(Les Eyzies)
watercolour & ink
A5 Sketchbook



12 SEPT _ 3 OCT 2008


I’m exhibiting at ‘L’Office de Tourisme’ At Les Eyzies, Dordogne. Les Eyzies has the nick-name of ‘The Prehistoric Capitol of the World’ as it was here that most of the discoveries of prehistory were found in the ninteenth century. The Tourism Office is opposite the Musée Nationale de Prehistoire which was revamped a few years ago & is just incredible. Beautiful museology, well displayed & sufficently contextualised with notes pitched at an intelligent reader of ‘beginner’ level of knowledge of prehistory.

In this exhibition, I’m showing my works from the Vézère valley & the Célé valley. These are works about rocks & cliffs & caves & wild nature outside of the modern cultivated landscapes of today. For me, it’s a pleasure bringing these works to Les Eyzies as it feels like a sort of home-coming. Local people, who know the cliffs, have complemented me on the ‘truth’ in my depictions.

This year, I’ve been spending time up the Vézère researching Prehistoric Art & getting the feel of the place. ‘Resonances’. I’ll try & post some of my notes & art-scribbles over the next few days. Stay posted.

Related Categories in this blog: Rock, Prehistory


Moon Calendar from Ice Age Europe?

I took a photo of this prehistoric artifact at the Museum of Pech-Merle this spring, when they had an exhibition about the stars & prehistory. Regrettably I didn’t get the provenance (I think it might be a find from the Castel Merle grotte). It’s a ‘mobile’ portable artifact, which some interpret as a moon calendar . The moon has a 29 day cycle so observe that there could be 14 notches on the first row depending on what one counts, & that maybe the deviation in row two into a circle rather than a row, was meant to be indicative of the disappearing or empty moon?

For me nature is not landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces.. an event rather than an appearance. These forces can only be tackled by treating color and form as ultimate identities, freeing them from all descriptive or functional roles. _ Bridget Riley

One of the primary concerns of any aesthetic response is that one stops at the image or artifact, rather than immediately transcending it into an interpretation or meaning, which thus ‘dematerialising’ it. An artwork should have ‘presence’. This presence is its indisputable & physical reality. It asserts its independant & immanent existance, other & above any interpration that the onlooker may bring to it or find via inspiration. OK – meanings will evolve out this fact of material man-made presence. People will interpret it as they will. A certain amount of meaning will be conveyed for the most part to the majority of an audience in one moment of cultural history.


People want to find a “meaning” in everything and everyone. That’s thedisease of our age, an age that is anything but practical but believes itself to be more practical than any other age. – Picasso

Meanings change. Cultures change. But a beautifully made object will always have a certain fascination.

The pin holes are very fine on the obove abject. Paleohistoric creators used to have a special napped stone-tool for drilling holes in sea-shells for jewellery & leather for clothes.

Art is made to disturb. Science reassures. There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain. – Braque

Lascaux BBC

Oldest lunar calendar identified

“They were aware of all the rhythms of nature. Their survival depended on them.” – Dr Michael Rappenglueck

Dr Michael Rappenglueck, of the University of Munich, intreprets Lascaux as astrological. Which is contary to what Jean Clottes was asserting as I quoted him in the last post here. Also, obcure, arcane & nearly inpenetrable as I personally found it, mythologist & specialist in Shamanism, Mircea Eliade in his book ‘The Myth of the Eternal Return’ does make the point about the cyclical rebirth of moon being a universal constant image of …?

It doesn’t seem wild speculation to suppose that, after day & night, the moon’s cycle should be an obivious way of counting time. The English used a thirteen moon calendar right up to Tudor times, despite the official calendars of the ruling & learned classes. Urban life, with lit up evenings infront of the television misses the close contact the our ancestors had with the night sky.


‘Book of Nut’
Tomb of Ramoses IV
Valley of the Kings

Egyptian Lunar Calendars

Another great image on a ceiling to which Lascaux is frequently compared to is the Sistine Chapel. Note the stress on the word ‘ceiling’ as in cave art you frequently have to bend the neck & look upwards. The same gesture is required to look at the stars (unless of course you lay down on your back). Personally I prefer to compare Lascaux to the astrological ceiling calendars of Ancient Egypt, such as the Book of Nut in Ramoses IV tomb or the great ‘stargate’ Zodiac of the Temple of Hathor at Denadra, which is now in the Louvre.

