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Imagine a world with no limits...what would you eat? Where would you go to eat? Who would you share these Divine Delights with? ...Read More


From young root clippings in dry, arduous conditions to fruit bursting with the essence of the surrounding countryside, grapes are cultivated over a long period of time to bring you an explosion of sensory impact...Read More


Where does inspiration come from? Travel has always been a vehicle to carry an artist off in a new direction. Travel, it has been said, purifies the mind, body and soul.Read More

Archive for Art

Art: Historic Barn in Chester, CA (Lake Almanor)

This is a photo of an oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar of the famous wooden barn in the town of Chestor, Lake Almanor CA

Chester Barn - Lake Almanor, CA

This century old barn doesn’t like intimacy. It’s distant and cordoned off with barbed wire. The tall grasses have burrs, snakes and spiders lurking and signs are posted for no trespassing. It’s tempting to cross the line and explore. If I did cross the line, I would be posting my photos here for your viewing pleasure.

There is not a single piece of metal holding this old barn together according to some of the locals in Chester, CA. Wooden nails were crafted to “pin” all pieces of this barn together. A few years before he died, 85 year old Harvey Chaput snuck his girlfriend, 75 year old Shirley Fichera, in to take pictures and tell her all about its remarkable history. A brief search on the web doesn’t reveal much about the barn and I wish I had recorded their comments.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA.

Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA

My friend Shirley did share some images with me of her time with Harvey in the barn, but they were slightly blurred and printed on copy paper and difficult to scan and Photoshop. She used to live on Melissa Avenue and looked out at the old barn every day. She often took photos of it in all kinds of weather. She declared this barn to be “super-deluxe” on any day of the week and I think she still loves it more than me.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA on her three-wheeler bike.

Shirley on her three-wheeler bike.

It’s located on Melissa Avenue near the north western edge of Lake Almanor, a man made lake created by Western Power Co. (WPC) back in the late 1920’s and today Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) uses it to create power from the north fork of the Feather River’s hydroelectric plant. Lake Almanor got its name from the Western Power Company’s president, Mr. Guy C. Earl who took letters from his three daughter’s first names: Alice, Martha and Elinor. The dam was completed in 1914 and about 20% of the lake filled in before the entire project was completed by 1926. WPC later merged with another company and became Great Western Power before being acquired by North American Company before they sold it to PG&E, the lake’s owner’s today.

The Feather River is a stone’s throw to the southwest of the barn and owls nest inside its many dusty rafters. The property is flat and stretches to the irregular shores of the lake.Wild geese and other birds use the land extensively throughout the year and it has the feeling of a wildlife preserve. Here is a link to view the barn on  Google Maps using a local address at the street level. You can use this link to get directions to the barn if you wish to visit it.

This empty barn has caused quite a bit of concern for the town in recent years. A popular motel chain was all set to tear it down and build a hefty number of units on the property until the locals set out to “Save The Barn” and drive them back. It remains the town’s one unique icon.

My family has been visiting Lake Almanor over the last thirty years and loves this little piece of mountain heaven in Northern California near Mount Lassen. When the lake’s campgrounds get full we head over to Butt Lake; yeah, I know, we find the name funny too.  Butt Lake actually is an awesome little hidden gem just south of Lake Almanor and is also owned by PG&E. It’s a spillway for the bigger lake and is shallow and calm which makes for great canoeing, kayaking, swimming and so forth. There are no showers at Butt Lake, but you can always go up to the mobile home park with a handful of quarters and grab a hot shower. Sunday is the best day to check in on either lake as people leave on the last day of the weekend, but get there early. Please see my other post on Butt Lake.

This is a photo of the historic barn in the town of Chester on Lake Almanor.

Historic Barn in Chester, CA

Love At First Sight: The Day I Met The Barn
It was 1989 and I was in my early twenties, living in Nob Hill (Nob Slope?) of San Francisco and working downtown. It was exciting to escape the daily grind and drive five hours north for a quick weekend getaway.  Since most of my holidays back then were spent sailing inland and coastal waters, I hadn’t been dirt camping in over a year. This painting can still evoke the smell and warmth of the summer mountain air when I look at this picture.

I was meeting my parents at the local Catholic church, Christ the King, on Melissa Avenue one evening and had my boyfriend at the time with me. I couldn’t wait to grab my 35mm camera and capture the late afternoon sun as it did magical things to the land, barn and dry grasses. In a flash of knowing, I knew it would be a painting*.

