Oregon to Seattle to France

In 1987, after 36 years in Oregon, I moved to the Green Lake area of Seattle for a new job. Everything I owned in the world was crammed into my company car, an Oldsmobile Cutlass. My new home was a small, but so wonderful, one-bedroom basement apartment on 68th St., just a few blocks from the lake. Now, 35 years later it is time to move again, this time to France.

This painting is reminiscent of the years I first lived in Seattle, even a Cutlass, though mine was more of a burgundy color.

My intention was to only be in Seattle for a few years then move back to Portland, well, as often happens, that did not happen. Tricia and I got married, we have owned two houses and three condos, along with all that it takes to fill them. Next week our condo goes on the market, we are anticipating a quick sale in the competitive market we are in. For some time we have been giving away or selling furniture, clothing, kitchen stuff, etc., and most of what remains is already called for by friends and family. When all is done, we will keep some personal items in a small storage unit, then take off to France with no more than what would have fit in my Cutlass all those years ago.

Living here changed my life. With Tricia I explored the world of food, and took my first international trip, Mexico; I was so nervous. Little did I know that I would spend over 25 of these last 35 years traveling to five continents and over 20 countries; and of course numerous trips for pleasure with Tricia and Alexis.

As I ponder moving over 5000 miles away, a new emotion has sprouted up. When I was a vagabond-seminar-speaker, off to see the world, there was always two things that provided comforting stability – Tricia and our house – that is all changing. Much like the move from Oregon, 180 miles away to Seattle, this move entails leaving so much behind and taking off to a different place. I could not imagine doing it without the best travel partner there is, Tricia – she still is that comforting stability.

On my first trip to Australia, I remember when I realized how far away I was, and that it was not just a couple of hours on a plane to get home – I had a bit of homesickness. So I am certain we will feel the same twinges, I am ready. We communicate with so many folks that have made moves like this and they all say it was the best thing they ever did, we are counting on the same experience, I have no doubts. Now if we can just survive the sale of the condo, getting a visa, and the EU Pet Certificate for Neville, we will be off.

Of course I sketch most days, it is what I do, here are a few recents:

Posted in France | 5 Comments

Dad, Tricia’s retirement, moving to France – 2022

For many years I have followed Jimmy Buffett’s musical advice regarding New Years resolutions, “Yes, I’ll make a resolution/ That I’ll never make another one…” Yet that does not prevent a bit of reflecting on the past and glancing down the road ahead.

As 2022 begins I am reminded that with the passing of my mother in June of 2021, and my father in 2017, I am the oldest living member of the Christopherson line, there was a time that was called the patriarch, which is neither the role I play nor a well received term these days. My parents taught me a lot, this morning I am reflecting on 2022 with the wisdom of three of my father’s memorable quotes.

“Anticipation is always greater than realization.”

In March 2005 Alexis, Tricia, and I visited the Louvre (for the geographically challenged it is in Paris). We strategically arrived a bit before it opened so as to avoid the crowds that form in front of the Mona Lisa. Inside we made a dash past centuries of the best art in the world, made a right turn into a large, green walled room. We had beat the crowds so there were just a few of us face to face with one of the most famous paintings in history, our already eloquent 13 year old daughter succinctly expressed our shared impression of the Mona Lisa, “That’s it?” (Check out Tricia’s blog for more.)

Alexis at The Louvre

The reality of life is that we tend to build up our expectations, and too often the reality is quite different. The danger then is that we become disillusioned and stop dreaming. Robert Ringer wrote of maintaining a positive attitude by accepting the reality that much of what we attempt in life will not work out as planned, so he advised to not let that dash our positive attitude.

Many of us looked forward to 2021 with high expectations, yet the virus continues to rage, our country is more divided than ever, and our environment continues to be the victim of greed and power – anticipation has given way to realization.

One thing is certain, 2022 will be quite a year for us. Tricia retires in 10 days, our condo goes on the market in 24 days, and if all goes well we move to France in about 80 days. We have dreamed and planned for all of these long before they were put on hold in March of 2020. Our friends Shirley and Jim gave us a pillow for Christmas that describe the next phase well, “notre grand aventure.” We know it will not be exactly as we visualize it today, there will be detours and frustrations, but we are committed to take the rest of Jimmy’s advice, “Just enjoy this ride on my (our) trip around the sun/ Just enjoy the ride till it’s done.”

