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Saturday, December 29, 2018

You are the Present....

These people...

Christmas and New Year's occasions have brought my mom to Provence! She was thrilled to return to the place where she created the template for powerful memories from the year 2000, when she celebrated turning a certain age in the best of style...having her closest friends and our family together for a golden month in a fabulous French farmhouse in the tiny town of Egalyieres. We retraced her steps to visit the places that meant a lot while recounting and trying to entertain the kids with funny stories. Above, we were back at the chapel where in 2000 she watched Frank and I marry each other, while Arlo swam in amniotic fluid and my brothers, sisters-in-law, 3 nephews (albeit one also swimming)  and 2 besties fully participated in our ad hoc ceremony that was super charged with love and energy.

Frank's found a new painting partner....see below...they've been heading out to capture the light and landscape together...

Jorgie using the roof of the Fiat Panda as her painting studio

Our village of Rognes, France has an annual Truffle Festival and we spent the whole day at the market meeting friends and soaking up the winter sun and later cooked up a delicious truffle dinner with our neighbors....we all seemed to agree that they are delicious...a rarity in the family (having tastebuds that agree) but we are all sort of still wondering how this ugly little mushroom holds so many people completely captive...there were thousands wandering the streets of this little village...

Just a gorgeous cheese vendor....
a "pop-up farm" set in the parking lot below
Main Street in Rognes with the Foussa (ruins) above the village
cutest gingerbread cookies ever (except for
Elina Murarka, that is)
Tricycle musician with sound PA system, mic on trike,
singing corny French and American Christmas
songs that mom and I found totally danceable...
Bon Appetit...Truffles from M.Gerard VALENTIN, truffle cultivator, and the dinner we made...and great neighbors, Minna, Cyril, Anton, Elias. 
Live Creche! We participated in Cadenet's annual event, following the wise(wo)men up the winding streets to the grotto at the top of the village for traditional reenactments, sunset and  hot mulled wine (vin chaud)

Scenes from Christmas Time:


The holiday vibe in Aix-En-Provence is palpable. Nights are chilly but people filled with a bon humour....and outdoor cafe heat lamps warm it all up.

Le Petit Bistro, Place Richelme, Aix.

Back at Place Richelme. New friends, the Hayrapets!
A salute to Frank who didn't join us for the festivities....


Monday, December 17, 2018

Sneaking Around.....

Shhhhhhhh! I snuck some photos of Frank and poured through photos that he has taken, to try to figure out what he's up to all night in that studio of his....We are so lucky to have found a home with a detached studio....even though the lighting is a challenge, it still gives him his own space to work. But, just as well, if he had perfect lighting, I'd never be able to pull him away to the neighbors for apero, explore with the kids or to meet up with friends...I will show you what (I think) he is up to below....

Hey Frankie, I see you....
Vineyard Machines
I think there is a vineyard series on the horizon....I saw the beginning sketches of these totally cool vineyard machines that hover over and trim the vines after the vendange (harvest).

I saw so many views of this lovely rambling ruin atop some totally gorgeous hilltop. I think I need to personally visit this place....will have to remember to find out from Frank exactly where it is....

This photo proves that Frank is a painter with good practices, as he has taken a minute to step back to look at his painting from afar. Good job Frank! A gorgeous sunny scene.  We haven't had consistent good weather (damn it) so when the sun shows  up, Frank screeches out of the driveway in his little Fiat Panda to find a lee from the wind and to get to work....

Les Baumes, Sangliers Farm

My photo, I confess. But I WANT it to be a painting subject...Les Baumes, pictured here, is a  Sangliers Farm in Venelles. This farm is owned by a family that inherited property rather unwieldy for growing veg. So, they bought a few wild boar, and voila, now they grow and farm wild boars. Some are penned in and some roam the rock outcroppings above (click photo for close up). The 15 year old stud is massive and has his own muddy digs. They are curious and friendly creatures with lots of spunk....until, bien sur, they end up on your dinner plate. Alas. 

Didn't I tell you they were curious creatures???? (and really muddy)
Here are some of the latest family member pics, to get a feel for what else is going on.....

Jorgie potting the tree so we can return it to its home after it spends Christmas with us indoors...
Arlo and Hazel up at sunset in the village of Lauris, Provence.

The chateau in the old part of the village is a series of art studios, all with totally different shapes and sizes and of course, different art and artists....
Someone else should caption this one. Kyela Puech, photo credit.
And finally, I'm up to something too....feeling sneaky myself...packing and sending out these postcard sketches to collectors back in the US of A. Bon voyage! 


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!