Capturing Monet at Giverny

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I was always enchanted by Claude Monet’s work. His paintings of water lilies were misty and mysterious, and drew me into a dreamy place where I loved to be as a child. He captivated me with his color choices and brush strokes. How could a painting that looked so haphazard up close become so clear and gorgeous when you stand 5 feet away?
To me, Monet was a bit of a magician.

Because I grew up near Chicago, I got to know the artist, his work and his famous water lilies at the Art Institute of Chicago. I spent hours gazing at large canvases, mesmerized by how I could transport myself into the landscape and disappear into the color.

I read about Monet’s work and his style. It is said that he didn’t use black in his paintings. As an artist, I would spend years trying to capture the rich depth of color that he accomplished, without using black. It’s difficult.

His art has been mesmerizing people like me for centuries. It was revolutionary in the late 1800s. His style was thought to be too loose and incomplete to fit in with the realistic images audiences were used to. He was key to the controversial Impressionist movement along with his colleagues like Manet, Cezanne, Pissaro and Degas.

During his career, Monet built a world of gardens, lily ponds, bridges and beauty in Giverny, France, about 90 minutes west of Paris.

He spent the latter years of his life expanding and building on the property, living and painting in the landscape.

I have collected books on Monet and sought out his works in any city I visited. But it was always a dream to visit Giverny. I wanted to breathe the air that he captured in the atmosphere of his paintings, to see what inspired him, and visit his home nestled right in the middle of this iconic property where he lived.

Imagine my surprise one Christmas when a loved one gave me the gift of a summer painting workshop in Giverny. Seven days living in Giverny, steps away from Monet’s estate. A small group of other artists and I would stay in a neighboring lodge, but have access to paint in his gardens. I was elated.

After three days in Paris, I boarded a train at the famous Saint-Lazare Station that Monet captured in his painting by the same name. An hour and a half  later I was in Giverny.

The 8 other artists in the workshop and I enjoyed three meals a day prepared by local Normandy chefs. Lunch and dinner were accompanied by local wines.

The lodge had a studio where we could paint 24 hours a day. Our host, an artist and teacher, led some workshops on Monet’s methods.

We painted in Monet’s garden each night after 5 p.m. when the gates closed to the public.

The vast property includes two gardens: the flower garden near his home and the water garden across the road that you access through a tunnel.

Our small group had the ability to roam and paint anything we wanted while the magical golden dusk light gave us the misty background so famous in Monet’s work. We also had the gardens to ourselves all day Monday when it was closed. This option, however, is no longer available to workshops. Instead, guests now have private access to the gardens before it opens, to capture morning light.

Monet designed the gardens planting flowers according to color. Rows upon rows of both familiar and unusual flowers are woven with fruit trees and other greenery. Green benches dot the landscape.

We walked across the pale green Japanese bridge so familiar in Monet’s paintings and looked down on lilies dancing in the sunlight.

Monet’s home, which is open to the public, offers extensive views of the gardens through open windows. I was amazed by the dining room, which is all yellow. Everything is yellow, from the walls to the fireplace to the cabinets to the dining table and chairs.

The amount of time we had in the gardens was enough to complete several paintings and drawings, and to start some that could be finished either in the lodge studio or back in the United States. Photography is encouraged, and I left with images for later reference. I brought home about eight artworks and some are seen here.

In the small town of Giverny, you can find antique shops, art galleries and cafes.

I especially liked Restaurant Baudy. It was the home and studio for many visiting artists who came to Giverny during Monet’s time trying their hand at impressionist art and wanting to meet the artist. It has kept its old-world charm and has some great local dishes and wines. Like most of the cafes, you can dine inside or out.

We visited the small town of Vernon and shopped local markets for handmade clothes and baked goods, topping it off with real hot chocolate at a patisserie. It was like drinking an extremely rich melted chocolate bar with thick  whipped buttery cream on top.

We were taken to many outlying areas and small cities where we could paint.  One day we took the train to Paris and visited the Musée de l’Orangerie. Its main features are  Monet’s paintings of water lilies,  Nymphéas. Located in two oval-shaped rooms, the multiple paintings wrap around the walls,  creating a panoramic scene. I felt like I was standing in the middle of the famous Giverny pond. It is breathtaking. According to the l’Orangerie Museum website, Monet said he was trying to create an “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore.”

I returned home with a portfolio loaded with sketches and paintings, some finished, some not. I still look at the hundreds of photos I took, take out my pastels and oils and paint, recapturing those moments in Monet’s gardens.


