Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"Francesca with Lilies" Workshops in France travelogue by Robin Weiss

"Francesca with Lilies" 12x9, oil  $600

When planning our trip to Europe I knew I wanted to paint. I remembered looking at the literature for Workshops in France at one of the Plein Air Conventions. Ann contacted Julie Snyder and we found out there was a Daniel Gerhartz portrait workshop and artists retreat at a chateau in Provence being hosted by Workshops in France, around the time we wanted to go, almost a year ahead. ..Perfect!  So glad we decided on going with Julie and her great support crew, Shirley, Celeste,Kirsteen and Janice! !  All artists and up for anything!  They would take us to different, amazing  locations to paint after the workshop which I will cover in future posts.

Daniel Gerhartz Demo
The first three days of the retreat we attended the Daniel Gerhartz, masterclass portrait workshop. I have been using more figures in the landscape and appreciated his insight on including that aspect into the teaching.

I didn't know it before this but Daniel is a much sought after instructor. His workshops are mostly sold out before you can sign up. He is a kind and thoughtful educator who tries to spend time with each student. He studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. To learn more about Daniel, his work and philosophy of painting view his website  HERE.

Each day Daniel would do a demo using a model from the community hired for the workshop. The first day we had Frank, a great model who could really hold a pose!

Packing Tip:  I considered several options for transporting painting surfaces and decided on using sheets of pre-primed linen for this trip. I knew that I would be at one location for 10 days with time for the paintings to dry.
Value Study of Frank
First I cut two pieces of 1/8 inch birch plywood 12x16 , sanded and finished them with varnish.These plywood panels would slide into my Raymar wet panel carrier and be used to tape my linen sheets on.
I then cut 20 sheets of linen 11x14 and used a pencil and a 9x12 panel to mark 9x12 rectangles in the center of the sheets with a margin to tape the sheet to the plywood panel. I also cut another ten sheets 9x12 and used a 8x10 panel to mark those sheets. So I ended up with 30 sheets of pre-primed linen that would yield 20 9x12s and 10 8x10s.
I used packing plastic, the kind on rolls. to wrap the linen to the plywood panels making a sandwich of plywood panel, linen sheets and 11x14 paint panel. Then slid the package into the Raymar panel carrier for transport to France.
The carrier fit into my carry on backpack with my other oil painting supplies. That worked pretty slick but I was not sure how it would work out on location....Now I know.. and it all worked great except that I brought more linen than I needed. I had time to make 11 oil paintings in Provence. The last one I did had about two days to dry before we had to pack up. It was still just a bit tacky even using the Fast Dry White.
No problem! I borrowed some "kitchen paper" (parchment paper) from the kitchen and put the paintings back to back with the parchment paper in between then taped the sheets back on the plywood panels and slid them back into the carrier for transport back to the states....whew!  When we got back the paintings were in perfect condition and did not stick to the parchment paper! This system worked because I had time to paint in one location and a place to lay the paintings to dry in our room. For the rest of our trip when we were on the road and changing location frequently I used my sketchbook.
BTW, if any of this is confusing, just send me an email at and I will try to answer any questions you may have.

There is so much I want to include in these blog posts and soooo many pictures!! I am trying hard to edit the writing to include highlights and also helpful tips on traveling with oil paint. I also want to include what I learned from Daniels workshop so stay tuned for more posts. Promise I will try and keep them short and readable....hopefully!! I sure appreciate any feed back or comments on how I am doing or what you would like to hear more about. You can get these posts direct to your inbox by taking a minuet to subscribe using the widget in the right hand toolbar.... Thanks!!

Another word about Workshops in France. Julie and her crew take the stress out of painting in France! Especially if you are thinking of doing it for the first time..We loved the locally sourced food and wine!   You really only have to concentrate on making great artwork. They do all the rest!

A Court Yard at Chateau Gadagne near Avignon. A favorite spot to paint and enjoy a glass of wine with friends..=]

Thursday, October 24, 2019

"Les Petit Bateaux" Rick Steves, Paris in Seven Days, travelogue by Robin Weiss

Les Petit Bateaux   Sold

Before I move on from the Paris part of our Europe trip to the Provence segment with Workshops in France and the Daniel Gerhartz workshop, I want to again, relate how well organized and thoughtful an approach to touring Paris that our wonderful Rick Steves guides represented in the seven days we were in that magical city.

Rick Steves Paris guide, Veronique Savoye
We are lucky to have the Rick Steves travel tour head quarters very near us in Edmonds WA.  Ann went over for consultations with some of the expert travel professionals on their staff before we left and they were able to help plan out our whole trip with route directions, train tickets and helpful tips on local accommodations, restaurants and museums.

This took a lot of the anxiety out traveling for me!  We had a folder with hard copy of all the places we would stay and their contact information. I downloaded the trainline app with all of our tickets and train info which was really nice! Sometimes conductors would check for tickets and sometimes not...It was nice to have it handy with the swipe of a finger.

