Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pagoda at Kew Gardens

The Pagoda at Kew Gardens on a postcard which is now in California!
Pat Reese, who lives in Southern California, now has lots of lush greens from Kew Gardens to look at as my postcard has arrived and was posted yesterday on our blog 'A Postcard from my Walk'.

As I commented to Pat, the really weird thing is that the Pagoda is actually a strong maroon crimson shade but it always looks an atmospheric perspective blue whenever it's looked at from the big west east axis which runs across Kew Gardens.

On the other hand you'd be surprised how much crimson was required to get those really dark greens (complementary colours can create a very dark colour)! The backlighting makes dark foliage even darker than usual.

Link: this is my website about The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sketching the Herb Garden at Sissinghurst

The Herb Garden at Sissinghurst - a sketch in progress
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils on double page spread in A4 Moleskine Sketchbook, 11" x 16"
all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Yesterday we went to Sissinghurst.  I left "he who must not bored while I sketch" reading The Economist and his latest book about The Eagles, while sat in the Chair in the Cottage Garden while I sketched down in The Herb Garden.

Below is the action shot - maybe better described as my "I'm about to pack up and now is a good time to take a photo of the sketch with the pencils I used" photograph!

Click the pic to see it open to a larger size which allows you to see the range of pencils I use.  This is not finished as I need to work a lot more on the saturation of some of the darker colours - plus I found I'd left some colours at home which I needed for the bright grass greens.

About to pack up....
Also - after our walk around the lake we went up the tower at the end of the day - and here's a view of some of the garden rooms from the tower.  Got to work out how to do a sketch from up there!

View of the Rose Garden from the top of the tower

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More from the Friends Room at the RA

RA Friends Room 13th September 2011
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook, 8" x 11"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I have a very long series of sketches of people (Friends of the RA and their guests to be specific) in the Friends Room at the Royal Academy of Arts.  You can see them in my Interior Landscapes Gallery on Pastels and Pencils my portfolio website

This is the latest and was sketched after I'd finished making my notes about the Degas exhibition which I saw last week. (see MAKING A MARK: REVIEW: Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement and MAKING A MARK: The Degas Exhibition - notes for pastellists)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Morning View from the House

The View from the Terrace (a breakfast sketch)
11 " 16", pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine
I was on my own for a couple of days before the others in the Painting House Party arrived and consequently could set my own personal pace around getting up, having breakfast etc.

Sunrise over Mont Ventoux - about 6am on 12th June 2011
Having arrived on the Saturday afternoon, I had a very sound night's sleep and then woke early on Sunday morning.  Before I knew it, I found myself standing in the road outside the house at 6am in my PJs so that I could photograph Mont Ventoux as the sun rose!  If you look very carefully you can just see the tower on the top of Mont Ventoux in the photo.

I then had a very leisurely breakfast on the outside terrace while I tried to capture the early morning sky above the vineyards opposite the house.  Of course early in the morning the light moves fast - so it actually took me three mornings before I was happy that I'd got the "morning view" right.

I should really have done this view in portrait format because the vapour trails on the Sunday morning were absolutely phenomenal - and they kept changing and weren't there at all on the following two mornings!  I in no way did them justice with my first sketch in the hamlet.

Vapour trails over Couguieux
Blogging while away from home is still a relative novelty for me.  This was the day when I began to work out what I could do in terms of blogging assisted by Julian's computer/modem and my iPad.  This was a little bit more complicated than it sounds.....
I'm getting there via download of images from SD card to iPad, manipulation in photogene, upload to Flickr, change status to allow download to Julian`s computer and then upload to the post. All the while trying to get used to a French keyboard which is decidedly not QUERTY.
Four Go Painting in Provence - A Photoessay of Provence
I decided that I could continue posting to Making A Mark - by creating a photo essay of Provence.  This started with Sunrise over Monet Ventoux.
I thought I might try a visual essay of Provence and upload a photograph each day of something that has "made a mark" on me.
Next on the list was stocking up the fridge with basics from the Carrefour in Bedoin and then finding somewhere nice to have Sunday lunch!

This is a link to my recent review of Ruth Phillip's book about living with a painter painting postcards in Provence - Book Review: Cherries from Chauvet's Orchard

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Épernay and The Grillade Gourmande

Menu du Terroir Champenois, La Grillade Gourmande
see below for the full menu in French and English!

La Grillade Gourmande, Epernay
I had an absolutely splendid meal on the Thursday night at the La Grillade Gourmande in Épernay, which is renowned as the 'Capital of Champagne', in the Champagne-Ardenne Région of France.

I'd been up since 5.30am, crossed the Channel into France and driven 285 miles from London so I was very ready for a bit of a treat.