IF YOU GO: Art Colony Giverny

Director: Caroline Nuckolls,

Giverny, France

Cost: Seven-day workshop, $3,500

Cost includes: Lodging, seven breakfasts, four lunches and dinners prepared by a Normandy chef

Wine: Local wines served with lunch and dinner

Availability: Offered three times a year
in May, June and September.

Lodging: Moulin de Chennevieres

Side trips to local villages and
a studio boat for sketching
while floating down the Seine.


(770) 977-3434


Published in BAY magazine, August, 2016. Tampa Bay Times. 


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Meditation, yoga, art + GREEN

Hello friends,

I am back on my blog after a little break. From time to time I will post back stories of how we create and execute photo shoots for BAY magazine, Tampa Bay Times.

Along with that I will post thoughts and discoveries about art as they relate to meditation and yoga. This year I have had the privilege to study at St. Petersburg Yoga in order to become a yoga teacher. It is a reinvention of the best kind and a beautiful evolution in my life.

Here are some thoughts on the color GREEN.

This morning I decided to use my ‘beginner’s mind’ when I took my walk. Not focusing on the past or future, just the present. I was observing the trees and the grass and the many many shades of green.

This made me think of that wonderful CD by Ken Nordine called ‘Colors’ given to me by dear friend Ron Reason. With his beatnik sound Nordine talks about the origin of each color and the one I loved the most was his story about green. He said that green almost didn’t make it in the spectrum of colors because it is so difficult. It fights with the other colors, nudging its way into the crowd, trying to take over. I really get what he means.

I have always had trouble working with green in my paintings and pastels. I can never get the shades or tones ‘just right.’ They start getting muddy and creating problems for the other colors. As I walked I notice how overpowering the greens are in my environment. So many shades and tones you can hardly count. In fact I thought green was difficult because it was a bully to other colors. It dominates, it takes overs and it is everywhere, spreading on the ground and up to the sky.

When I think about teaching art and yoga I was thinking about teaching how to use green.  I said “Namaste” to green this morning. May the light in me honor the light in you.  Then I said, I will allow you to be the bully, I will be compassionate to your need to be the one who takes over, the loudest in the room. But I will work with you rather than against you and make my other colors work in harmony with you.

So let green be. Leave it alone. Be like red, its complement. Red is the most powerful color in the spectrum, the wave length closest to us. It has the power to take over everything, but instead it punctuates the green landscape, popping out here and there in beautiful flowers and other forms, grabbing our attention, against that green backdrop. We can learn from red. Be powerful and strong and be yourself and let green be.



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OTTAWA magazine takes a peek into city and country interiors

Another Ottawa magazine project (see special CONDO issue) involved designing the structure and concept for the annual Interiors magazine, one that attracts both readers and advertisers. Capturing both country and city interiors, the magazine became a rich collection of interiors that showed how ‘modern’ looks are reflected in Ottawa homes.

Here are some prototypes of the cover along with the proposed color palette and grid structure.

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And this is how the Interiors edition of Ottawa magazine published. 

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After working with Ottawa magazine as  a consultant, the publisher asked me to lead a redesign which included the entire team at the magazine. We created a year-long seminar plan that would lead to the redesign. We gathered and studied magazines that inspired the new look for Ottawa magazine. We held four seminars throughout the year in which we  examined the W.E.D. concept, created a color palette,  a grid system, and explored typographic systems. Workshops included lectures outlining design theory and principles and hands-on sketching and designing. My next post will explore that redesign process and show the outcome of the redesigned Ottawa magazine.

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Guided by the ‘spirit’ of content: Designing OTTAWA magazine

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I had the opportunity to work with the staff of Ottawa magazine for the last year as a design consultant. Their special spring issue featured a full report on the impact of the condo boom in our city. When we started talking about the issue, we focused on the ‘spirit’ of the topic. While discussing the story and photo ideas, the profiles, the issues (are there too many condos going up?), and the entire concept, we created a list of key words to guide us:  ‘vibrant,’ ‘high rise,’ ‘vertical,’ ‘tall, sky scraping,’ ‘trendy.’ From there, working cover lines were written  to help guide the overall design and the story flow. Using ‘content drives design’ as our guide, all of our decisions were based on our list of key words. We chose typography (Interstate) with a strong vertical stroke to emphasize the ‘rise’, and we created a grid system that promoted the feeling of growth, height and rising. Notice how the 12-column grid (underlying 3-column grid) allowed us to use white space in a proportional, not arbitrary way. That white space was strategically placed throughout the page designs to promote the feeling of vertical movement.

