Without planning it, these experiments have turned into a series. As it is raining constantly outside, I have to dine my subjects inside. I started off with clementines(see post here) and today I grabbed the bunch of dried Espelette chillies hanging next to the stove.
…Espelette chillies in charcoal and sanguine, 50x 65cm…
The completed drawing. Using white conté stick, I added the last highlights/ details.
…Close- up 1…
Continuing my experimentation with large formats, different mediums and free strokes. Still sticking with charcoal, which is an unforgiving medium, but exactly that fact gives me the freedom to “play” freely. You can”t start over every time you make a mistake; so you are forced to work with the mistakes, which can either lead to great discoveries, or total mess ups – not to be seen as a bad thing. I also prefer working with the dark charcoal, and one can see in the images below the really dark black it gives. I don’t use fixatives.. I have the impression it doesn’t work in any case..
…radishes in charcoal, watercolor and watercolor pencils, 42x60cm..
I chose radishes, cut off most of the leaves to expose mostly the stems, thew them out on the table and chose a composition with only a few radishes.
..the start – in charcoal lines and watercolor washes, using lot of water and allowing it to run…
After finishing, I stood back and the watercolor looked too washed out against the dark charcoal, so I added watercolor pencil, washed it to blend and give darker color, and here and there I left some pencil marks to echo the charcoal lines.
…radishes – close up 1..
Far from being a perfect piece and it won’t end up in an exhibition, this was another good exercise in getting rid of “fear”.
….radishes – close up 2…
…radishes – close up 3…
Onto some some more work!!!
Thankfully there is always an end to yesterday. And to whining. Once I got tired of my own whining about this not working and that not good enough(see the previous post), I had the clarity to see that the only way to change what I don’t like in my art, is to work at it.
..Clementines in charcoal on paper, 43X60cm..
So here is what I went for:
- I worked only charcoal and white conté sticks.
- Large format. I will go bigger still, bit for the time being 43x60cm is plenty.
- I put the drawing on my easel and work with the whole arm and not the wrist, standing back often to get distance.
- No details.
- Large and free strokes.
- No erasing.
- No planning ahead, trusting impulse.
- Still worked from life..whatever is around, but no photos.
- No direct copying, put marks and lines as I felt and wanted, whether it is correct or not.
- Stopped early enough, while I still had the urge to continue.
I enjoyed this process todayeven though it still has my typical mark making, I feel happy about it. Will continue experimenting.
The paper is bending on the easel as I didn’t add a big enough support behind it, so the colour and focus are not perfect all over the paper.
Some close ups below to see the marks and smudges.
Close up 1
Some of the close-ups actuall make for nice pieces on their own..so the piece of work can be torn or cut into sections and reworked..maybe collaged as part of another work…?
Close up 2
Close up 3
Close up 4
Stay tuned for loads of work in the next few weeks..and if you feel like joining in..please do so.
I dug this sketch out of the bin. It ended there along with many others I’m lately not happy with. I feel in an awful slump and nothing seems to work..everything is either too “pretty”, or too perfect or it is just plain bad art. I struggle to find that exciting stroke, or that exciting subject, or even the right medium. I work on small tiny papers and do small tiny challenges. I am in need of freedom and uninhibited expression. I know what I want and what I don’t want..or do I?
I wonder if art can go through menopause…in which case, that is where I would say my art is right now. Going through menopause. I hope it passes soon.
the first one is just pencil contour lines and then of course I didn’t like it and thought colour and pen would make it look better…
watercolor, pencil and pen on watercolor block, HP, 18x26cm
With this first post on Africantapestry, I wish you all a great year!
Yesterday I gave my art students some feathers to draw. They are beginners in drawing and I was highly impressed by the result. This afternoon I thought I should do a sketch of the same feathers. My geese and chickens aren’t shedding feathers at the moment and I dug into the chicken coop to find some decent ones..well, with some imagination they could come close to decent…But it actually made for an interesting challenge. We always think of a feather being perfect and pretty and soft..these were torn and scruffy and quite dirty and they smelled like chicken..
