a picture to us. We put them in wine bottles and water pitchers and coffee bowls. I picked dozens to nestle in the ivy and eggs which lined the long Easter tables. Funny how different those same yellow dandelions, the pink oxalis, the tiny blue spring blooms and the little white asters just look like 'WEEDS!' when you are the one behind the mowing! There is much catching up to do, but still a little time to offer a new appreciation of the colors and shapes of my own weeds.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jet Lagging and Thanks

Obviously, there were no blog updates while I was gone. -- As there is time, I will add the daily pages from my sketchbook, so France WILL show up. You'll just have to remember to check these pages. I'll try to remind everyone with a current blog posting. If you don't want to miss any of my wonderful words, you may want to subscribe to BushStrokes through Blogarhithms.
Today, I am resting, unpacking, reading mail and catching up. And did I mention resting? But today, I have thought of all the people who made the last month so special. Here is my official list of thank-yous to:
The American Artists:
----Ellie and her husband, John, and Dalmation, Daffy -- for checking out the program and facilities at Cat'Art, reassuring us that it is a good place, meeting Karen and me at the airport in Toulouse even after a 5 hour flight delay and sharing their new world in the Aude with us.
----Karen for sharing the planes, airports and frustrations of international travel, car rental, food shopping and spur-of-the moment excursions as my Residency partner and for the use of her laptop when I suddenly needed it;
----Cheryl for finding the travel deals and communicating with Cat'Art for all of us and for the use of her USB jump drive when I suddenly needed it;
----Pat for listening and for explaining how to use a Mac computer and its French keyboard when I suddenly needed it.
----Robin for her enthusiasm and her camera along with CDs of my images when mine suddenly stopped working.
----Raya for her quiet presence and house cleaning as the third member of the Maison du Cerisier and her inspiring diligence in working daily in the studio.

The Cat'Art team:
----Catherine for her gentle direction of the Center and its programs
----Cristophe for managing operations of the Center with smiling efficiency
----Josep for learning to love a place where artists can be inspired
----Addy for doing the unsung stuff like the grass cutting, the cooler hot water, the minor repairs . . .
----Nicolae for the surprising pieces of his work which we stumbled upon everyday.

And then there is family and old friends and new friends . . .

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Return Home -- Day 25

April 24

Last night, no one seemed to be around at dinner, so we cleaned out the fridge and had a great last meal. Christophe came in to bring a great red wine and to say good bye. We watched the blue candles burn down, listened to the sound of the birds and ended our time in this beautiful, creative and inspiring place. As we finished packing for our early morning departure, we had already shifted our minds to home - - -

There will be time later to think of what this month will mean to both our personal lives and our professional progress. It may mean change. It may only validate where we are. And that will be worth it!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Packing It In -- Day 24

April 23
Since Karen and I were to be the first to leave, we spent bits of time over the weekend trying to pack bags, pack in last views and look good for the film crew from Barcelona.

We met them at 1:30 in the Patio near the remains of last night's party. They asked me to continue working on the pages of this sketchbook/journal. I had taken it apart for yesterday's sharing session in the studio, so I spread some of the sketches out and sat writing about the day. Then I went to our Maison des Cerisier to make sure it was presentable while the crew filmed Cheryl and Pat in the small studio of the Patio House. They took interesting shots through the window of me working on notes for "the book" and making sketches in a small sketchbook. Later, they filmed Karen, Robin, Ellie and Raya in the Big Studio.

It made an exciting ending to our time together.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Last Days' Things -- Day 23

April 22 - Earth Day

There were many things to go "back-to-see," but we just stayed near the houses to absorb our own private times. After lunch, we gathered to look at the full body of work by each artists and we talked about what we tried to accomplish. Ellie and I made notes for a possible magazine article. Later, we planned a wine and cheese conversation in the studio, but switched it to the Patio where our small party expanded to include the guys from the sculpture shed, the Barcelona film crew and other friends -- about 25 in all! I love these parties!

This might be a good day to try for a sketch of our pair of magpies. They are very large birds in beautiful back and white. We can usually see them from the kitchen windows or the back terrace.

