Tuesday, November 30, 2010

press pause

painting by Soutine

I am guilty. I have abandoned my virtual atelier for faster updates and snappy shots. It is difficult to stay motivated when you write in a void.At least on FB I get quick "likes" or funny "comments" from dear friends.But then again, I cannot tell details about my life , stories to whisper in your ear, sights for you to discover. It is also due to the fact that for the past 6 months, I have rented a real atelier, a private space where I can go paint, stare into the colors, feel the knots of stress disappear as I find my creative center. So, as you know there are so many hours in a day, and when I am not working, well, I go paint, and breathe.But today, I will tell you a few facts:
Growing up in France, a big part of my diet was meat and potatoes. Now I still LOVE potatoes, but as a child, as my mother reminded me some years back, I did not like red meat. I always felt that I was chewing the flesh of my tongue, eating flesh felt wrong. And I still feel that.I was just in Paris recently, and I was walking in front of the local butcher, when this caught my eye:

It brought back floods of memories: horse carcasses dripping black blood from the horse butcher,some amazing Soutine paintings of butchered meat that shocked my young sensibility, guillotined heads of veals,boars etc on counters....
Was it the week delivery, or half week ?... The driver was also the person who carried the half beasts or whole pigs on his back, bend in half, with his white cloak stained red.

As I snapped these, a mother with her three young children watched , the kids ,curious and puzzled, the mother turning to me" it is really interesting, no ?"
So at Thanksgiving, I also go meatless.I actually like my plate of corn bread, sweet potato puree,mushromm gravy and cranberry sauce.It just feels right.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

primitive being

I do not want to do a "Gauguin" and leave family and friends behind for some tropical heaven( and paint my life away), but I have to admit it.....I love the islands .Of course living there might be a different and overly quiet existence from a week's vacation but still...the changing colors of nature that I never grew tired of admiring, the warm caresses of the breeze making the heat pleasant and bearable,the luscious ripe fruits, creamy and sweet,
the ocean, always present, always deliciously warm, the pace, more slow and zen: Hawaii is one paradise on earth.
One day, we stopped at a road stand and got some local produce: papayas,limes,sweet onions and a big purple sweet potato. That night I sliced it and boiled it, looking forward to its rich sweetness. It looked strange and made my fingers black from peeling it.It was not as good as hoped unfortunately.We made up for it with home made rum cocktails with fruit juice and lime.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bangkok memories

Yes, it was truly an adventure. Everything new, exciting, overwhelming at times, in a word:intense.Bangkok is busy, with loads of traffic , tons of people , swatches of bold colors mixed with contemporary graphic designs, smells,heat, and food everywhere.Downtown is a medley of funky and modern buildings or giant malls where Thai people flock for shopping or eating in large,noisy and busy food courts.My hotel was very pleasant and the view from my 26Th floor window gives you a bit of Bangkok skyline:

The colors of Thailand are gold and purple.The Buddhas are gold, and the taxis are bright pink. orange, green and purple.
Altars are everywhere, even at busy intersections, where anyone can stop and pray.There is a booth where you can buy beautiful flower offerings ( I bought the one you see for 60 cents: 12 incense sticks, 1 small candles and three small garlands). For this special " lucky" Buddha, there was some live music and dance throughout the day.Across my hotel, there was a vendor on the street who made gorgeous flower garland offerings all day, that people would buy for their home or office altars. Can we be as grateful ?

As I said,gold is a favored color.As you leave the airport, the freeway is lined up with golden Buddhas, and the Grand Palace will deliver a lot of gold:

Other temples, some by the side of the river ( they are called vats) are intricately covered with tiny bits of mosaic:

One day we rented a boat for an hour drive on the river and the adjoining canals.I was a little shocked to meet this tempestuous brown seemingly untamed waterway in the middle of a big city. Big swatches of wild plants floated by at a brisk pace.After we left the modern high rises and the ancient temples, we entered the maze of canals where old wood houses on stilts lined the calmer waters.Crouching under some foliage, some peddlers in tiny boats waited in the shade to burst out at the first sight of a boat to sell us trinkets. I bought a black buddha for Dot.

