Capturing the essence

Page from Jo Myers-Walker's sketchbook showing Undiz store in Rouen

From my art journal/sketchbook:
the Undiz lingerie store and some hairstyles in Rouen (the notes say that I found the French women’s style of dress very tasteful and feminine, and their hair worn very natural.)

At the opening reception for my exhibit at Wheatsfield Co-op, I met up with old acquaintances and talked about art journaling, and guests could enjoy the wines of Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery from northwest Iowa. I shared my sketchbook with people, walking us through neighborhoods and the places I visited, letting them see how I developed the paintings in the exhibit from quick sketches in my art journal. I wanted to paint the culture, people, daily life in Rouen.

Like the French emphasis on fresh market food, Wheatsfield emphasizes fresh, local, and organic products. They have been known to let me bring my classes in to paint their vegetables (see the painting “Wheatsfield” on the Online Gallery page). Then we could purchase and eat the subjects, to appreciate all of their essence!

(My exhibit has ended, but there is a different artist’s work on display every month at Wheatsfield.)

Saturday Night in Rouen, watercolor painting by Jo Myers-Walker

“Saturday Night in Rouen” is part of the exhibit
(Undiz on the left; I’m at bottom left,
being serenaded by accordion)

Community art gallery at Wheatsfield Co-op in the deli seating area

Wheatsfield’s deli seating area is also a
show space with a lovely hanging system

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Walking home in Rouen

Walking home in Rouen, scene in Jo Myers-Walker's sketchbook

The scene in my sketchbook

Walking Home in Rouen, start of the painting by Jo Myers-Walker

Sketching and starting to paint

It is Saturday evening on la rue du Gros-Horloge, about three blocks from our apartment on rue St. Romain. We could always find our way home because of the Cathedral being taller than the houses and shops. Saturday night was for strolling with your family and friends. Just like in Assisi, there was a real community feel with people holding hands, stopping in the shops, having dinner after 7:30. Food vendors, musicians, people selling balloons for grownups and kids, everyone wearing a scarf. I felt very safe and a part of there.

Walking Home in Rouen, watercolor painting by Jo Myers-Walker shown in progress

Painting in progress

Walking Home in Rouen, watercolor painting by Jo Myers-Walker

The completed painting

Posted in Studio Snapshots, Travelogue


Castle gate at Caen, France

Bonnie crossing the moat
into Caen Castle

Model of Caen Castle

Scale model
of the castle

Before leaving France we took a day to visit historic sites related to the World War II Battle of Normandy, first hopping a train to Caen, a city not far from the D-Day beaches which itself suffered great losses in the war. In the morning we went way back in time touring the Château de Caen (Caen Castle), built by Viking descendant William the Conqueror in the 11th century and “one of the largest castles in Western Europe.” I felt like I was on a pilgrimage again, feeling the people that lived and worked in the castle in earlier ages. Archaeologists are still finding ruins there and the Roman influences.

In the afternoon we went on to the Mémorial de Caen war museum and memorial. It was very moving, like you were there; we went back in time again as we learned about conditions leading up to and during the war, the courageous Resistance, and the amazing engineering involved in the Allied invasion. We rode though small villages with our guide explaining what life was like in France. I could just see our soldiers peeking around the stone villages and trying to get through the thick hedgerows, a real stumbling block for our troops. This is how the farmers kept their animals and crops on their property as a sort of fence, but was impossible to go through.

At last we reached the beaches at Arromanches. This was holy ground for me; several people were weeping as you could imagine the cries of war. Many of the soldiers are buried near there, where they died, because there were so many. The ground still had bombshell craters that you could walk down into, and the original German guns can be seen on the cliff. We went to Utah, Omaha and Gold beaches and ended at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, a beautiful peaceful space overlooking Omaha Beach.

Cemetery for US soldiers who died in the Normandy Invasion, WW II

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
(rows of white crosses visible in the distance)

Sculpture on Omaha Beach honoring courage of soldiers in WW II

Les Braves sculpture by Anilore Banon,
an “homage to courage” on Omaha Beach

Posted in Travelogue

A brief glimpse

Palace of Versailles:

Portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette and her children, on display at Palace of Versailles

“Marie Antoinette and her Children at Versailles” by Vigée Le Brun (1788)

Chandeliers and painted ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors
at the Palace of Versailles

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris:

Stained-glass rose window viewed from inside Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

The cathedral’s rose windows
date from the 13th century

Exterior view of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

View from the Seine

Musée d’Orsay, Paris:

Sculpture of elephant outside Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Life-size elephant sculpture
by Emmanuel Frémiet (1878)

Viewing Paris through glass clock face at Musée d'Orsay

Looking out of the Musée d’Orsay clock tower
with a view of the Louvre

Posted in Travelogue

Rouen shops

Dame Cakes in Rouen housed in former ironworks artist’s workshop

Outside Dame Cakes building
on rue St. Romain

We enjoyed lunch at Dame Cakes tea shop, housed in the former workshop of Ferdinand Marrou (link to machine-translated page), an artist in ironworks who created the tower on the Cathedral.

