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Sunday, December 9, 2018

High Places

Painting below Mt. St. Victoire

Mt. St. Victoire rises from the otherwise low hills and is like a beacon for miles. When driving into Aix, it will suddenly appear, stricken by light, or as a husky darkened form contrasted by the glow of the morning sky. Often I gasp, as it's majesty surprises me over and it makes itself known repeatedly....

Just wanted to prove that Frank is not exaggerating the light!

Painting in process....

On a weekend drive over the Luberon Mountains we visited Fort Buoux near Apt and Bonnieux. The magnificent ruins provided 360 views and signs of ancient life, including sarcophagi dating back to the 9th century, it was great to wander and wonder. At the top are deep trenches, vaulted cisterns (minus the tops), and other signs of building, both of shaped stone and carved in the solid rock itself. The view from the end, out over the deep valleys is magnificent and one of us couldn't handle the vertical drop which was severe and gut wrenching. We descended on a "secret set of stairs" which were utilized during attacks. Unbelievably steep and slippery, we could barely handle rambling down, and imagined how people under siege might retreat in full armor, with weapons or holding children! 

Family hike up to the Fort Buoux in the Luberon

Very well intact to imagine who what when and how

View down to the Aiguebrun River from Fort Buoux 

Standing above the trenches

Daisy Crown
Happy to find the field of daisies on the way up! 

Secret Staircase for hasty retreats
You want us to walk down THERE? it was steeper than it looks. I was looking for a belay rope!

At the tip top...don't look over the edge!

Back in Rognes...where we have our own set of impressive ruins!
Something the Fort didn't provide....lovely outdoor cafe in the  brilliant
winter sun! Drinking coffee at Le Rancard, Rognes, France.
Chateau Beaupre as a painting site.

Frank and I visited the local vineyard, Chateau Beaupre, in Rognes and got permission to paint on their grounds....what a lovely and spacious...great trees, grape vines and fields, architecture, easy parking, wine.....a very muddy stream/trench that Hazel enjoyed fully.
Hazel entrenched in our vineyard visit

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Frank spends a lot of time creating landscapes of his own interpretation and his work (most say) is pretty realistic, the colors are true and he is able to paint the best version of the subject on the whole. For instance, if a tree is in the wrong place for the composition, he'll move it. Artistic license gives him the freedom to make those choices. But, every so often I'll walk into the studio and gasp...because he's jumped into self portrait mode; a way to test himself that he can interpret with his brushes the one true thing he's always had....his face!  Unlike a landscape or still life, the portrait doesn't give you much opportunity to switch things around and remain true. I'm sure you agree, he has passed this recent test with flying colors....

Still so many villages, towns and cities to visit and paint...

Ansouis is a gem of a this pic of Arlo in the foreground while Jorgie and I get windblown

Parked above the village and looking down at the charming Bonnieux, Frank found a parking spot that with his trunk swung wide open created an instant al fresco studio.

Hours into this painting, light has changed, Frank's taken a quick break and met some traveling muscians/artists who stopped to talk and burble over with excitement about his work.

Golden Hour over Bonnieux

A sunnier day, painting distant Bonnieux.
Wednesday fish market, Marseille
And into Marseille to meet with a friend and explore this gorgeous crumbly exciting port city
Gratitude: It's the season for's always the season for thanks. Frosty morning beside the vineyards, autumnal colors, Frank and I painting together near the goat farm and vineyard in Rognes, my Thanksgiving vignette on the terrace, local bakery centerpiece: a boule emblazoned with the crest of our village, herbs and flowering shrubs in green glass bottles with nametags for table, wine from the vineyard next door, olive oil drizzle on salad from the olives WE picked, still lots of green things growing in the Provençal fields and forests,  old friends visiting from NYC, new friends from China and Provençe for Thanksgiving dinner, a favorite view of curving roads intersecting....which road do you take? 

watercolor work in vineyard

cleaning off brushes after a couple hours painting farmhouse w smoke
aforementioned smoke. detail. original oil painting by Frank Bruckmann

Those faces!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

School Vacation: Road Trip and Landscapes Galore!

We (all 4 of us and the dog) had a week long road trip of meandering and finding cheap accommodations thru air b+b: in mobile homes, on an American horse ranch, sharing a tiny studio with bunk beds on the Atlantic coast and a top floor of an apartment building near the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We saw some great stuff but back at home everyone was grateful to retreat into the privacy of their own rooms...

