Sunday, May 17, 2015

London, England

I arrived at London Heathrow Airport brutally tired.  I was supposed to be on a 6:10 PM flight to London, but the ground crew discovered a crack in the cockpit windshield, so our flight was held until after midnight until it was replaced.  That added 5 hours onto an already long flight.  Once I cleared customs and immigration, all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

The next morning, it was raining.  Okay, I know.  Yes, it was London and yes, it rains.  A lot.

So, other than a tour around the city on the Big Red Bus, that was it.  Well, no...  I had purchased tickets online before I left on my trip to go to a West End theater to see the original cast of Phantom of the Opera performing on their "home" stage.  But as far as sightseeing, The Big Red Bus was it.

It was sunny the day I wanted to sleep and it was sunny the next day when I boarded a bus to go to the port of Southampton to embark on my northern European cruise.  Go figure.

That is why my biggest memory of London is just The Big Red Bus.

Big Red Bus, London, UK
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Wandering Western Europe,
sketchbook journal entry dated 8/18/05

A Little Note

On the trip I took with my fellow artists, Irene and I stayed in Paris on our arrival for a few days and again before our departure.  So, even though there are a few watercolor sketches of Paris, I am going to hold them back to be included in an entire group of sketches of Paris from various trips.

You could convince me to go to Paris just about anytime for any length of time!  (Well, maybe a long weekend might be stretching it because I hate the flight, but otherwise, I would be willing!)  Paris is the ultimate destination for an artist -- there is simply something about the ambiance, the attitudes of the French, the sheer encouragement that you are given that make you want to paint, even if you aren't really in the mood!  

I love Paris so much, it should have an entire section devoted to it.  And so, that is what I will do...  But first, I will present to you a little bit of other places in Europe!

Friday, May 15, 2015

At Uschi's House

We woke up to a grey, rainy day.  After the group tramped down the stairs to the breakfast room, Uschi and her husband, Marsh, transported us in 3 carloads to their home.  

When Uschi was teaching an art class in Washington, DC, one of her students came to class and offered to sell an apartment that she owned in France.  Uschi bought it on the spot; then she went home and told Marsh!  Later, they purchased a stable on the corner of a farm near the village of Cropigny and had spent several years renovating it, bit by bit.  When we were there, the downstairs was completed and Marsh was plastering the walls upstairs as we painted.  Uschi and Marsh spend 6 months in France during the summers and 6 months in the US.  

It should be noted that the 6 months spent in France is during the hot, humid months we live with in Hilton Head; the 6 months they spend in Hilton Head are the "cold" months in France.  That is my idea of heaven... and I would do the same thing in a heartbeat.

At Uschi's, Cropigny, FR
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/18/04

So, we had all 20 of us, French and American artists, inside Uschi's house for our last day of painting together and each of us trying our best to find something to inspire us.  The windows across the front of the house, looking across the garden and fields had artists side by side.  In retrospect, I could have painted a scene of painters.  But, I was attracted to the doorway to the second floor and more interested in my conversation (her little bit of English and my little bit of French) with Ramonde.  Somehow, she and I had formed some sort of bond over the course of time.

At lunchtime, we rigged a table for 22 out of some supports and boards.  Uschi and a few of the other women had created a wonderful luncheon for all of us.  We lingered over lunch because all of us knew what would come next:  our goodbyes.  Finally, the French artists formed one line and the American artists formed a second line just like sports teams do at the end and one by one, we passed each other and gave hugs and kisses.  Then, with a few tears on cheeks, they filed out the door to their cars.

All in all, it was an absolutely remarkable trip.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Canal de Nivernais

We spent the entire day painting at the Canal de Nivernais, at Pazy.  Renting a boat on the Canal is apparently a favorite holiday for the Brits and just about every boat that floated by while we were painting was a canal boat, similar to the one I have depicted here filled with Brits laughing and calling over to us on shore.

Canal de Nivernais, Pazy, FR
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/17/04

The canal has a series of locks that slow the transit down, so it is not a holiday for anyone in a hurry to go anywhere.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Chateau Lantilly

We were staying in a little town in Burgundy, Corbigny, that had about 2000 residents within the actual town boundaries and quite a few more in the surrounding countryside.  The little hotel that we were staying in had 14 rooms.  Our little group occupied 10 of them, which gave the entire stay a sense of being in a family gathering.  In the morning we would gather in the tiny breakfast room for our croissants and/or baguette and whatever specialty bread they were offering that morning and some very good coffee.  Good coffee is a rarity in France, but the  hotel had some.

Certain days, we elected to remain close to "home" and on this day, particularly after such a long drive the day before, we decided to pay a visit to Chateau Lantilly.  It was still in private hands and not open to the general public, but with our French cohort, we were able to obtain permission.

Chateau Lantilly moat, Corbigny, FR
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/16/04

Here is a classic case of a less-than-successful attempt.  It is true to what I saw and is a very accurate depiction. That is the crux of the problem...  I most likely should have used artistic license and toned it down a bit.  See the dark slanted bit on the moat's bridge?  That is an actual shadow being cast by the building itself.  See the golden and green reflections in the water?  That is an actual reflection from the building and the trees in the background. See the dark  -- very dark -- shadows cast by the arches under the moat bridge?  I checked the value, i.e., the "darkness", a half dozen times before I painted it.  Bottom line:  I should have "prettied up" the scene by merely suggesting it, not painting it precisely as it was.  Lesson learned. 

Oh, and look!  I painted another doorway!

Chateau Lantilly, Corbigny, FR
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/16/04

Since we were in our home area we had extra time to spend here...  I decided to do the painter-paints-another-painter-painting thing, so I moved my stool closer to Uschi and painted her while she painted the fountain and garden inside the garden walls.  Uschi works in oils, so I knew she wouldn't move before I finished!