“Fear of loss is always greater than desire for gain.”

At this stage of my life it is a challenge not to reflect on my past and the things I wish I had tried. With a lot of encouragement from Tricia I harbor fewer regrets than if I was left to my own imaginings, thankfully. One thing is clear is that it was either comfort or fear often reared its head which prevented action on my part.

Though I have traveled to five continents I have lived only in Oregon and Washington. The prospect of living in another country on another continent is both exhilarating and a bit frightening, thankfully the desire for gain outweighs the fear of giving up the familiarity of the Pacific Northwest.

As theTravelsketcher I frequently encourage hesitant sketchers, who are convinced they “are just not artistic,” to overcome their fear of failure and give it a try, thankfully the majority have found they actually could produce an adequate sketch, it is worth trying.

My first “Yes! You can travelsketch!” Workshop

“What would happen if?”

Of the three quotes this is the one that irritated me the most and which I also heard most often. I usually heard this when I wanted to do something but had not considering the pitfalls – it confronted me with reality. At my more advanced age I realize it is most likely some of the best advice dad could have given, not that I always took it.

Disappointment from inflated expectations is mitigated by asking, “What would happen if?” “Fear of loss” is reduced by asking, “What would happen if?” As any project manager will tell you risk analysis is critical.

We ask this question often as we plan for 2022. We love France, and after many trips there know it pretty well, yet living there will be quite different from just visiting – Dad would approve. Dad’s question is not about avoiding notre grande aventure, it is about being prepared for les petits problèmes that are sure to arise.

Here is where we will live in Normandy. Though the sketch is certainly my style it is not mine, it comes from the website for La Thebaudiere. Our cottage, the Boulangere, is the first one on the left, just across the small bridge.

We are counting the days to Tricia’s retirement and our moving, realistically expecting a wonderful time, letting loose of the familiar, and planning just enough to make it work. Hope you will follow along with us here and at Tricia’s blog Travels Throgh My Lens.

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Traveling From Acrylic to iPad

Tricia (Travels Through My Lens) and I were on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands early in our marriage. It was there that I did my first real sketch. Prior to Tricia’s encouragement most all of the input from others as well as my own insecurities convinced me that I was “not artistic,” a sentiment shared by many. At a store on Orcas I bought a sketching pencil and a newsprint pad.

What I wanted to do is paint, that meant oil paints, but Tricia is pretty sensitive to smells and we lived in a small space – oil paints and their accoutrements can be quite strong – so when I learned that acrylic paints could be used in much the same way, but without the offensive fragrances, it was perfect.

I watched Bob Ross, didn’t have the courage to take a class. I still want to paint everything from distant to near. I enjoyed it, got a bit better, then found I liked large canvases. Here are two early acrylics – Freeway done in 1990, Kingdome was done a bit later. Both are 48×36”

In the mid-90’s I started traveling around the world as a seminar speaker, I wanted to start doing art as I went, even then I was obsessed to packing light, so watercolors made sense. My kit was a 3.5×5.5” Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and a Windsor & Newton pocket pallet, I used the tiny brush that came with the set.

Watercolor frustrated me so. With Acrylics I could paint over mistakes and no one knew the difference, BUT… watercolor is far less forgiving and of course transparent; painting over mistakes just makes mud. I remember the day I gave them up for many years. I was at Circular Quay near the Sydney Opera House sketching the promontory across the water, the longer I painted the worse it looked, like mud. I put the paints away for a few years after that.

Ink sketching took the place of painting, I quite liked it and produced some decent pieces. Then one day I learned about ink-and-wash, using watercolor to add color to ink sketches – theTravelsketcher was born. I still did acrylic now and then, but carried my sketchpad, watercolors, and Micron pens; my fountain pens would come later.

In 2020 two events prompted a re-evaluation of what I was doing. In June my step-mother-in-law passed away. She was an oil painter, and like most artists had a compulsion to accumulate finished pieces and art supplies. It fell on family to sort and disperse it all, not fun. Then of course 2020 started with our planned move to France being usurped by a virus.