This was one of those paintings that just flew out of me. I used a style of painting that is my own version of Impressionism. Up close, the paint daubs decompose and look strange, at a distance, the daubs come together perfectly and form images that look highly realistic…and the rest of the painting is interwoven with realism that is smooth and even. It’s actually my favorite way to paint and wish I could always paint like this, but not every subject/painting demands it.

The color palette was simple: burnt and red sienna, yellow ochres and umbers, cadmium yellow highlights and I cooled everything down with some cobalt blue and titanium white. If I recall correctly, this canvas is about 16″ x 24″ and the perfect size for this distant barn.

With each returning visit to this town, I pay my respects to the barn and take new photos hoping for another flash that will urge me to paint another canvas of this all wood beauty.


* I don’t know the person who bought this painting, she was living in Marin County at the time –perhaps San Anselmo, and I would like to know for my records. If you have seen or own this painting, please contact me. Thank you!

Agra: Visions of the Taj Mahal

This is a photo of the Taj Mahal located in Agra, India.

Taj Mahal

Arriving in Agra after a long journey by car, we realized that we could see the Taj Mahal from our room.  Even better was the view from the rooftop terrace.  The weather had cleared of haze, and we sat in a swing and enjoyed its beauty from afar.  We had always dreamed of seeing this beautiful building, and now we were here!

The Taj itself was closed on Friday, so we toured the imposing Red Fort, a World Heritage site.  Its fortress walls extend for more than 1.5 miles, and were built in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Our guide was the impish Gurudehal, a PhD in History of Northern India.  He showed us the beautiful gardens, mosques, and palaces overlooking the river.  Across the river was a complete view of the Taj Mahal.  The Red Fort is largely intact, constructed of red sandstone, with delicate inlays of jasper and cornelian stones into the crystalline marble that the region is famous for.

Every tour ends in a shopping expedition, as the Indians believe that no opportunity to sell and receive commissions should go unanswered.  We were taken to a marble cutting and inlay shop, and, we admit, when the room was darkened, the sight of intricate gemstone inlays shining through the white marble took our breath away.

The next morning, we stormed the breakfast room to pound down our first meal of the day in time to be ready to greet the Taj Mahal at sunrise.  Men and women waited in separate (long) lines, and there was elaborate searching of everyone’s bags.  No food, drink, or gum were allowed to pass.

The outer protective walls of the Taj are actually red sandstone, but once one crosses through the gate, a perfect view of the symmetrical mausoleum shimmers into view.  The tomb was built in the mid 1600’s by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz Mahal.  Nearly 22,000 workmen were required to build it, and it took 20 years.  He is also buried with her.  At the outer edges of the raised platform containing the Taj Mahal stand 4 tall white minarets.  Carved naturalistic screens of solid slabs of whole marble frame the tomb area itself, and the building has many details of geometric patterns.  Seen in the early morning light, the side of the structure sparkles and also glows.  There is a mosque flanking it on one side, and a “guest house” on the other.  The reflecting pools, unfortunately, had been drained for whitewashing.  But the “paradise” gardens were beautiful too.

We checked out of our hotel after the morning visit, and proceeded to the mysterious “Royal Ghost City”, built by Emperor Akbar as a new capital to replace his palaces in Agra, which were considered too dangerous.    It is a vast complex of red sandstone in perfect condition after 500 years.  Palaces of the Winds, schools for the emperor’s girls, houses for his Christian wife, his Hindu wife, pleasure palaces, administrative buildings, all were absolutely perfectly placed and very beautifully decorated with carvings and inlays.

It is said that after 12 years the complex was abandoned, perhaps due to lack of a water supply (it’s located on the top of a big hill and required a ride in a motorized “tuk-tuk” to reach it.

In this photo, an Indian man sits outside Fatehpur Sikri's red sandstone wall.

Fatehpur Sikri Outer Wall

We said goodbye at Fatehpur Sikri to “Del” our guide and drove on through countryside fertile and green.  The farmers are growing potatoes, mustard, wheat, millet and vegetables for everyday use.  Monkeys begged for bananas and peanuts by the side of the road, and the usual panoply of water buffalo, camels, dogs, sheep, goats, cows, pigs and other animals intruded regularly into the road.  We finally reached Jaipur, only to be brought to the main shopping bazaar.  Our driver wanted his commission, too.  But he actually wanted to buy some bedspreads for his 3 kids, and we enjoyed this well-lit, clean and organized opportunity to buy silk scarves, shop for men’s pajamas, and Indian fennel candies.