Everyone has painted or drawn this tree which stands tall over the spring fields. It seems to guard the rows which are freshly plowed and to wish us luck on our daily artistic journeys.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wandering Destinations -- Day 22

April 21
How could I forget the drive from Mirepoix yesterday where bicycles out-numbered cars and everything stopped while a flock of sheep (mouton) crossed the main road and oo-oozled on down a side road toward their next green pasture? Wonder where they are going? Rent-a-Mouton, perhaps? (The farmer moves them around for grass cutting.)

It's hard to draw a BLACK cat in the just-after-dawn-hours, but she stayed still for these two attempts. I just let the pen oozle around the shape!

After lunch, we had no plan, so we took a long walk to explore LaForge, the sculpture studio and the little road to the River Hers. We collected rocks, thistles and images along the way through what will be summer cornfields. We sort of oozled as well.

"What do you do on a trip?" Before the trip, I had asked daughter Susan to edit and bind copies of a small book which I have been writing with tips for artists who are making non-art trips. I presented a copy to each of the group and asked them to review it over the month. Today, I asked for feedback. General opinion was that there is a lot of good info in it; it should be fleshed out to full volume; ' plein air' is misspelled and assorted other comments -- some helpful; some not --- as expected ---hum-m-m . . . /

Friday, April 21, 2006

Putting Things in Perspective -- Day 21

April 20
Needing a few groceries and a bank machine, Karen and I drove to Chalabre where we passed Randy walking her dog, Maggie. We parked, got money and bought bread, cheese, etc. Then we found the way to the Chateau de Chalabre which is now a historic park. It was closed, but we just wanted the ride through the plaintree allée, the view from the hilltop and a few photos. (A Medieval Gentleman in brown garb appeared and told us it was OKAY. We were so stunned, we forgot to take his picture!) There is a medieval theme for open weekends since the Chateau was begun in the 13th C. There are 15th and 18th C additions.

Ellie and John came to join us on the ride to Mirepox for lunch with Randy and Jean Marc at their favorite restaurant -- Le Commerce -- which allows dogs and the food is great. All had the 12 Euro plat du jour except Karen and me. We splurged on the 16.50 euro lunch because it had sea snails with garlic mayonaise, stuffed salmon in cream sauce with spinach and au gratin zuchinni and finished with creme brulee.

After lunch each of us went in search of our own treats. I returned to the quiet interior of Ste-Maurice Cathedral. It seemed so-o-o quiet and different. Later I realized it was because, on my previous visit, the old sanctuary was filled with warmth and smiles of the Altar Guild which was dusting, mopping and changing light bulbs to prepare this special place for Easter Sunday. Sometimes we forget that most places don't exist just for the tourists! I stopped outside and sketched the garden.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Checking the Pog -- Day 20

April 19
A spur-of-the-moment trip after the market in Lavelanet led us to explore the road to Mont Segur. The Cathar Castle on top of a "Pog" was much too far for us to climb to -- maybe in another life! -- but we enjoyed sketching it from the road at the bottom of the mountain.

I couldn't resist starting with the opposite view with its lime green grass and some playful cows -- Mammas and babies making their way down the path from the top of the hill. We think they went down to the little house . . . .

A "Pog" seems to be a rock mound which explodes from the top of the mountain like Pilot Mountain near Mount Airy, North Carolina. Who knew it was a POG?!!

I was driving today -- great views, scary drop-offs, and hair-pin curves. I later commented that my eyes seemed to be doing funny things and that maybe I had a concussion from hitting my nose on the computer monitor. Karen said, "Thanks."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mountains Inside Out - Day 19

Day 19
A visit to the Caves at Niaux were high on my list and Raya and I made the trek toward the Spanish border. We followed a tiny little road up the mountain. We had to pull off several times when we met other cars coming down the mountain. The huge contemporary Sculpture on the entry porch was designed by M. Fuksas to look like an pre-historic animal emerging from the cave. It sets the tone for the adventure. (a note: the English tour group was very small compared to the French speaking groups, so even if one speaks French, the smaller group is a good choice!)

We walked, slid, scrunched and climbed for about a half hour until we reached the beginning of the marks. We had 30 minutes to view the drawings around the walls of the Salon Noir.