But while we were talking, we also explored the idea of entering condo spaces. Most were wide open concept, very horizontal in feel. So, we inserted important horizontal movement throughout the pages in order to emphasize the idea of elevator doors opening into expansive spaces. Rise up in the elevator (vertical feel), elevator doors open, enter the large, open concept space (horizontal feel).

A color palette was created to reflect stainless steel, glass and clear, bright open spaces. Grey, orange and white became the key tones used throughout.

The great creative team on this issue included Art Director Jane Corbett, Editor Sarah Brown, Designer Jeff Eustace, and Publisher Dianne Wing.



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It was very important to have conversations about the concept, the stories in the works and the ‘spirit’ of the issue BEFORE the design was started. That conversation led us to pencil sketches and InDesign prototypes that gave the whole issue structure, flow and spirit.

By establishing that overall feel and look, the photographers knew that a combination of vertical and horizontal images would work well within the framework. The writers had the whole issue concept in mind while they finished their stories. And we had a good framework on which to design.

Check out OTTAWA magazine at

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Mario Garcia’s ‘iPad Design Lab’ opens new doors for print designers

If you, like me, have focused on print design most of your career, and you have been timid about entering the world of tablet design, it is time to jump in! And to give you inspiration on how to do it, you must read Mario Garcia‘s new iPad book called iPad Design Lab.

Reading, or navigating,  through this remarkable book, you will enjoy video interviews with designers and editors as they explain how they conceptualized and created their tablet design. You get to see and hear Mario talk about design. His unique and animated descriptions, filled with that ‘Mario energy,’ makes you feel as if you are in the room with him, and for this reason, the book is a treat. He offers comments on many tablet designs and suggests ways to make them even more interactive like in this example from Vanity Fair magazine. Mario suggests that you should be able to ‘enter’ the room of Sophia Loren and click on the various items in her home to see their origin.

As in print, good tablet design begins with story telling and Mario devotes a good part of the book to explaining that. Content drives the decisions for design including when to introduce audio and video, when to link to something, when to make something interactive. The theme of story telling is woven throughout the chapters ranging from grid creation, color palette, typographic choices, advertising and marketing. Mario applies his concepts to the design of this book as well.

The story of how to design for the tablet is told through appropriate pacing – read here, click here, look at this series of pages, and listen to this interview.  It’s easy to navigate and when finishing the book you realize what a rich meal you have just had. But it is so much fun and so easy to get through. There’s a lot to read and explore and lots of interactivity to experience. The book never slows down or gets dull during the journey. The strategic placement of interactive elements is appropriate and well timed.

 We see tablet design from around the world –  an international perspective with lots of examples and links so that we can experience the interactivity he describes. End-of-chapter review questions offer thought-provoking discussions for seminars, classrooms and newsrooms. I will make ‘iPad Design Lab’ a must-read for my students.

My friend Ron Reason tells me that you can buy the tablet app for less than $10 and it takes little time to learn it. He is the one who helped me set up my blog on WordPress. That training session took just one hour. If the tablet design app is as easy as this, I’m sold!

Reed Reibstein, Art Director and Project Manager for Garcia-Media designed the book with Mario, and did the production of the book, and it is flawless. The flow and pacing work so well and keep you engaged to the very end.

For me, I am convinced that the tablet is the way of the future and I’m ready to jump in. Join me! I may revisit ‘Color, Contrast and Dimension’ that is housed on and recreate it for the tablet. This is the perfect time to jump into this exciting arena and create books that readers can ‘experience’ in such rich detail. Mario’s book will help you do that.

(Disclosure, I helped with the color palette for the book and wrote a summary of how to use ‘color as punctuation’).

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Dalí Museum Building + Gardens Guide

I’m happy to announce the publication of ‘Building + Gardens Guide’ for The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida. This is the companion piece to the Gallery Guide, that I designed for the opening of the Museum in 2011. Working with Kathy White, Deputy Director/Marketing + Administration, we structured the book on the same grid system, typographic and color palette as the Gallery Guide. The book contains beautiful imagery of the building with it’s enormous glass ‘enigma’ and unusual gardens creating a landmark on the St. Petersburg downtown waterfront. In addition, there are rich explanations of the Golden Ratio which Dalí embedded into his work along with  images of how it appears in the Museum gardens. The Dalí Museum is a MUST SEE on your travel list.



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Designing for The Dalí Museum: Keeping it (sur)real


The new Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida has opened on the waterfront. Its spectacular design and extensive collection are creating record numbers of visitors. I had designed Dalí publications and worked on exhibits in the past, so I was delighted to be asked to design the Museum Guide. It’s available in the gift shop and online at Here are some pages from the Guide with the story behind the book. (All images copyright, The Dali Museum)

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