Prior to leaving home I'd identified that Epernay had quite a few good restaurants - hence deciding to stay there.  In my Michelin Guide to hotels and restaurants in France, this particular restaurant is listed as a "Bib Gourmand" which means "good food at reasonable prices

I had the Menu Terroir Champenois.  However the only champagne I had was in the sauces.  This comprised an amuse-bouche followed by:

  • Foie Gras de Canard au Ratafia de Champagne chit en terrine et configure d'oignon au vin rouge Terrine of duck fois gras cooked in Ratafia Champagne with red wine onion marmelade
  • Filet de Bar Grille aux Asperges Verts Grilled Sea Bass with green asparagus Champagne sauce
  • Pigeonnea de Champagne dessose cuit en feuillete, jus redoit au Chardonnay Local boned young pigeon with foie gras cooked in flaky pastry case
  • Fraises au Poivre Noir au Champagne Rose Strawberries with black pepper and frozen rose champagne
I'd decided to try and see if I could sketch my meals while in France - as I hoped to be having quite a few which were likely to be more interesting than my normal fare at home.

This was the first time I tried out my new strategy. Not knowing what any of the courses were going to look like, I started at the top left hand corner and worked across and managed to get all four courses onto a double page spread of my large folio Moleskine (size A4).

The sketch at the top of the page is a wonderful memory of an absolutely delicious meal!

The sketch below is of the view from my table with Michelin Guide, pencil case and camera at the edge of my table.

The view from my table in La Grillade Gourmande.

I stayed overnight at the Hotel Campanile Epernay - which is actually located at Dizy just north of Epernay.  It's a great hotel for a one night stay when travelling north or south.  I used it again on the trip north.  Very much in the motel style with parking right next to the rooms and a separate central hub which houses reception and the restaurant.  It has wifi and also has a great view of vines right next door.

Epernay - and the Avenue de Champagne

The next morning, before I set off on the "big drive" to Lyon (c.300 miles) I went into Epernay, parked in the same place as the night before - in the car park which is right next to La Grillade Gourmande - and took a look at the Avenue de Champagne.

The Avenue de Champagne in Epernay - looking back towards the centre of town.

The Avenue de Champagne in Epernay is lined with the headquarters buildings (symbolic and otherwise) - the maisons de champagne - of a number of major "names" in the champagne world.  They're up a bit of a hill in the town - which makes sense when you realise that there are a quite a few cellars underneath!  This webpage gives you a bit of a history of the various houses - which enabled me to identify who owned the biggest doors on the street!  You could spend a week there just sketching the maisons de champagne.  I took out my sketchbook and then quickly put it away again having realised the impossibility of doing justice to the task.

Moet & Chandon is there - with the statue of Dom Perignon outside in the car park next to the entrance dates.  This is the information about a guided tour of their cellars.

Dom Perignon is the Benedictine Monk who was a cellar master at Abbey of Hautvillers near the town of Épernay.  His name is now given to a brand of vintage champagne made by Moet Chandon.  There are lots of myths about him but he didn't invent the bubbles in champagne but he did contribute significantly to the development of champagne.

I also spotted Perrier Jouët and Pol Roger. Most of the headquarter buildings appear to be in very large and very old mansions with some looking a bit more business-like than others.

Below is a display of all the different sizes of Champagne bottles which I found in the tourism office which is located at the end of the avenue closest to the centre of town

The different sizes of Champagne Bottles - in Epernay
from left to right
Nebuchanezzar, Balthazar, Salmanazar, Methusalah, Jeroboam, Magnum, Bottle,  Half-Bottle

Friday 10th June

On Friday I drove south to just east of Lyon.  I'll now "glaze over as I rush past the next hotel I stayed at on the Friday night.  Although the room was fine, it had the worst hotel restaurant I've ever eaten in despite the fact it was located on the outskirts of the gastronomic capital of France.  I'll never eat in a hotel that near an autoroute ever again!

Saturday 11th June

On Saturday I set off for Provence - along with an awful lot of other people who also wanted to go south on the A7/E15 otherwise known as the Autoroute du Soleil between Lyon and Marseilles.  Then I turned left at Avignon......

.......drove across the Vaucluse and arrived at Couguieux.


Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Road to Provence (+ the checklist!)

Luggage and art kit in my Citroen Picasso at the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal
complete with breakfast muesli for 3 weeks!
You'd think all the plans I needed to make for a painting holiday in France would be about how much art stuff can I could get in the boot.  After all you do want all your kit out of sight!  Plus I am a long time "everything including the kitchen sink" specialist so it's always a bit of a worry.

However there's a bit more to it than that! The long list of "things to do/bring" get a lot longer when you take your own car.  For those contemplating doing the same thing (and so I have a record for next time!) here are some tips about things to think about if you go on a sketching trip via car in France.

Plus a map of my route and some comments on what happened en route.

Taking a car to Europe

Bear in mind that taking your own car is a lot more complicated than hiring a car when you get there.