When we reached the black gallery, I was reminded of the visit to Ste-Sernin in Toulouse and the voice which filled the cathedral with the sweet sounds of "Ave Maria." It would not have been out of place in this spot.

We were astonished by the animals, but pleased when the return walk was finished.
Raya and I continued our journey and found ourselves at another 360 degree view - this time on top of a mountain! The way home was one of the most memorable. Every turn was a magnificent view.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Leftover Parties Are The Best! - Day 18

April 17
This was a busy day with some housekeeping chores, some studio time and a few sketches. Although everyone was tired after the party, (even those who were NOT there all night - gypsy drums, Elvis 50s music and laughter had kept us awake!) we gathered in the kitchen of Josep for leftovers and real "French" Onion Soup. There were twelve voices around the table with accents from England to Southern US to Romania to France to Belgium with a smattering of Germany and Andorra. It was a great party for the beginning of spring.

Tonight, the moon was perfectly aligned to shine through my window and a gentle breeze moved the newly budding trees.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Sunday - Day 17

This morning, I slipped out of the house and clipped some dew covered grasses as a nest for some pastel covered chocolate KISSES from the Bunny. (We had eaten the little EGGS I brought with me at the going away soup party for Debbie and Kong Yee. The kisses at the party were "Bisou, Bisou.")

Later, there was a Huge Easter Party planned for the sculpture shed across the green from our house. I helped with the table decorations by picking FAT yellow dandelions (which I learned were called "pis en lit"), little white asters and lilacs for nestling in ivy sprays on the table. I added the rest of the Kisses to the peanut dishes which were alternated with the most vivid dyed eggs I've ever seen. The Party lasted from 2:00 on Sunday afternoon until Monday morning at 9:00 . . . Christophe and Nicolae hosted this perfect day!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Day of Special Treats - Day 16

April 15
This was an all day adventure as we left early to have time in Carcassonne and to get Lauren to the airpot for her flight back to Belguim. We stopped in LIMOUX for the famous NOUGAT candies and I also bought some Easter goodies. (Beautiful marbelized chocolate eggs.)

We arrived in Carcassonne to a hard blowing, cold wind which whipped through the narrow streets of the old medieval city. The views were spectacular and the shops were too-oo-oo fun! I have enjoyed comparing the really magnificent cathedrals with simple chapels in the region. Here, the rose windows at the Basilique are truly magnificent. Additions to the building have created nooks and crannies in the nave which are filled with ancient surprises, but a full-length reclining figure over a bishop's grave was eerily beautiful. The alabaster face seemed to glow -- It was most memorable!

Karen and I enjoyed a lunch of crepes (eggs, cheese, mushrooms ) and crepes (pears in sauce with whipped cream and toasted almonds.) Lauren had Pizza and chocolate ice cream, of course!!

After a quick trip to the airport, we discovered that the flight is delayed two hours and Lauren will miss all her other connections. After her plane finally left, we waited through the night with concern.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Date and Time" Is Irrelevant - Day 15

April 14
I just labeled my page 'Thursday'. It's Friday!
When you are in the South of France, date and time is irrevelant. . .

An early morning market was just what we needed to refill the pantry in Maison des Cerisiers. We found the first globe grapes from Italy, some excellent breads, a few gifts and our usual produce, sausage and cheese. We bought paella for three and were disappointed to not find the scarf merchant and the fabric man. Looking for 'souvenirs,' we went to a florist shop which had 'souvenirs' for funerals! As we left, Karen misstepped the curb falling flat on the pavement. We finished shopping and spent the afternoon watching her injuries. We are pleased to report that all our purchases were excellent!

On another note: We had checked at La Poste for the envelopes bearing the imprinteur of the upcoming "Chemin des Artistes." Someone found them today in Chalabre and Ellie autographed them for us! Her painting is on the cover of the studio tour brochure and so, is on the stamped envelop!!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Patio House - Day 14

April 13

There are not many notes for today. Just a few sketches of the Patio House where Cheryl, Pat and Robin stayed. The Cat'Art office is behind a small door on the right and floor to ceiling windows overlook the patio. Nicolae Fleissig, the sculptor at La Forge is responsible for the fantasy of the house and the sculpture which fills the grounds.

