Saturday, July 25, 2015

There and back again... and again.

Um, yes. Life has been a bit surreal lately. And if you read this entire post, your life may take on a strange aspect, too... since this will be a longish narrative. But there will be nice photos, I promise.

Hey, that's me! Sketching ancient rocks in a French meadow.
After a week in the Netherlands I traveled to France, first to visit friend and colleague Jean-Louis Verdier and his wife Dominique. It was great to see more of Jean-Louis' work, which has run the gamut of science and science fiction illustration. I was most familiar with Jean-Louis' insect paintings... sometimes enormous, and always intricately observed.

Jean-Louis is also one of that interesting breed of Frenchmen who is (and I say this without exaggeration) mad about American "old time" music. He has an amazing collection of antique banjos and mandolins, and was kind enough to indulge my request for a private concert. (You can watch a Sigrove Stompers video here.)


Together we visited the Jardin des Sens in Coutières. It's a special place, not only for its lovely gardens, but also because it filters water for the entire community through a "natural" system.

From the countryside around Fomperron I traveled to the coast of Bretagne, wherein I made my one and only train mistake (and I rode a lot of trains). I missed my stop and ended up at the end of the line on the last train of the day. With much gesticulating I was finally able to convince the Chef du Gare to call my friend Denis ("Oui, he speaks French"), who was waiting in the place I was supposed to be. I felt a bit foolish, obliging Denis to drive further to retrieve me, but in the end it turned out to be a good mistake. We drove through the marais salants as the sun set, watching the paludier at work and getting to see marsh owls and baby avocets.

The trip to Mesquer was the impetus for the entire trip. Not the grand art or great food of the Continent, but a birthday party under a big tree in a garden by the sea.

It was so great to spend time with friends old and new, including a few I hadn't seen in 16 years. (!!!) The birthday boy, Denis Clavreul, and mutual friend Robin D'Arcy Shillcock (both outstanding artists, of course) have been my friends, colleagues, and confidants for almost 25 years. Our in-the-flesh meetings are infrequent and all-too-brief... but each time we pick up as though no time has passed and sharing a table is the most natural thing in the world. Which it is.

Dunes and beach at Mesquer, France
But with a blink it was over and I was in motion again, first to spend a day in Rotterdam with my dear friend Nicky and then overnight in Amsterdam for my flight back to the States. In Rotterdam Nicky and I visited the new grand Markthal... an astounding indoor market building. (With apartments all around the top and sides.) I didn't take photos of the exterior (you can see plenty if you follow the link), but here's a panorama of the interior. (That's Nicky looking at the interp display in the lower right.)

Markthal Rotterdam - click to embiggen
One of many cool things about this building is that it has interpretive displays! During the excavation  for three levels of underground parking they uncovered many layers of Dutch historical artifacts. The escalator to the parking levels is itself an exhibit... a timeline of Rotterdam history as you travel up and down.

Markthal escalator with timeline.
At each level's landing there is a door to the parking garage, and just outside the door is an exhibit of artifacts discovered during the construction.

It's fascinating stuff, and really thoughtfully done. (In both Dutch and English, if you're wondering.)

After the Markthal we stopped in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, which has fantastic collections of old masters and modern oddities. I spent a lot of time in the print room, which rotates its displays of work on paper every few months. One can also sit on the bench and access the collection digitally to check out works that are not currently on exhibit. (Images are projected on the wall opposite the bench.)

Nicky returned home to Hardenberg and I found my way to Amsterdam and my hotel. The next day I flew to Boston (via Detroit, if you can believe it). I spent two nights at the Mass Audubon Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, where I had a chance to view an exhibition of watercolors by Don Eckelberry and to lead a couple of printmaking activities with children at the Museum's summer camp program.

From there it was back to Maine and Hog Island. Yes, it was one of those cliché weeks: Monday France, Tuesday Netherlands, Wednesday Travel, Thursday Boston, Friday Maine. It's now a week later and we have just wrapped up five days of programming for Educators' camp.

On Monday the next adventure begins, as I move out to the Bingham cottages and take up my role as Artist-in-Residence.

It's overcast and cool here today, and fairly quiet. All of the campers and most of the staff have gone back out into the world and those of us who remain are enjoying a more leisurely pace... catching up with email and laundry (and blog posts). Thank you all for indulging the travelog the past few weeks... I'm hoping to share some island field work soon!


  1. you have been really busy! nice photos and at least you managed to get the station master??train operater?? (I need to really brush up on my French :p) to contact your friend :)

  2. In between helping to move mountains(of "stuff") so Peter can continue painting, and taking a load of garden trash to the dump, I've been catching up on blogs.Lordy! You have had a busy time! And thank you for the links to your friends in Nederlands.I'll settle down later and have a wallow.

  3. What a wonderful rich experience, in many layers. Fun to follow your adventures vicariously through links, photos and blog. I hope we cross paths again one of these days. I enjoyed our short encounter during the Yellowstone journal-keepers annual gathering several years ago. Have only been to a couple(ones close by in WA state) since that time. Have a wonderful artist-in-residence time.

  4. I need to take a nap after reading about your adventures. It's a rich, and colorful life you are leading. Well done! and thanks for sharing your journey with us. xoxo

  5. Yes, Jen, the station chief! Everyone expressed surprise and amusement that I even found this man, much less convinced him to make a phone call. Not sure why. :-)

    It was definitely a packed schedule for the trip... not sure I'd try to cram quite so much additional travel into such a short time again. But completely worth the exhaustion. I wish I could have spent more time with each of my friends, but it was spectacular to at least see so many for a little bit!

    Thanks for sharing the journey with me!

  6. I think the surprise comes from the idea that French officials can be very stubborn and unhelpful :p no idea tho, haven't been yet hopefully soon tho)

  7. Fantastic Sherrie! Just beautiful. Your images and your adventures!
    Love to see it all here!

  8. How wonderful to come across Jean-Louis! I lived up the road from him for 4 years, and my parents still do! Beautiful part of the world. My mother has some insect art that he was kind enough to produce for her proudly displayed on the walls.