Pen and aquarelle in watercolour sketchbook, HP, 18x26cm
OK. Now that the ice is broken for 2014..let’s get out and (do) and see art, like my friend Theresa Andreas O’leary at Andreas art studio likes to say!
It is very very hot and humid. Everybody is moving around like limp fish. The horses are in permanent rest under the apple tree, the cats don’t lift an eyebrow when I walk past the them and even the chickens lay motionless in the shade of the hibiscus bush. I was busy, or trying to be. I took down washing, hung the next basket full, every time walking past the chickens. When they didn’t move when by the third pass, I thought they might just keep that pose for another 30 minutes. Et voilà, indeed they did, or almost. This was fun.
oil on board, 30x30cm
When I drive on the narrow country roads, I love staring at all the country houses…their gardens, their latest activity, the latest changes, their potagers (vegetable gardens). Life is never quiet and static at a country home. Sometimes the houses are nestled on top of the grass hills, entouré (surrounded) by trees for shade and coolness during hot summers. Sometimes they are sunken deep in the valleys and their presence is betrayed only by their roofs or a trail of smoke in winter. How I love the country side!
..the house on the hill..
oil on linen, 38×46 cm
The opainting below was done earlier today and I spent only about 20-25 minutes on it before I packed up. Today is very humid and hot and the clouds are moving in and pretty soon the thunder will be rolling. I worked almost carelessly, tired and not really wanting to put in the effort. But it is actually starting to grow on me and is not as bad as I initially thought. Maybe I should do more 15 minute plein air paintings.
oil on linen,
Two plein air paintings for these two days. With the wonderful weather we are having this week, it would be shameful not to paint out.
..the old ruin..
oil on linen, 33×46 cm
With the past rains we had, the fields have exploded into greens and wildflowers, especially wild pink heather. It is not for nothing that fall is called second spring. There are also beautiful patches of lilac crocus all over. Of course, everybody is out hunting for mushrooms and a couple was doing just that while I painted “Pink heather”. The tree next to the little “cabane” is an old oak and home to the ever popular bolet, or cèpe and the hunting couple was all around the tree, all around the cabane, to and fro, while Madame lifted the bottom seam of her dress to carry their treasure. Fortunately I was far enough to avoid seeing the detail.
oil on linen, 27×40 cm
I believe in drawing as a basis for all mediums of art. Whether doing aquarelle or oil painting, statues of abstraction..it all comes down to understanding an object/subject and nothing else than good old drawing can get one to that point. Not forgetting doing it on large format. Just my personal opinion. I don’t draw enough. There was a time when I was much better at drawing than I am now. Doing life model drawing saw to that. I have to get back to live drawing sessions with a model. Perfect for drawing skills.
rotring Tikky graphic pen on drawing paper, 21×29.7cm
I actually enjoy doing urns, bowls, jugs…they are a good mixture of simple shapes put together in a complex way…ellipses, round shapes, triangles, rectangles, value shapes, light shapes, depth.. good practice for seeing shapes rather than lines, even though I do like line work.
Charcoal on drawing paper, 29.7×42 cm
Aargh…so many booboos in these 2 drawings, but it is OK. At least I didn’t ‘feather’ my drawings into correctness, like I see so often and I find it terrible. Rather a sure, continuously wrong line than a hesitantly feathered correct “line”. Once again, only my personal opinion.
I don’t wear make-up, except for the occasional mascara. But lipstick, now that I love, so much so that I have quite a few. Some shiny ones, some with real stay-power(so they say), some reds, corals and some neutrals, some fun ones..
