Today The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment is officially released.
The book so many of you have been waiting for, the book some of you already hold in your hands, and the book that is en route and will arrive soon would not be what it is without the talent of illustrator Sarah Lœcker.
Today I would like to introduce you to Sarah and the journey from idea to creation of the 14 new illustrations that were created for TSLL’s 3rd book, a few finding as well a home on TSLL’s new blog design.
In 2020 the idea was cemented about the book coming to fruition. And the title would be The Road to Le Papillon.
As the name refers to the name given to my home, my sanctuary, but also referring to the conceptual journey traveled to living a life of true contentment, I knew the illustrations had to be personal, had to be inspired directly from my own life.
Serendipity played a role, or the universe or the magic that is unexplainable, in bringing Sarah and I together to work on this project. As I mentioned above, in my mind’s eye, I had a visual idea of what I saw for the cover – a vignette of the front of my home and garden. Also, taking note from TSLL’s previous two books – the 1st book has a new illustration for each of the 12 chapters, while the 2nd book does not. I wanted to return to the format of the 1st book, so I began to make a list of what objects or vignettes would best fit each of the 12 chapters in TSLL’s 3rd book. I found myself gravitating toward Mother Nature with nearly every item I included in my brainstorming.
Sarah Lœcker has lived in Austria since 2005 with her family – husband, four children and feline companion – and her studio is an adjacent space in her historic home near the city’s center, a home that was made for artisan talents to create. Sarah shares this about her journey to becoming an artist:
“I haven’t always been a painter, I came to it in the second phase of my life. The phase of being a mother. When my son was born I began looking for a new hobby, and showing myself to be an absolute failure at writing mystery novels I decided to try my hand at painting, a pursuit with the added benefit of artwork as a result. Starting small, with only three tubes of paint I slowly worked my way up using a ‘how to paint’ book from the local bookshop.”
While raised in the states on the East Coast, our paths crossed a handful of years ago when we learned she too had spent time in the small county I grew up in in Oregon – Wallowa County (no more than 7,000 residents – and that number has not changed for decades) prior to moving to Austria to begin her life with her husband.
During our Zoom meetings during the creation process of the illustrations, I learned as well that Sarah had studied at Oxford, as well as in Aix-en-Provence and as she gave me a video tour of her home full of stained glass windows, I became enchanted by the life she lives in Austria. We would talk about the differences in American culture and Austrian as well as various other European cultures, and she kept me in the know about news as it was being shared on topics we were both aware of globally but she often knew of nuisances less shared in the states. Needless to say, our time working together was more than just talking about the artwork, and I appreciate the time she made to sit down with me in a shared space as we got to know each other a little bit better.
In 2018, here on TSLL blog, Sarah was profiled in a detailed Q & A. Having sent me a handful of sketches inspired by photographs I took while traveling around France during that same year, I was also deeply appreciative for her sketches of both of my boys – Oscar and Norman. View the entire post here.
A Spotlight of Austrian-based Artist Sarah Löcker: 8 Ways and Reasons to Display Art in Your Home to Share a Glimpse of Your Journey
While I could imagine what I hoped the illustrations might be for the book, I am a writer, not an illustrator, and sought out Sarah for not only her attention to detail and knowledge of the natural world as she does extensive research on each animal and/or insect she creates, but also because she understood the aesthetic and the vision of TSLL blog. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to work together on this project (and did you notice – something I didn’t realize until this month – Sarah’s initials? – SL, and the name of TSLL? – definitely serendipity ;)).
Beginning in October Sarah and I began organizing specific details for each of the twelve ‘month’ chapters, saving the cover illustration for our final focus as it would entail the most detail. Moving away from having any humans in any form, something I was set on from the get-go and Sarah noted she focuses on the natural world and impressionist-style painting objects found in everyday life which does not include ‘the ladies’ that were part of my first book. I assuaged her mind immediately and shared my objective of focusing on Mother Nature and details such as champagne coups (for November and the new illustration for the podcast), etc..
After compiling photographs of inspiration I had captured over the years of my garden, my travels, my kitchen, I sent them her way, and she began with January’s illustration of the snowdrops.