Shopkeepers in Rouen are proud of their products, truly individual like a signature of who they are. We say Bonjour and so do they when we come into their shop. They are very respectful and do not hard-sell but let you absorb the amazing displays. When we leave they say Au revoir, or good-bye and have a nice journey. Much grace and you always speak quietly, especially in a cafe — no hurrying about, but enjoying the down time.

I had my first hat fitting with a delightful milliner on rue St. Nicolas (La Boutique De Maman), and had a wool hat made to cover my ears for winter. She even gave me a beret in trade for a painting!

Milliner fitting a hat on rue St. Nicolas in Rouen

The hat designer at work

Hats at lovely Rouen shop

An inviting selection
at the milliner’s shop

Posted in Travelogue

Runestone and a watchful eye

Replica of the Jelling runestone marks Rouen's Viking history

Replica of a Viking runestone
next to St. Ouen’s Church, Rouen

Near the Church of St. Ouen, a replica of a runestone commemorates Rouen’s Viking history. Vikings (some of my ancestors maybe?) took over the city of Rouen many times and went home in the winter. Then they got smart and appreciated the soil and easier climate, and settled here.

The Church of St. Ouen, a Gothic building started in the 14th century, is well-supplied with gargoyles to watch over things. Gargoyles seem to be everywhere around Rouen — on St. Ouen’s, Rouen Cathedral, the hall of justice — pretty scary at night!

View of the medieval Gothic Church of St. Ouen in Rouen

View of St. Ouen’s with flying buttress outlined against the sky

Row of gargoyles on St. Ouen's Church, Rouen

Those projections along the walkway are a row of gargoyles, keeping an eye on passers-by

Posted in Travelogue

Travels in watercolor

Pages in Jo Myers-Walker's Rouen sketchbook

My sketchbook helps me get started
designing the next painting

Watercolor painting using a photo of Rouen rooftops for reference

Painting at night from a photo
taken during the day

Watercolor painting of Rouen rooftops by Jo Myers-Walker

Rooftops of Rouen —
fascinated with the shapes here

Watercolor paintings taking over artists' Rouen apartment

Our apartment “gallery”
is closing in on the kitchen!

Posted in Studio Snapshots, Travelogue

Around town

Vegetables and flowers for sale at Rouen market

Our market in Rouen where we can get everything —
food, clothes, antiques, used clothing, even toilet paper —
five days a week

Finds from the Rouen market modeled by Jeanette and Bonnie

Shopping not just for vegetables
(Jeanette and Bonnie
show off some finds)

Carving stone to repair Rouen cathedral

A morning TV show reports as a large piece of stone is carved to repair the cathedral, using a chisel and grinder to cut the ornamentation

Pastry shop in Rouen

Every day a new dessert,
have to try them all!

Jardin des Plantes, Rouen

Sunday afternoon in the botanical garden
(link is to a machine-translated page)

Posted in Travelogue

Painting on a rainy day

Artists working at La Page Blanche studio in Rouen

Marie, Agnès, and Adeline work in their studio on a rainy Monday.
They use the wind, a flute, other music and poems (to name a few)
to paint by, to keep the line moving.

Sketch of artists working at La Page Blanche

While the artists were
painting, I was drawing them
to put in future work.

Rue des Chanoines, Rouen

The studio is off of this narrow walkway that the tour guides say is the oldest passageway in Rouen.

Posted in Studio Snapshots, Travelogue

Monet’s gardens

Lily ponds, a famous subject of Monet's paintings

Water lily pond
at Giverny

Worker maintaining beautiful gardens at Giverny

Gardener cleaning out dead leaves. Monet kept the garden very pristine for his painting.

These photos are from Claude Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny, where he lived and painted for many years, and his and wife Alice’s children played. He would paint in his boat en plein air and trees were planted for different kinds of light settings. When we visited the fragrance was wonderful, and the bees and spiders were free. It was like everything was caressing the atmosphere, genial and at peace.

I enjoyed the bright-colored rooms of Monet’s house, with numerous Japanese prints whose influence you can see in his work. His home was filled with the works of Cézanne, Pissarro, and many others in the Impressionist movement. I wonder if he traded like me with other artists.

House formerly owned by Claude Monet in Giverny

Monet’s house

Chickens at Claude Monet's former residence at Giverny

Giverny has chickens!

Posted in Travelogue