“Seduction often begins with taste. There is no kiss like the first kiss with lipstick..” said John Baxter in his book, The most beautiful walk in the world. I can’t really say if this holds true, since I’m on the giving side of the lipstick kiss, but I can admit that I do feel quite a bit seductive when wearing a touch of lipstick. Unfortunately, it only lasts 10 minutes or so before I’ve licked every bit of seduction from my lips and I’m back to Cinderella form. I know women who daub their gloss in the morning and by lunchtime their lips are still a voluptuous rosy invitation. Selfishly, they don’t reveal their secret.
Optimistically, I carry some lip color in my bag for those retouch moments, which never happen. My bag lipstick is still as new as the day I bought it, probably about 2 years ago. In addition, I even have an antique little purse mirror from my mother, which finally serves no other purpose than sentiment and adding weight to my bag.
In the end, all is OK actually, because 10 minutes a day is still more than nothing.
An apple a day keeps the horses at bay…at least here at Coin Perdu. Our three adore their apples and know for sure that September means free apples picked from the apple tree.
..An apple a day..
Pen and watercolor on watercolor block, 23X31cm
With my apple-picking-excursion for this sketch, I once again realized the importance of having a sense of humor. I may have few outstanding qualities, but I have an extraordinary sense of humor and it is the one thing in which I have unshakable faith. It has saved me many a time. It has pulled me up when nothing else or no one else could. I know that however bad things may be today, tomorrow or the day after I will find the humor in it. So I always hang on, sometimes by a very thin thread, until that sense of humor kicks in. Like this afternoon. In heavy pouring rain, I slipped on the slopes, got almost fried by the electric fence and couldn’t reach the apples, so I had to shake the branches, which brought down a shower of apples and extra rains, most of them finding my head. The horses got highly excited by this downpour of apples and pushed my tiny frame discourteously out of the way with their extra large behinds. I grabbed my apples and scrambled out of their way, waving my arms and fingers at them, or maybe it was to keep my balance…who knows.
While trying to find the bumps on my head in front of the mirror and instead only finding apple drenched horse saliva, I wished I could be on the beach in the sun somewhere, elegantly sipping something colourful I don’t know the name of.
But here I am, at least with a sketch for this day.
Tomorrow I will laugh about it.
I have lost a week’s posting of sketches which I’ll catch up on later. For now, I am back on track with today’s sketch of corn on the cob from the potager, on which the horses feast every day. Up until a few days ago, they were still sweet and juicy and wonderful on the barbeque, but seeing them with dry husks, is a clear sign that summer is moving on.
..corn on the cob..
I had no idea what to draw or paint today. If I weren’t so committed to my September project, I would’ve been on the couch, watching a movie. It is raining, it is cold and it is Sunday. On the best of Sundays, I feel blue and foul mooded. Today was no exception. The drawing says it all.
graphite on drawing paper (49,7x42cm)
I tend to be very boring when it comes to choosing daily outfits. I have only a few favorite outfits in which I feel comfortable, so comfortable that I tend to wear only those. One such a comfy piece of clothing, is this pair of Oxfords, my favorite winter shoes. I wear them with long skirts, with rolled up pants, with jeans, with woolen slacks..they go with everything and they walk everywhere. But don’t make the mistake thinking that I don’t love shoes..oh, I do, I do! It is a bit like art supplies..I want to have it all, thinking I’ll do better art, but in the end, only the basics can do the job. With shoes the same. I want them all, thinking I’ll look prettier, but in the end, only a few succeed in not making me walk around with a tortured expression on my face..back to basics.
Watercolor pencil and watercolor on watercolor block, 18x26cm
Since we moved a two years or so ago, I got stuck quite a few times in the winter’s mud and snow and slid into ditches and depended on farmers and their trusting tractors. Given that I hate a telephone and rarely have one on me, it takes forever to get out of my predicaments. So we said goodbye to our trusted old friend last year (Goodbye to an old friend )and mon cheri got me new four wheels. I am since then a happy country woman! I already got out of ditches, I wheelie in the snow with flair, and I make small change of our slippery winter road uphill…all without the help of Mr Farmer and his tractor!
