Artist Travel



Posted on 11/30/2019 at 10:10pm
Arriving at the entrance, my long skirt brushed against the lavender plants blooming on both sides of the renovated ancient stone maison where our group of Adventure-Artists was staying this past summer in the South of France. The fragrance filled the morning air as I paused to enjoy it for a moment, and gazed at the beauty that surrounded me. In the distance, there was a brilliant green field where majestic looking horses with short trimmed manes and tails that were grazing in the morning sun. Heavily-pruned gnarly mulberry trees provided a thick cover of shade in the cobblestone courtyard where our breakfast and dinner were served each day. The buildings here were constructed over 300 years ago, and a type of primitive sundial mounted high up on one of the buildings, spoke of the days long ago when time was not digital. That evening from the courtyard, I looked up at the full moon and shouted and pointed up to show anyone around me, “Look! An eclipse of the moon!” A woman with a French accent said to me, “That is just a cloud.” but I kept watching as slowly the moon gradually was covered by over one half. Hours later it slowly went away, the partial eclipse of the moon had welcomed us to France!

A narrow two-lane road that is lined with mature Sycamore trees shades the full length of the road, creating a lovely tunnel-like effect as we drove into the city of Arles. Roman buildings, are throughout the city in stages of decay, and also are the remains of giant arched tunnels buried deep beneath the city, where the Romans built structures using intricate architecture. All that remains of the coliseum dominates the city of Arles skyline. Narrow cobblestone walkways curve upward and away from the massive structure and meander past tall ancient buildings arriving at a lively central square, where the likes of Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso found inspiration.The bustling area is full of food stalls and sidewalk cafes offering up excellent ethnic food, hot and cold beverages that attract a variety of very interesting local characters. One evening while enjoying a gelato in one of those cafes, there was a man walking behind a man riding a black horse slowly down the crowded street playing the guitar. He strummed the instrument as the horseman invoked the magnificent horse to prance and dance as he made his way around the city square. The horse lifted each hoof high, as he bade it to do, and then in a strange but interesting way, the horse’s hooves clipped and clopped along perfectly in time with the music like castanets. As he rode by, the handsome rider looked down at me and smiled, as he bowed his hat he rode past. A magical evening to remember in Arles, France.


Posted on 11/30/2019 at 10:03pm

Issue 22 November 2019


Posted on 01/24/2019 at 5:23pm

Heading to Moab, Utah to see the sights and perhaps do some painting in the mountains, we left from Steamboat Springs, CO and began driving early on a beautiful fall day. Our sturdy stead was our brand new 4 wheel drive truck, and with a full tank of gas, we felt confident about getting there before sunset. The roads are well maintained and there is little or no traffic heading into the remote west. The GPS gave the best route to enjoy some of the late fall countryside.

Miles and miles of flat land with scrubby high desert growth with nothing but a narrow two-lane road created anticipation but caused me to be very glad we had not planned any stops on our route. As we drove far from civilization we felt as though we were in the middle of no-where. Many lonely hours later we were shocked by a very loud smashing sound coming from the engine. Just like it had been hit at high speed by shattering glass! We slowed down, but saw nothing in the rear-view mirror, so we kept driving as the truck seemed to be running fine and we were not close to anything that could help us if something was wrong. Many more miles flew by us and we had all but forgotten about the loud sound. We both needed a break from the ride to stretch our legs so we pulled to the side of the road. I was very happy to climb down out of the cab and walk around a bit, but suddenly I heard a sound like water running. I noticed a liquid was pouring on to the ground below the truck. “Oh no! This does not look good!” I hollered. We were many miles from any city, and because there was no Cell phone service, and no one was driving by who could help us, we felt like we had no choice but to continue driving as far as we could go before our radiator was dry and it would no longer cool the engine of the new truck. Nervously driving many more miles we were very glad to coast into a very small town called Rangely, CO where our cell service worked once again and proceeded to call the 800 Service help number for our vehicle. Many cell phone calls to different people proved that they were going to be very helpful, but only if we could figure out a way to get ourselves to Grand Junction, CO. That was the next city with a dealership we needed for repairs, but it was over a hundred miles away over treacherous steep mountains. They told us we would need a flat-bed tow truck to carry this new high profile vehicle there. Hours of negotiating on the phone with customer service and they were finally willing to pay this small town repair shop that we had recently limped into, to take us all the way to Grand Junction on ‘their’ very nice flatbed tow truck.

