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Now isn’t that special..

This writing is all about ME. So, if you can’t stand self-indulgence, then you should move on immediately.

I was used to intense birthday celebrations since childhood.  Making a fuss of a birthday was a milieu I grew up in. My mom went to a lot of trouble to make it special, to make the birthday boy/girl feel special, whoever it was. She also made her friends feel special. Somehow she felt special too by seeing everybody else  feel special. She had a good friend from childhood. They both got married at different stages, had their families and ended up living far away from each other, which resulted in less contact. But they religiously called each other every year on their birthdays until my mother died at 84 years old.  And on these birthday calls they chatted away, catching up on the year’s news, and time and distance fell away. Isn’t that special...

…l’orage approche…

oil on canvas, 30x30cm

l'orage approche

After leaving home, my birthday celebration years continued. With my family. With a small but close circle of friends. And a few traditions. I have a friend celebrating the same day as mine. Every year on our birthday, Naomi baked(and still does) this incredible black forest cake. Only this one time a year. And it was tradition that I would go over to her house  for a quick coffee(before all the visits started) and the two of us would feast on a slice each. With another friend I shared another kind of tradition; I baked her a cake on her birthday and she bake me one on my birthday…I once got a  sticky marsh-mellow cake from her and on her birthday she got a giant pink and white cake smothered in rose petals from me. We laughed. This very same friend, Colette, booked an airoplane ticket  a few years later to share  my 40th  birthday with me in South Carolina, US. Isn’t that special…

I had a surprise one year, organized by Mariaan, one crazy, deliciously fun friend. Nobody called me on my birthday that year. It was a strange phenomena.  It just didn’t happen. I was always spoiled with phone calls and drop-ins and cards from very early morning on every birthday. That year…nothing! Nada! Except of course for my family living far away. By the evening I was in such a bad state of depression that I decided to leave town the next day, never to return. I would go live with the animals in the bush. On our way out to “dinner” that evening(my last meal in civilization, I decided…), I opened the door and stared into the laughing faces of my whole circle of friends.  Each with a huge dish of food and drinks and coloured gifts with huge bows and even huger smiles. We ate and drank and danced, they washed dishes and we kept the neighbourhood up until early hours. Isn’t that special…

Then we left South Africa. Celebrating birthdays changed face very suddenly. The next birthday was only the four of us and our good friends Cecily and family in Felixstowe, who were there for one year.  I tried very hard to be original, making us a meal in grandiose style..so many courses, wearing  evening attire with french perfumes, sat down to a pristine set table…just to have an over the top, overcooked meal with the dessert literally running off the meringue! But the memory of laughter and jokes and joy of sharing with family and two good friends in a foreign country stays firmly on the plate. Isn’t that special…

Since then, birthdays have been quiet and I’ve been spoiled by my family with love,  gifts early morning in bed, breakfasts, and intimate dinners in chateaux, dinners by die fire and a far away call here and there. Isn’t that special…

...le forêt…

oil on canvas, 24x33cm

le forêt

This week I was surprised with facebook wishes from all over the planet, with Marta being the leader of the pack..starting it off already a day early! I was bowled over by the wishes from people I have just recently met, or never met yet , or only seen photos of, or only exchanged emails with and even people I never thought would care to send me wishes! I received a mail from a friend who is away on holiday in Corsica, who cared enough to take some time from precious sunny days to send me good wishes. I received an international  mobile phone call from a good friend in SA who couldn’t reach me at home in Montlouis, who will have a horrendously expensive bill to pay very soon!! There is a gift waiting for me in the mail and by opening it, my house will be strewn with glitter stars and I will find a star on the floor somewhere until next year when her next gift will show up, decorated with glittery stars! After all the quiet years with only my small family here in France and  a call here and there from my family and friends far away. Now isn’t that special…!

Maybe you receive a lot of special attention on your  special day in the year and might think this is peanuts to the attention you receive! It is possible. Maybe you’re reading here and thinking peeved how lucky I am for you don’t even receive a single note or call! It is possible. Which makes this writing then not so selfindulgent any more. Because at some stage or another, we all have the need to feel special. To have  a memory of one day in a year that belonged only to you, a day that you can look back onto and say: “Now wasn’t that special..!”

Bales of hay in oil

We are so busy at your mountain home, swinging hammers, knocking out beams, digging trenches for drainage under floors…the closest I can get to being creative , is rubbing Aloe vera hot gel on sore muscles and Arnica on purple bruises. I do take my camera out frequently to record the renovation process and then at the same time quickly dash off to snap an insect or pretty flower or some raindrops.

We have also got highspeed internet now at Coin Perdu and this weekend we cuckooed around the computer as if it were a new born baby with blue eyes! We also have a telephone. Not that I’m excited about that. I hat a telephone. But it does signify that slowly but surely things are progressing at Coin Perdu and we are not alone out here!

…bales of hay…

bolle 3

I did manage to paint the bales of hay that had been cut on our land…an interesting process that fascinated me for the whole two weeks it took to cut the land, air it, roll it and then load it to store for the winter. It gave me a huge kick to know our land was giving back to nature.

…painting it…

bolle 2

Lingering-in-the-summer sun-sketches

I find that I am always doing nothing most of the time or everything at the same time. When this happens, I feel that at no time am I doing a good job in anything that I do and always need more time.  Every time , I wish I could decide on doing only one thing at a time. Maybe that way, I at least could do something right, some of the time.

…intended to be vintage Citroen

vintage citroen

I am in a phase where I am now doing everything at the same time: I am putting up a post here on Africantapestry, I have also updated Myfrenchkitchen, which means I have done some real cooking and kitchen fiddling for a change,  Nothing extraordinary, BUT it is cool and  healthy!

I have played around with my camera too and updated Coin Perdu, a mountain home, where we drift in and out of nature and restoration in  Corréze.

Not forgetting my plein air painting of hay stacks and bales and tractors…and sketching under the bistro umbrellas of people lingering around in the sun …and a cute little vintage Citroen posing. Just for me.

Some of the sketches worked, some turned out completely distorted – the Citroen is unrecognizable and the people in the second sketch resemble figures from Lord of the rings. But…Fun nonetheless.

So. Let’s ride the tide while it is high and do either something, or anything and everything all at the same time!

…lingering sun seekers…

people in the summer sun

…distorted sun seekers…

people in the summer sun 2

All sketches in done in moleskine in pen and wartercolour

Lastly: If you drop by here, please check that you are in my linklist – I have only come to realize how many people I don’t have in my linklist, now that the superblog is down…and of course it wasn’t intentional!  So please leave me your link in the comments or in an email ! C’mon, don’t be shy..yye!

Plein air paintings 1.

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…

la frontiére

…detail…

la frontiere detail

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…

collines lointaines

…detail…

ccollines- detail

Oil painting

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..

ombre-et-lumiere1oil on canvas, 30×30 cm (11.8×11.8 in)

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…

urn1

…detail of texture(with modeling paste)..

detailurn1

…urn 2, mixed media on paper…

smallurn

…detail of texture(with modeling paste)

smallurn-detail-21

…pineapples…

pineapplesoil-12-13-2008-3-20-52-pm

oil on canvas, 30×30 cm.

…detail of texture(with modeling paste)…

pineapplesoildetail