Mon cheri of course thinks it is his four wheels! Oh well, I kindly allow him to think so…after all, he is mon chéri!
The chickens have been moved to their new chateau and soon the old chicken coop will be demolished, not without a morsel of sadness, though..
..le vieux poulailler..
oil on linen, 33x46cm
I first painted in the tufts of hay that stuck out all over, which I actually found so cute! After adding those first strokes of tuft and standing back, it look like I borrowed some stars from Van Goch starry night and added it to my poulailler. No go. So, with patience unknown to me, I scraped off the tufts with the palette knife and touched up again with fresh paint. It is once again an art lesson: not everything we find pretty in reality will necessarily make a good painting.
Some days are just stubborn. Such a day was today. In spite of all my best intentions, no art attempts worked today. I did charcoal drawings, small and large. I painted in oil. I splashed in watercolor, ink, tried graphite..and they all turned out…well, terrible. If I had to do an exam today, I would probably have handed in a blank paper and walked out.
watercolor and pen in sketchbook, (15,5x25CM)
Apart from all the failed art efforts, I opened the fridge in frustration this afternoon for something cool to drink and an enamel bowl fell out and hit me above the eye. I’ve been stung by a horsefly and the huge bulge on my arm burns like crazy! My coffee spilled all over my working table. That’s when I decided I’ve had it. The spilled coffee would be my sketch for 4 September, a perfect memory of how life sometimes refuses to work with you. Maybe I haven’t been listening all day and life was, or still is, trying to tell me something? Or maybe this is just very normal in ordinary daily life.
Time for the hollyhocks to bloom. An olde world flower that reminds me of Maman and her friends. They all had hollyhocks in their gardens, growing through the cracks in old pavements, pushing through gravel, leaning against old walls. They still do push up through all the cracks and walls, all over the French countryside, turning their bright pink and soft white blooms to greet the warm September rays.
..une rose trémière..
Pen and watercolor on watercolor paper, HP, 23x30cm
Under the tree, the apple tree stand an old wagon that we inherited with the farm. Sometimes it serves as a table when we have many guests, sometimes it serves as a support for cutting wood and sometimes it serves as a ladder for our young faul, Dumêla, so she can reach the higher apples.
Oil on linen, 27X40cm
With all this beauty in September, shouldn’t I be out there..sketching and painting? Of course. And that is the plan.
Today delivered this artichoke. The last one which were left to flower. The others have already gone completely dry, but that reminds me too much of endings, which I don’t want yet, so let’s stick with the flowery one.
..The last artichoke..
Watercolour and pen on watercolor block, HP, 18X26 cm.
If I can keep it up..my self discipline I mean, I’ll produce a painting and sketch every day for this September, starting today. Even though it is still summer, there are already trees in the forest which are turning slightly yellow and the all greens with the touches of yellow are quite spectacular. The ferns in the forest are also turning into magnificent yellows, while they are still beautiful strong plants, not wilted or dead. The fields have been cut for hay and are pushing the last stretch of greens,which turn them into patches of greens and beiges, with the cattle still grazing…beautiful views.
à demain(until tomorrow)
So two new plein air paintings are almost dry.
I started off with doing paintings just around the house..familiar ground..juts to get my confidence back. I can’t start off new with concentrating on all the aspects of plein air techniques, as well as handling people watching. The most difficult part of getting back into it, was staying with large shapes and not moving into picky painting. To help me with that, I had a limited palette of 6 colours and only two large flat brushes – a large one for getting down the main shapes and a slightly smaller one towards the end, getting down the impressionistic strokes.
…four à pain..
oil on linen, 24X33cm
I almost gave up halfway through the first painting(seen below), since I couldn’t recognize any thing on the canvas at that stage, but I knew I would sulk for the rest of the month, so I had no choice but finish it. I am fairly happy and I know the process will just get better from now on… given that I continue painting of course!
oil on board, 33X42cm
I just realized once again…it isn’t the completed painting that gives me the biggest kick, but the process that leads up to the end result. Now that I have some two or four paintings finished, busy drying, my biggest excitement is not seeing them in completion on the easels, but feeling the itch to start a new canvas.
