Painting Courses in France

I’m back from teaching two painting courses at the chateau de beduer.

All went well. We have over thirty percent student return-rate (as we’ve been running since 1998, it’s always nice to see familar faces & old friends), which counts for us. Nice to be able to say that we are recommended by Time Out London as well as France magazine.

Some photos from the Lot, France

Here are some photographs of the event. First, in this post, some of the setting & then in another, I’ll post some photos of the students hard at work (yes, students do tend to work hard & put in long hours!).

The Lion Gates, Entrance to Chateau de Beduer, Lot , France. This photo shows the medieval part of the chateau, dating from the Hundred Years War.

Two guardians of the seventeenth century wing.

Beautiful early morning valley mists from the specular terraces.

Lots of colourful painting opprtunities

The chateau is located in ‘le Parc Naturel des Causses de Quercy’, so nature is protected & agriculture isn’t intensive, monocultural & out-sized.

The shady lime trees in the park

happy days in a beautiful place 🙂 Lucky me, beauty is good for happines.

‘Frederick and Jessie Etchells Painting’
Vanessa BELL
oil on board
51 x 53 cm
Tate, London

‘Duncan Grant Painting’
Vanessa BELL
50 x 40 cm
Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermartizburg

Two Vanessa Bell paintings of painters painting.

The first painting is from her Asheham House – Bloomsbury days. Virgina Woolf, Lytonn Strachey, Roger Fry, Meynard Keynes… Bloomsbury was a meeting of minds & personalities. Literary, social, artistic & economic questioning & creativity to create one of Britain’s most brilliant schools of painting . A sense of communal purpose… and a disffusion of Modernism into English speaking countries( Roger Fry acquired many avant-garde paintings for various New York museums in his role as advisor).
On or about December 1910, human character changed. – Virgina Woolf.
The second painting is witness to the great friendship between Grant & Bell. They felt free in each other’s company. They painted together. When we look at the exuberance of this ‘colourist’ style of painting, we must try & remember it in it’s Modernist context. Whilst such a style of painting may be relatively wide spread nowadays, when it was painted it was breakthrough stuff. More composed & assured than the french fauvists of 1907 but more vibrant, colourful & freer in handling than most post-cubist work elsewhere of the 1920’s
Rebels of either sex all the world over who in an any way are fighting for freedom of any kind – Frank Rutter, dedication to the pamphlet ‘post Impressionism: Revolution in Art’ 1910
-The flashing brillance…the pidgeon breast radiance  Virgina Woolf, writing in a letter about her sister’s , Vanessa Bell, use of colour.

Paintings of Painters Painting : Drawings of Draughts-Persons Drawing

All levels welcome, from genius to absolute beginner.

I thought it might be fun to gather together a few of the images from ‘Le Musée Imaginaire’ (André Malraux)

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780)

When I was in Paris last April, I saw the exhibition of Saint-Aubin at the Louvre. It was in America before it came over to Paris. But now it’s finished touring …. The reason why I thought a little review might be of interest was because this artist was a prolific sketcher as well as being a veritable mixed-media artist. Mixed-media, in his day, had a dirty name, as it it does more or less today as well).

  • – He sketched in the streets of Paris ‘sur la vif’ (on the hoof & from life).

Deux enfants dont l’un tient un cerf-volant…
Deux enfants dont l’un tient un cerf-volant, un rémouleur, un violoneux…
5 avril 1758
Plume et encre noire sur traits à la pierre noire
Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques © RMN / Gérard Blot

” Why does a fine sketch please us more that a fine picture? It is because there is more life in it… Why can a young student, incapable of doing even a mediocre picture, do a marvellous sketch? It is because the sketch is the product of enthusiasm and inspiration, while the picture is the product of labour, patience, lengthy study and consummate experience in art. ” – DIDEROT, 1767.

  • He painted city-life & in this was something of precursor of modernism, which was essentailly urban (see ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ by Baudelaire).