Image:Louvre 122006 019.jpg


homo sapiens is homo spiritalis

A frieze of horses and rhinos near the Chauvet cave’s Megaloceros Gallery, where artists may have gathered to make charcoal for drawing. Chauvet contains the earliest known paintings, from at least thirty-two thousand years ago.

good article in the new yorker concerning the prehistoric cave paintings here in the dordogne & elsewhere in sw france

i particularly like the jean clottes quote: Homo sapiens is Homo spiritualis

“You can advance a scientific hypothesis without claiming certainty,” Clottes told me one evening. “Everyone agrees that the paintings are, in some way, religious. I’m not a believer myself, and I’m certainly not a mystic. But Homo sapiens is Homo spiritualis. The ability to make tools defines us less than the need to create belief systems that influence nature. And shamanism is the most prevalent belief system of hunter-gatherers.”

“The topography hasn’t changed much, except that the Ice Age vegetation was much sparser: mostly evergreens, like fir and pine. Without all the greenery, the resemblance of the Pont d’Arc to a giant mammoth would have been even more dramatic. But nothing of the landscape—clouds, earth, sun, moon, rivers, or plant life, and, only rarely, a horizon—figures in cave art. It’s one among many striking omissions.” – jean clottes (in the interview)

Letter from Southern France

First Impressions

What does the world’s oldest art say about us?

by Judith Thurman

Le Grand Roc, Les Eyzies, Dordogne

‘Le Grand Roc, Les Eyzies’
Oil on Canvas
86,5 x 76 cm ; 34 x 30 inches
Tous Droits Reservés© The Artist.
email me for details about how to buy
What I enjoy about this place is it is a veritiable meeting of two different ‘styles’ of landscape (three actually if you count the busy road & huge tourist parking with it’s pollarded catalpas, info panels & telephone cabins etc. besides the Vézère river). The wild huge cliff above with it’s prehistoric setlement & the genteel nineteenth century plantation below.

The trees are spruces but I don’t know exactly what kind. Sitka spruce maybe? They are very tall, maybe up to 70 metres. I enjoyed their green very much, in the middle of winter, with all the wild bare oaks twisting about. The spruces are certainly amongst the tallest trees in the Dordogne that I know of. They grow up below the cliff, which I guess protects them for wind damage. The huge limestone rears above them vertiginiously. Reels about with the reminder that there is other time scales other the human. Vertigo. Awe. You can see the markings of both Ice Ages if you know what to look for. Incredible place. Incredible cliff face.

If you look closely at the cliff face, you will eventually find a little cabin which shelters the entrance to the ‘grotte’ (cave).

A5 sketchbook

Tous Droits Reservés© The Artist.

‘ The Valley Spirit’
56 x 76 cm – 22 x 30 inches
© The Artist.
Email me for details about buying this painting

The Mind in the Cave
by David Lewis-Williams

“ How, the, did people come to make representational images of animals and so forth out of projected mental imagery? I argue that at a given time, and for social reasons, the projected images of altered states were insufficient and people needed to ‘fix’ their visions. They reached out to their emotionally charged visions & tried to touch them, to hold them in place, perhaps on soft surfaces and with their fingers. They were not inventing images? They were merely touching what was already there.

The first two-dimensional images were thus not two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional things in the material world, as researchers have always assumed. Rather, they were ‘fixed’ mental images. In all probability the makers did not suppose that they ‘stood for’ real animals, any more than the Abelam think that their painted and carved images represent things in the material world. If we could be transported back to the very beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic so that we could compliment a painter on the ‘realism’ of his or her picture, I believe we should have been met with incredulity. ‘ But,’ the painter might have replied, ‘that is not a real bison : you can’t walk around it; and it is too small. That is a “vision”, a “spirit bison”. There is nothing “real” about it. ‘ For the makers, the paintings and engravings were visions, not representations of visions – as indeed is the case for southern African San and North American shamans (chapters 5 & 6). “

Chapter – An Origin of Image Making.
The Mind in the Cave
David Lewis-Williams
Thames & Hudson 2002

This is a brilliant & original book. A genuine master-piece. It’s obviously the product of much research & much reflection.  It is also very closely argued & pays a lot of attention to fine distinctions. It’s for this reason, that quoting a paragragh out of context doesn’t do this book justice. In fact, the habit of transposing stuff out of context is similar to what has been done with Palaeolithic cultural products as well … we see them through the twenty-first century culturally conditioned eyes.


