Tag Archives: travel

The Ochres of Roussillon


Natural ochre pigments from Roussillon, Provence, France

Roussillon was one of my favorite towns in Provence.  It is famous for its history of producing ochre pigments for arts and construction.  Today the industry has declined due to the introduction of synthetic pigments, but the natural pigments are available in small quantities in the shops in Roussillon.  The buildings in the town are a wide range of warm colors:  yellow, pink, salmon, red, and brown.  You can walk through the old ochre quarries where the yellow and red colors of the earth create a striking contrast with the green of the pine trees and the blue sky.

The color of the earth reminds me of the red soil of the North Carolina piedmont where I grew up, but the soil is sandier than the NC clay.  I suppose that is why we made bricks instead of mining pigment.  The colors also remind me of the adobe structures of the southwestern US, but the shapes are different.

I brought home a some of the beautiful natural pigments representing the colors of Roussillon.   I plan to mix them with some acrylic mediums and incorporate them into my artwork in the future.

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The Evolution of Derain


Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume au grand chapeau by André Derain c. 1929

I’ve been familiar with André Derain as an originator of Fauvism, a painter of wildly colored landscapes and portraits with energetic brushstrokes and skewed drawings.  If you don’t know what I mean, Google “Derain” and look at the first page of images.

So when I encountered a large number of Derain’s paintings in the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I was amazed by the variety of his subjects and styles.  Derain passed through his Fauvist period when he was in his mid 20’s, but he lived and worked for almost 50 more years.  During his life, he experimented with sculpture and many styles of painting.  He studied the old masters and began to use a more muted palette, painting a variety of subjects including portraits, still lifes, and figures.

Derain’s later paintings are very beautifully rendered, but not immediately recognizable (to my uneducated eye) as Derain’s style.  This made me wonder about how an artist’s style develops.  Why did Derain move on from his Fauvist phase? How did it happen that Derain is most well known for his early experimental work?   Is innovation that is admired?  Does classical training impede innovation?  If Derain had not passed through the early Fauvist phase, would he have been known at all?  What do you think?

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Cabrières d’Avignon

Cabrières d'Avignon

Cabrières d'Avignon, travel journal by Lucinda Howe

The trip to France was wonderful.   Here is a page from my journal with “snapshots” from around the quaint old town of Cabrières d’Avignon.

One morning I started out early and made quick drawings with color notes of the chateau in the old town and a nearby vineyard, approximately 15 minutes each.  I added some darks with a black Stabilo watercolor pencil that I found in an art supply store in Arles the day before.  Be mid morning, I came back to the house, sat in the shade in the courtyard, and added watercolor to the drawing, and  also did a larger painting of the courtyard.  Whether or not these small drawings ever become larger paintings, this was the moment in which I absorbed the most information about the town.


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Filling the Well


Sea shells in grid pattern, travel journal by Lucinda Howe

In this technique, you go beyond simply recording, and start “filling the well” with source material for future creative ventures.  You begin to combine your experience of the place with your personal interests.  Of course, there are many ways to do this, but here are a few prompts to get you thinking.

  • Try some new ways of combining drawing and painting supplies.  Buy unfamiliar art supplies at local art supply shop.
  • Start a series of images based on your other interests – architecture, food, sports, shopping, animals, religion, etc.   Make notes on how to use these when you get home.
  • Leave some space to add photos or embellishments with other media after you return home.
  • Observe the local color palette and notice whether it influences you to change your usual palette.
  • Experiment with techniques and themes observed in galleries and museums
  • Pay attention to the design of the page as well as the content.  Think about whether you like things arranged on a grid or randomly.  Do you like richly layered pages with color out to the edge, or do you prefer a lot of white space?
  • Once you get home, use your journal as source material for new directions in your art.

For some really personal and inspirational journals, take a look at An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory.

Fair warning:  If you get hooked on visual/verbal journaling while you travel, don’t think you can give it up when you get home!

By the time you read this, I should be back from France.  Have I been practicing my own instructions?  I’ll give you a report next week.  Until then, keep drawing!


