‘Avec Nostradamus ( La Nuit de Temps commencant à la Fontaine de St Rémy)’
Watercolour, Arches, quarter ‘jesuit’ sheet.
© The Artist.
300 euros

I didn’t paint this watercolour last week, as I was very busy teaching one of my Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais, France

night-time plein air

This watercolour was another of my night-time plein air pieces. St Rémy de Provence is the birth place of Nostradamus; there’s a little fontaine erected to honour this visionary. The night of time, the flowing out of water, the passing of time, Janus-like, we strive to see into the future, understand the past & … live in the present.

tonality & ‘notan’

The reason why I post this as it continues on with the recent theme of tonality & ‘notan’ that I’ve been thinking about out loud here in this blog. One of the interesting concepts behind the japanese idea of notan is that black & white can be used as a design tool rather than a strict ‘draw what you see’ policy. Tonality is crucial for watercolour, probably even more so than for opaque mediums such as oils. Diluting, painting with beautiful transparent washes of clear water…. A precision of tone much finer & far more subtle than anything that can be achieved with buttery oil paint, with all that business of adding of white.
To prove the point, see what happens when I strip the colour out the above jpeg. The design decisions that I consciously & deliberately made become more apparent.

greyscale via PS elements


this is the second post of ‘fauvist barns’

‘Sechoir à Tabac’
30 x 40 cm.
Oil on Panel
© The Artist

 anti-fauve barns

Just updating the post  ‘Sechoir à Tabac’ (it’s about the above painting) in which I chatted about ‘anti-fauve’ barns ….trying to keep a barn door rusty brownish red, rather than letting it slip into heighten, saturated colour RED.

With a painter’s confession – there’s always apart of me that wishes to paint all bright & fauve. Or least prioritize colour in a composition.

POST-SCRIPTUM 2009 : well, hell…. why not? want red?   …….   I’ll give myself red. Call it ‘artistic license’, though I feel Kandinsky was nearer the truth when he called it ‘inner necessity’ … these battles for creative freedom seem easy when looking from the outside, but brush in hand  & face to face with one’s own ‘inner critic’ …. not to mention the hoards of outer critics who churp distainfully about ‘but it doesn’t look anything like that’)… red, my friend, my desire, I see you & I feel you. And my palette needs you. A cure for green sickness. No red without green?

Here’s one of my painting that’s red, primary red & with no subtle deviations…

‘Three Cherry Trees’
30 x 40 cm
oil on board
© the artist

Wassily Kandinsky… FLOURESCENT RED BARNS… (yes… and why not?)

I knew I’d seen a ‘fauve barn’ somewhere or other, once upon a time, and whilst idling away a lunchtime in a bookshop in Bergerac, I chanced upon the elusive fauve barn again … Wassily Kandinsky 1908….(OK OK so it’s a house and not a barn … but it IS a very red house)

What a heady & wild painting, even a hundred years later!

It’s only a few years till those abstracts of flying circles, wiggly black lines & crazy mathematical grids tha would fly out of Kandinsky’s painting & carry on vibrating long after the mundane is done with. Mickey Mouse in his Fantasia. Who could forget that?

The gaucherie that frequently accompanies break-through paintings. Whilst I remain essentially a plein-air painter, these epoch-making, mold-breaking pieces still attract me. There’s a heat, passion & a vision beyond the copyist of nature. Call it art, if you like.

Wassily Kandinsky.
Murnau Street with Women, 1908
Private Collection.Courtesy of the New Gallery, New York

Fauvisme – c’est le rouge, n’est pas? D’abord , c’est le rouge…

Maurice Vlaminck

‘Restaurant at Merly-le-Roi’
price : very probably more than you can afford.
It must have blown Vlaminck’s mind when he painted this wonderful painting. Jamais vu…never before seen, a red like you only see in your dreams or on yur palette or in true art….

‘Sechoir à Tabac 2’ (Tobacco Drying Barn)
Oil on MDF panel
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
© The Artist.

Probably needs a dash more red, no? Not even a little red dot on corner of this one 😉

Fauvist Barns 1 : Muted Red & not Heightened RED
YOU ARE HERE : Fauvist Barns 2 : Fauvist Barns, Heightened Colour…Vlaminck & Kandinsky
Fauvist Barns 3 : Red in Landscape Painting

Bergerac Waterfront #3 (finished state)

44 x 56 cm (17″ x 22″approx) Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
450 €

Well, this is about as far as I can take this one (I think…when a painting is knocking about in the studio, I sometimes see many more other things that might possibly be done). It’s what I call a ‘large small’ painting, not quiet a medium size but certainly not a post-card size minature. When working on plein-air paintings in the studio, there’s always the risk of losing the ‘freshness’ that can be found in ‘being there’ on the spot, the experience of the event, in that unique & particular moment in time.
I’ve felt extra close to the river Dordogne this past week, as we’ve had old friends & god-children down to stay on holiday. We all went for a really long lovely (no better word) canoe trip on the Dordogne. I post below something more like the the ‘canoe’s -eye view’. A truly beautiful river. These memories live in the mind’s eye, and guide the hand to see better the essential in the scene before one. The Dordogne at Bergerac is large & wide, dark & strong, sometimes mirror-like or sometimes, like in the above painting, all cut-up, stormy & more like the sea than a wee river. Begerac is the town where we were married, where my wife &, now, my two children were born. A really good town. A good place to paint.– even in the rain!

‘Reedbeds at Lalinde’ 72 x 36 cm.

44 x 56 cm (17 ” x 22″approx). Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
Click on image to enlarge (& see without the blur).