I was told that Thai people eat six times a day, and you believe it when you see all the food carts lining the sidewalk: from cut fruits, to chicken liver satay, to noodle soups, to ice coffees, you will see throngs waiting for a small meal or drink on the go.My favorite became a breakfast staple: sweet sticky rice. A man, crouched next to his mounds of cut rolls of sticky rice, cooked with coconut milk and red beans in a bamboo stalk,was selling briskly. He was gone by mid morning, all sold out.
at the bigger stalls with tables and dishes, this is how they cleaned them:

It was fun to eat on sidewalks, sometimes with the photo crew, sometimes not

then other times, it was very pleasant to sit by a pond in a tropical garden, and indulge in delicious salads and pineapple fried rice. It was at the preserved house of a visionary American named Jim Thompson , who settled there and started a thai silk company in the fiftiesHe disappeared one day in the jungle, which add to his mystique.He built himself this beautiful house made of traditional and exquisite older buildings made of teak.The rope across the front door is made out of a flower garland....
is is now a museum showing his incredible collection of antiques and art.

After the visit , we jumped on a tuk tuk for a death defying ride through the maddeningly busy streets of bangkok.

Bangkok strives to be a modern metropolis, and it was thrilling to check out some amazing restaurants, some doubling up as galleries showing some incredible art.
One restaurant was high in a skyscraper, infiniti pool next to the open terrace.The other was in a giant pod like building where performance art took place as we dined reclined on white beds, bathed in a pink glow.

cocktails were exotic and food was delicious

as I walked one last time to my hotel down my now familiar street,I noticed that the lotus bud that I had marveled at, had finally opened.One last gift from bangkok.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I cannot believe I have not written in almost a month....time has flown by, so fast that it has left me in a blur:

which is wonderful, and makes life so exciting and vibrant... but I also enjoy my time home, when I can sit back, feet on a stool in the sun and glance at the sky above:

I am also trying to make time to paint, between all the traveling this year. I am struggling with a figure, feeling some sort of love/hate relationship, alongside a quieter piece:

I am off to bangkok next week,a new continent to me,for an adventure and work. I will sure be back with stories and images.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

home grown

It has been nice to stop and breathe, have time to visit with Dot.I really enjoy going to her place, tidy but creative, colorful, but sentimental.She always has Chai on hand for me, served with a little treat, even if the visit was unplanned. She loves to nurture you, feed you well and will not let you go home without something that she has cooked, or grown.The lettuces that she gave me, come from a little stirofoam " raised bed" just outside her door. They looked exquisite and I marveled at their beauty.She said " I think this is a magical garden" and it is true: flowers everywhere and fruit covered trees surround you.
The salad was a delicious gift, heart tended, heart offered.I tasted the love in each bite.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


There are two big food companies in a little town in Southern oregon, and I am working for one of them for 2 weeks. It is set in a valley, where the summer heat punches down relentlessly. I drove around yesterday to this small quaint town at the edge of another valley where rolling hills covered in vineyards and orchards hugged low mountains covered in pine forests.stunningly beautiful. Looking at the real estate offerings in a couple of business in town, I could quickly see the difference with the Bay Area: 6 rolling acres, 2 story wood structure house, view etc... $ 450.000......But then, it is isolated, and too hot for some ... but I like the heat, it quickly makes me fall into a vacation mode, with breakfast outdoors, and air conditionning in the car,ice water, life in tank tops and flip flops.

Monday, July 5, 2010

new colors

Doesn't this feel like summer all suddenly on a plate ? gone are the asparagus,welcome corn, peppers and all that sing the colors of the South( by the South I mean Provence, Italy, Spain, North Africa etc).
For the 4th, we started with a homemade concoction with all my favorites: white nectarine, rose wine, cointreau, vodka and June'smeyer lemon and mint syrup.
It is called a nectarine sangria martini and it is so good that I will let you in on the recipe at Pouke's kitchen soon.....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

summer tastes

I love to go to a job in the Santa Cruz mountains.After reaching the summit and making a turn into the forest, I feel the sense of quietness and beauty that nature brings.The descent to the valley below is staggering with dips and turns, redwoods, meadows, farmlands finally.The decor is stunning, the fields covered with wild sweet peas, cows and horses in pastures, the air soft and clear.After work, we stopped at a local organic farm stand where I wanted to buy everything.The baskets of raspberries beckoned with their deep ruby color and picked from the vine freshness. I put one in my mouth and experienced the essence of the perfect berry:sweet, juicy.simply served with whipped cream ( with powdered sugar and vanilla) for desert the night I brought them back was a delight. Tonight cajeta ( a mexican caramel made with goat milk, sugar and baking soda ) will be served over vanilla ice cream with maccademia chocolate chip cookies. The marble potatoes will get roasted with the pink garlic heads,the delicate lettuce tossed with lemon and olive oil, dusted with parmesan . I love organic farm stands !

Friday, June 18, 2010

black is black....

