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
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.
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
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.
Our post card exchange has now come to an end, sadly, but maybe we have something new in the pipeline.
I sent Desiree horse sketches ..she and her family had horses at an earlier stage. Our two Comtois horses were my models and the sketch on the envelope I did from one of those sketches.
gouache and pen on envelope
Gaitchi and Gubi
done with pitt artist pens in sketchbook
For my postcard to Pat, I was in Vayrac, handing in all my old linen to be washed and went for a coffee. Afterwards I looked over the rooftops and realized I haven’t done such a postcard yet. So there. The rooftops of Vayrac for Pat.
..rooftops of Vayrac(envelope)..
done in gouache and pen
..rooftops of Vayrac..
done in pen and watercolor on Daler and Rowney watercolor paper CP, 25,4×17,8cm
Busy with my people’s project, I just wanted to do something different. Something completely free and unrestrained. Taking large formats of paper and canvas, I put down the brushes and used only my hands and rolled towel paper. even though it feels a bit like first grade finger painting, there is a liberating feeling that results from “playful” and experimenting occasions like these.
1.Tilleul tree in gouache on paper. For the first tree, I shaped the thick trunk with a large brush and for the leaves, added gouache pigment with my fingers, sometimes very wet so the color runs and sometimes I dotted only dry splotches. Not a very significant result, but it did loosen me up, like all these free, expressive exercises always do. this one really looks like a first grader “picture”!
1…tilleul tree in gouache on paper, 65x50cm…
2. Prune tree in oil on canvas. For the second tree, I used a large canvas, primed it with a layer of thin gesso, “shaped” the tree trunks and branches with modelling paste and painting knifes, and finished off with a last coat of thinned gesso. After leaving it to dry overnight, I built up the tree trunk with layers of oil pigment, using a rag to wipe and build up up the layers. The leaves were all added with crumpled toweling paper and lastly spatters of oil pigment with a large brush.
2…prune tree in oil on linen, 92x73cm…
3…apple tree in charcoal on paper, 65x50cml…
To do excercises like this:
- Use large sheets of paper or canvas or cartons. Off cuts from boxes can work as well
- Wear old clothes.
- Work where you have enough room/space…even outside on the lawn, or go to the park.
- Choose something around you like large shrubs, trees, flowerbeds.
- Use only big tools…big brushes, pieces of rag, knifes, twigs, and of course, hands(You can treat them afterwards with some good creams!)
- Work on the WHOLE paper, even if you run off the page.
- Stand back, up often and look at your creation from a distance. Don’t consider right or wrong or any painting rules.
- Consider only marks, color, texture, shapes.
- When finished with one, put it aside and immediately start another…with another bush another scene.. don’t go back to a previous painting, rather start another one.
- Don’t think, just do.
I have been working a bit more in gouache and oil in the fields…doing the few hay balls still lying around in the fields here and there. The following pieces are only exercises done on site in plein air. I’m working hard at just interpreting, not rendering the reality, but only the essentials.
Close-up two was done using only fench ultramarine, white an a touch of black. I’m quite happy with this one…
I am finding that I enjoy gouache more and more. I like the touch of it on the paper’s surface and it is creamy enough for me and I can work thick with it or thin in washes. I also particularly like its “flat” two dimensional appearance, which looks very “painterly” to me.
…Bales of hay in gouache…
These two gouaches were done on a large sheet of light grey laminated paper/carton paper (65x50cm..25.6×19.7″)
I did a small oil as well.. I have to regain my confidence in oil as I lost it completely during an experience a few weeks ago. I’m hesitant, I don’t really know what to do and where to go to on the canvas. But maybe it is a good thing too…maybe something new can be born from this. I hope so.
…bales of hay in oil…
oil on linen, 33×24.5cm (13×9.7″)
The months are flying by rapidly and we’ve already sent off 6 postcards of 13, almost halfway through. For this card to Martin, I decided on the vineyards here in Correze…our specialty wines, Vin paillé, meaning straw wine. The grapes are semi dried on straw beds and then pressed.
…on his envelope…
gouache on brown paper envelope
…and the post card… vin paillé of Correze
pen and watercolor on watercolor paper
I love the bales of hay standing all around the countryside at this time of year, soon to be stored for the winter. The days are hot and the evenings linger long before the starry nights set in. Perfect summer days. Today was one of those days. The temperature stood a 41 degrees C(105 degrees F) when I took my oil paints just down the hill to capture the hay balls before they’re stored away. I used an old flop painting and started painting over it. Don’t think I’ll do it again, I felt distracted by the already painted scene on the board.