If you have the paperback, and as well, in the hardback, the interior illustrations are black and white, something that while I wanted to make them full color would have made the cost of the book absurdly high; however, today you will see each of the interior illustrations in their full beauty and as they were being created by Sarah – the work-in-progress. I am excited to share that with the release of the eBook today (Kindle), all of the illustrations – in each chapter and for each entry as there are two small illustrations at the bottom of each day’s entry – a Petit Plaisir and an Explore Further post link – are in full color.
Let’s take a look at each illustration, all 14, and I’ll share the inspiration and the story for each one.
SNOWDROPS — January – Let Go of What Doesn’t Work, and Embrace the Unknown
Often the first bulb, spring flower to rise from the earth is the snowdrop, especially so in England, and as I had planted for the first time snowdrops in my mini woodland garden (under my sole towering pine tree), I witnessed for the first time in the late winter of 2021 snowdrops. Never before had I seen them in Oregon, and I felt as though a bit of England had been planted in Bend. I was tickled.
While mine are not as prolific as seen in more rainy climates, the snowdrop is a harbinger of possibility. Their classic beauty paired with mighty strength emerges into conditions that seem impossible for such a petite delicate bloom to flourish, but they do, and so the Snowdrop was chosen without hesitation for the first month of the calendar – January.
DAFFODILS — February – Be Yourself Fully, but Stay Vulnerable
The daffodils are the first flower that I grew up with and upon seeing, immediately knew spring had arrived. In my own garden I now have four different varietals and three are depicted here – Art Design (the double, solid yellow), Double Repletes (looking similarly to an egg and its yolk), and British Gambles (far right).
I chose the daffodils for February primarily for two reasons — no, February is not technically spring, but it is my personal new year as my birthday falls in this month, and I had another illustration I hoped to pair with March and I knew the daffodils needed to be represented in one of the chapters; and secondly, and most importantly, the daffodil is a determined flower. Again, similar to the snowdrop, it is delicate, yet strong. It doesn’t conform and hide its beauty, yet isn’t cowed by severe and threatening cold weather or frigid turf. The trumpet of the daffodil announces that spring has arrived, the paper-thin petals that seem too fragile to be, and yet, it determinedly pushes through the near frozen soil and doesn’t become deterred by the final storms of winter that linger sometimes well into March.
A SUSSEX TRUG & RHUBARB — March – Embrace Patience, Healing, and Growth
Spring arrives in March, and the first edible item in the garden to emerge is the rhubarb at Le Papillon. In fact, in the book, I talk about my rhubarb plant which played a pivotal role in my becoming quite smitten by my house.
As well, the Royal Sussex Trug, an item often talked about here on the blog, especially during TSLL’s Annual British Week (two were given away during 2020), was a particular garden item I felt needed to be spotlighted in one of the chapter illustrations, so the rhubarb met the trug.
It needs to be noted the detail that Sarah gave to each rhubarb leaf and stalk. This particular illustration took quite a bit of time as she tended to the details of the rhubarb as though to appear exactly as one you might find in the garden, select for your spring dessert and bring inside.
TWO CROISSANTS ON A FRENCH BISTRO PLATE — April – Speak Up, Communicate Well, Set Boundaries
It’s all about the crumbs! 🙂
From the get-go I wanted to have an illustration of croissants, and yep, two croissants. And! There had to be crumbs because if a croissant is being enjoyed, there is inevitably crumbs – buttery, flaky, begging-to-not-be-forgotten crumbs. 🙂
The chapter of April focuses on relationships, of all types – personal and collegial – how we get along with each other and the importance of, while respectfully engaging with others, honoring ourselves and our own needs and boundaries as well. Therefore, the two croissants signifies two people enjoying, savoring, yet on the same plate, both delighting in something quite wonderful.
Sarah gathered up ‘live models’ for this illustration, as I shared with her two croissants I enjoyed in Paris (pics below), and wanted them to look as authentic as possible to what an actual French croissant with all of its many layers might look like – often not curved into a crescent and so scrumptious, they are gone before you can barely sit down. She picked up croissants at her local Austrian bakery, and oh my goodness, it makes me want to hop on a plane just to enjoy a croissant in Paris. ☺️🥐
The blue ribbon encircling the plate as well was tended to carefully, and Sarah selected a French marine blue shade to mimic what is often seen on bistro or café plates. Needless to say, I an transported to a terrasse savoring a cup of thé and a croissant watching Parisians and visitors alike bustle along the boulevards.
