Monday, December 21, 2009

Rignac under snow

Could be a Christmas card...lovely from afar, but pretty chilly in reality. I took this shot on the road down from Roumegouse. As I gingerly made my way down the hill, I passed a couple waiting for the tow truck. Their car lay on its side in a ditch. Pretty slithery conditions. Thabo and Sam having a blast.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Red Lady

I am starting a series of large paintings loosely based on sketches from the Monday life drawing evening. I haven't painted for myself for years, and find it strangely constraining, after railing for years against editors and art directors who demanded changes in my illustrations. Perhaps I need a weight/force to work against, and feel adrift without it.

Anyway I have started, and interestingly enough, seem to be picking up from where I left off at art school decades ago: a fascination with large robustly charged women.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Opium Den

Every night Sam disappears at about 10:30 or 11. I used to get in my car and try to find him. Once or twice I found him chilling his heels in a cage in Rocamadour or Gramat. He has chewed his way through three leashes and two collars. I replace the tag with my phone number on his collar very other day, though this is hardly necessary as everyone within a 20 kilometer radius of Rignac seems to know Sam now from his "Perdu!" posters.

Who knows where he goes but he is home in the morning, once with a suspiciously bloody mussel and this morning with a limp. He then spends the day recuperating in what used to be the Art Gallery, but now is referred to as the Opium Den.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mysterious bearer of goodies in Rignac

About a month ago, I found this little rose bush, wrapped up and be-ribboned, and a homemade nut cake on my kitchen table. Still don't know how they got there, but a neighbour told me last week that the same thing happened to her a few years ago, and she still doesn't know who our secret benefactor is...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sharing the limelight with a turkey

Every now and then, Thanksgiving falls on my birthday, November 26. Such was the case this year.

Rounded up a few friends and told them that, in traditional Thanksgiving style, they needed to bring something for the meal. Ended up with imported cranberries and roast potatoes from Bayge's garden, wild mushrooms collected by Marco, and a home made pumpkin pie from Elisabeth and a collection of fabulous music from Franck. I splurged on a pot of foie gras spread on slivers of toasted raisin bread, stuffed a turkey breast and made a tarte tatin with the remaining apples my neighbours, the Stuckes, pressed on me before leaving for South Africa. Six of us managed to consume four bottles of champagne and this morning I reeled into Gym Tonique, made a u-turn, and went back to bed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rocamadour Redux?

One of the local scenes my students enjoy painting most is the view across the valley of Rocamadour. However after about ten years, I have become rather bored with painting this scene.

Last summer I had a lovely student who painted s-o-o s-l-o-w-l-y that I scolded her that if she didn't loosen up she wouldn't finish anything. Yesterday, about four months after she started the picture, she sent me this breathtaking landscape. Bravo Mucella!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekend in the hookie

Sam has disappeared before, and once the police told me to collect him from a cell in Rocamadour, but this time he was gone for three days, the police hadn't had any reports about his finding, and no one was responding to the posters I had put up. Yesterday I took to my bed. Sam tends to lie in the middle of the road, and this is the middle of hunting season after all. But just before turning out the light for the night, I checked my cellphone, which for some reason tends to turn itself off.

Yeay, a message. He had turned up at the vet and they had kept him for the weekend. This rather pitiful face greeted me wildly this morning.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ballade on two wheels

Took advantage of balmy weather to cycle to Sarlat yesterday. Started in Cieurac, a lovely village just across the Dordogne from Souillac. The train track between Souillac and Sarlat was removed a few years ago and paved as a bicycle route. It's beautiful. The track is relatively flat and follows the river much of the way, winding around farms and villages, at one point disappearing into a long tunnel, until it turns north towards Sarlat. Then the climb through an oak forest is long but not too steep. Much of the trail is elevated. The colourful autumn leaves drifted down around me and crunched under my wheels.
Found a nice room in the center of town (La Maison du Notaire Royal- 45 euros) and had a delicious three course meal at La Rapière (18.50 euros). Saturday is market day in Sarlat. In summer the town is mobbed with tourists, but today it was very pleasant to breakfast in the sunny market square before setting off for home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspired artist: Mato Atom

Coquille d'oeuf

When I came to France in 1991, I wanted to buy a Deux Chevaux, but all my friends groaned and told me to grow up. So for years and years I drove a nondescript but faithful Renault 11. Finally one year the engine blew up and as no one was around, I got to search for and buy my dream car.