Nagged by the question, “where am I going to store this?” I pretty much stopped painting with acrylics. Even looking at the growing pile of sketchpads was unnerving, I didn’t want my kids to have to sort through a huge pile when I am gone.

Then I discovered Procreate and iPad, storage on the cloud doesn’t take up space in a storage facility, and a few taps on the screen deletes anything that is not great. Once I got over the baseless insecurity that it was “not real art,” bought a new iPad and Apple Pencil, installed the Procreate app – I was off on une grande aventure de l’art . It has been amazing. I still do sketchbooks, thanks to the wisdom of my daughter which I blogged about earlier, but I really love the iPad and all of the amazing art I am trying.

Here are a few from this week.

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What to leave out – art, packing, and moving to France

“It is difficult to stop in time because one gets carried away. But I have that strength; it is the only strength I have.” Claude Monet

Monet was talking about when a painting is finished – many good pieces of art have been turned into a not-so-good piece of art because knowing when to stop is art just as much as the colors and lines.

Writers struggle as well, Mark Twain advised, “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out.”

I learned long ago about cooking salmon, or any fish and most meats, when you think it needs 30 seconds more, resist it – get it off the heat now or it will be over cooked.

If you are a follower of this blog you know that my guideline for travel packing is, “If you are taking it because you might need it, leave it home.” That applies to the clothes I take and the art supplies I carry. For an afternoon out I don’t need to take three sizes of sketchbooks and paper, there just isn’t that much time in the day. Thankfully all colors are derived from the three primaries so I don’t need to carry six different greens, I do carry two. I use one brush 80+% of the time, so there is no reason to take five along – they help for studio work but not travelsketching. Packing lighter makes travel so much easier, and unless you are heading for the remote parts of the world there are probably stores around if you find you just can’t live without something.

AND this certainly DOES apply to selling a house along with most of your possessions then moving to another country – we are doing a lot of sorting, selling, and disposing of stuff.

Yesterday I worked on cleaning out my “artists hovel,” a small 4×8 area under the stairs. I found three boxes filled with “I might want its” that I put there five and one-half years ago when we moved in here. For five and one-half years they have remained unopened, almost all of it went in the giveaway bag, some in the recycling or garbage. I did keep a stack of birthday cards people have sent me.

Thankfully most of our furniture has been claimed by friends and family, we do have a nice king size bedroom set that we bought when we moved in, with a one year old mattress, if you know anyone who could use it contact me, the price is free if they come and get it, it will be available the end of February.

French visa paperwork is coming along, so far it is not nearly as challenging as most people say it is. We have researched things like mobile phone service, banks, etc. so are doing quite well there. So for now it is getting the condo ready to go on the market at the end of January – sorting, selling, disposing.

Yet one does not live by le travail alone so I always find time to sketch, here are a few from the last week.

Posted in France, Tips for the Travel Sketcher, Travel | 3 Comments

Project management – retirement style

Retirement is a lot of work, well at least if part of the plan is to sell most everything you own and move to France – there are a lot of details.

For 25+ years I traveled the world teaching time management, organization, and project management. Not for big, complicated projects like the ones my friend Dave managed, but the modest sized projects that fill the days of most folks; so I know what and how to do it, yet this move to France does seem a bit daunting at times – did I mention the details, Oh my! and the daily questions that arise?

Many days this sketch reflects just how I feel, which direction was that???

The goal of our project is to sell our house, move to France, and then live in France long term. So I broke the project down into those three phases, a good PM practice for sure. Seems simple enough, BUT…

Selling the house includes more than the real estate, we have a superior broker in Erica. But there are timing issues, deciding what to give to charity, what to sell, what and where to store the things we are sure we want when we return. We attempt to resist the, “We might want it when we return from France..” conundrum. There is a cost of replacement, emotional attachment, storage cost formulae that I know exists but I am still struggling to get it right. I have spread sheets listing most of our items to record the disposition of it all.

Moving to France is all about getting a long-term visa, the hoops to jump through to take Neville (notre chat) to the EU, travel arrangements, lease on a 200 year old cottage, health insurance etc. I don’t like using spreadsheets for tasks, I prefer checklists, thankfully the Reminders app on my iPad allows for multiple lists and sub-lists. The French love documentation, paper not electronic, so I have lists for that, and lists with due dates to set up a timeline.