Tomorrow we’ll tour Jaipur.  But today was a special day – the day we saw the Taj Mahal.

Claudia and Gail

Treasures of Sibiu, and Other Oddities

in Art, Life, Romania, Travel     

Main Orthodox Church in Sibiu

The Holy Trinity Cathedral was completed in 1904 and is across the street from the residence of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Sibiu (in other words, this is his church).  The interior is covered with painting in vibrant colors; the style reminded me of Byzantine icons, so I was very surprised to hear that this church was constructed relatively recently.  As you can see, this is a combination of western and eastern traditions, with some figurative art that is “filled in” with repetitive patterns, more like the eastern religions.  In addition to the usual iconography my daughter noticed symbolic eyes painted on some walls, looking in every direction, and we were told that these were the eyes of God always watching us.  There are churches of many different denominations in Sibiu, but the Romanian Orthodox Church is still dominant. We were told that the church now owns a lot of property in Sibiu, including residential apartments in the town center.

Church InteriorIconSnakes and Reptiles

For a complete change of pace, we took a look at a Museum of Pharmacy, part of the Brukenthal that is in a separate small building off the “Piata Mica,” the smaller square in the center of town.  This was like entering a laboratory right out of Harry Potter, with cabinets that had drawers labeled with Latin names of herbs and potions, and maybe not eyes of newt, but you’ll see the preserved snakes and reptiles in one of the photos.Tools

Near the town center our hosts pointed out a narrow building that was a hostel, and they explained that it was not for regular students, but instead that it had become a modern sort of guild.  When the town of Sibiu began to be renovated recently (in particular for its celebration in 2007 as a European Capital of Culture), volunteers came here from all over Europe to help with the repairs and also to learn the trades involved such as stonework, carpentry, and roofing.  The volunteers wear special black top hats and you can see them around town, for example we saw one of them whizzing by on a bicycle.

In the evening we took a break in an upstairs cafe and had Italian-style gelato.  There seemed to be a mirror in the room but at a second glance it was a full glass window separating the room into two sections, smoking and non.  This being Europe, the nonsmoking section was tiny and narrow, and the smoking section was large and crowded with noisy partiers.  (And we could watch each other through a glass wall!)

Riches of the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu

in Art, Romania     

Winter Landscape With Birdtrap

Riches, not just treasures.  And how things have changed.  When I saw the Brukenthal Museum during the Communist era I had high expectations for some reason; I was only eleven or twelve, but had heard there were major works there.  But it was a disappointment; the collection looked second-rate, and the building was creaky and dirty.  Now, it is one of the jewels of the Great Square (Piata Mare) of the historic city center.  Like so much in Sibiu, the museum has benefited from international attention and money for renovations, and when I saw it again this fall I was amazed and delighted.  The main building was the palace of the Hapsburg governor during the era of Maria Theresa, and we were told that he was a favorite of hers.  The collection bears witness to that, and its major feature is a room full of Old Masters, including a Titian, a van Eyck, and two large stunning Brueghels (one by the elder, and one by the younger).  The Winter Landscape With Birdtrap is shown above; oddly enough, I found this as a copyright-free image on Wikipedia, where it was attributed to another museum.  (But I can tell you it’s in Sibiu, I saw it last month…  Maybe there are two versions of it etc.)  The Slaughter of the Innocent (link here) is a true masterpiece by Brueghel the Elder; the palette is vibrant reds against the white snow, and it takes you a moment to realize you’re looking at murder and pillage.  As I recall this painting was given its own small room, and with good reason.

Another highlight of the museum, and probably less well known, is its collection of ancient gold coins including Roman “aurei” and Transylvanian coins from the 1600s.  This includes special cabinets that were built to house the coin collection (works of art themselves, as you can see here).  This was all very fascinating, and we couldn’t help but wonder what this is all worth now that world currencies are like quicksand and gold is once again ascendant.  To illustrate the point, I accidentally leaned on one of the display cases and a museum guard quickly warned me to stand back, because the cases were wired with alarms. 