My friends had a point though, my Coquille d'ouef (eggshell) wasn't up to long drives, steep hills or picking up friends and their baggage from the train station, so my wonderful mechanic put a new (second-hand) engine in my Renault and now I have two cars. I have just put a new capot on the Deux, and treated and painted rust spots so wanted to show her off.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roman Holiday and Me

Before my friend Rachel returned to New York last week, I persuaded her to leave behind her DVD of one of my all time favourite movies, Roman Holiday.

The morning after watching it, I got an email from a lovely Canadian I had spent two days with in Rome in 1970 when I was a sweet and innocent 17 year old. We had visited the Coliseum, the Vatican, and the Spanish Steps among other sites together.

Doug tracked me down a few years ago via Google, and now he was emailing me birthday wishes. He included this recent photograph from a trip to Italy with his wife.

Sometimes art and life crisscrosses in rather magical ways...

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Found this box of mushrooms in the market on Friday morning after Gym Tonique for five euros. I think they're coulemelles, one of the tastiest mushrooms to be found this time of year.

Cooked them in a pan with butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and a little fresh tarragon, added cream and served them up on fresh noodles with parsley and parmesan. Delicious.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month...

Armistice Day (November 11) is a national holiday in France. It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning - the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918.

The French soldiers were decimated in the trenches. Not one village was spared by the veritable massacre during this terrible time, and every village commemorates this day with a short ceremony. About 1,397,800 French soldiers, more than 65 percent of all the country's servicemen committed to action, were killed in "Paris's War". No one seems to remember now what the war was about, but it was supposed to be "the war to end all wars".

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Boudoir haiku

It's very gratifying when someone expresses interest in buying one of my pictures that I am especially attached to. Here is one of my watercolour "boudoir haiku", probably executed in less than five minutes, that I am about to part from.

My project for the winter is to capture the simple spirit of these little pictures and work them up into oils.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Paying the piper

Friends be warned: if you overstay your weekend at Le Tramizal, chances are that you will be press ganged into modeling for my Monday evening drawing group.

The second drawing is inverted by the way. My doctor friend was not required to balance on his toe for ten minutes...

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Just escaped to the Pyrenees for a few days. The weather was warm and sunny and the Mediterranean was still gloriously swimmable. We crunched up leafy paths through chestnut forests to waterfalls, soaked in steaming sulfuric thermal pools in the wilderness, discovered a magical small village called Jojuls, and hiked up to the remote St Martin de Canigou Abbey. On the way home, we had a picnic lunch at Quéribus, one of the Cathar pogs. The holiday, as always, was over in a flash.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mrs Ersoy's sundried tomato sauce

I didn't know what to do with all the tomatoes that were rapidly ripening on the vine this summer, so Mucella, a watercoloring engineer from Turkey who was taking my class, told me how her mother preserved her tomatoes. When she sent me these photos of the famous sauce and her fabulous mother, I had to add them to my blog.

Here is the recipe:
Cut tomatoes in half and place in deep pan with some salt. Place in full summer sun and cover with netting to keep bugs out. Every morning and evening, stir with a spoon. Don't worry about white mold that develops- just stir it in and natural acid from tomatoes will take care of it. After about two weeks, when sauce is nice and thick from evaporation, scoop out skins (or sieve), and fill glass jars, and seal with a layer of olive oil.

Sundried tomato sauce is delicious, and lasts the whole winter. Red peppers can be added to the tomatoes too for a variation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Saga of Sam

Look at this face. Irrisitable, no? This scruffy looking mutt was wandering around Gramat for a couple days, dirty and collarless. I took him home, bathed him, photographed him, and posted his mug all over town hoping he would be claimed. Someone called but she never came to get him. Her life was "complicated" she said. So Sam came to Spain with us to camp on the beach and learn to swim. Since being home, he has caught and eaten one chicken, chased the sheep, and even taunted the cows in the fields. So I tied him up, but he chewed his way through two leashes and a collar and on Sunday I wasn't woken up with his usual kiss on my nose at dawn. Sam had disappeared and I was frantic. He wasn't home for his dinner so on Monday I called the police and yes, they had him. So he's back, this time with my name and number on his collar. I am taking things one day at a time. Every morning and evening he has to be walked on a retractable lead until we get to open fields so I can correct him. Thabo is teaching him to sit. And I think he is beginning to learn his new name. Sam. Sigh... I guess it's my life that's complicated now...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A night on the beach in Spain