Here's a checklist for those who have never taken their car to Europe and driven there before - and for me for next time so I don't have to try and remember it all!
  • Get insurance cover for driving the car in Europe (probably automatic if you have comprehensive cover but almost certainly worth checking)
    • Notify your insurer of your holiday dates 
    • Check what you should do if you have an accident while abroad (some will send you a checklist)
    • Check cover re replacement car/transport in the event of an accident
  • Buy vehicle recovery for Europe. What you do here largely depends on your attitude to risk and the size of your pockets.  I did some investigating and decided I felt safest paying a bit more and going with what always used to be known as AA 5* and is now known as European Breakdown Cover
  • Make sure you know the laws about driving in Europe. Do NOT assume that what applies in the UK is all you need to worry about in Europe. Many countries have additional requirements and differences in the law.  
Speeding offences attract an on the spot fine of up to approx £500
  • Avoid being caught out for failing to have the right kit with you when driving in Europe. (Here's a checklist Driving in Europe - Are you legal?) BUY:
    • headlamp beam adapters - and remember to apply them!
    • a reflective yellow emergency.  Keep it in the passenger part of the car (in the boot doesn't count. Now I know why Citroens have so many cubby holes!)
    • a warning triangle for erection in the event of an accident
    • a spare set of headlight bulbs
    • a first aid kit
    • GB plate
Motoring LAW in France and many other European Countries now requires all vehicles to carry a Warning Triangle and a Reflective Vest.
  • When driving in Europe it helps if you 
    • drive a French car (it's why I buy them) in France and 
    • make sure your car registration plates include the EU/GB icon
  • Buy a satnav and make sure that it has maps for Europe (not all do) - this was one of the most intelligent decisions I made this summer!  Being a georgrapher and loving maps, I had carefully tended my ever growing map collection for years.  However I was hugely impressed with the satnav's ability to get me from one place to another with the minimum of fuss.  (I bought the WHich Best Buy - the Garmin nuvi 3760 and even managed to impress some men with its iPhone like size and characteristics!)
  • Investigate the alternative options for crossing the Channel.  I'd always gone by ferry before now - and it's a long drawn out process.  This time I went by Eurotunnel and I couldn't believe how fast it was.  Trains depart every 20 minutes and they only take just over half an hour to get there!  Having done it once I'm never ever going back to the ferry.
Eurotunnel: The ramp down to the train
I'm about to enter that black hole at the end of the train!
  • Find as many maps as possible for finding the Channel Tunnel. Notwithstanding your satnav, if you take the wrong exit you're lost in the middle of a nightmare of roads in Calais which do not tell you where to go if you are a car driver wanting to cross the channel. It's also very confusing because the ferry port is not the same place as the Tunnel. My satnav insists on knowing the post code and of course they only supply a post code for their offices which are not at the same places as the Chunnel/Le Shuttle terminal for cars! I also couldn't get the supplied coordinates to work with my Garmin satnav - but these are they for those of you with TomToms!
    • travelling from the UK GPS coordinates: Latitude: 51:05:44N (51.09559), Longitude: 1:07:19E (1.12207)
    • travelling from France - GPS coordinates: Latitude: 50:56:21N (50.93906), Longitude: 1:48:52E (1.81446)
  • Do NOT try and detect mobile radar if travelling in France. You could end up with your car being impounded. A satnav which detects and announces stationery radar which is publicised does not count.
  • Inform your bank - tell your bank and credit card companies that you will be using their cards while in another country. That way they won't think your plastic has been stolen!

The Route to Provence

On the right is a map of the route I took.

Essentially if you're travelling on your own as I was I'd recommend a couple of stops unless you're very young, energetic and completely bonkers as it's a approximately 1,000 kilometres (11-12 hours of driving).  I broke it up into two long days and what was supposed to be a shorter day and stopped off south of Reims - at Epernay on Day 1 and east of Lyons on Day 2.

I also drove most of the way on autoroutes.  It's not the most scenic way to see France but it is the best way to cover the distance - most of the time.

I would also recommend staying on the outskirts of  major towns   The last thing you want to with after a long drive is one way systems and the heavy traffic associated with a rush hour.

Do check the settings for your preferences on your satnav.  Mine determined that I needed to do a major detour around Valance when it decided it needed to comply with my preference for slow-moving traffic - which landed me in yet slower moving traffic!

If I did the journey again I think I'd try and avoid the weekends as I personally found the juggernaut lorries easier to deal with than vast numbers of French people trying to go to the coast!

Day 1 - London to Epernay

This involved a drive down to Folkestone to pick up the train through the Channel tunnel and then across across the great big field which is northern France on the autoroute A26. Via the Chunnel and the A26 autorooute that was a journey of 283 miles - which was estimated to take 5 hours 34 mins (exclusive of breaks and waiting around!)

En route I passed many very historical places such as the location of the "Cloth of Gold" meeting took place between the English and French Kings many moons ago.  Plus I kept seeing the names associated with the battles of the First World Wars - the Somme, Vimy and Lens.

The BMW Lads inside the Eurotunnel Train
I did this sketch of what I'm calling "The BMW Lads" while I was sat in my car travelling under the English Channel!  Now I bet there's not many people who've tried that as a place to sketch...

I couldn't work out why there were so many flash and fast cars at Folkestone and on the train.  I lost count of the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and BMWs.  Then I got to the first service station at Calais and I finally twigged that it was the eve of the Le Mans 24 Hours race - beloved of all boys with fast toys.   Vast numbers of fast cars and chaps talking engines and what their next car is going to be!

My next post is from Epernay and one of the best meals I had in France.

Previous posts about my French Sketchbook 2011
See also the Four Go Painting in Provence blog