Back on the town square we were dutifully told the story of Dracula.  The version my family tells is that there was a ruler in southern Romania named Vlad Tepes, who was hated for two reasons.  The first was that he would punish serious crimes by drowning.  The second was that he imposed high taxes. From a bit of reading I can see that he was considered to be of historical importance to Romania for all sorts of reasons, including as a defender against the Ottoman Empire.  I leave all this to the Dracula scholars.

Gesso Italiano and San Diego Festa 2010

Chalk ArtistThe chalk artists at the Little Italy Festa in San Diego today were probably the main attraction, but there was also great street food, of course, and beautiful music, including from San Diego Small Opera.  The artists were working incredibly quickly and under intense scrutiny from the crowds and photographers (who knows, maybe it inspires them).





woman with flowers

Woman's head

The lovely “Italian bride” (below) was advertising Frankie and Nina’s Big Italian Wedding, a dinner theater production in the Gaslamp.

Oil Painting of Munnar Tea Plantation, Kerela, India: A Place For Total Peace and Quiet In India

in Food, India, Tea      tags: , ,
Oil Painting of Munnar Tea Plantation, Kerela by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

Munnar Tea Plantation, Kerela, India

Almost a hundred thousand hectares of tea grows in the hills of Munnar in the state of Kerela, India. It is somewhat remote and completely restful. The perfect place for a morning cup of tea while reading the Indian Times newspaper.

In a world where a billion people reside and make noise, this place offers peace and tranquility matched only by the Himalayas.

 The silence in the morning was met with the occasional sound of a bird call, a woman singing as she picked tea leaves or the rare taxi on the road bringing a guest to the few five star resorts in the area. At night it is quiet and a far distant light could be seen across the valley of perhaps a car miles away. This is one of the few places I have walked by starlight in search of a beer wishing I had a flashlight; and if it weren’t for the promise of a cold beer at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have been out walking at all.

Scottish immigrants cultivated this land from the mid 19th century, developing the tea plantations and establishing the trade out of Munnar. Tata Corp now owns the vast majority of the land and several American franchised resorts share this particular view of the valley which is absolutely stunning when the morning mist lifts off the lake and recedes into the surrounding hillside.

Beyond the mountains are the ghats in Tamil Nadu which have animal sancuaries and other agricultural resources.

Inside this valley, cardamom is grown for export along with black pepper. A small local village behind the hills surrounding the lake share the work of the various processes required for growing and curing the spice before it is ready to use.

I have a penchant for painting the least likely scenes from a country. I like things that are universal in appeal. To my mind’s eye, this could be any one of the British Isles, for example. What do you think? Does it remind you of another place? Would you have known it was tea growing on those hills?

Wine and Friendship Comes Together In A Still Life Painting

in Art, Chile, Wine      tags: ,
Still life photograph of a future painting with a bottle of Root 1: red wine, a pair of wine glasses, a silver bowl of fruit

A photo that inspired a still life painting for author Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

The elements of friendship, with our good friends Ralph and Marjorie are embodied in this oil painting…a year of exploring Chilean red wines, treasures from trips such as the pottery and the silver bowl from India, foods that nourish and a table that we share meals on regularly all came together neatly to inspire me to paint this image.

Wine bottles have been the subject of many a painting and therefore, one must conclude that wine has been a part of the artist’s life for a multitude of reasons. In Europe, it was a common item at mealtimes and artists often painted their food before they consumed it. Artists, too,  have been stereotyped as being slightly off-kilter, gloomy souls full of pain who turn to alcohol in their misery. However, I believe it is the sensuous soul of the artist that finds beauty in the wine itself. 

Winemaking has been around since the beginning of mankind and along the way, winemakers everywhere have refined their art. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that artist’s secretly paid tribute to their favorite winemaker in their paintings. A little “tip-o-the-hat” to their local eonologist…perhaps the flattery alone would be enough to get a free refill from the vinter.

Hindu Offering to the Gods – Food for Thought

Food As A Hindu Offering to the Gods

Hindu Offering Oil Painting, Still Life by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

Hindu Offering at Munja Ceremony

This still life oil painting was inspired by travel to India.

My husband, Anand’s Hindu Munja (Thread) Ceremony was in Pune, India in January of 2002. Foods common to the people become Hindu offerings for the Gods. Coconuts atop a disk of jaggery (raw, unprocessed sugar), oranges, apples, nuts,basmati rice and mangoe leaves for the God Ganesh to eat –his favorite, I’m told by the Brahmin priest.