In "Monumental" a small book about his work, Francesc Rodriquez Rossa had this to say, "It seems that fight against material is necessary for the artist because his work would be diminished without that opposition."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Round and Round - Day 13

April 12
Today's ramble was a long one. Karen and I drove to Limoux and met Ellie and John behind some familiar Golden Arches. John had give us excellent directions for getting through the round-a-rounds. We made the drive to Narbonne to pick up some of Ellie's paintings.

After lunch near the Via Domitia, Karen and I followed the 'green' signs for the scenic route to Carcassone. It was a good choice. Since there was time before meeting Karen's granddaughter at the airport, we made a quick trip to Montolieu -- the book village -- where we bought a few old books. We met the plane from Brussels, hugged Lauren and headed home to Ste Colombe. As you can see, my sketches were round and round.

Evening conversation over cheese, fruit, bread and wine is the best -- today, made even better with the addition of chocolates brought from Belgium by Lauren. (A 2005 school graduate, she is spending a year in Belgium studying ART!)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Starry, Starry Night - Day 12

April 11

Today was filled with an assortment of images. I awoke during the night and could see a host of strange lights through the trees. My window is not curtained and some of the glass is very old and wavy so the view from my pillow was almost surreal. I got up to find out where the lights were and was amazed to find STARS!! Oddly, Raya and Karen woke about the same time, so we all went outside to share this glorious night. In the morning, the clouds were back.

Later in the day, Karen and I went to see the sculptures she had bought for her garden.(Note: The sculpture studio in the village part of Cat'Art is home to David Vanderbeek. You can find some of his work at
Karen also bought a dragon fly which is created from old vineyard wires; I want an ant.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Little Piggie Went to Market - Day 11

April 10
It was a bitterly cold morning which became an even colder afternoon, but we met John and Ellie at the Mirepoix market and had another fabulous Plat du Jour. Karen and I bought some fashionable scarves to keep warm and some others for fun. We bought 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 sweet potato, 2 white potatoes and a sausage. I couldn't resist a small round of goat cheese. I think we were still full from our Sunday night impromtu soup party! I do wish I had bought some of the antique linens at the entry to the market.

We toured Ste-Maurice Cathedral a 15th Century Gothic jewel in need of funds for restoration. The nave of the Cathedral is said to be the largest in France. It is beautifully arched and very wide with no side aisles, but very lovely side chapels. The view from the ambulatory shows the magnificent carved altarpiece and the glowing paintings of the stations of the cross. (The note around the edges of this quick drawing says that the Centre Ville is a beautiful and active place with half-timbered houses and arcades surrounding the square and Ste-Maurice guarding the entry.)

The ride from Mirepoix was one of our best yet. We went back through Leran but turned toward Camon this time. La Garde to Camon was a spectacular combination of the ruins of the chateau La Garde which loomed over the village like a late-century Stonehenge and a driving tour of Camon where a gentle street lined with roses at each doorway led us around the church toward the cemetery and a tiny road which seemed to hang in the air over the tombstones. Whew! After we caught our breaths, we marveled at the shapes and colors from that height. We plan to go back on a warmer day. "Oui, Oui, Oui and a couple of O-o-oohs! All the way home."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Paths and Meadows - Day 10

April 9
Karen and I decided to skip the Sunday market in Espéraza and just headed toward Lavelanet and a good boulangerie. We found a great one at Bastide sur l'Hers and bought cheese tarts, fruit and bread. Then we just rode through the countryside, turning whenever something caught an eye.

When the pavement ended, we kept going and discovered that our tiny Opal can pull the rocky slopes -- even on a walking trail which is clearly marked with yellow slashes and route markets!!

We explored the village of Léran and came upon a beautiful green pasture lined with double, well-trimmed hedges. I think the sheep were 'mowing' the lawn.

As we stood on the road overlooking the meadows, we were passed by families cycling, dog-walkers and lost tourists. No one seemed to think it strange that we were sketching in our little books.

Across the road from the meadow, the chateaux has been renovated for wealthy weekenders, but we loved sketching bits and pieces of it.