Voltaire’s “Coronation” at the Théâtre Français on March 30, 1778, 1778
Watercolor over pen and ink, brush and gray wash
Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques,

“The life of Gabriel was always out of the home; when he was not in the streets, he was in the Café de Vendôme, in which I was also present, in the public milleu of writers & artists discussing, chattering, gossiping about all the philosophic chit-chat that could be squeezed into the tiny margins of his pages of drawings.” – Goncourt Brothers, 1859 (my translation)

  • He wasn’t scared of crowds. Loved a good spectacle.

Armide, Opéra de Quinault et Lully dans l’ancienne salle de l’Opéra
Plume, aquarelle et gouache sur mine de plomb sur papier
H. 30,8 cm ; L. 50 cm
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts © 2007, Museum of Fine Arts

“Mais je le vois accompagné d’une espèce de Dessinateur occupé à griffoner sur les marges d’un livret les plus grands tableaux d’Histoire du Salon” [cf. Vue du Salon, 1765] – Ah! c’est notre ami Croquetel […] Qui est-ce qui ne le connoît pas? Qui est-ce qui ne l’a pas vu, calquant, croquant, dessinant dans les jardins, les salons, les ventes, les places publiques? Il n’étoit pas nécessaire de me dire qu’il étoit ici, je l’aurois pressenti” (Anonyme, Janot au Salon, 1779).

my translation in haste …
” But I saw him accompanied by a type of draughstman who was busy scratching away in the margins of a booklet the greatest paintings of the History of Salon (- Ah , that’s our friend Croquetel (…) who doesn’t know him? Who hasn’t seen him, sketching, drawing in the parks, the salons, the auction-rooms, the public places?

  • He had a fine mastery of tonality, which is essential for a good watercolourist.

Germain-Augustin and Rose de Saint-Aubin, Drawn by Their Uncle, 1766
Brush and gray wash, over black chalk and graphite
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • He used pastel, gouache, pencil, watercolour & ink together. al sorts. And in any order. Sometimes dry medii over wet, other times wet over dry.

Les Chaises, 1772
Eau-forte, plume et encre noire, aquarelle H. 10,3 cm ; L. 21,8 cm Paris, musée Carnavalet © Georges Poncet

Inscriptions : à la plume et à l’encre grise sous l’image au milieu : SPECTACLE DES TUILERIE / 1760 ; à gauche : le faste se repose en ces jardins charmants / les circles sont formés autour de chaque belle ; et à droite : nonchalamant assis, milles couples d’amants… / S’y jurent à leur aise une flame eternelle.

L’un des cent mille Croquis de Gabriel Jaque de Saint Aubin, l’un des plus intrepides dessinateurs du Siecle. il Croquoit Sur la marge des Catalogues, les tableaux et desseins qu’on exposoit en vente, S’il aloit a la promenade, Son crayon metoit a contribution les passants. les Seances Academiques n’etoient pour lui qu’un tableau mouvant dont il faisoit une Esquisse. au sermon il dessinoit le predicateur. en un mot, il eut toutte Sa vie, un priapisme de dessein.[Charles-Germain s’approprie la remarque de Greuze] C’est dommage qu’il ait negligé l’ordre et la propreté dans Ses compositions. il est mort en fevrier 1780, âgé de 56 ans.

  • Greuze thought it a shame that he neglected “order” & “cleanliness” . He was not accepted by the estabilshment of the Academies, didn’t win the Prix de Rome etc. & thus was excluded from the most lucrative of art markets.
Sketch after St.Aubin ”Cours Publique au College Royal de Phamarcie’
Adam Cope

  • I did the above sketch after St.Aubin to try & figure out just how he used mixed medii. Normally I personally don’t like the feel of wet over dry ( prefering dry over wet which has dried eg chalk pastels over dried watercolour). St.Aubin smudged a lot & used his fingers. This is a fairly dirty way of working… I soon realised that my fingers were getting dirty& decided to stop, as getting dirty in the Louvre wasn’t really my intention. And whilst I was there there was gaggle of self-important specialists, maybe museum curators or cataloguists… waving their pens about over clipboards…I decided they were better game than St. Aubin, so I did them as dirty a way as mixed medii would allow.