Same painting as previous post, second time on location. In the rain, with exciting silver lighting effects. Probably in need of a session in the studio to tie it together. The water was broken up, with no reflection, which is OK as I perceive the Dordogne to have a black, dark aspect to it. Beautiful river! (difficult to paint).
Here’s a detail of the architecture. It’s an old grain warehouse. The quai that you see was an important place of trade on the river, with wine , wood and grain being exported down river. Not much of that now, only the tourist boats, fisher men, car parking, adoleescents & the occassional lovers.

44 x 56 cm (17 ” x 22″approx) Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
Click on image to enlarge (& see without the blur).

Quai Salvetat vu de La Pelouse. Tableau en état de progres.
Great storms & torrential rains here in the Dordogne for the last few days. I painted this the morning before the storm, with passing clouds & intermittent sunlight, hence the bluish cast to the light.

‘Sechoir à Tabac’
30 x 40 cm. Oil on Panel.© The Artist.

Old Tobacco Drying Barns

The South West is where most of France’s tobacco is grown. This is an old drying barn (sechoir), not far from my house. In these types of barns, alot of work goes on, as the leaves are hung up to dry & then carefully processed by hand. One of the jobs is to take the leaves off the trunks, which are large & woody. As I was painting this, the farmer was burning the old trunks on a smokey bonfire. An aroma of fresh tobacco floated across the landscape. For just how long this crop will go on being produced, I don’t know. Recently the government passed a law banning all smoking in public spaces, much to the annoyance of ‘Les Gauloises’.

 Some American fauve barns :

Allen Tucker (1866–1939)   Red Barns 1923


no heightened colour RED

Heightened colour = where the colour is pushed back to the most saturated, most intense. Back to ‘pure’ colour straight from the tube, the ‘mother’ colour of the mixes.

I remember reading somewhere in a Robert Genn newsletter, something about trying to paint a rusty barn & keep it browny rust , rather than let it go over into heightened colour RED. So I decided to try out this pictorial idea of an ‘anti-fauve barn’ , being something of a fauve myself.

Et viola la resultat (as much this poor quality pin-hole digitial camera will allow. Yes, I’m still waiting to be reimbursed by Sony Minolta for the manufacturors default in my Minolta Dimage A1).



Rules in Painting

However, so as to make up for following one rule, I also decided to deliberately break another ‘artistic’ rule. That of never placing the centre of interest in the middle of the picture. These rules have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Part of me still longs to paint a fauve barn, hei oui!  Red, I see you on my palette & in my dreams… but where are you in my paintings?

this is the post fauvist barns part one
fauvist barns part two – fauvist-barns-heightened-colour-vlaminck-kandinsky

Fauvist Barns 3 : Red in Landscape Painting

Heightened Colour in Photography

Château de Biron

30 x 40 cm. Oil on panel.

One of the exceptional things about the South West is the sheer density of history. You go out for a drive, and not too infrequently when you turn around a corner, you see a huge chateau or a crumbling medieval church or a house built into a cliff face.
Château de Biron is gigantesque. You can see it looming above the horizon line from miles away. Here I’ve painted it from about two miles away, as it sticks above the tree line. It is set amidst a baronial hunting forest, mixed oak & pine.


12 Figure (61 x50 cm) Oil on Canvas. Ask for price. 2004.

This is an oil from 2004, done from the hill in my commmune, looking towards Biron. You can just about make out the chateau on the horizon line, in the middle of the canvas. I tought I’d post it to give you an idea of just how far away you can see the chateau. Biron is twenty six kilometres from the spot where I painted this.

Avec Yvés (aux pieds des Baux de Provence)

Watercolour. Quarter sheet Arches.

The view in landscape painting

Just carrying on with my rambling musings about ‘THE VIEW’ and previous painters…

Same view, again from September last, this time in a different medium. Walk the hills with my ‘confrérès’, other fellow artists who have painted the same landscape, the same paths & the same hills. Before me. Same view. Different vision? Well, up on the hill top, in Les Baux, I had visited le Musée ‘Yvés Brayer’ in the morning & so this is something of a hommage to another of my favourite painters. Those who have walked on this ground before me, who have made a path, their hearts & their hopes blowing in the wind, high above the hills, with the eagles.

Can we see the view without seeing previous artist’s paintings of the same view?

Yvés = Yvés Brayer

St. Cirq Lapopie #2

Some things about this painting were niggling me, so this is now as far as i can take this image. Generally, about painting architecture in oils in small scale paintings, such as 30 x 40 cm…. difficult! At least,it’s a subject I’ve always preferred to tackle in drawing & watercolour. I find it easier to get the pencil or the pen or the watercolour brushes into such small spaces. Maybe I’m trying to shrink to much into to little space, given my painting style, which veers towards the large stroke?

30 x 40 cm. Oil on panel.

Why paint a post card view? Is it too much of a cliché? Should an artist seek a new take or an odd angle to defamilarise the overly-familar?
This is THE VIEW. It is however just incredibly spectacular. The ‘veduta’, and if you string together a series of ‘veduti’ you arrive at the formula of the tourist guide books. A series of cliché views. Acquire these & you have visual confirmation of your holiday. Now much visited. Still spectacular.

Le Pays du Dropt – peinture

‘Chez Henri et Yvette ‘
30 x 40 cm. Oil on Panel.

Another of my neighbours, here in ‘Le Pays du Dropt.’ The coppiced willows, ‘vieux têtards’, follow the old chemin communal which used to run from Castillonès to Villéreal. Here is a place where you can feel the history in landscape; It hasn’t yet been cut up into seven kilometre square treeless, hedgeless fields. The generations of hands that worked the land created ‘le bocage’, a delicate tapestry of little fields & brimming hedges. And the land worked them too, so that even their houses took on a feel of the land. I know it all looks abit ninteenth century-ish, but in my village, there are more old houses than new build. And that’s not counting all the others that have returned into the earth, literally just sunk back into the ground.