After we got home, we decided to invite everyone from the Patio House for soup. It was the last night of Debbie's visit with Robin and soon Catherine, Christophe, Nicolae and Kong Yee were added to the list. Christophe built a great roaring fire in our fireplace. Ellie and John brought Daffy the Dalmation and the big round table was filled with the laughter and conversation of a dozen new friends. Our downstairs dining room is a perfect party place. Everyone took bunches of photos and wished both Debbie and Kong Yee, "Bon Journeé" . . . Bisou, bisou, bisous went all round!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Little Writing; a Little Painting - Day 9

April 8
Today was mostly spent revising my earlier proposal for the book people. I was able to squeeze a little time for:
--putting some washes on watercolor paper, -- preparing some pages for a possible watercolor journal (a 'serious' project as opposed to sketches in an orange foam covered sketchbook!)
--beginning a small experiemntal painting of the layers of mountains, rooftops and tree lines which I could see from the studio.

This sketch is on the road from the studio at the village to our house at La Forge. . . .

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Village and Chez Esmé - Day 8

April 7
I stayed in the village to get help in reading email on the office computer. Pat and I had a long conversation and Karen returned from the studio to find a note that I needed to call home. I reached Daughter One at 6:00 AM but she was awake. She said a call had come from my agent about the book proposal. I am being considered again. What a roller coaster ride this has been since early February!!!

Lunch at Chez Esmé in Ste Colombe seemed a great way to both celebrate and calm down. The rest of the day was spent trying to capture and reply to emails and attachments. This place has an air of magic about it, but Christophe says my visit to the Ste Sernin Basilique caused the miracle of the book!

Oh! lunch. Euros for a starter platter of 3 meats (paté, very thin jambon and saucisse); a big pot of soup with cabbage, 2 kinds of sausages, squares of, maybe, soufflé; pommes de terre, then a fromage platter with 8 or 9 cheeses and, lastly, a dish of fresh sliced strawberries and creme fraiche -- wine, bread and coffee, of course! We had no need for dinner!!

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Day in Toulouse - Day 7

April 6
Catharine and Christophe had an appointment with Veronica from the Gallery in Andorra so they invited Kong Yee and me to go along. After lunch, we went separate ways and Kong Yee and I walked from the Capitol to Basilique Ste-Sernin. We took photos all the way around and then went inside. It was lunchtime so the plazas were filled with some of Toulouse's 100,000 students. Dedicated in 1096, Ste Sernin is the largest example of Romanesque architecture in France and has spectacular examples of 11th and 12th C. art. The ornate Baldachin (or canopy over the altar) which was added 200 years later is impressive. As we walked in the quiet near the altar and the ambulatory, someone began to sing the Ave Maria. I think perhaps just a tourist; but her voice echoed through the huge nave and goosebumps shivered across our bodies.

We continued through the streets - photographing and sketching. At one point, I noticed a lady watching us and trying to get our attention. Finally, she pointed to the façade of a building near us and smiled. After the visual feast of the carvings on the doorway of Église Ste-Pierre des Chartreux, we went inside. A treat we most certainly would have missed without her kindness to two strangers.

Later, I knew that Kong Yee and I had developed a rhythm for viewing the City which would allow us to photograph and sketch at our own pace. It would have been more productive for each of us if we had not been focused on finding a bank machine!! Art and reality at odds. We found our ATM and settled in the huge plaza to await the others. I had coffee and a perfect chocolate confection while making this sketch.

We finished the day in the studio of Christian. It was interesting that the French sculptor/painter used elliptical shapes in his canvases as did the Malaysian photographer/painter. Christian showed us his delicate tissue collages (which Veronica selected for the Gallery in Andorra,) his raku fired sculpture and his books which he created along with a writer -- all editions of fewer than 10 and hand-bound -- and gave us coffee and conversation in the tiny upstairs kitchen. We came home by the back roads and more beautiful views.
Kong Yee's work, some of which is being prepared for his show is Kuala Lampur may be seen at:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Observing, Exploring and Discovering - Day 6

April 5
We must remember to observe 01:02:03-04/05/06 (Oops, we forgot!)

A quick trip to Chalabre before getting in the studio turned out to be longer and more interesting than just a stop at the market and the ATM. (Actually, the market had been on another day!)