Our guide in Paris was Veronique Savoye.  She has a fun blog with travel tips and info called, French Girl in Seattle. Click on the highlighted text for a link to the site. You will tell from her blog how sweet and fun a guide she is.
One of the cool things provided on the tour was a "Whisper" system for communication. Each tour member received a transmitter with earbuds. This enabled the guide to speak to the whole group in a normal voice in very noisy conditions, like the metro tunnels!, and we could all hear with no trouble. even if you trailed behind.. It was great!  Along with Vero on this tour we had an Italian guide named Alfio. He usually took up the rear guard and kept the morale up with his kind nature and informative comments.

Some packing tips;  You don't have to buy fancy vacuum packing bags! Those can be expensive and probably won't come in the size you want. Triple Zip Lock bags are all you need. They make up to 3 gallon Zip Lock bags! Plenty big enough for packing clothes for travel. Just put one knee on them when closing the zip lock and Voilla! you have a vacuum locked bag..You can use these to pack your paint tubes as well for the check on bag. Make sure you add a sheet for TSA, labeling them "vegetable based artists colors"  Or copy and paste the image on the right into a word document then cut it out and add to your paint zip lock.

One of the places we visited with the tour was the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.  As many now know this historic church caught fire and burned on April 15, 2019. The church was undergoing renovation when a structure fire broke out and burned much of the wood framing in the ceilings and the spires.
It was tragic to see the damage. We were not allowed to even get close to it but I was able to do this sketch from the Ill Saint-Louis, the little island across from the Ill de la Cite where Notre Dame is located.  The metal scaffolding that was in place during the fire actually melted in places and it will be many years before this historic and cultural land mark is restored again. Hopefully the Parisians will insist on an accurate restoration to the original design.......We will see!  =)  I hope you enjoy your next Rick Steves tour as much as we did!!   Have fun out there!!

Friday, October 18, 2019

"Sketches from Paris" Rick Steves, Paris in Seven Days, Travelogue by Robin Weiss

Sketches from Paris 2019

The Luxembourg Gardens have a rich history in Paris. Originally created by Marie de Medici the Italian wife of King Henry the Sixth, it is now a favorite place for Parisians and tourists to enjoy fresh air in the heart of the city.

On our second free day in Paris Ann and I found directions and walked to the gardens, about 30 mins away from our hotel in the sixth arrondisement. We did a lot of walking in Paris and you will too!! It's the best way to see all the interesting art, architecture and beauty of Paris.

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris 2019
We just happened to tour the gardens on a Sunday when traditionally, the Parisians enjoy the park with their families and children. One of the favorite pastimes is to watch the children play with the " les petits bateauxs" or... the toy sailboats.

These toy boats sail amazingly well and it is so fun to watch the children launch their boats and then scurry around the pond with their "bateaux batons" used to push the boats back out to sea...laughing, with family and friends urging them on.

It was the perfect occasion to do some sketching! Stay tuned for paintings to come!

Travel Sketch Tips Part Two
In the last post I talked about the watercolor supplies I used for sketching on location. I also use a Finito pen for sketching. I like this pen a lot! The cap fits tightly and snaps on to keep the tip from drying out. The ink is a bit water soluble until it dries which can give you some flexibility in washes using your water pen.

Because the tip will not allow the ink to dry out or evaporate this pen will last longer than a lot of other brands. I brought three of these with me to Europe and in a month of sketching only used one pen! You can also get them in other colors.

A tip about packing;  It's a good idea to bring an extra day pack separate from your carry on bag for carrying your sketch stuff and a few other a baguette!  when walking around the city. I found a nifty one online that worked perfectly , was well built and affordable for this purpose!

The Venture Pal Back Pack is relatively new on the market. It folds easily  into a small pack that will fit nicely into your carry on bag and doesn't take up much space. It folds out into a full size day pack with two deep water bottle side carriers and other handy pockets. I mean this thing is well designed!  You can buy it from Amazon for about $20!!

A must have when traveling out of country..!! I got the orange one so Ann could find me more easily and that was a good idea when lost in museums full of tourists!!  On the Rick Steves tour of the Louvre some of our tour members lagging behind were able to find the group by looking for my back pack among the crowd!  A tip about the museums in Paris; Get there when they open. You will have an hour before the crowds arrive....=]

The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"Sketches from Paris" Rick Steves, Paris in seven Days, travelogue by Robin Weiss

Paris Sketch Book 2019

Sketching in Paris
In my last blog post I introduced our European adventure and I have been thinking a lot about how to organize and condense the trip. There were several segments to it and the first was the Rick Steves, Paris in Seven Days Tour. A great way to immerse into Paris life and culture!

We decided to fly Iceland Air because, at the time, the fares were about half the price of some other major airlines. I had heard some negative things about IA so was a little nervous about using them. Some of those concerns were realized right off the bat when they changed our departure times about two weeks before we left!

It turned out okay in the long run because after long negotiations on the phone, Ann re-booked the flight and we arrived in Paris two days earlier than we originally planned. That gave us a couple extra days in Paris! We spent one day walking around the city, mostly in the Eiffel Tower area and also connecting with a facebook friend living in Paris.  We enjoyed one of the city's favorite pastimes of people watching while having coffee in one of the many cafes. I , of course wanted to sketch everything!!

As I explained in the last post, I took two bags on this trip. My check on bag with travel easel and oil painting supplies and my smaller carry on bag with sketch book and watercolor supplies.

watercolor palette
Travel Sketch Tips Part One

This is my small watercolor palette that folds up and has a little thumb hole for holding while painting. I put a little water in the bottle cap and set it right on the palette..That worked pretty good!

A tip about your paint;  If you are using tubes of watercolor to fill your palette...Fill them ahead of time long enough for the paint in the trays to thoroughly dry before you pack for your trip. I didn't do this and had some gooey paint to work with when I was on location.

Wrap your palette in layers of paper towels and put it in a zip lock bag with a tube of white gouache and a small round sable brush.

 BTW , I love M Graham watercolors!   I use their oil paint too! Check out the artist spotlight they did on me a few years back HERE

My main work horse brush for watercolor when sketching, is this "water brush". You can fill the handle with water and squeeze it out as needed while you are painting. I have used it that way and it does work okay, but I have found on this trip, that it works very good with out filling the handle. It has a good grip and will float inside the half sized water bottle!  That's a good thing!!  You can keep this brush stored in your water bottle when not in use!!

When you are done sketching just pop the brush in your sketch water bottle, brush side down. The handle will float the brush and help keep the brush hairs from bending over .....And then it is right there and handy for the next sketch session! Voila!

Back side of the Musee de l'Orangerie

In Paris our amazing guide, Veronique, took us to tour the Louvre and then we spent time in the Tuileries Gardens. It's an inspiring place for a sketch artist to hang out!  I picked out a spot under the shade of a London Plane tree to do this color sketch of the Musee de L'Orangerie where we saw the inspiring, epic, large water lily paintings by Monet, done in his last years.

Ann viewing the Water Lilies

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Saint Jean Babtistes Church, Workshops in France Travelogue by Robin Weiss

Saint Jean Babtistes Church  12x9 oil on linen  $700

My last blog post was September 5th ...The day Ann and I left on our epic journey to Europe 2019. That was one month ago. In my following posts I am going to attempt to condense this adventure into easy to read parts with tips on how to travel in Europe with painting least how I did it..There are many resources out there to help you with this and I read a lot before going. I'll be listing many of those as we go along.

 The first leg of our trip was a week in Paris before taking the train to Avignon where I would be attending a workshop with Daniel Gerhartz at Chateau Gadagne (pronounced Ga-dan-ya) , in Provence with the fun loving crew at Workshops in France..More on that leg of the trip later....=]

Paris was our time together in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! To make this part of the trip really special and to learn as much as we could about the places we would visit, Ann thought we should take the Rick Steves "Paris in seven days" tour. That turned out to be a great idea! We loved the tour and learned so much about how to get around in the city and the history of all the areas and places we visited. Rick Steves has an office in Edmonds WA. not far from where we live. They have agents there who will meet with you to map out your entire trip and they are really knowledgeable about it! So that is a great place to start if you are planning your own trip overseas. (click on the highlighted text for links to these sites)

I started several months ahead preparing for this trip. Knew I would need a smaller travel easel that would be more packable and weigh less. I normally use a Coulter style easel that I made myself to suit my needs. For this trip I would need something a little smaller. You can do this too but it does require wood working tools and some wood working experience. The idea was to have gear that I am used to working with to make painting in Europe as comfortable as possible. I took everything with me that I always take when painting on location except for this smaller folding pallet. I would pack my painting gear in my old Kelty  Redwing 50 and then stuff clothes in all the extra spaces....which was not a lot of extra space!!  This pack would be checked. I would also have a smaller carry on backpack with another set of clothes and my sketch book with a small watercolor set. If  something unforeseen happened and my checked bag was does happen!, I would have an extra change of clothes and something to create art with!!

If you are interested in detailed plans of how I built this pochade box with dimensions, materials, tools needed and step by step instructions send me an email at It will cost $10 by paypal. If I get enough interest I will put a paypal button on my website.

If you are interested in the sketchbook I brought with me to Europe, you can also email  I have been making these sketchbooks for a while now and they are also sold at the local arts supply store, Artists Edge in Poulsbo for $15 and $18. These sketchbooks are made with 60lb coverstock leaves. They have a smooth surface that is sturdy enough to hold up to water media with out much bleed through.

This was a sketch I did of the "Hamlet" in the gardens of
Versailles, France.

Our Rick Steves guide took us through the Chateau de Versailles explaining the history of the artifacts, buildings and grounds.

The art work and architecture was amazing! Versailles, a short train ride from Paris, is a must see if you are touring Paris and surrounding areas.

There will be more tips on travel gear and packing in following posts so stay tuned and if you are new to "In Plein Air" please take the time to subscribe. You will get my latest posts in your email and you can also leave comments and questions that I will do my best to answer.

Thanks and happy art travels! =]