Went to meet friends in the Pyrennees for a late summer holiday. As a small child living in Paris, I had fond memories of a holiday on the Costa Brava. Everyone told me not to go back; that it was horribly built up and overcrowded and that I should just treasure my memories, but this is what we found: an empty beach where we were allowed to camp. At one of the beaches we found a fabulous formal restaurant, so we clipped on our bijoux and ordered delicious paella to down with a cold jug of sangria, followed by fanciful desserts. The others pitched and slept in their tents, but I slept on the beach and was rewarded with this magnificent sunrise. Don't try to find this spot. I am sure it was all a mirage...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Almost every Monday evening when the drawing group meets in my studio, Sushi insists on getting into the act, posing beautifully with the model. Christine had to move around him to keep in the picture.

Meanwhile, even though Sam (alias Tofu)'s owner contacted me three days ago, she has yet to come and collect him. He might be a permanent Tramizal fixture after all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jupiter and its moons

We saw Jupiter and its four moons tonight through my telescope. It looked rather like this picture, though I think the moons were in a horizontal line and there were two stripes on Jupiter.

The Lot has the clearest skies in Europe and is an ideal place for observing the night skies, especially now in August when meteor showers are easier to see.

I love looking up at the skies, but tonight I was talking to a friend who is completely unsettled by the night sky and its stars...and the concept of infinity.

GREAT NEWS: Sam (alias Tofu)'s owner called me today. He has a home after all. Sad for us though; even the cats were beginning to warm to him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bumper crop of tomatoes

This is one day's haul of tomatoes. We have been eating so many tomatoes in so many ways that I swear I am beginning to turn into a tomato. I am giving them away to anyone who will take them. Mucella, a mining engineer from Turkey who came to take some private painting lessons last week told me that her mother, an excellent cook, halves them and places them in a five inch deep pan (I have used plastic tubs), salts them, and leaves them in the hot sun for about a week. Twice a day she stirs them. At the end of this period, one strains them to remove the skins, bottles them covered with a small layer of olive oil and the tomato sauce is not only delicious but lasts the winter. Apparently the acid in the tomatoes preserves them. I don't know about this. Mine are fermenting wildly...

Friday, July 31, 2009

A bouquet for you

Completed two weeks of the watercolour workshop on Friday and am recuperating. It's a lot of work- not just the teaching but also the shopping for and preparing of lunches, sorting out transport, lost cameras, passports, wallets, credit cards and bathing suits that inevitably occur when people are traveling. This year a Eugene tantrum was thrown into the mix which spiced things up when he suddenly decided three days in advance to let other people have his gite that my students had booked in January.

But the group was great and coped with all the above (to say nothing of the hordes of heatwave flies) with equanimity and humour and everyone left with a full portfolio and few extra inches from good rural French cuisine.

The painting is one of my demonstrations from the day we attacked flowers, which are all about edges.

More shots of student work to follow...

Monday, June 29, 2009


Cycling back from Aqua Gym on Saturday morning, we came across this little critter in a small grassy lane. For years a hedgehog came into my garden in the evenings to rummage through my compost, but I have seen very few of them of late. Also saw a badger recently, only my second sighting in almost twenty years.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A scene of cool repose on a hot summer day

Summer in the Lot is in full swing. On Sunday I attended two vide greniers, literally translated as empty attics, meaning garage sales in the US and car boot sales in the UK. Also went to an annual arts festival in Lentouille- Lentillac that follows the twists and turns of a river valley. The theme this year was wood, and there were old steam tractors and cart horses dragging around logs of wood, people shaping bowls on lathes, treemen swinging about on ropes like Tarzan, trimming dead branches from trees, and lots of art work. This however was the most striking image of the day that had everyone transfixed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chateaux tour- the southwest Lot

I joined the group at Labastide-Murat. An intrepid sculptor and architectural connoisseur organises annual explorations of the area for a few lucky invited guests. First stop: a fortified fifteenth century castle.

Then we moved on to a chartreuse, an old convent, this one inhabited by an elegant patron of the arts. We munched on coffee and brownies while our guide and our hostess ironed out details of a commission.

Next stop, was this sliver of building, an old fortified entrance to a no longer existing grand country castle.

Lunch at a recently replanted vineyard: our host proudly introduced us to a fine example of a recent year's harvest.

The afternoon sun blazed down as we bushwhacked through a shady forest to discover an abandoned citadel. Then a visit to Bonaguil, the best preserved midieval castle in Europe. Finally after an evening of wining, dining and song, I stumbled home at 2:30 am.