Font de Gaume, Dordogne

‘Font de Gaume’ 2004
Ink & Watercolour.
double spread A5 sketchbook
© The Artist.
Ne jamais dire “Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau” – Périgordien Populaire
Font de Gaume is probably the most famous prehistoric painted ‘grotte’ (cave) in Les Eyzies (go abit further up the Vezérè & you arrive at Lascaux).It’s geography is very much like that of the rest of Les Eyzies, including that of Le Grand Roc. Hard limestone that has been eroded by the river to form wierd overhanging ‘lips’. The different levels of the river over the various ice ages etc has sculpted the characteristic ‘s’ type curves (very Van Gogh).

Detail :note I’m using a roller ball pen by 2004 & saving the ‘spider-webs’ of nib for the really important bits.

If you follow the ‘crack’ or the stain down you arrive at the level at which there was once an underground river, which formed an underground gallery going back quiet so way through the rock but having deposited a fair bit of soil etc upon it’s retreat. It is now dry.

Follow the crack down & go up and into gallery…

Photo of Font de Gaume in the 1920’s

I love that ladder! Not at all like the modern day museum trappings of book shop, postcards & disgruntled ticket salespersons.

Go into the labyrinth to meet your monster…

Polychrome Partiel Art, late Magdalénien,

….. who is the crowning glory of late Prehistoric Cave Art (whoops, sorry we aren’t allowed to call it ‘art’ any more according to some archeologists 😉 It’s some 15 000 years on from the ‘western european creative explosion’ of Chauvet…

…isn’t he just the most finest of beasts!

History of Font de Gaume

Here’s what wikipedia has to say:

Prehistoric people living in the Dordogne Valley first settled in the mouth of Font de Gaume around 25,000 BC. The cave mouth was inhabited at least sporadically for the next several thousand years. However, after the original prehistoric inhabitants left, the cave was forgotten until the nineteenth century when local people again began to visit the cave.

In 1901, Denis Peyrony, a school teacher from Les Eyzies, discovered the paintings inside Font de Gaume. The paintings date from around 17000 BC, during the Magdalénien period. However, many of the cave’s paintings were discovered much later. The cave’s most famous painting, a frieze of five bison was discovered accidentally in 1966 while scientists were cleaning the cave.


Adam says : Little bit light about Perony. He was a great Perigordien scholar of Prehistory, as well as something of a classifer & conservatist. His survey of 1949 is generally taken to be the middle-of-the-century inventory of sites. No doubt he knew L’Abbé de Gorgue of le Chateau de Lanquais, who was another passionate Perigordien scholar of Prehistory, & a Baron as well. Remember this is the same generation as Lord Howard & the Tutankhamun discoveries in the 1920’s.



Second Posting of Two : Marcilhac sur Célé – Pen & Ink – How to Draw Rocks, Cliffs … & Comets??? – Leonardo da Vinci – Stone Lithography – Mythological Images

PART ONE OF THIS TWO-PART POSTING – How to draw rock & cliffs

‘La Vallée de Célé depuis La Croix de Renard’
Ink & Pastel
© The Artist.
OK, just a little recap : in 1996, I was invited to do a month long residency in Marcilhac sur Célé in the Lot, France. To make editions of stone lithographs.I knew a little about printmaking. Etching, incision & silkscreen. But nothing about stone lithography. Done some zinc plate litho at university. So this residency was for me a steep learning curve about stone lithography as well. Stone lithography is a fairly complicated fine art print making technique, not to be confused with mechanised, commercial off-set lithography. The editions were large & the paper sizes big. Sometimes we worked through the night.

‘La Chasse Vegétarienne’
Stone Lithography
Full sheet BFK Rives 180 gms, 65 x 50 cm
Copyright – the artist
Edition sold out
But, me being something of a landscape artist (amongst other things), there was, first of all, the question of ‘oh my God! how do I make an image that lives up to those rocks & cliffs??’ I still feel that. Felt it again very strongly last week at Le Grand Roc, les Eyzies, Dordogne. Hence this review of ‘work related to rock & prehistory.’ Anyway, none of these images have been digitally recorded & nor properly catalogued.