We were overheard [chattering at the ATM in our mostly Southern American accents] by Randy Lofficier and her dog, Maggie. We have been reading her blog about life in Chalabre after living in LA.

She knew we were coming to the Aude and had been invited to our welcome party at La Forge on Sunday but mistakenly went to Ellie's in Espéraza instead. We had a delightful morning touring her house where she and Jean-Marc have writing studios overlooking the ancient streets. We stopped at the tabac/presse and bought Randy's new book "Over There" which she autographed. (I hope you can decipher my drawing of their very interesting house. Each room is on a different level and is actually much deeper than I show on the drawing.)

We finished our shopping at a boulangerie, episcerie and charcuterie (where there were actually 3 stores!) and bought beautiful breads, vegetables and fruits. Later, we went to the studio and discovered that new images and light make it much harder to get "real" painting done. It's as if we are all beginners. . . .

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Unremarkable. Unbelievable! - Day 5

April 4
This morning, Karen and I began to arrange our space in the studio. We both find the space rather uninspiring today. I hope it is because the days have been overcast and chilly. There is a sense that I would rather be outside. Every view from the window is an image, a texture, a sublety of color. the street (Petite Rue) is an unremarkable array of ordinary houses with closed shutters on many. (When every village has such lovely views, even beauty becomes unremarkable -- unbelievable!) The river and a small canal flow with remarkably clear water and the plane trees shelter everything. The villagers are beginning their spring chores of cleaning, plowing and planting. Tiny bursts of color surprise the eyes.

SO. . . . Why stay in inside?!

This afternoon, we hopped in our little Opal and explored the countryside. Karen needed the driving practice and I enjoyed not having to watch for curves and lines. We found Lac Montbal with water so clean and bluein the hills behind LaForge. When we returned, we followed the signs for shopping at the Episcerie, Boulangerie, Tabac, and Cadeaux. We expected a row of shops and found only Vival which was ALL of them!

I did get a few little sketches done before our excursion. Text under the drawing of Vival relates the interruption of a charming villager who wanted to see the sketches. With my limited French and her limited English, we chatted and she exclaimed that most of the pieces were 'perfect.'

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Making a Tour or Two -- Day 4

April 3
Today, our group of seven plus one were joined by Chin Kong Yee -- a photographer/painter from Malaysia. He is staying in Maison du Poupees! Catherine gave us all a tour of the Center facilities which includes housing with thirteen bedrooms, 5 or 8 studios, a large exhibition hall in the old Comb factory, three resident sculptors, beautiful grounds and auxiliary buildings at LaForge and Gramont. There is also a large four story house which will eventually be restored. The two complexes are about a mile apart.

Karen stayed to work in the studio. I returned to the house to shampoo and cut away the burned hair from a too hot curling iron -- it's what happens when a converter doesn't work! Later, I picked her up and we decided to explore by car for photo and sketching opportunities. We met Ellie on a side street, saw Kong Yee walking near the cemetery and gathered them both into the excursion. We drove to Puivert and Ellie smartly parked near the lake. Karen and I missed her little blue car and drove to the top of the mountain and the chateau!

After some sketching and photographing, Ellie went back to Espéraza and we returned home by the longer way -- closer to the foothills of the Pyrenees -- promising to return for a closer look at Montseger and Belésta.

We have had some interesting adventures in our little car whenever one of use says "Take that road!!" usually a tiny, rocky or hilly one -- 45-60 degree switchback rocky climb to Puivert, 60 degree paved deadend street in Chalabre with no turnaround and - OUR FAVORITE: a rocky hiker's path along a ridge. (Who knew? It had nice yellow markings on rocks and trees!)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Market Day and Carnivale Night - Day 3

April 2
Even though we had shopped at Inter Marché on the drive from Toulouse and added a few more items from the local episcerie, we were excited about exploring the market. Ellie and John let us tour their 'new' 2nd home at Ste. Colombe before leading us to Espéraza. After shopping, we toured their real home and 'borrowed' their Internet. Karen and I bought cheese, bread, vegetables and sausage for soup, a market basket and a round table cloth for our big table. I also bought some purple and white violas for the front terrace and Karen bought 2 real coffee mugs since neither of us could get used to the large French coffee bowls. . . .