Time flew by, but well before dark, the nice small town repairman asked if I was ready to get in the cab of his flatbed. I asked if could ride right where I was, in the passenger seat of the new truck that was going to be towed, way up high on the bed of that tow truck! He told me he had only one other person who asked to do that, and they really enjoyed the ride. The driver was all alone in his cab as we headed down the road, with Dan and I both riding up so high in the cab on top of the flatbed that was carrying us. We were up so high and going so fast that Dan could not help but keep his hands on the wheel and his foot on the break even though he could not control anything. It was very funny when he kept trying to steer around the curves in the road, I kept saying to him, “Look around, relax, you can not control the truck!” The view from up where we were was magnificent! As we road around sharp curves through Douglass Pass through the steep mountain range, amazing colorful flora and fauna was a gift we were allowed to see because of where we had ended up riding.

The parts were not available for the new truck at the dealership, so our plans to go to Moab, UT did not happen. We had to wait for days for the parts to come in. My time in Grand Junction was spent going to antique stores, rock shops and just enjoying the town as I listened to the people talk about what it had been as the years have gone by. It was where two rivers meet, the Grand River and the Gunnison River, and the Ute Indians called the place their home until in 1881 when they were removed to a reservation. The architecturally beautiful old train station built during the golden glory of an era of western growth and rail travel stands ghostly vacant. I enjoyed my visit there.

Colorado has shown me more of its beauty. Utah will be a future journey.


Posted on 07/03/2018 at 11:00am

My recent trip to Peru was enlightening in so many ways. My innate fear of such a remote area
of the world was indeed overcome. Could intense sunlight and inherited DNA be what makes these Andean people have such a talent with color? Their abilities are everywhere, even in the poorest villages. Colorful fabrics woven on primitive looms by native women sitting outdoors on the ground and working throughout the highlands expressed so much beauty in such an arid, high desert environment. Skills of intricate designs in weaving by using natural dyes and yarns have been passed down for centuries at this extreme elevation of 12,000 ft.



The children wear their mother’s colorful handiwork. Woven one-of-kind hats with colorful pompoms attached, bright ponchos, leggings, and sweaters, that are mostly made from the wool of the Alpaca an animal that also makes this high desert their home. They can also sometimes be seen wearing special hats and sweaters made just for them.

When death comes, local people wrap their loved ones for burial in their finest cloth, the culmination of a life of connection with textiles. From an infant’s first breath to her last, beautiful textiles provide not only warmth, love and consolation but also a tangible sacred knowledge that they connect to a strong tradition of proud people stretching back for centuries.




In the smallest villages, round beautiful faces smile easily, and the women wear a variety of strange hats, some tall, some rather flat but highly decorated, and all were very different. I wondered if wearing them was dependent upon the village or life status, Many of the indigenous Andean women wear a very thick layer of skirts, up to 10 at a time. I was told that when the one underneath gets dirty, she removes and cleans it, and puts it on top of the others. They simply squat to urinate, no need looking for a bathroom. I was amazed when native women told me that when babies are born in her village in the Highlands of Peru, they are not allowed to see the sun for the first 5 months of life. She asked me if I would like to see her baby, and she untied the knot at her neck and nestled inside at the bottom of the colorful wrap on her back was her comfortable sleeping infant. She told me the child was almost 5 months old and will be allowed to be exposed to the sunlight in another week or so. The sunlight in the highlands is unbelievably bright. There is very little shade, and although it was the beginning of their winter when we were there, the sun was very hot during the day but the air was low humidity, comfortable and cool, it would warm to about 60 degrees, and at night the temperature was in the 30’s.

