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.
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.
My first plein air painting in two years..and I chose a rainy and snowy day to do it! Not the best composition ever and with very finicky brushwork (but with a nice stroke here and there!), I succeed in finishing it. And most importantly, I enjoyed it so, so much!!!
So, after all sorts of difficulties, I think this is what they call “breaking the ice”, so now I should start settling back into the process…and the joy plein air painting gives me.
Oil on gessoed board, 41x33cm
With this very first post of 2013, I wish you all a very good new year..may it be all you wish it to be!
I have gotten myself back to the easel and sketchbook..a great achievement here in January. For myself, I hope that 2013 will be a better year than the previous, especially on the art front. But of course, that only depends on one person..me.
Of all the sketches I did today, the following ones are the most successful. The three chickens kept still long enough with their backsides to me, so I could practice my observation skills which got lost during the past year.
..three chickens in a row..
done in watercolor on Aquarelle block, HP, 18x26cm
It is a different story with the birds. The mésanges(tits) are way too quick for me and I could only succeed in blobs of colour which looked more like flying saucers and even that would be an insult to the Martians. So I took closeups and put my own sketch together. According to my own rule, it is then not by definition a sketch, but more of a drawing, using sketching techniques. That is a mouthful! By my definition a sketch is only a sketch when done right in front of the live subject, “sur le motif”, we call it in French. when using the help of otter media..magazines, photos, it becomes drawing. The observation and rendering become totally different. By saying I used “some sketching technique”, I suggest that I used about 4 different photos, composed 2 birds on my paper, referred to the photo’s for colour and lastly added some branches and seeds from direct observation from the tree. So, finally, the whole sketch is my own composition with my branches and seed block being a true sketch with birds drawn onto it…
..Feeding two mésanges..
done in watercolor in Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook, 15.3x25cm.