Back in my studio, I have been using tons of black. My faces are surrounded by black, my still lives are black scratches, and I like the shots of food on black. I am fond of this shot.It is weird, may be a little grotesque, but bold.

Monday, June 14, 2010

paper and water

Saturday was like a Provencal summer . Hot, for this part of the world, but I totally loved it. Went to an opening for a big show where books are the inspiration for art.Loved this piece:

then, on such a balmy night like we have so rarely, we had to have an alfresco diner... with a view, please. So we headed to Fish, in Sausalito, and had a delicious meal, with the sky, above us, finally enveloping the scenery in a big navy blue velvet glove.Their Portuguese fish stew is memorable and significant adored their oysters.

On the way out, in the dark parking lot, a scuffle was taking place.A man, resisting arrest was pinned to the ground by 4 policemen.It was a disturbing and odd sight, for this part of the Bay.

Sunday we packed early and headed out for the beach.Pique nique , newspaper, treats, sun and sand between the toes, and then glorious swimming with the salty waves slapping my face refreshingly.

the tide was coming in and I had to walk far to be able to swim.
On the way home, a sign advertised BBQ oysters, so we stopped and by the side of the country road, sat a a table with the sun
going down,my skin itchy from the sea, and significant had another platter of oysters.I ate the buttered crusty toasted bread, dipped in the tabasco style sauce....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

a sweet afternoon

Mother's day had to be postponed.Finally we had our moment together.First we stopped at Flax where Dot wanted to treat me to new soft brushes, paint knives and mini tabletop easel.Then it was off to Hayes street to check a couple of stores. We stopped at Dish, a white and airy boutique where spiffed up espadrilles and tiny leather dots skirt caught my eye.Plus an incredible watercolor artist, Zeneida Sengo showed her work on the walls. I also loved Birch, an exquisite flower shop with couture tulips and hand made vases ,design magazines and artist books. We stopped at Paulette for tea time sustenance and had French macarons, that I thought were better than in Paris.For one, they were super fresh and the biscuit was tender, the filling intense.Coconut for me, passion fruit for Dot : tropical bliss in a mini treat.
Drove to the Mission to have a look at Paxton Place, The pirates store and dog eared books to browse. I love their selection of graphic novels.We walked to Cha Cha Cha for an early diner , sangria pitcher to share, with secrets and dreams.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

garbage still life

Back in the 70's and 80's, a bunch of terrorists attacks were panicking and killing Parisians. Bombs would blow up metro lines or garbages cans on busy pedestrian streets. I think it was the garbage can in front of a popular store on the busy rue de rennes that made the authorities change the look of the garbage can into a turquoise or lemon yellow plastic bag, where supposedly no bomb can be hidden( there is still the message : vigilance,cleanliness) .So far, so good, no more bombs, but really those garbages bags are truly atrocious to look at, and so flimsy with the orange tie ribbon floating in the wind... the only way is to turn them into a artsy collage or to do a sort of anthropological study of Parisian casual eating and drinking habits.recycling is random still.

Monday, May 31, 2010

roasting in the heat

Somehow the word roasted on a recipe or a menu pulls at the comfort strings, and at the salivary glands where the anticipation of caramelized bits of concentrated flavors beckon.So, when I read about this pastry chef who was roasting her strawberries, it stopped me in my tracks: different, bold, may be intensely good.... definitively to try.
You toss them in sugar until they gloss, and put them in a glass dish, all snuggly, at 200 for 2 1/2 hours. What you get is the fruit still intact, but all juicy and enhanced with a ruby syrup to drizzle on your meyer lemon yogurt from St Benoit that you had topped with the roasted beauties.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

my version

E of Yummysupper has always great recipes and photos to share. Plus she is a Berkeley girl and it is always fun to see what she is up to.Her last post got to me...I have said it before, I am a crazy heart when it comes to salads with fruits in them. And I LOVE stone fruits.white nectarine specially. So I modified the recipe a bit, omitting the T.Keller bit about the fruit puree ( I am sure it added another dimension to the dressing, but for weeknight salad,it seemed too much) and kept it simple with only white endives.It was delicious.Next time I will shave some manchego alongside.
thanks E !( for recipe ,go to yummy supper)

Monday, May 24, 2010

the euro lunch concept

You invite good friends, hoping for sun ,since you have a "party deck" all set up for that, you offer great tasty food and many bottles of rosé, you grill some khebabs, the kids roast marshmallows on the open pit, you celebrate your birthday in a French way, a leisurely long Sunday lunch, where laughter grows in intensity as Tavel empties......As we drove home,the wind was picking up, the waves were white and high,the coastline always spectacular. What a great day ! thanks !