The city of Cusco is a bustling village steeped in history that goes back further than the Inca and sadly polluted with old buses spewing toxic gases as they roar up and down the steep, remote mountainous area in this city of about 500,000 residents. Religion is an emotional, deeply sacred thing to them. Although they are Catholic they still hold ancient pagan-like manifestations with idols and rituals from times long before the Spanish arrived. Arriving during one of their most important festivals, I watched as parades of bands, and many types of floats with towering, very heavy decorated religious manikins and dressed-up statues were carried through the streets by rows of men in colorful dress shirts, swaying back in forth in a dancing motion and sweating profusely as they walked in unison for hours around the plaza.

Painting in the highlands was a challenge but I managed to paint two Plein air

“Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″

paintings while there. One day when most of the streets were closed for the festival, I unfolded my stool on a street where not too many people were walking and set up to do a painting. I worked quickly, as I always do, trying to ignore the crowd that began to form around me. It was the most people I have ever had surrounding me while I worked. I glanced around once or twice to smile at them and they would smile wide and nod affirmatively, most of them staying to watch me the entire time I painted. Their kind encouragement kept me going and gave me an incredible rush of excitement.


Another plein air painting was completed on the street from the entrance to the hotel I was staying. A native woman was setting up her daily meal to be served to passerby’s in a doorway on a busy Cusco street. I was amazed when a crowd soon formed to purchase and eat her meal while standing near her. Within an hour, her food buckets were empty and she was done for the day. I was lucky to capture her. A moment in time, in a changing world.


“Everyday Plein Cusco” Oil on Linen 10″x10″




Posted on 11/29/2017 at 9:46am

Trevi is a hilltop village in Italy with a history waiting to be discovered. Whispered Roman-era stories from the past share that a navigable waterway in the valley linked this and other villages in this Umbrian region to the metropolis of the city of Rome by boat. That storied river is now only a narrow, gentle stream running lazily through the verdant valley and no longer can carry even a small canoe. Trevi still has very interesting architecture. As I look at the gigantic carved “rock” entryways to buildings that appeared perfectly designed with fine sculpted detail, I wondered, “How did our primitive ancestors in history create them and place them perfectly on this high mountain?” With my backpack heavy with painting supplies, I came upon one of these massive entryways on a bright and sunny day.  A  placard printed on the wall next to it assured me that the structure was erected in the 16th century. Perhaps the building itself was added on to, but the entry-way looked so much older. Perhaps the building was destroyed earlier and the entry re-used, or perhaps the whole structure had been renovated at some point, leaving the entryway as it had been, just as we re-use materials from old buildings today.

On either side of the stone entry were carved two heads, a woman’s head on the left and a man’s head on the right. The man had distinctive olive branches in his hair, a sign of the Romans, 27 BC to 476 AD. Remember, this was labeled as a ’16th century Palace’ so I continued through the small door that was encased in a much larger door and opening. I walked silently into a well-worn entryway, the darkened corridor beckoned me toward a daylight-illumined area ahead, and there I found a small enclosed interior room that was open to the sky above. Not a typical courtyard, but the building totally surrounded it with the 4 open floors visable from inside high above that allowed this amazing interior room to enjoy the light of the sky. It was in a very sad state of decay and neglect with building materials, broken bricks, and dusty objects strewn everywhere. The walls were stained, cracked, and peeling from countless years, but you still could see the “bones” of the structure. Arches were everywhere, and shining through from beneath the mold, mildew and crumbling surfaces, were the remains of a beautiful robins-egg blue painted surface that lifted the distinctive, architectural arches throughout the ancient space and gave it an albeit, worn dignity of prior honor.

I decided that this would be a perfect place to paint, away from the bright Umbrian sunshine with nothing to distract me. As I painted in silence in this interior space with natural light coming in, I asked myself, “What were these 3 large square marble vats lined up against one wall together, used for?” I thought of horses, and wondered if they could have made there way in for water and food. But then suddenly, a flash of questioning, “Could this possibly be originally the Palace laundromat?” Located close to the cistern were pipes running everywhere into the centrally-located marble-bordered vat from the roof, and another trio of tubs with one probably for washing, then two for rinsing. A long piece of slanted marble located all along the far end of the tubs was for scrubbing and wringing.
All the mysteries came alive as I listened intently and “heard” in my mind voices, laughter, and singing. What a delightful place to be! I believe that the people who did this work would have enjoyed to come here to do it. Sound echoed and reverberated throughout the space in my mind as I painted…Oh to step into a moment when history is felt once again! I painted the remnants carefully as my mind carried me through a forgotten time of history and I reveled in the enlightenment I received.