‘Croix de Renard’ – Detail
Ink & Pastel
© The Artist.


Pen & Ink Drawing for Printmaking

Printmaking is wonderful for an artist’s drawing.

And because stone lithography is fundamentally ‘non correctable’, this medium demands a lot of ‘commitment’ in one’s drawing skills (helped my watercolour as well). Pen & ink is another fundamentally non-correctable medium. It is not by any accident that the one of Master artists of lithography , Toulouse Lautrec (another artist from South West of France), was also a master of pen & ink.


smudge & rub sanguine pastel drawing © adam cope

I however wasn’t a master of the Pen’n’Stink. Smudge’n’ Rub… My painterly (in the sense that the art historian Woëfflin intended, blurred ‘lost’ edges, sensual ‘sfumato’) urges at the time was to rub & to scratch & ‘rough it up’. Make a ‘bed’ from which the image, the passion could rise. Not quiet the same as correcting. A certain element of massage involved. I learnt life drawing using charcoal this way. Smudge’n’Rub.

But actually, to be honest & unrhetorical, a good part of this was pure panic. Panic in front of these cliffs & rocks. Panic akin to that which beginners often feel. That feeling of how do I do this??? It’s so difficult!!!

‘Falaise – Marcilhac sur Célé, Lot’ 1996
Ink & watercolour
25 x 32 cm – Papier fait à la main par Monsieur Duchêne
© Tous Droits Reservées
Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter make good paintings. – Degas
Two Tips for Pen & Ink Drawing:
1. Don’t use coarse paper. The rough terrain jogs the nib & makes it bleed. Smooth hot-pressed is best.
2. Don’t spill the ink (dedicate a small ‘ink well’ pot, rather than a large,aawkard ink bottle). Or if you do spill, try & make use of the ‘happy accident’. Or if you must, then it is even better to spill the ink deliberately. But are you sure to achieve a good result? Risk is risk.

‘Chateau des Anglais, Vallée du Célé’
Ink & Gouache
28 x 38 Vellum fait à la main par Monsieur Duchêne
Tous droits resvervées.

I carried on with my pen & ink campaign all winter long after the residency. My inability became my motivation, my friend & guide if you like. Nib’n’Squid. Sometimes, when you get a feeling for something, it’s good to follow it just to the very end. Or at least to a stage, when you can leave it alone for a bit.

‘Two Trees (Quercus Quercus)’ 1997
30 x 30 cm
Pen & ink
Copyright – the artist
email me to buy a limited edition giclee print of this artwork.


How to draw rocks & cliffs? How to paint them? How to artists prints of them?

‘Falaise aux Corbeaux’ (cliff face with crows)
© Tous Droits Reservées
rocks by leonardo on itheir side
Have you ever looked behind the Mona Lisa & seen those rocks? I’d seen that wild landscape at an impressionable age in the National gallery London, floating dreamlike behind St.Anne.
‘Study of a Tuscan Landscape – Val d’Arno’
Pen & Ink, nib on vellum
Approx 15 x 22 cm
Uffizi Museum

In the Célé, in 1996, I had Leonardo da Vinci’s pen & ink nib drawings in mind. You know the ones in the Windsor Leoni Volume? The pen & inks of geological stratus. As if the earth is moving. Only it’s embrassing to mention a genius in context of my feeble efforts.

‘Study of a Ravine in a Rocky Landscape’
Pen & Ink, nib on vellum
Approx 22 x 15 cm
Windsor Leoni Volume
Leonardo not only manages to give an impression of movement but his enormous powers of organising, understanding & simplifying manages to give his drawings an sense of order as well. Mine were all chaotic & wild. Little organised. There’s so much information, hard geography if you like, in the cliffs. Each blow hole, each crack…
‘Vertigo, Chateau des Anglais’ 1997
Stone Lithography
Full Sheet BFK RIVES 180 gms, 65 x 50 cm
Edition 0f 14
© Tous Droits Reservées

But I confess however, it was precisely the wild untamed nature of the rocks & cliffs that attracted me. Do we always have to do a ‘clean-up’ job on ‘untidy’ nature?