Precious metals like copper and silver, natural fibers like cotton and silks and other elements like water and fire complete the ceremony items.

There were several photographs that I considered before choosing this one and the fire ceremony. In particular, this Hindu offering is rich in color, texture and has a vitality to it that some still life paintings lack. I was very curious to paint rice. Up close, the brush strokes decompose but at a distance they are quite discernable as rice.

This piece is commemorative for the Thread Ceremony experience and, while just a small painting measuring 9″ x 12″, it holds up well under scrutiny. I take quite a bit of pleasure from others who take a moment to enjoy the textures and colors assembled so casually by the priest.

Hindu offerings, while assembled from common items, and to the best of my knowledge, are not carefully arranged unless the priest is an artist. Rather, there is a studied carelessness to them that I find appealing. Items are stacked or grouped together on a hand-towel or other small piece of natural fiber fabric. The goal of the priest is to appease the gods not create a still life.

On one occasion, I couldn’t help myself and arranged the objects holding the Hindu offering items a bit more carefully to get better photos. The priests were amused, nor did they seem to mind the American girl.


Thoughts on Art – Why I Must Paint and Why I Can’t


thoughts on art, oil painter Anne Marie Peterson, realism painting

Some of my old tubes of oil paint

I have plenty of thoughts on art. And I have even more questions about art! Why is it that certain things can trigger within us a reaction that takes our breath away or makes us forget reality? What is at the root of the need inside the artist –the need to communicate the experience to the outside world in the form of art?


As an oil painter of over thirty years, I must say that I have changed my reasons for why I must paint. I’m not your average artist; I don’t even consider myself an artist –I call myself an oil painter because I perceive of my abilities to be more technical than inspired. That being said, I won’t paint something if I am not inspired, meaning I can “see” the finished product in my mind when I look at it and have the Inner Knowing that what is before me “is an oil painting”. Now that is a real “thought on art“!


In general, my drive to oil paint was simply to express the beauty I experienced when I looked at life around me so I could share it with others who weren’t with me or couldn’t witness to it. This stems from my natural enthusiasm for our fantastic planet and the range of beauty that can be found here.

Thoughts on Art From Mother Nature

I used to travel to inspire my artistic self, often putting myself through unusual conditions as if to temper myself. Camping, hiking rough terrain and sailing great distances are a few of the things I would do to tune out my usual daily life so I could attune myself to Mother Nature and listen to what She wanted me to notice, what She wanted me to think about her art.

Without a doubt, travel for me is the best way to calm my inner voice…I can find stillness within and attune myself to the subtler vibrations of the world around me. I notice more detail in color and texture. I can better observe the relationships between items in a landscape and study their relative scale, perspective and notables in the blink of an eye.  I begin to see more clearly harmony in parallel lines, concentric forms and disassociated shapes, beautiful tonalities in the colors and gradations that a Realist painter like me swoons over.

The older I get, the less I need to travel for inspiration and I find it nearer than I once imaged possible. I have become a tourist in my own town and state which serves me well now that I am a mom to a daughter with special needs and a rather clever son and our family schedule is a mile long and time is short.

Carlsbad Flower Fields, smelling the flowers, thoughts on art

My toddler takes time to smell the flowers in the Carlsbad Flower Fields.

These days, I look closer to me for beauty and find it at arm’s reach.  While staring at the center of a flower that sits in a vase on my dining table, I simply notice what is in front of me as I eat my dinner and I see lovely patterns in petals of, for example, an alstroemeria. While pushing my daughter on a swing on the playground, I find beauty in the way the sunlight glints off her blond highlights and I think about how I would paint it on canvas. Those are considerable thoughts on art. I may not be able to paint as much as I used to due to my lifestyle changes and family, but I am never out of touch with my artistic side.

Every so often in life, we have no choice but to hit the “pause” button and take a time out from our usual activities. One day, I will return to traveling to a far off land and return home with a huge desire to paint a magnificent landscape as a testament to the beauty somewhere else other than home. And already my mind is converting a closet with a window (ventilation is important with oil paints) into a studio so that I can paint while our children are at school. The convenience of just closing the door to seal off the closet from little curious minds is too good to pass up. I’m certain it won’t be too long before I have a paint brush in my hands. And I can hit the “play” button with no guilt! –And that playful thought on art makes me smile.

What are your thoughts on art? Please share them in the comment section below!

Live well and be happy,