“Palace Laundry” Plein Air 16”x20”

Copyright 2017 Sharon Rusch Shaver


Posted on 06/22/2017 at 2:44pm

Steamboat Lake 10″x10″ Plein Air

Rocky Mountain High 8″x10″ Plein Air

Valley Cottonwoods 6″x12″ Plein Air

The Aspens 8″x10″

My Home 10″x10″

Never Leave Me 6″x12″ Plein Air






Posted on 06/22/2017 at 2:06pm

I now see the beauty and variety of Colorado’s harshest landscape. In early spring when the snow is quickly melting, high in the Rocky Mountains there is wild, fragile-tundra where only the most rugged of plants grow, and animals who live there have a tenacity that is unbelievable. I painted in my rental car. The wind was blowing up to 70 miles an hour and it felt as though it was going to lift and carry me off. I worked an hour or so on this painting as the car was buffeted, shook, and bounced up and down as the bully-wind roared outside.

Wind blowing and rocking the car!


“The Colorado Rockies” Oil on Linen, Plein Air, 8″x10″






Posted on 06/17/2017 at 2:49pm

While in Colorado to paint and explore Dan and I found a very interesting ancient, megalithic site, like others that can be found all over the world: and most recently in Montana: I was unable to find anything about the site while researching locally. It is on the edge of a town and may be on private land. My husband and I stumbled on the site on a beautiful evening as the sun was setting. We were going to dinner at a local restaurant but decided to take a walk up to the unusual rock formations adjacent to it, to watch the sun setting on the Rocky Mountains.

The Rocky Mountains are full of jagged, and brightly colored rock formations. In this area however, there are miles of very unusual rock “mountains” located in a beautiful valley between the high snow-covered Rockies. They are all rounded in shape and look like soft balls of dough that have been rolled into various shapes and then pushed together in odd formations. I had never seen rocks quite like that before, and with my usual enthusiasm for discovery, while still dressed for dinner and wearing the wrong shoes for rock climbing, we started up a narrow sandy path with spring wildflowers growing along each side toward the very tall mountain of unusual huge boulders.
Once I reached the formation I stood at the bottom for a while looking straight up. Vertical walls of rock stood before me. Dan already had disappeared and soon yelled from somewhere up there down to me, “Sharon! You have got to see this! “ With protest and his help, I slowly and carefully made my way to the top, just as the sun was setting.

I was in complete shock at what I saw. These photos were from that night and the next day when we went back to see the site in the daytime. I am glad I saw it at different times of day. It was the most magical, huge, creatively designed, sacred place I had ever seen, and gave me a profound feeling of awe. As an artist, when I looked carefully at this unusual hard to reach, hidden high up, I felt as though I was looking at original art that has not been haphazardly put together, but designed with the utmost care by an artist, architect and builder with amazing thought and creative ability.  The sheer size of the megaliths and the place where they are located would be daunting to reproduce even in this age with the materials we have available. The effigy’s glared at me, and made me humble in their presence. When was this constructed? How was it built before machines? Who made it? Where are they now? Although my questions about the site may never be answered, I find it hard to believe that it has been overlooked. I am sure many other megalithic sites are also being ignored in the United States. For something like this to still exist is a miracle. Perhaps by sharing this through my website newsletter and other venues, more places such as this in the United States will be discovered and become a subject of research and discussion.

The Ute, Apache and Arapaho Indians of Colorado did not build this. It is much older than their culture, however, I am sure it was sacred to them and they would use it in ceremony.

The giant boulders look like they are made of some kind of a concrete. They are not cold to the touch like granite. When it crumbles it is like an aggregate. There are many places in the rocks where it looks like it was formed into shapes when it was wet and then dried quickly. (like play dough?) Here are the photos: A slide show overview, and thumbnail “still” images of each photo that can be opened by clicking on it once to open it in a new window, and then click again to enlarge the image.