The limestone cliffs & rocks themselves, I felt, are the wierdest, wildest, craziest landscape. I can see in retrospect that it was ME projecting my fantasies into THEM. Or was it? Maybe, maybe. And in this, I am in keeping with the great master painters of Prehistoric Cave Paintings. Even Leonardo stared into mold on the walls & saw wild battles & who knows what else ! 🙂

But when other people stare into them, all they see is chaos that needs to be straightened out.


The Technique of Stone Lithography

In the technique of stone lithography, that the artist draws on the actual stone.. The stone itself is a very faultless, very compact form of limestone. To my knowledge, there’s only two really good quarries , one comes from under the Alps & the other from under the Himalayas. The weight of the mountains presses the stone to a seemless, faultless purity. The feel of the stone is so …. beautiful. The fine grain holds the grease in a way that makes even the smoothest, finest hot pressed paper course in comparison. If you look closely at the detail below, you can see something of the grain of the stone

‘6 Germinal’ – Detail
stone Lithography
© Tous Droits Reservées

So without going into ardious details, the stone ‘plate’ must be developed to hold the image. When the drawing (grease based)/developing (gum arabic)/etching (weak nitric acid) stages are complete, the stone must then washed out with water, it’s humidity maintained & then be inked up…….. The image appears out of the stone! I’d say akin to developing a photo but it’s much quicker than that. It’s with the ‘snap-stick-stick’ of the inked up leather rollers – whhah! behold, the image appears!

If you’d like to learn more about stone lithography in a hands-on way, I recommend you contact Felicity Roma Bowers, who runs stone lithography courses in Bath UK. She really knows stone lithography, has great print-making technique as well makes beautiful artwork herself & has taught widely in the Bath region. Good, sympathetic, qualified teaching there.


Back to the Valley…

All month long the comet HYAKUTAKE hung overhead in the night sky. It was the brightest comet I’d ever seen. Up above the valley. Just sitting there. Night after night. What did it mean?

‘The Valley & The Comet’ 1996
Stone Lithograph
Artists-proof, image non-editioned.
© Tous Droits Reservées

Things started taking on a mythical bent in my mind’s eye. It was the Vernal Equinox. Fossils & faces appearing out of the stone. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t drug induced. It felt good. Inspiration. The cliffs themselves are reminders that there are other time-scales other than the tic-toc time of ‘seven score years & ten’. By the 22 of march,1996, Hyakutake attained mag 2 when it entered SE Bootes.


‘Hyakutake’ March 22 1996
Stone Lithography
Full Sheet BFK RIVES 180 gms, 65 x 50 cm
Edition 0f 50
© Tous Droits Reservées
150 euros or equivalent in US dollars or GBP sterling
email me to buy a print via Paypal
L’ancien se meurt, le nouveau ne parvient pas à voir le jour, dans ce clair-obscur surgissent les monstres – Gramsci ( ‘ The old is dying & the new has not yet seen the light of day. in the twilight monsters are rearing’ Gramsci)
The next image I editioned was ‘6 Germinal’ , the name of the day when it was made – according to French Revolutionary Calendar. The vernal equinox had passed & spring was making itself felt.

‘6 Germinal’
Stone Lithography
Full Sheet BFK RIVES 180 gms, 65 x 50 cm
Edition 0f 50
© Tous Droits Reservées
150 euros or equivalent in US dollars or GBP sterling
email me to buy a print via Paypal

Some thoughts about ‘Mythological Images’ & Prehistory ….

The meaning of things aren’t stable. Anything can mean almost anything – Jasper Johns

Looking back at the images, especially those with a mythical bent, part of me feels that problem with them is that, in fact, they are not mythological enough. Mythological in the sense that great stories, great images speak to great numbers of people. These artworks don’t (They remain ‘artworks’ but not comfortable enough to hang alongside a Thomas Kincaid). Like all the churning of the bucket of the unconscious by many artists such as Max Ernst or Karel Appel or early Jackson Pollock. These artworks aren’t enough either. Aren’t powerful enough to move great numbers of people (why does Thomas Kincaid move great numbers of people? It must be something to do with comfort?).

Images such as advertising campaigns (yes we live in beautiful times of great luxury), swastiskas (cruel times too) or atomic mushroom clouds are strong enough images to move many. They can motivate & they do motivate. (though I was surprised to see years later that the seed- in-a-fountain motif that I used ‘HYAKUTAKE’ re-emerged in the logo for ‘Sport for All’ UK & the single leaf motif that I used in ‘6 GERMINAL’ again as logo for the Front Nationale, France albeit it’s an oak leaf).