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Borrowing Language


Grand Cayman Restaurants, page from travel journal by Lucinda Howe

Words and images combine well in a travel journal.  But if you don’t consider yourself a writer, don’t dispair.  Here are several ways to add language to your pages.

  • Incorporate printed ephemera (items designed to be useful or important for only a short time such as  pamphlets, tickets, wine labels, store receipts).
  • Borrow words from signs, ads, restaurant menus in the language of the country you are visiting.  Write down snippets of conversations overheard in public places.  Collect local idioms.  Quote local celebrities.
  • Make notes of your observations.  For example, my notes from a previous trip to France say activity around the square included “a woman in a red dress walking four dogs with red bandanas”, and there was noise from the “Esthetique Canine blowdrying a fluffy poodle”.
  • Use letter stencils, drawn letters, handwriting, or calligraphy. Use the letters as design elements.
  • Make rubbings of signs or carvings using thin paper and crayon or graphite and add them to your journal.

If you are interested in journaling as an art form, both for travel and everyday life, a good resource is the book, The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages by Gwen Diehn.

Next week:   Filling the Well

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Getting Acquainted with the Landscape


The Island of Patmos, Small watercolor drawings from the travel journal of Lucinda Howe

In preparation for my upcoming trip to France, I’ve been reviewing my notes about travel journaling and looking back at what I’ve done on past trips.  Most of my journaling falls in three categories and requires only basic supplies such as a small watercolor kit and some pencils and pens.

Getting Acquainted:  Landscape “Snapshots”

When traveling to a new place, my first goal is to absorb the feel of the place.  I also want to be prepared to move when my traveling companions have taken photos and are ready to go.   In this case, I make small (approximately 4×6”) line drawings in pencil in my journal to capture basic shapes.  People are just torso and legs with a gesture or posture.  I may draw a door or flower box rather than the whole building.  Along with the drawing, I note the character of the place in words.  For example, “white rectangular buildings with red roofs, bright sun, strong shadows”  or “busy, noisy, colorful flower market”.  I also record the weather, sounds, and smells… church bells, diesel fuel, birds, lavender, etc.

When I stop for lunch or in the evening, I add color and details while the scene is still fresh in my mind.   For these small landscapes, a soft wash of color in the background and some foreground details with an ink pen may be all it takes.  In other cases I add color only in the area of greatest interest or define shapes with brush strokes.  I’m trying to create physical memory though my hands and not to worry about completing a painting.

I leave some white space on the page and add place names and dates, and soon the book is full of very personal landscape “snapshots”.


Next week:  Borrowing language


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What to Pack?

Small Watercolor kit for travel

It’s almost time to pack art supplies for the summer travel season.  Where are you going this summer?  Where is your favorite place to paint? What sort of kit do you pack?

I’m excited to be traveling to the Provence area of France with a group of artists.  At first I thought I’d pack clothes in one suitcase and painting supplies in another.   I imagined I’d walk to locations near the villa, spend the day painting en plein air come back with several completed pieces.   Ha!  What a silly fantasy!  The others in the group are interested in tourist activities.  Then we started talking about having to schlep luggage from plane to train to tiny car and realized we should take only one carryon each.  So I’ve been trying to skinny my kit down to a minimum.

I remembered a journaling workshop taught by Margaret Hoybach who suggested carrying a watercolor book and a small watercolor kit.   The idea is to make a quick, simple drawing to capture an image along with color notes.  Add color and details at the next stop.   Try to get as much as possible before someone yells “back on the bus!”.

So I’ve collected the small kit you see here.  It has a book with watercolor paper, watercolor paint box, small bushes, pencils, kneaded eraser, water, white gouache, wax crayon, brown ink pen, black markers, Kleenex or paper towels, pencil sharpener, sea sponge, plastic bag, water bottle, spray bottle., camera, viewfinder, and glue stick.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be testing it to see how much more I can leave at home and still call my self an artist.  I think I can do without the glue stick.  How much weight will that save?

Do you have any advice for me?  What is the minimum you need to do art on the road?

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