This quick sketch was completed while we gathered for coffee at the edge of the market. It was a beautiful day by the River Aude.

We sat in the back garden and lunched on the goodies from the market while Ellie watered the newly opened red tulips.

Finally, all emails had been sent, Karen had talked on the phone with Joel and we loaded the cars for the drive to Ste Colombe.

Raya cleaned the house and Karen down-loaded photos. I planted our welcoming flowers in a little planter box from the back terrace. Karen made soup and we christened our newly decorated table. Christophe brought firewood for another evening. . . . We had arranged our supplies in the studio on Saturday, so we think we are ready . . .

Maison du Cerisiers - OUR house!
". . . tiled roofs, 16 inch walls, shutters the color of Monet's Bridge. Windows overlooking a vast green lawn sprinkled with the colors of the Fecos confetti in Limoux, yellow dandelions, purples, pinks, and whites. Other windows opening like a tree house in the tops of the cherry trees. . . ."

On Sunday evening, Robin, Debbie and I went to Limoux -- one of the villages built by decree with a central square flanked by archades, a market area and ..... It was perfect for carnivale.
Here is some of the text from the drawing:

. . . . and we notice a gathering of costumes. They moved very slowly to the music of a very old band. The 'Fecos' threw confetti and smiled through their white masks. After the band, there was a whole group of really bizarre characters. (a little note: Later, I realized that they reminded me, not of Halloween characters, but of Tououse-Lautrec's night people.) At the end of the block, everyone stopped and had a drink or two. Then they gathered again to go another block. . . .this continued around the square until midnight and the burning of Monsieur Carnivale -- symbolic of burning all the sins which are confessed during Lent.

What a fun and interesting evening, but a long way home on dark roads with hairpin curves!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Poisson d'avril - Day 2

April 1
Nothing could prepare us for the treasures which each corner brought us. We were almost convinced that it was an April Fool's joke and that we would soon awake.

My sketches for the day were focused on the part of the Center in the village of Ste. Colombe.

Just in case you are wondering about the big blob of "smoke" on the text page: The chill from the evening on the terrace sent us inside to a roaring fire, Josep's Cuban cigars which he shared with Pat and our final course of cheese and chocolate.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Arriving in France -Day 1

(A note about the drawings: I was not concerned with 'matching' the pages or the style of the sketches. Some days, I would use a combination of pen, waterbrush, and watercolor; other days, just a pen would do. As you can see, mistakes were scratched over, errors were sometimes corrected and the next day was a blank page. Occasionally I have published the actual page, other times I have typed in the text for easier reading - You'll find those words in italics. Enjoy.)

March 31
In Atlanta, I met Karen Jacobs for the flight to Charles de Gaulle. We missed our connection toToulouse. We learned that 55 minutes is not long enough between connections and that overbooking on the morning flights is quite common. So we hung out for 5 hours with coffee, croissants and naps.

We contacted Avis with request that our car still be available when we arrived and hoped that John and Ellie Clemens would discover the problem and drive the two hours back to Espéraza without us. Bless their hearts. They ran errands, had some lunch and were waiting with big smiles. We picked up the car from Avis and began the journey. My daily sketches follow with their errors and blotches. I will occasionally add some commentary or clarify words which circle and squiggle, but mostly they'll be just what I entered each day before.

Text: John and I unloaded the luggage at Maison du Poupees (House of the dolls) near the studios in Gramont, while Ellie and Karen went to search for the Center Director Catherine. They returned with the suggestion that we take the newly repaired Maison du Cerisiers (House of the Cherry Trees) next door to the other artists at LaForge (They were scheduled to stay in the Patio House about one mile away.)

Cristophe gave me a lesson in putting the car in reverse. He seemed very nervous to ride with me, but said I could get a French drivers' license. (I considered that to be high praise for my driving skills!)

One look at the cherry blossoms, out every window was enough for a fast decision and we moved to the house I had loved when I saw it on the Cat'Art website. . .

Later that evening, we all gathered on the big terrace for a welcome party and much laughter. We were delighted to meet other artists from the area and the folks who were part of Cat'Art. The chilly wind pushed us inside to a roaring fire, cuban cigars, cheese and chocolate!