Living in France means buying a car when we get there, setting up a bank account in a foreign country, new cell (oops, better get used to “mobile”) phone plan. Much of this will happen after we arrive.

Thankfully we have Sarah, she is a consultant with Renestance, a company that helps get us through the process of visa etc, Chris, our future landlord who is amazing, and friends that live in France. Then of course there is Tricia, she has been a project manager for 30+ years at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (soon to retire to her real love of taking travel photos and blogging about grandes aventures).We will get through it all, but those project and time skills I taught are getting put to good use, I will be glad to mark this project as completed.

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Capture moments, then pass them on – Thanks Niki

Niki often has such good advice. (Niki is my daughter Alexis Nicole, many years ago I started calling her Niki, and it stuck, though I am the only one.)

She pushed back when I explained to her my stress about the large number of paintings and sketchbooks that I was accumulating. I do not want her and her brother to feel the need to slog through all of them when I am gone, so I was contemplating disposing of many of them. My thinking was, “who would ever look at the many, many sketchbooks I have filled over the years,” figuring they would sit in cardboard boxes until thrown in a landfill someday. Niki pointed out that my sketchbooks are my way of journaling, that the sketches and notes tell the story of my life and travels, and that she wants to look at them to get a glimpse of the places and experiences that I had, something which I never really considered.

“Capturing the moment” is why I sketch, and what I tell others to do, Niki make me realize that I am capturing the moment for others to experience as well, as a kind of legacy.

So here are a few sketches and their stories from a few years ago, I would like to think my style and technique have changed for the better, but they captured some moments.

Perth, remembering a friend

April 2011, after at least twenty trips to Australia I was headed down under once again, I never thought it would be my last trip to OZ. I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles then on to Brisbane to change planes for an additional 5 hour flight to Perth in Western Australia. I received a message to call my wife, Tricia. She said, “Brace yourself for bad news.” My mind raced: the basement is flooded, family, illness… “Jay, died.”

Jay was a friend, a good friend, he died young and suddenly. I flew on to Perth, took a taxi into town and my hotel, dropped my bags and headed to Murray street and a pub that I always frequented when in Perth. I ordered a pint of James Bogh and salt and vinegar crisps. My first toast and sketch was for Jay. As the evening went on I met folks from all over the world at a big table, a reminder that life goes on and new connections are what makes it worth living.

Queen Anne in San San Francisco

When I traveled doing seminars my days were filled but evenings were for me. The Queen Anne Hotel on Sutter Street was built during the gold rush of the late 1800’s. It still exudes the ornate Victorian charm of those days. The rooms are small, as was the custom of the times, people relaxed and conversed in the lobby, the salon, not in their room. The lobby still had velvet sofas, Tiffany style lamps, and of course complimentary sherry and cookies, with three fireplaces. I spent a delightful evening reading the newspaper. This sketch brings back those memories, an oasis in the midst of dealing with peoples problems at work.

One of my most memorable trips was in September 2015. I left Seattle on a Saturday morning and flew to Dubai. I had a seminar there on Monday, then flew to Milan via Germany, I hired a car and drove to Genoa for a seminar on Thursday, returning to Seattle on Friday.

That first night in Dubai, after checking in to the Raddison I went up to the rooftop pool and bar. The lights from the city twinkled in the night, the lights from the pool illuminated the closed umbrellas, so I sketched. A wonderful warm evening in a place I doubt I will ever re-visit, but surely will never forget.

Waikiki Brewing Company

Hawaii for tourists is different than Hawaii for the locals and regular travelers. I have been to Hawaii more times than I can count, few of the trips were for pleasure, yet that does not mean I did not seek out places to hang out; I found many places just a block or two off of Kalakaua that never saw a tourist, yes some were a bit of a dive, but so enjoyable. In 2017 I made a couple of trips teaching project management, I stayed at the Doubletree on Ala Moana. Just a one minute walk down the street is the Waikiki Brewing Company – my go-to hang out for sure. These sketches were done on two separate trips that year – like the others they bring back nice memories.