Painting the bridge at Chantemerle, Bedoués, France. 
Shout out to Paige Celestin, our American in France who invited us to experience the Festival de la Soupe in Florac, France, which fell during the kids' school holiday. Her cousin Nicole runs Camping Chantemerle in Bedoués and we rented an impeccable "motor home" cabin for the weekend. It is right on the gorgeous Tarn River, which (supposedly) has the cleanest water and air in all of France. We plan to return in the early summer because we didn't get a chance to swim, kayak, canoe or go canyoning. Frank spent his mornings all bundled up capturing the tiniest bit of light that was granted him on the river and bridge...see the sweet piece above....

We twisted and turned through the Tarn region which is ridiculously gorgeous...houses built right up to vast stone walls, mossy waterfalls, all of which seem to spring up out of nowhere.

School vacation Road Trip....The Blue Route...Rognes-Florac-Tauteval ranch-Barcelona-Zaragoza-Biarritz

Frank and Jorgie painted on the Tarn while we walked and collected chestnuts to roast later at the ranch..

Soup kids, Conrad, Arlo and Jorgie, hanging at a stove....

Lively and funky Florac on the Tarn, fringed with painted soup pots and meandering streets with interesting shops, products and artisans....We spent some time driving up and down and visited teeny villages and found endless pastures and stone walls and cows and clouds galore....
Like us, many were glamping to go to Florac for the festival. The whole village cooks soup and serves it up on decommissioned wood burning stoves plopped on the sidewalk. Others make pottery soup bowls on a string and you each buy one, wear it around your neck and go from pot to pot. The village decorates with painted soup pots hanging everywhere and there are pop up kitchens and bars and bands and pocket musicians playing the hurdy gurdy, a strange as hell "caravan of curiosities" by 2 fab goth-ish sisters with stuffed ferrets, things in jars that used to be living...and many spectacles.

Incredible open pastures up above Florac and Bedoues
Making our way towards Barcelona, I planned a night on an American Horse Ranch. No one like the idea, but I persevered. Nick the French Cowboy, his GIGANTIC guard dog Bucky (who was muzzled) greeted us with Yvette, the lovely Aussie intern. They fed us a dinner of stew and sangria while Nick told us about his years as a young cowboy in Wyoming/Montana, all the rodeos, mechanical bulls ridden and trophies earned, the proof of which was up on the dusty shelves all around the saloon.   Please note the snow in the Pyrenees beyond the horses....There is Bucky, on guard and dwarfing the ranch house. 

Paint Horses on the Ranch

 We drove thru the coastal towns of Collioure and Bayuls sur Mer but it was rainy and miserably chilly so no dawdling as we crossed into Spain, where they're no customs or anything.  I see that as a FREE PASS to have forgotten our passports! (missed opportunity there)
Unicorn gargoyle in Barcelona...

Yup, she WANTED to be drawn by some other artist....
Walking home after all day roaming in Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia, by Gaudi. Barcelona
Painting from the balcony of our Barcelona apartment
               We liked exploring Barcelona....vibrant and cheerful and steeped in history...great to learn about the Catalans and traditions and political situation...we stayed in the Sagrada Familia barrio right around the corner from the ever changing cathedral by Gaudi...It has been in the process of being built for over 100 years (please fact check) and they aren't finished yet, note the cranes.... What a legacy Gaudi left behind....plans for completion well beyond his years. Think about that....

an illuminating PSA from Barcelona

The Basque Country looked absolutely gorgeous for driving thru, but we arrived towards dusk and missed much of the landscape. However, before we lost the light, we stopped to fill the gas tank and the kids junk food tank, we saw a herd RUNNING towards us (Jorgie). They followed her every move (smelled the Pringles). By the end, there were about 80 heads snorting and sniffing and curiously entertaining us.

We drove westward to Zaragoza for Halloween which we all spent indoors because we (maybe just me) were cranky and it was rainy, so not much to report about Zaragoza though Frank felt it was a great town, reminded him of Madrid, 30 years ago. Pamplona was next, and it was All Souls Day. Everyone was off from work and in the bars and restaurants near the bull fighting arena. I loved the scale of Pamplona's plazas we lingered in a cafe for lunch and then headed to Biarritz (back in France) on the coast where they were still celebrating Halloween. The kids and I headed to the public garden where they decorated with a Wild West (American!) theme. See the ol' county jailhouse below??

Biarritz Jail House

This is a beach at Biarritz! Frank tried to get a quick start on a painting before drizzle turned more serious....

You have been a very patient traveler on our blog! Hope it's been enlightening....
A rainy night while glamping...Hair by Arlo