…three bales of hay study…
oil on board,
I have a new project this summer. I woke up one day a few weeks ago and decided I want a little gallery/atelier in Beaulieu. After searching and asking around, I came upon a tiny location, right in the medieval center of Beaulieu sur dordogne, opposite the beautiful old church. I hastened to get my things in order…what things?…drove up to Montlouis to fetch “stuff” to fill my gallery with, drove back 5 hours, offloaded, had a glass of champagne to celebrate this new”craze”, went to bed and unlocked my tiny gallery/atelier the next morning to welcome my first visitors..oh no sorry…clients? Lo and behold, I sold quite a few things!
Et voici mon gallerie/atelier.
…arrival and downloading…
Changes I’ve made: I have an olive tree in a big pot instead of the two small pots, because people nick my stones and use the pots as ash trays…imagine!!
…just finished offloading…
I have postcards made of my artwork and bookmarks and edition prints. People can also browse through watercolors and drawings…which sell very good. And most of all, people enjoy fiddling through the sketchbooks and many want to buy, but of course the sketchbooks aren’t for sale. Next thing that interest them, is to buy a sketchbook and some materials for themselves, because they are inspired by it all. That is so exciting and now I’m preparing small “sketch kits” that people can buy for their holiday or as a gift with my own small handmade sketchbooks.
..opening the first day…
Since taking these photos, I’ve made a lot of changes:
The kids’ corner is bigger with their own little gallery against the wall. they LOVE this and the gallery is already filled up with their dawings: the principle is that they do a drawing for me and they can choose a lollipop from Pierrot Gourmand(see photo below) I provide all the paper and crayons and aprons, all they have to do, is make a drawing/painting).
My goal is probably not to get rich from this little gallery, but to make people aware of art and the fact that art doesn’t have to be expensive or for an exclusive part of the population. I want to show that a gallery doesn’t have to be boring, but can be fun and there can be something for everyone. I would like to have people feel the joy of buying a handmade postcard rather than a boring mass produced postcard from a tourist stall. I work in the gallery while people are browsing and talking to me and asking questions and so far, it seems as though they are enjoying the ambiance and feel of my little gallery, me working there included. Many have made comments on the nice smells of the citrus solvent I use, they enjoy touching and picking up, looking from up close. they even enjoy my music, which is mostly Edith Piaf and the poems of George Brassens and Léo Ferré.
I also have a theme each week or so, focusing on an artist, putting out books and info on this artist, what he did, images, reading material etc. This is still tough for people and most walk by, but there is the odd one who stops and reads.
Will I succeed in bringing art to the common man on the street? If I can reach only one person, then yes, I’ve succeeded.
My last post on Painting in Provence. Two oils and one gouache.All three were halfway done in the field and completed afterwards. they were all done at about three in the afternoon on hot days with the cigales singing in my ears, which was typical and I have no complaints about that. But the ants are at their most active at three in the afternoon too! Or so it felt! I got bitten the second I dare stand still and at some point I started feeling like I was knee deep in the movie “The Mummy”!
..red sandstone cliff…
oil on canvas paper
…afternoon vinyeards and broom…
oil on canvas paper…
…mont ventoux on a cloudy afternoon…
…gouache on paper…
I decided on a “small road”, done in gouache for myApril postcard to Robyn. Starting with the envelope, I painted in gouche a quick sketch of what I would like to do on the postcard.
gouache, ink and pencil on watercolor paper, 19x20cm.
gouache, ink and pencil on watercolor paper, 19x20cm.
# Also have a look here at Vivien’s road in England, which she also did for a postcard, very different in atmosphere and beautiful!
**And lastly.. I’ve been invited by Anna to take part in her series of interviews and it will be posted on her blog See. Be. Draw. on 28 April.
Until next time…à bientôt!
I wish you all a wonderful year with all the low points of last year turned into highlights this year!
I wanted to start this new year off with a plein air painting, no matter what the weather circumstances were. And I did. I took off this morning with my painting stuff and a new pochade I haven’t used before, to the Loire. The temperature read 2 degrees C. I only had running shoes to wear, because my daughter has my hiking boots in the mountains.
