For as long as I can remember I have loved to travel. My father traveled in
his work and frequently took us along. My mother said I was born with the
“go” gene. I also loved to draw. I was the one who drew pictures of Mickey
Mouse for my friends, the one the teacher called on for bulletin boards.
Even though my first love was art, I studied nursing in college. These were
the turbulent Kennedy years, and a bomb shelter had been built next door.
Later, when my children were in school, l wanted to be home on holidays
and summer vacations so I returned to school and became certified to
When I began, I longed to go where they great artists had gone, lived and
painted. In 1994 I had a chance to go to Provence in the south of France to
paint. I visited the studios of Monet, Cezanne and Renoir, the scenes
painted by Van Gogh and Matisse as well. I took with me a blue plastic
vase so I could enjoy fresh flowers in my room. Sometimes it got into my
pictures. I filled a sketchbook, and I was hooked. Each winter I saved my
pennies, and every other summer I traveled and painted.
Many years and multiple sketchbooks later, I sat beside a lady from London
on the plane. She looked at my sketchbooks, noticed the blue vase and
suggested I put them all together in a book and call it Travels with a Blue
Vase. I had my title.
I decided to narrow the scope of my various travels to the Mediterranean
area: Provence, Italy and Greece. Because I am a foodie and love to paint
food, I included illustrated recipes from those countries.
Shortly after I began, I lost my daughter. I had retired from teaching to care
for her at home so I was at loose ends. I volunteered to do art with several
special needs groups, but it wasn’t enough. Putting together this book gave
me a focus, a reason for being. I relived each place I had been when I
made these sketches, and it made me happy.
When it was finished, I combed the bookshelves of stores and libraries to
find similar books and their publishers. I talked to authors and editors
before I sent a proposal to two of them. After six months I had two very nice
Travels with a Blue Vase
rejection letters so I decided to publish it myself. After all, our lives are
getting shorter every day.
Travels with a Blue Vase: A Mostly Mediterranean Sketchbook has
done very well. I’m not looking to become rich or famous - I’d just like to
share the beauty I see around me and the gift from God I’ve been given.
A second book came easily as I learned the modern technology of
computers. I called it More Travels with a Blue Vase: Paris and Beyond.
Currently I’m working on a third in the series. It encompasses England,
Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I have much of it done. I just need to take one
Mary Ann Miller
Member of www.NLAPW.org, Jacksonville branch
Her book is available on her website and also at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Fl