ENGLISH GARDEN, TEAPOT w/COSY, & UMBRELLA — May – Love Mother Nature (British-inspired)
The fifth chapter in the book, May, is all about Britain. France has its own chapter as well (July), and is labeled as such in the subtitle, but Britain is the whole focus of May. It only seemed fitting that a teapot adorned with a crocheted tea cosy, along with an umbrella tipping my hat to my love of rain, as well as a traditional English garden, framed with neat hedges and boxwood rows be a part of the illustration. Again, Sarah’s detail is exquisite – the subtle touches of color in the cosy to pick up the umbrella’s peach and rose shade, this image brings me much calm.
~You can see this illustration in full-color on the British Week page here on the blog.
CHATEAUNEUF du PAPE, TRAVEL BOOKS & JOURNAL, WINE GLASS, MAP — June – Let Your Curiosity Expand the Everyday and Open Your Mind
The sixth chapter is all about travel, much of it discusses France, but not all, yet the illustration drew much inspiration from my trip to Provence.
Look closely. The label of the bottle was directly inspired from the label enjoyed in 2018 during a wine tasting excursion while attending Patricia Wells’ cooking class (last photo below). It was likely made more delicious by the memories that surrounded the entire trip, but I wanted to choose something that was part of my life journey.
As well, both books reflect my affection for both the French and British culture, and bien sûr! a journal for keeping while traveling.
I think this illustration may be my favorite, although it is hard to decide.
~You can see this illustration in full-color on the Travel Guides page here on the blog.
FRENCH MARKET BASKET — July – The Gifts of France: Awakening, Savoring, and Being True to Oneself
The French market tote filled with fresh finds of both vegetables and flowers and of course a baguette just made sense. I shared a handful of pics I had captured of my own moments at the market and sent them to Sarah. The detailing in the dahlias, similar to the rhubarb leaves above, took time she shared, and her attention to the minute details sets this illustration apart. Just looking at this illustration excites me for when the markets open again here in Bend.
~You can see this illustration in full-color on the French Week’s page here on the blog.
COPPER POTS — August – Be Playful as You Create and Explore
You may remember this picture when I shared it on IG this past fall: A stack of precariously stacked copper pots and their lids.
As the chapter of August is dedicated to cooking, the kitchen, France and there are more than a few mentions of being inspired by Julia Child, something from the kitchen had to be the focus of the illustration, and then it hit me – my consignment find set of copper pots (yep! my mom found this set for $50! I still cannot believe it and I use them constantly).
So I snapped this pic after situating them just so, styled it a few different ways, Sarah and I conferenced over what would look best in an illustration and this one was the keeper. 🙂
The detail in the shading and creation of the copper’s sheen amazes me each time I look at it, as it looks as though without question these are copper pots.
A BASKET OF PEACHES — September – Be Strong and Soft, And Think Critically
The wonderful surprise that I have two peach trees in my garden at Le Papillon tickled and delighted me on the first sighting of my house that summer of 2019, and so it was my first harvest in 2019, just days after signing the papers that inspired the illustration for September. Harvesting happens during the first week of this month, and so I felt this was a wonderful piece of Le Papillon to include in the book. With both the subtle sweetness a peach brings as well as the small dwarf tree that can hold on to this tremendously weighted stone fruit – the marrying of strength and delicate natural – a reoccurring theme to hold true to what we can uniquely give the world as that is where our strength resides.
VARIETALS OF SUNFLOWERS — October – Lead with Your Humanity as You Pursue Knowledge, Understanding, Bravery, and Kindness
October focuses on being an engaged and civil participant in society. How to lead with our humanness, and so it was the variety of different sunflowers that I felt brought the beauty, the diversity and the hope of what the chapter attempts to convey and inspire in each of its entries.
A few of the sunflowers includes are grown in my own garden and the others are sunflowers I was fortunate to have in bouquets in my house over the past two years.