‘Les Specialistes’
Mixed medii Sketch
Adam Cope

  • Eighteenth century Paris was the center of much scientific research. Saint-Aubin’s sketches are amongst the few images of this period that remain. They capture something of the turbulence of period. Here’s a picture of the King in the academy of surgeons.

Louis XVI posant (…) 1774
Pierre noire, aquarelle et gouache, H. 23, 1 cm ; L. 17,4 cm Inscriptions : vers le haut, à droite : M. le comte d’Angiviler présente le mortier au roi Louis… ; en bas à gauche : Gabriel de St Aubin fecit 1774. Paris, musée Carnavalet © Georges Poncet L’histoire contemporaine Catalogue

  • The artist was something of a news reporter. Remember these drawings were made before photography.

L’Incendie de l’Hôtel-Dieu 1772

Pierre noire, encre de Chine, aquarelle et gouache H. 18,1 cm ; L. 24 cm Paris, musée Carnavalet © Georges Poncet

  • He is in his way a precursor of Modernism, as his non-idealising regard on the subjects & events of his own day. This approach has the grain of the nineteenth century Realism aka Manet.

Paris – La Folie! Travel Sketchbook

Paris – La Folie Adam Cope
Double spread A5 Sketchbook
mixed media

“We should talk less and draw more. I personally should like to renounce speech altogether and, like organic Nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Warm & Cool Colours in Painting

Some colour theorists confute the notion of warm & cool colours, saying it is far too culturally relative to be constant. Red in one culture is perceived as cool whilst in another it is considered warm. Weither or not scientists use the concept of warm / cool is up to them, IMO. As painters, I believe it to be essential. As painters, we are more concerned with how colours relate to each others rather than finding definite, all embracing, verbal linguistic definitions of colour. Getting them to ‘work’ pictorially….is what interests me.

Bruce Macevoy at boils it down to saying that warm colours are more colour rich than cool colours. ie they are more intense & more saturated.

The visual push-pull that happens between warm/cool is because they are opposite sides of the colour wheel & thus give a greater contrast than a range of colours that are pre-domoninantly cool or warm colours.

La Tete de la Vallée’
Adam Cope

oil on panel
62 x 23 cm

Note how in the above painting how the turquoise jumps out & bangs against the red… maximum warm/cool contrast push-pull. A deliberate use of clashing warm/ cool.


Paintings built with adjacent colours are less contrasty & tend to give a more harmonious end-result. These colours are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel & tend not too clash, have low contrast & can have the contiguity of ‘good neighbours’.

Here is a painting built using a gamme of cool greens & blues, darks & the odds warm brown. The key is low contrast & the mood I find, is cool & calm.

‘Le Noyer’
Adam Cope
Oil on Canvas

The next painting is cool. Adjacent blues & turquoises & greens play off against high whites & yellows. The key is higher; not all cool paintings need to be glum & gloomy.

Adam Cope
Oil on Canvas


Try placing a warm colour accent on the focal point. The orange stroke is warmer than the background & thus atracts the eye… ‘Jewel in the Crown’ was what nineteenth century ‘how to paint’ books called this recipe.

’42 Degrees Centigrade’

Adam Cope
Oil on gessoed card

Again, placing the warmest colour on the focal point…

‘Abricot et Couteau # 2’
Adam Cope
oil on panel
32 x 26 cm


warm or cool ?? : this is the question you need to ask yourself when confronted with ‘tricky’ not quiet greys or could-be browns or might-be greens, colours which are difficult to perceive & even more difficult to mix.