For me, the hand print on the wall of Painted Prehistoric Cave at Pech-Merle in the Valley of the Célé, is a great image of our past. Both as humans & as artists. There is hope in these images. Whatever they meant to the artists &/or shamans (?) of Prehistory that made this image ….

(we don’t even know if these particular underground images were meant for ‘mass’ consumption by all the tribe. Personally I doubt it, or else more traces, foot prints, prehistoric litter and the such, would have been left on the cave floors etc. Maybe we will never know the answer to this. Much of the evidence has disappeared. Lascaux, for example, was trampled underfoot & opened to the public, before a ‘complete closure’ type of conservation & archeological expertise was the norm, as is now the case)

……they now mean something else to us in the twenty-first century. They are iconic of our beginnings.

‘Negative Hand Print & 13 points’
Gravettian Period
hand size is that of an adult
Red iron oxide on cave wall, situated about 500 metres from orginal entrance to cave (if I remember rightly). Blown technique.
Grotte de Peche-Merle, Vallée du Célé, Lot, France

Read more of my musings about Prehistoric Cave Art  in the prehistory category of this blog

Further reading:

Prehistoric Art: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind – Randall White,  ISBN-10: 0810942623

The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art – David Lewis-Williams, ISBN-10: 0500284652

Cave Art – Jean Clottes, ISBN-10: 0714857238

First Posting of Two Posts

part two, second post  – Leonardo dea Vinci’s drawings of rocks

‘Postcard from Marcilhac sur Célé’ 1996
15 x 10 cm
Stone Lithography
© The Artist.
Edition sold out.

My Personal Experience of an Artist’ s Residency

In 1996, I won an artist-in-residency to make limited editions of stone lithographs at a print-making studio.  Basically, this association has it’s aims to promote stone lithography & encourage artistic talent. So it chose six artists and invited them for a month long stay & make editions of stone lithography. It was a great experience. A residency (or a painting workshop) should make you work in a different & fresh way. Open one’s ‘artist-self’ up to learning. Re- envigorating. Creating in a new context, with the pleasure of meeting new people. I certainly meet some wonderful people …  great technicians too 🙂

‘Journey of an Egg through the Célé Valley in 31 Days’ 1996

I did some  printmaking at Bristol Printmakers Workshop. Printmaking is my second medium after painting. It was my second subject for my BA hons in 1987. I later taught it for two years at Adult Ed…. though it has now been nine years since I last had a ‘printmaking campaign’. I can feel it calling again. Besides my computer, I have an old copper plate that I care for very much.

 ‘Célé Valley’
13 x18 cm
artists proof
© The Artist.
‘Marcilhac sur Célé’ 1996
32 x 25 cm
Ink, papier Moulin Larroque
© The Artist.
email for price etc.

Marcilhac sur Célé for an artists residency

Marcilhac sur Célé is a wild crazy type of place at the bottom of a three metre limestone cliff. Limestone rock & chaos. It was winter time. It was crazy. Wild landscape. Prehistoric. Staring at rocks & cliffs… same type of problem that I was grappling with last week in the painting Grand Roc, Les Eyzies, Dordogne. Without making any claims to be a geologist, except to say that drawing & painting rocks & cliffs faces makes you stare at them for hours on end… sometimes I imagine maybe sheep sheperds & prehistoric shamans did this also. Certainly fascinating to chat to speleologues & palentologists about earth formations.

‘Les Anglais, Brenques’ 1996
Ink, papier Moulin Larroque
© The Artist.

how to draw rocks & cliffs?

But the question for me as  an artist is how to draw rocks & cliffs? How to paint them? How to printmake images from them?
They have a kind of shock, a resonance, a dsibelief in me….
It was strange to be drawing stone & then, afterwards working on the same family of stone (calcium carbonate, if I remember the chemistry correctly) in the printmaking process. The stone ‘plates’ are very beautiful things in themselves.
‘Croix de Renard, falaise en Quercy’ 1996
© The Artist.

