Saturday, April 25, 2015


The gardens of Apremont were quite some distance away from our tiny village in Burgundy; we left very early and took what seemed to be hours in a little minivan.  We went though Nevers and across the Loire River and finally arrived at a botanical garden.

When I first arrived, I wasn't too enthused.  Yes, it was lovely and there were some nice views, but I tend to favor man-made structures --architecture, bridges, sculptures, fountains and that sort of thing over a simple landscape.  There was a Japanese style arched bridge over a stream, but my attitude was, "Why would I paint a Japanese bridge in France?"

Botanical Garden, Apremont
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/15/04

So I left our little group to find something more to my liking and settled for the caretaker's cottage, instead.  Certain things show up in my paintings again and again.  I love repeating angles such as the repeat in the stairway wall and the roofline.  And yes, there's that mysterious dark doorway, this time balanced by a white door.

We had a lovely do-it-yourself picnic lunch from a few loaves of crusty baguettes and assorted meats, cheese and condiments plus of course a few hearty jugs of Burgundy that we brought along. No, I am not kidding!  We literally had jugs of some of the finest Burgundy wine I have ever had and we purchased it for a few euros apiece at the convenience store across the street from our little hotel.  The old saying is true:  They keep the best wine for themselves.

After our lunch break, we decided to do an afternoon session.  I wandered off in search of another subject, but nothing captured my interest.  Finally, I spotted some roses beginning to bloom.  Please note that I had to "borrow" a bloom here and a bud there to paint this.  No one part of the rose bush contained all of the parts.

Capa Magna Rose, Apremont, France
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/15/04

Finally, today is my birthday!  I received a dozen red and white roses from my husband, so it is only fitting that my post today would include a rose!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mme. Berrier's Jardin

Not to be outdone by Madame Widemann, Madame Berrier invited us to paint in her garden.  She had the advantage of having a day when the sun was shining; at Mme. Widemann's house it was drizzling nearly the entire morning.  Mme. Berrier took advantage of the fact and spent most of the morning out in the courtyard with us where she sat at a patio table with her companion, Pierre, and chatted with those close to her.

Madame Berrier's Jardin
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/14/04

In this particular instance, I was fascinated by the deep doorway of a barn-like building at the back of the garden and the huge millstone leaning against it.  There was a watering trough next to that which Madame Berrier had filled with soil and had planted asters.  Just about everywhere you gazed there were vines or espaliered trees against the buildings or there were pots filled with flowers.

Since I finished earlier than the others, I moved closer toward Mme. Berrier (Josette) so I could at least overhear the conversation.  While I sat there, I painted a clematis that was clinging to a trellis on the garage wall.

Madame Berrier's Garden - Clematis
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/14/04

Later, after we had all finished, Madame Berrier invited all of us into her salon where she gave details of various artpieces located on the walls and furniture tops.  It turned out that Mme. Berrier was once the mistress to one of France's foreign ministers and had lived in Paris, where she collected most of the pieces.

Le Jardin de Mme. Widemann

Madame Widemann's Garden
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/13/04

One of the nicest things about painting in France is the sort of opportunities that arise.  It seems that all of France is in love with art and artists.

Compare:  Every time I enter Quebec, the border guards ask me my occupation.  If I say "artist" they are quick to say, "Are you aware that it is against the law to produce, sell or cause to be sold any form of artwork in Quebec?"  In France, if you tell the guard that you are an artist and that you have come to paint, he or she will practically hug you.  "Bonne chance!  Enjoy your painting!  I hope you have perfect weather!"

Madame Widemann is an example of the sort of opportunity that I am describing.  When she discovered that a troupe of American artists were visiting her little village in Burgundy, she was very insistent that we spend a morning painting behind her home in her garden.  By French standards, her house was huge and really rather ancient.  The buckle in the roof that I painted is there in reality.  The French are also masters of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  I don't have any idea of how long that buckled section has been there but it adds a certain character to the building, don't you think?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sojourn in Burgundy, France

More than a few years ago, I travelled to France with a small group of South Carolina artists for the sole purpose of spending about a month painting in the French countryside.  My companion from Hilton Head Island was Irene, but we met up in Paris with 7 others from various areas around the state and 2 friends of friends from Wisconsin.  Then, we connected with a group of French artists we joined forces with in Burgundy.

That trip would ultimately become one that I frequently wish I could experience one more time.  Prior to that, I had always considered art to be a solitary pursuit; after, I longed for the camaraderie of kindred spirits.

French Farm Cart at Uschi's House
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/12/04

France can be rainy quite often, so we found ways to cope with a rainy day here and there, although we lucked into quite a bit of sunshine.  On this particular day, we sought refuge at another artist's home near the foothills of the Morvan mountains.  The farm cart is an antique hay wagon that Uschi had outside her house.  She has recently informed me that it finally fell apart and is no more.

Friday, April 17, 2015


To the folks who have subscribed:  I owe you an apology.  More importantly, I owe myself an apology.

Over the past few years, I have allowed some sort of malaise to settle upon me.  The artist circles that I used to frequent have dramatically shifted into directions I wasn't going during the past 2 or 3 years and I have found myself adrift in uncharted waters.  But, be patient:  I think I may have found my compass.

In the days to come, I am going to post the work from my older journals -- a task in itself since posting and scanning is time-consuming; but it is what I think I have to do before I post more up-to-date items as I move forward.

Putting it another way:  

"It is never too late to be who you might have been." 
                                           ~George Eliot, English Novelist (1819 - 1880)