Falaise dans le Célé – “L’Élephante”. Lithographie sur Pierre. Edition de 10. 33 x 28 cm. Création Atelier Pierre Presse. Marcilhac sur Célé. © Adam Cope

Stone lithograph of a cliff  –  “the elephant”

‘The Elephant’ – Drawing of a Cliff. Graphite, biro & watercolour. A3 © Adam Cope


We, mankind, arose amidst the wandering of the ice and marched with it. We are in some sense shaped by it, as it has shaped the stones. Perhaps our very fondness for the building of stone alignments, dolmens, and pyramids reveals unconsciously an ancient heritage from the ice itself, the earth shaper.
– Loren Eisley



 Mountains do not lack the characteristic of mountains. Therefore they always abide in ease and always walk. Examine in detail the characteristic of the mountains’ walking.   – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra


Mountains’ walking is just like human walking. Accordingly, do not doubt mountains’ walking even though it does not look the same as human walking. You should penetrate these words. If you doubt mountains’ walking, you do not know your own walking.  – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra


I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars. – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra

spirit oil painting

‘Spirit of The Valley’ Oil painting. 60 x 80 cm . 1995 © Adam Cope

Interesting to see the same landscape view in three different mediums : drawing, watercolour & stone lithography.

stone lithograpgy cliffs & valley

‘La Vallée de Célé’ Stone Lithography 32 x 28 cm € Adam Cope

saulaic drawing cliffs south france

‘La Vallée de Célé depuis Sauliac’ Conté A3 © Adam Cope


‘Célé depuis Sauliac’ Aquarelle 30 x 45 cm Moulin Larroque papier fait à la main, Dordogne © Adam Cope

Different material, different effect.

Each medium is good for certain effects. In the above three images,, watercolour is delicate colours & brushmarks, conté is so immediate & so fresh, lithography is good for  a design, a powerful composition.

But a medium doesn’t simply mean the actual physical material , such as acrylic PVA wood glue sticky glue, slippery graphite pencil, etc.

Nor does ‘medium’ mean the technique  imposed by the physical nature, the touch, the feel of the actual materials …though an artist disregards this at his peril.   For example, if you wish to attain a granulation effect in watercolour, you need to use a pigment that goes into suspension, not dilution & thus will granulate out onto the surface of the paper fibers rather than soak in deep into the paper & ‘stain’ it, which is what pigments that dissolve in water do.

What does ‘Medium’ Mean in Fine Art Practice?

Train the hand, so that the hand knows what to do. This is done by the hand touching the material. Having contact with the world. It is through the hand of the artist manipulating & touching the medium that art arises. It is in the gestures of the artist’s hand that a deep respect & love for the physicality of materials is seen. After all, we artists deal with some of the most gorgeous of our  beloved planet resources : beautiful reds from madder plants, lovely rich carbons from willow, cobalts & lapis lazuri,

File:Lapis lazuli block.jpg

A block of lapis azuli – wikimedia commons

It is said we live in materialistic culture but actually , I see more & more disrespect & contempt for materials.  Trashed, smashed & built-in obselence. Built by a machine, not the hand of man. Cheaper to throw away than to fix. As we enter into the ‘Age of Resources’, a crisis of supply & consumption of raw materails, where a normal european lifestyle requires three planets of resources, what of art? How does this crazy disrespect for materials effect making fine art?

pile of junk

a pile of junk – unloved, uncared for, rubbish, consumerist debris, waste of materials, uncared for planetary resources

When I see the stone flints of where I live, near Bergerac in Dordogne, South West France, I understand why prehistoric man was willing to walk  for weeks & weeks to find these beautiful & useful materials… then learn how to transform them into tools that have even been found as far away as the Ukraine!  Home habilis = habile = dexterious. Home faber = faber = faire= to make ….We owe our existence to things that we make. They shape our experience & perception of the world.

File:Yarmukian Culture -Sha'ar HaGolan, flint axe.jpg

The Yarmukian Culture is a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in Prehistoric Israel and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River which flows near its type site at Sha’ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights. The pictures are fromYosef Garfinkel excavations taken between 1989-1990 & 1998-2004 –  Wiki

A beautiful painting reminds us that the world is made up of beautiful physical materials, though most of us now inter-react with art via print or internet, which has the effect of dematerializing the artwork, so as to become yet another chimera without a body, another figment of one’s imagination.  I frequently am shocked physically when in front of good art. When I saw Gauguin’s painting in the Musée D’Orsay, the size, the burlap, the skin of linoxidation of the rough linseed he used, the sheer scale precipitated a gut reaction in me that mere familiarity with the image’s fame via reproductions did not.

See the world through art materials…

A medium will also determine how the artwork arises, what the artwork can & can’t do & most important of all but maybe the most subtle as well, a medium will shape how the artist gives expression to his vision.

You need to be able to see in the world in terms of your art materials. The medium gives rise to the vision… Too many beginners & too many uncultured spectators (I can’t call them ‘connaisseurs’ because they don’t see the art in the medium; they don’t even see the paint in the painting! and need cajouling to appreciate the hand of the artist) naively think that the art work should look like the world … but isn’t it a bit stupid to confuse , say for example, a tree with an ink stain? No, I believe that an ink stain should first & foremost look like an ink  stain. A beautiful ink stain yes. Yes make it as beautiful as you can. and make it a ‘truimphe d’oielle ‘ yes –  ‘pourqui pas’  and put on top of this all the rest of it: expression, signification, asethetics, – but always first of all, it is an ink stain.  First & foremost this integrity, this respect, this sensitivity for the material itself. It is this deep respect for materials that the hand of a real craftsman.

 The creative process lies not in imitating, but in paralleling nature – translating the impulse received from nature into the medium of expression, thus vitalizing this medium. The picture should be alive, the statue should be alive, and every work of art should be alive. –   Hans Hofmann

I often work in both watercolour & oil painting. I enjoy the translation from one medium to another. Same view, different vision.

oil painting of vines

‘Sept Rangs de Cot.’ Oil on Canvas. 81 x 65 cm (32 x 26 inches approx) © Adam Cope

watercolour of vines

‘Sept Rangs de Cot’ watercolour approx 40 x30 cm © Adam Cope

In this case, the watercolour came after the oil, and so, I consider it to be  a lot more than a study for the oil painting. Some historians tend to classify drawings & watercolours as preliminary studies for a more substantial, more  resolved painting.  Here for example is one of my tonal studies for a painting , but it is  fresh enough, coherant enough to stand alone :

chateau sepia

‘Chateau de Longas’ (Dordogne) Sepia. 32 x 24 cm © Adam Cope



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