It was very difficult…it took me ages to set up my things, I kept on slipping in the mud, my fingers were numb before I even started painting and I struggled to open the caps and squeeze out the oils. I found the little pochade extremely uncomfortable and clumsy and missed my French easel all the time. I couldn’t open the Liquin bottle and had to run back home to fetch another. I found it comlicated to paint with the muffins and the scarf was choking me and I felt thick and uncomfortable with my sleeves in the way of the paint, constantly knocking over the mediums. I chose a difficult scene and had an uncomfortable spot in the mud and slighty up a hill. My eyes and nose were constant watery from the cold and I had to fiddle with tissues all the time, resulting in me arriving home with a face looking like my painting. After 2 hours I couldn’t stand on my numb feet any more and I started doing nonsense on the canvas, getting so frustrated that I slung my brush way into the distance, in the mud! And then I decided that I should pack it in.
BUT!! I completed the study. Although I don’t like the painting/study, and although it was an enormous struggle, I am very satisfied that I did it. It is one of my plans for the new year - to get out and paint even if the circumstances are challenging - and I WANTED to start today, on January 1st. Now I only need to get out there often to get used to these difficult winter plein air painting. In the end it is really gratifying and I now know I can do it. I can probably save this study in my atelier if I want to but it serves no purpose. I didn’t get out there today to produce a masterpiece, although I would’ve liked it to be a bit better than it turned out…
..winter loire corner study 1..
..oil on linen, 34x23cm..
**Next time I’ll give my opinion about this easel, because I think it is unfair to give it now after only one time of use. I am too used to my old french easel. This smaller one is a lovely hand made pochade from Ben Haggett.
**I will also say more about my art plans for this year.
Until next time… paint away!
We had terrible winds when I painted this painting. Everything tumbled over every now and then. So I feel quite proud that I’ve completed it.
… red roof…
oil on linen, 46x38cm (18″x15″)
…red roof: close-up…
And here is my preparation stage, the very first washes.
I have so much to learn when it comes to plein air painting. My biggest problem is usually finding the best viewpoint. Sometimes I impiulsively like a spot, just to realize after a while that the paintings doesn’t have any strong focus point, or the basics are weak(the shapes) or there is no interest, or it is too static. In this case I find that I have no real interest, no excitement, no strong focal point to hold the viewer captive, not enough strong movement to lead the viewer around the painting. So. Off to a next effort!
Yesterday I did a plein air(sur le motif) painting…on my birthday. It was great. I’m quite happy with it in the sense that I really didn’t fiddle..I gave a first wash, then a second layer thin paint and then the final layer and lastly added fine details and I’m happy it turned out OK.
And THANK you to everybody who sent me good wishes for my birthday…I loved each one!!
…a quiet path…
oil on canvas, 38x46cm
…preparation for plein air, quiet path…
I picked up my plein air painting again and even though the wrist is stiff and unwilling to be free and spontaneous, AND my eye is out, my perspective and composition is askew and the little apple tree stands right smack in the middle where the hill ends…a very bad meeting point and I might just go,out there and redo it tomorrow. But it is STILL wonderful! I realize again how much I love it…and how much I’ve neglected it.
The scene below is beautiful in real life, but doesn’t really work as a painting. As I’ve said before..sometimes a beautiful scene is there to enjoy with the eyes and sometimes an ordinary scene makes for a stunning painting. But it is worth it to go out and paint it all…it helps in deciding on a paintable scene, getting your eye focused for plein air. Painting plein air is SO different than painting from a photograph, in terms of “seeing. and of course, MUCH more gratifying, even if it doesn’t turn out the way one planned…which in fact it never does. Sometimes, the scene changes a bit too. like the scene below. In the painting it looks like there is a large hill to the right of the tree, which in fact, there isn’t. But it looks much better this way than it would without the “hill”. and I am not after realism, so seeing a hille on my painting which doesn’t exist in real life, gives me quite a kick. Makes me feel like I’m very original!
Our area is very green at the moment after the rains. The trees and forests are green, the fields and hills are beautifully green and lush, , there aren’t many colorful wildflowers around, so the world tends to be green, green green. Having all this green in a painting can make one feel a little woozy…
Maybe I’ll do the same scene again, but in some different colors than that which I see in front of me..
Plein air painting in oil on linen, 41x33cm (16,10″x12, 10″)…
When the poppie came into bloom a few weeks ago, I was highly excited. Been counting 365 and a quarter days for them to reappear.
Las year they were spectacular! I spent days with my camera next to these fields, planning to take out the brush and sketchbook next, but before I knew it, there were only a few late bloomers still standing…
Too late for a painting. Too late for a sketch. Next year is after all, another day.
…poppyfields of Vernou, 2008…
Next year showed up.