Posted on 09/30/2016 at 12:50pm
Sharon Rusch Shaver

Sharon Rusch Shaver

We talked all summer about taking out our small skiff for an evening ride just before the sunset, but it seems like we always have too much to do these days. Our old ’77 Ford truck, loaded with the little boat called the “Andrea Dory” and all the things we thought we needed, was waiting patiently on the hillside.

Old ’77 Ford Truck and the Andrea Dory

Never caring much for fast, noisy boats on open water, we have always enjoyed a leisurely ride on calm rivers and creeks with nothing but a battery-powered trolling motor to propel us silently along. One day we looked at each other and at that little boat and knew that it was finally a perfect evening to go.

The truck ride to the boat entry is located a short drive down a beautiful, tree-lined road, one of the very few still standing tall in this area of middle Tennessee. Our guiding mascot at the front of the boat watching intently was my sweet little Maltese, Sunshine, who was very alert and excited as we pushed off from the shore. Motoring slowly under a low bridge brought us into the shallow, glistening, calm creek waters where rarely anyone ventures. The trees gently bending over the waters edge created soothing reflections, giving us a welcome embrace. I brought my small paint box and set up quickly once we arrived in the best area where Dan the Man wanted to cast his fishing line. The evening sun was casting a brilliant glow on the rock wall created by eons of storm waters in this shallow creek in Middle Tennessee. Moments passed by, but with the stillness and floating silence, time seemed to slow down.

I painted quickly that last fading bit of sunlight with colors so brilliant.

A strong healthy catfish was caught and released.

A Great Blue Heron flew by looking for its night perch.

Our little mascot fell asleep.

There are only so many moments in our lives that we want to remember and hold on to. This is one of mine. The paintings I do of these creeks in Tennessee are near and dear to me. I will always cherish these gifts of the nature spirits. There is no way to capture all of my favorite experiences on canvas and with my words, but for a reason that I am not so sure about, I will always continue to try.








Posted on 07/15/2016 at 1:18pm

The artists that join me on adventures to interesting and beautiful destinations to create and paint are at many different levels of experience. Studio artists who have worked for many years from photographs and those who have never tried painting directly from nature will have the most success and fun if they can let go of preconceived notions when they do plein air with oils.

One technique I use and share in my workshops is how I begin a painting. I try to capture my strongest dark values first, and then once I have my composition loosely worked up with the help of special artist tools and various tricks-of-the-trade, I can begin to work my subject’s detail by still continuing in the value study only, by then adding some highlights with additional tools.

Working quickly, I am creating a balance in the details through my value study right from the start. That early work on the painting helps me to do even the most difficult compositions with relative ease of accomplishment. Working the first 15 to 30 minutes this way gives me much better results later in the painting.

Often my students will want to dive right into using a palette of full color, trying to mix deep values that are difficult to achieve  because of their intensity. In order to hold down the values within a complicated composition, I have found it is best to hold back on most color for a little while.

I begin a painting using a mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red, the deepest I can find, and in 15 to 30 minutes my plein air composition begins to take shape. I then squeeze out some Cadmium Yellow, a touch of Thalo Blue, Alizeran Crimson, and a few greens. (I like Sap Green, Veridian, and Winsor Yellow.)  Lots of color variety within a painting is great, but I try to hold back on most of those until I am sure my composition and value study are ready for me to plow ahead!

My experience painting plein air for over 30 years has taught me that if I go to full color mixing too soon, I sometimes lose my way, and the values can weaken quickly. As I start trying to bring my darkest values back again, areas thicken when I would prefer those to remain thin.

Below is a plein air painting that I worked on one afternoon this week. The Tennessee sun was low enough in the sky to let me work without the heat, humidity, and bugs bothering me too much. Plein Air is fun if you have determination, an adventurous spirit, and the ability to let go if preconceived notions of how to paint in challenging surroundings. Good luck!




“Summer Garden House” Oil on Linen 8″x10″ Plein Air Copyright 2016 SRS


I welcome questions and comments.


Artist, Writer, and Explorers Newsletter