CHAMPAGNE COUPE & RECORD PLAYER — November – Explore and Discover Yourself and the World
Using a model of a gramophone she had in her home, Sarah’s illustration surpassed any expectation I may have had. Paired with a traditional champagne coupe, November’s illustration’s objective is to inspire an appreciation for art, for holding ourselves in the present and letting the music, the performance, the painting, whatever medium we are in the presence of, hold our attention fully and for us to let it open us up, teach us something new, deepen our insight and expand our minds and appreciation.
While I had not intended to update the original art square for The Simple Sophisticate podcast, when I saw this illustration, I knew that while being included in the book, it would also become the new and official illustration of the podcast.
MONARCH BUTTERFLY — December – Find Peace, Calm, and Sanctuary: Become a Butterfly
The final chapter had to be paired with a single butterfly, of this I had no doubt.
One of the many aspects of Sarah’s expertise is that she depicts actual, individual species of her subjects, so she tasked me with searching out the butterflies I wanted. For this chapter I kept it traditional with the monarch, but as you will see with the cover butterflies, I selected a different butterfly – more on that below.
This butterfly also needed to appear as though it was in flight as I didn’t want it to look as though it was on display as a specimen in a museum or classroom, so to speak. I wanted it to be full of life as much as possible, thus the angle and the wing position.
The monarch butterfly illustration also appears on every entry – so 366 times – throughout the interior of the book as next to it (in a smaller size) is the Explore Further coda which shares a post on the blog for further reading on the particular topic that is shared in the entry or in the Petit Plaisir.
If you have the book already, you will recognize this petite teacup and saucer as it appears at the conclusion of every entry in the book sharing the Petit Plaisir.
This teacup is inspired by Burleigh’s classic Arden blue collection, a set of which was given away in TSLL’s annual British Week in 2021. As you can see in the below pictures, I enjoy using this particular teacup and saucer quite often, and it definitely is a Petit Plaisir I enjoy frequently throughout my days and weeks (and it is also somewhat petite in size as well 😉).
As I shared above, we waited to tend to the cover until all of the previous illustrations were complete. This gave me time to really consider what I wanted to include, take pictures of my front porch and front cottage garden and consider all of the details that are shared in the book.
While I won’t share all of the backstory for the cover as I want you to enjoy reading the book and finding the treasures and ahas of what you see as you read throughout, I will share that all of the plants you see, all of the items and decor are real and exist either in Le Papillon’s garden or in my home.
As you know from this post touring my front porch, that is my porch swing, a place I enjoy sitting upon and have many moments that have made me smile.
The rhubarb (as mentioned above), the rambling Albrighton David Austin rose in soft pink rambles up the columns, the peach tree, the sunflowers, every single plant, and even that teapot that is precariously and oddly sitting on the porch, has a story contained in the pages of The Road to Le Papillon, TSLL’s 3rd book.
The last and most important detail that I confirmed with Sarah we could include were my boys, both of them. Oscar has never been on any covers, and with his passing in September, bringing him to the front of the stage so to speak was very important to me. Sarah’s depiction of him stops my breath and brings tears, and for that gift, I will be forever grateful to her. He is memorialized in a way I had not anticipated.
And of course, butterflies must be on the cover, and so two are – the Provencal Short-tailed Blue – which primarily originates from Europe, yep, Provence, but many other regions and countries as well throughout Europe. Marrying my love for France and my love for the soft, yet strong piercing blue, this particular butterfly was an easy choice to make as the cover star.
Oscar, my sweet boy and protector of Le Papillon and its inhabitants – as he was in life and as he is depicted on the cover (see below).
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the IG Reels Sarah has shared giving glimpses into the creation process of many of the illustrations above, I have included a few below (be sure to turn the sound on as her selection in soundtrack music is spot-on :)), but also be sure to check out and follow her here – @sarahloeckerart and on Facebook here and here.
It was a great pleasure working with Sarah on this project, and I am immensely grateful for how she brought my journey, my words, to life in a way I could never have done.
I do hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at all of the illustrations in TSLL’s 3rd book – The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Mediations on True Contentment.
Three of the four formats of the book are now available – eBook, Hardback, Paperback – and I am nearly ready to make available the audio which offers more than 20 hours of listening material.
Thank you for your interest in the book, in TSLL blog and in living simply luxuriously.
~Shop the book The Road to Le Paillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment.