Last week, I shared that I was heading to France and Italy in September. In fact, it’s just under two weeks away now and I am positively giddy about it. I find it hard to even focus on the things I need to work on now, because my mind keeps drifting to my upcoming trip and how much I want to soak it all in. Instead of fighting the daydreaming, I’ve been allowing it in moderation and I will even admit to feeding it with books and Instagram feeds. So, I thought I would share some of the inspiration I’ve found as well as some more details about my preparations and plans for the trip.
We will be spending the bulk of our time in Italy, but that is the “work” (if it can seriously even be called that) portion of the trip and we’re a part of a group retreat, so it is pretty much all planned out. The Paris part of the trip, though, is on our own, so I needed to do some planning and research, so we had some sort of a game plan to fill our three days there.
Originally, I declared I didn’t want to plan anything, because I just wanted to sit in a cafe or take walks by the river. I just want to enjoy being there without feeling like I have to fit a million things into each day. I was finally coaxed into making some plans, so we are going to go to a flea market, take a tour on a river boat, and visit the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. I also have a few shops pinpointed to visit, including a 100 year old art supply shop – Sennelier.
I bought tickets for the Louvre and then found out that the impressionist paintings I really want to see are in a separate museum, so we’ll go there as well. I know we could spend days in the Louvre and probably a full day in the Musee D’Orsay, but we’re going to limit the time and just see the highlights.
I found a couple of great books on the museums in the bargain section at Barnes & Noble, so I could review some of the paintings and works ahead of time. I’m also excited to do some studies and copies of some of these master works. That class is coming up in my online art course later this year, so I can start preparing for it by seeing some of these works in person.
Other than the scenery, art, and antiques, I am very excited about the food! European food – Italian, French, German, etc. is completely my taste. I am looking forward to eating at different cafes and restaurants and milling through markets to pick up a fresh mid-day snack. I was so excited about it, that I decided to buy a couple of French cookbooks last week. At this point, I’m just reading through them, but I plan to bookmark some recipes to make when I get back from the trip.
I love this book so far, The Cook’s Atelier…
And look at them wearing linen dresses…
I actually follow this family on Instagram, but I didn’t know their story until I bought the book. It’s very inspiring! They dreamed of starting a culinary school in France, so they did!
Of course, I also got Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because it’s a classic…
Maybe I’ll do some recipe reviews in the future.
We’re going to a cookout on Sunday and I immediately offered to bring dessert, so I could try making a tart. Anyway, you’ll hear a lot about food during and after my trip.
Another big component of this trip is taking time for art and gathering creative inspiration. I shared these books that I’ve been reading to get ready for for art/travel journaling and I had to offer a mini review on one specifically. The Artist’s Sketchbook is fantastic for just this sort of thing. If you want to get into art journaling and sketching to practice and improve your art, this book is for you. It has lots of great information and exercises and showcases sketchbooks in a variety of styles and mediums. I’ve been eating this book up.
And it’s encouraged me to practice, so I’m warmed up for my trip. Well, not only for that, but to really utilize my sketchbooks as a tool to improve my oil paintings.
I get a little overwhelmed when I’m sketching an entire scene, but I hope to do that while in France and Italy, so I’ve been practicing with pictures from books or ones I’ve taken over the years.
I’m trying to do them quickly, in under 10 minutes, so I will be able to sketch on the spot when time is limited and the light and scenery are changing.
It’s definitely going to take lots of practice! It’s a challenge to draw/paint things quickly, but accurately.
I’m also exploring color combinations in my palette and recording them for later reference.
A few people asked I could share which paints I’m bringing, so here they are…
I made two of my own palettes (using professional watercolors in tubes, put into empty pans affixed to vintage tins.) This vintage Faber Castell watercolor tin is my favorite. I make a color card and “laminate” it in clear packing tape.
The palette, in case you don’t understand my abbreviations is – Cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow, new gamboge, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson permanent, cadmium red, quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose, sepia, burnt sienna, viridian (which I always misspell), chromium oxide, cobalt teal, cerulean blue, cobalt, ultramarine blue, indigo, and payne’s gray. I’ve been using a more limited color palette when painting with oil, but I have more time to fuss with color mixtures. It’s nice to have more options for quick sketching, so I don’t have to take the time to mix quite as much.
I did want to bring some gouache as well, which is opaque watercolor, so I made a small palette in a nail tin that is about the size of an Altoid tin. I’m just bringing indigo, viridian, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, and zinc white.
Gouache is better right out of the tube, because it cracks and can get powdery when left in a pan like this, but for traveling, this works much better.
I do plan to carry my art supplies around with me, so I am bringing a small backpack. I purchased this one a few months ago and it’s perfect for this trip…
Not only is it cute, but the size and functionality of the bag are just right. I can fit my art supplies, a water bottle, an umbrella, and my phone, wallet, etc. and I’ll also bring a light cloth bag for purchases.
As far as functionality, the design makes it a little bit time consuming to get in an out of, which is good to ward off pick-pockets. To get inside the bag, you have to get past a leather drawstring…
…and a buckle…
…and there is even a deep zippered pocket on the back of the backpack for valuables. And, just so I leave nothing to chance, I’m also bringing a slim neck wallet, so I’ll split up my cards and cash in case something does happen.
I hate that I even have to think of that sort of thing, but I have done enough traveling in cities to know that you have to be smart about how you carry your valuables.
Oh, and thanks for all of the tips and suggestions on my packing post. You have talked me into bringing a little less along with me and I’m sure I’ll be thanking you for that.
And lastly, there are tons I could share, but here are a couple of my favorite feeds for French inspiration…
Now, I need to start looking for some good Italian feeds to follow. Any suggestions?