The chalk in the Célé Valley (lot) is more stratfied & ‘crazed’ than the Vézère Valley (Les Eyzies is in the Dordogne), where it seems more compact, older(?). The Céle has more ‘blow holes’ or ‘trous du soufflure’ where air was trapped in the sedimentation process but the Vézère has more erosion from the river over the ages. Both are incredible places.I wanted these drawings to be as precise as possibile so you could use them as rock-climbing maps. Only find & keep those ‘anchor’ points!! Hold on to them as this isn’t an easy subject. Doesn’t conform to clasical landscape painting. Has many suprises….and are easily dismissed by those who do not know what cliff faces really look like.

‘Falaise, Célé Valley, Lot’
28 x 38 cm
ink, papier Moulin Larroque
© The Artist.
Cliff face, Célé Valley, Lot’
ink & gouache, papier Moulin Larroque
© The Artist.


In the next posting, I’ll photograph the other editions & drawings, there’s a whole stack of them

‘Le Grand Roc, Les Eyzies’
Oil on Canvas
86,5 x 76 cm ; 34 x 30 inches
© The Artist.
email me for details about how to buy

wip = work in progress

These great rock faces … huge cliffs …. they mark one ……… working on this slow large painting, over the last few days, staring long at the cliff faces, they impression. I can see the sense in theory that the cave paintings were ‘found’ in the rock faces, that the morphology of the stone inspired my comarade-artists. Rosarch ink blots. Even Leonardo said that staring at moldy stains on a wall stimulates craeivity & visions.
At the base of this cliff was a Magadelian settlement, circa 15 000 – 10 000 Before Present (1950). They must have known the anatomy of their home, been intimate with the guardian that loomed above them, & saw it no doubt in a protective manner. ‘Home’.
This is a fundamentally wild landscape, though there is a genteel 19th century planting of conifers & terraces, almost ‘à la Chinoise’. I like this curious meeting of epochs & styles of landscapes.

La Gravette, Dordogne

oil painting of cliffs, couze valley , gravette

‘La Maison Trogoldyte’
Oil on Canvas
8 paysage (46 x 33 cm ; 18,2 x 13 inches)
© The Artist.
300 euros.

La Gravette, Dordogne

This is an old stone house built into a cliff face, ‘une maison souterraine’ (literally a subterrian house), which I guess is a better real estate address than ‘une maison troglodyte’ (a troglodyte’s house).It’s the next cliff face on from that of La Gravette in the Couze valley. Périgord (which is more or less the Dordogne) was densely populated in prehistoric times. La Gravette was the archaeological site that gave the name to The Gravettian Period (of human history, which spans some 7000 years, between 28 000 and 21 000 years ago. It was a warm period between the two ice ages, but all the same, life huddled up against this south-west facing rock face must have been very different from modern comfort. Fire was important these hunter-gathers & “remarkably the first fired objects were not pots, but figurines (mostly carnivores) & humans (mostly women)” – Prehistoric Art by Randall White, Pub. Abrams, 2003 .

‘Venus de Monpazier’
Green Steatite carving
discovered 1970

The above is the ‘Venus of Monpazier’ which is winy, small venus, found not far La Gravette. About 25 kilometres away (a day’s walk). In an open ploughed field. I talked to the man who discovered her. Apparently, he was just out walking. Upon finding her, he fell in love with ‘archeology’ & history. You can see a replica of her in L’Atelier des Bastides, Monpazier.
You can read more about her in Jean Clottes – Voyage en Préhistoire. Editeur: La Maison des Roches.

Other great achievements of this period was much body ornamentation & great ingenuity in making flint tools (I once found a solutrean spearhead lying on the ground, on the surface, right besides my foot, once whilst out painting. As it wasn’t from a acheological layer & had come to o the surface, it didn’t have much value as evidence).

What I like about many of the prehistoric sites in Périgord is that they are still inhabited to this day. 28 000 years of continued settlement. Some changes like the chickens picking away in the foreground & the pruning of the fruit trees (The Gravettian was pre-agriculture) , the odd bit of metal (stone age not metal age), a square window, some faced stone (though I bet they spread hides down from the cliff face in the same manner as this roof), but other than that, not much change. Sometimes, whilst painting quietly in these places, I imagine I can feel the continuity. Maybe there’s a need to reconnect with our sources in our modern, contemporary period, when there is much anxiety about man’s impact on the planet?


‘L’Abri Prehistorique 2″ 2001
Copyright- the artist.