Thank you Niki for motivating me to revisit some moments. I think I will go back through a few of my sketchbooks and add some notes, so when you read them in the future they tell more of the story. Love and thank you Niki.

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Au revoir traffic, bonjour D252

We have a lease, all signed and deposit made!

One thing we will not miss is the traffic here in the Mukilteo-Seattle area. Here is a sketch of our new driveway. The road to the right, off of the D252, goes through pasture land, then a farm, and ends up at La Thebaudiere. When we were there in March of 2020 we could drive for 15 minutes or more and never see another car.

Ceaucé is the closest village, 5km. Domfront, which is much larger, is about 9km. This is quite rural, and we are so looking forward to the quiet; seeing the stars with no light pollution at all.

We will be busy for the next few months with preparations, but it will be so worth it. Thanks for taking this journey with us.

If you get notified of new posts here by an email the next morning be sure to sign up at the blog page to receive notifications, I will be discontinuing the MailChimp notices this week.

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 6 Comments

Let the grande aventure begin -France is in sight

Our grande aventure is back on track. COVID and 2020 put a lot of plans on hold for all of us. On 12 March 2020, the day before the shutdowns began, we were all set to move to La Thebaudiere in Normandy, as I write we are still in Mukilteo, BUT that is all set to change.

Note: If you are used to receiving notification of new posts here by MailChimp on the day after the post, please sign up to follow from the home page as I will be deleting MailChimp in a week or so.

We will be relocating at the same place in Normandy as we planned to in 2020; selling our condo and giving away or selling most everything. If all goes well Tricia will be retired and we will be living in France by mid-March of 2022. We will both blog about the adventure posting my sketches and Tricia’s wonderful photos. ( Follow her blog here, http://www.travelsthroughmylens.com) we hope you will join us for the journey.

Here are a few sketches from the last couple of weeks.

Keep on traveling and sketching!

Posted in France | 8 Comments

Utah National Parks

We took our first real trip since getting back from France in March of 2020 – destination, southern Utah’s national parks. We visited Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Bears Ears, Escalande, Capitol Reef, and Hovenweep in Colorado. It was an eye-opening experience.

We started with a visit to the Alaska Boardroom at SeaTac, I was a member for many years, thankfully a couple of people I knew were still working, good to see a friendly face from the past.

Here are sketches and journal pages from the trip. Be sure to check out Tricia’s photos at Travels Through My Lens.

It was so good to get out, now we are anxious for more. I hope there are travel plans in your future.

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

Art with a message, sometimes

Thinking more about why we do art and what, if anything we are trying to say. It strikes me that there are times when I am just looking for something to paint for the sole reason that I feel like painting. In that situation any interesting object will do. Other times the sketch is driven by the moment, capturing it is a means of experiencing the time and place more fully, as well as a memento for the future. Neither of these would fall under the category of having a message, other than revealing my tastes.

Here are two sketches I did this week that captured a moment. One was at the Red Cork in Mukilteo. I was waiting to pick Tricia up at her bus stop so we could go to Cabernets & IPA’s for dinner. The other is of turtles sunning themselves on a log at Golden Gardens Park on Shilshoe Bay in Seattle. (Check out Tricia’s Travels Through My Lens)

Often though an artist is a revealer, an illustrator, illuminator, or they cast a spotlight on the world. We put thoughts and events into pictures that do in fact have a message in them by the emphasis we make.

If you look at the classic painters they illuminate an event in a way that is introspective, causing us to react to the scene. Here are two very different styles, both stir very different emotions.

The first is Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son.” The sensitive forgiveness is clear in the fathers face, the skeptical onlookers, all challenge us to consider how forgiving we are to others. The son himself reminds us of the times we need forgiveness and acceptance.

Picasso was so angered by the destruction of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War that he painted “Guernica.” He said of the painting, “Painting is not done to decorate apartments, it is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.” Even today it is hard to look at the painting and not be moved by the evil of war.

The horrible destruction of our forests through fires and the clear-cut logging of old growth forests has been on my mind of late. That was the motivation behind two pieces I did this week. My goal was to create an image that would move people to grasp a bit of what we are doing to the planet as we move at a snails pace to address global warming, a pace that ensures its destruction

So I have adjusted my thinking: yes artists may have a message, or they may just be capturing a moment.

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