Yay..I’m back to plein air painting after a dry spell of two years…..The oil paintings are busy drying, while outside the thunder is rolling and the rain is showering down, bringing welcome relief to a dry garden. The days are wonderfully hot, hot, hot…I love every sweaty minute! Believe it or not, it is in this sweltering heat that I decided to move out to plein air again with my palette and oils. Summer works for me. In the meantime, some peaches in watercolor, done with some big round yellow peaches and juicy flat white ones..which are all devoured by now and the cause of some tummy ache…Summer and its fruit does that to me too..
..trois pêches plates.
watercolor and pen on aquarelle block, 18X26cm
..trois pêches jaunes..
watercolor and pen on aquarelle block, 18X26cm
I had a very quick, but wonderful trip to Provence with mon chéri a few days ago. He spoiled me with lovely dinners and a lot of patience when I did some sketches. I tried to be as quick as I can with pencil and left the ink lines until the very end so I could change to some neater linework where necessary. In some sketches I went in directly with watercolor and added the pen line work afterwards..maybe you’ll be able to notice that?
all sketches done in watercolor block, HP, 18X26cm.
This sketch took me the longest. It was the first one of our trip and I was still very careful in getting it “right”. And mon chéri was ever so patient. I then decided, I can’t spend all of our very short trip on such long sketching..so then I sped up in the sketching, trying to get down just a little ambiance of the trip.
I am a “corner” person. I love little corners or scenes, or little vignettes. So it is usually a little interesting corner of a larger scene that attracts my eye.
The lavender fields are stunning, stunning, stunning and there is no way I can do justice to them..of course had to attempt a field against a backdrop of this lovely mas. There are so many paintings everywhere to be found in Provence, depicting the lavender fields and the olive groves..sadly, I found them all the same, interpreted in the same manner. It makes me even more reluctant to try and paint it. But of course..like all the other painters, I will paint it!
I am also fascinated by staircases and uneven walls, foliage growing out of nowhere, of which there is an abundance in the south.
A corner of the facade of Le mas de la Mateliére where we stayed.
The rooftops, the streetlamps, the worn walls, the trees blown by the mistral…the charm of La Provence.
I cross posted this post also on our blog, Four go painting in Provence, from 2 years ago, where Katherine and Robyn, Sarah and I went on our painting trip to the Vaucluse in Provence. Maybe you’d like to browse it again to see the paintings of our trip in 2011.
I so wanted to meet up with a friend who took 8 other artist on a painting trip to Provence, but time didn’t allow for it. You can see their adventure here Sketchers in Provence.
It seems I always nobly get to Provence on these ‘quick’ trips. But I have decided this is it. No more “quick” trips when it comes to Provence. My next trip will be nothing shorter than 8 days. I will also plan better in terms of subject matter so as not to be all over the place. Provence is filled with huge painting opportunities and so, my goal is to spend my time making full use of the opportunities.
My artichoke plants are reaching enormous dimensions and the artichokes are beautiful. Some land in the kitchen and some stay on the plant to seed into beautiful blue purple flowers.
watercolor and pen in watercolor le coq watercolor sketchbook, 19x19cm
Three small olive trees in terracotta pots on the table..Hopefully not too long before I’ll have a tiny olive grove…that will be something! But for the time being I’ll indulge in the terracotta pots.
…three olive trees…
watercolor and pen in watercolor le coq watercolor sketchbook, 19x19cm
The past two years have been difficult in terms of painting, sketching and it is clear..tight, tight, tight..is the work! I am leaving for a few days in Provence, very quick there and back. The sketchbooks are packed and I hope to squeeze in some sketches. No better place than Provence to stimulate the creativity again.