This time I had my act together. My easel was packed. My tubes were sqeezed. The oil was ready to swirl. Until I came to the poppy fields of last year. Not a poppy in sight! Instead, the wheat fields were covering every square inch as far as the eye could see. I drove around a whole morning in search of poppies to paint, heavily disappointed in myself for not taking an opportunity when it blatantly flashed itself to me!
I finally came upon a few poppies here and there, but nothing close to the spectacular drama I had seen last year. It was nonetheless an opportunity and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice!
…poppie field in Vernou, 2009…
I parked myself in the midst of the wheat field, in bright sun and delighted in capturing the even brighter burst of reds at the end of the field. My painting doesn’t really meet my expectations and I can’t even blame the poppies of 2009! Hopefully there is another year of poppies waiting for me; or even better, many years!
Life gave me a last reminder about opportunities and all those life – talking stuff, when I packed up and wanted to leave. I backed up into a ditch on the narrow farm road and it took me some thirty minutes and some broken and bent taillights connections… and wheely skidding… and exciting vocabulary to get the point.
…la matinée rouge…
oil on canvas, 41x33cm (16″x13″)
…detail: click on image to enlarge…
We arrived back from a six week stay at Coin perdu, Puy d’Arnac, where we worked a lot, hiked a lot, painted a lot, had friends visiting, so we wined and dined a lot and we experienced a lot.
…la frontiére, oil on board, 30x40cm…
With no Internet available or rather, we do sort of have Internet, but we are only provided with 56 kb/s by France Telecom which means that we have almost more ancient connection than the old modem system. So forget Internet, we don’t even try. Mobile phones only work on extremely bad mood days. We didn’t experience those. Fixed lines don’t exist, not yet anyway. No room for television in our barn where we are living for the next few months. Civilized? I don’t know. What does civilized mean after all? Any way, the only means of communication that exists at Coin perdu are the echoes of our voices across the valleys and woods. Echoes would thus be my means of “phoning” Hartman at the homestead where he’s ripping out walls and floors, to come help me carry my painting stuff from where I’m splashing and splattering in the woods, or in the hills or by the rivers. He has a fancy manner of whistling that is very distinct in its echo, I can only shout which breaks up towards the end in some sort of falsetto shriek, but it has its echo anyway. Or at least, it has Hartman showing up soon and that’s what counts. May I never have to show off my shriek. We had a friend visiting us who entertained us on his famous Tarzan cry. The echo had all the animals in the forest answering. And fleeing. A Welsh Tarzan. How about that. He still has to work a bit on his Tarzan outfit though…
I reveled in plein air painting and sketching, sometimes even completed three a day and I loved every single minute. My wardrobe can testify to that. I have to invest in a completely new wardrobe, but at least I can now stand in front of the mirror and choose my oil stained outfit for the day. Even our steering wheel is a colourful caleidoscope, an original abstract creation of expressionistic finger painting.
More on plein air painting and my personal views on it later. For now, two of my pieces. It took me about two hours each and I had the company of a free spirited dog who we named Scruffy, who goes in search of a willing promeneur on Sundays to walk him, a distinguished monsieur who was walking Scruffy, un pêcheur, who gave up on fishing after a short while and a toad, who looked as if he had just woken up from hibernation.
…l’arbre solitaire, oil on canvas, 20.5x35cm…
A few days ago I painted this corner of the Loire in oil. Unfortunately I fiddled with it afterwards while it was standing on the easel in the atelier to dry, resulting in losing some great first strokes and giving the water this almost “swimming pool” colour. Knowing well I have this addiction, I normally hang a painting immediately on the wall when done and then I don’t touch it…on the easel however, I always see something that needs fixing!
…ombre et lumiére..
I am leaving for Coin Perdu in Correze for about three weeks, which will be sort of a solitary retreat. And since I’m leaning towards oil painting for now, I’ve decided to pack all my oil stuff for some plein air painting for which the opportunities and subjects there are boundless. So I had a stack of boards, in different sizes, cut at my hardware store, and prepared them at home with first a coat of acrylic primer, then a coat of mixed gesso and modeling paste and lastly a coat of gesso. (after the method by David Curtis).
Some years ago I played around with modeling paste on canvases and several other surfaces, as can be seen in the next two paintings. Given a coat of gesso or acrylic primer, it provides a nice textured surface for some expressive work in oil and other mixed media.
…urn 1, mixed media on canvas…
…detail of texture(with modeling paste)..
…urn 2, mixed media on paper…
…detail of texture(with modeling paste)
oil on canvas, 30×30 cm.
…detail of texture(with modeling paste)…