St.Avit de Senieur, Dordogne

st.avit de senieur,dordogne, paintng of rock cliffs

‘La Route montant à St. Avit de Senieur’
Medium Size Oil on Canvas
36 x 48 cm (approx 14″ x 18″)
© adam cope

‘La Route montant à St. Avit Sénieur’

The road going up to St.Avit de Senieur – the cliffs reel above your head dangerously and the road cuts through right underneath them. There’s no lay-by & no stopping possible. Cars, lorries, tractors come flying down past you, and once a goat leapt out in front of me. I’ve been wanting to paint these cliffs for a long time but haven’t yet figured out a safe way of doing it. And after painting ‘Bicorne Deux – bis’ last time, which was besides a busy road (why do boy racers have to honk their horn when they see a painter?) & near to the entrance of a quarry (the wheels of the heavy plant being higher than my head), I’m feeling a little ‘carred out’. So this was painted from a peaceful spot the other side of the valley. No cars…. but no goats either.

ps. the goat’s name is ‘AVITUS’ after the local hermit saint who lived in these rocks in the time of Alric.


a painting holiday at St Avit with Adam Cope

‘Maison Troglodyte dans la Vallée de La Couze’
65 x 54 cm (25,5 x 21,3 inches approx)
Medium Size Oil on Canvas
© adam cope

‘Maison Troglodyte dans la Vallée de La Couze’


This is the same place that I described in the post : Watercolour of an Owl Hut built into a Cliff in Dordogne

A photo from my underexposing Cannon 400 D EOS. The sheer quantity of bright spring sunlight should have made the camera shoot off the scale. Instead the greys look really quite dark & not the near whites that I had to squint at to see as there was so much sunlight bouncing off the cliff. This was before I started :

And this photo was after packing up, just before leaving the site. The light had gone, the owls where hooting & it was spooky.


Sizes of Canvases in my Oil Painting Practice

This is a medium size oil on canvas. It’s a french format, a 15 Figure. Normally I use a 12 Figure for medium size oils, as it’s large but still just about achieveable in one plein-air session, without too panic, without the feeling of being rushed to finish that painting a large sized oil such as a 25 Figure (81 x 65 cm; 32 x 25,5 inches). Especially for subject so difficult as cliff faces, with the speed at which the light changes across the nooks & crannies; the sheer amount of startling & intricate details, which don’t fit easily into a standard ‘model’ of ‘how to paint’ such as an apple for instance.

French formats over & above the International formats

I like very much French formats over & above the International formats. The proportions are pleasing & seem to have more harmony & generousity than elsewhere. I read in Mayer’s Artists Handbook that they were based on Golden Section, but as I’m no good at maths, I let that one by. My eye seems to move easily around their graceful proportions. It might just be what one get used to but they please me. The figure is more square, the landscape more elegantly thinner than the standard 3X4 or 5×7. Then there’s the marine & the panorama as well. I like the figure very much. I bought this batch of 15 F by mistake, thinking that they were 12F, my standard large-medium. My wife, stalwart supporter & source of feedback, was delighted as she thinks that my large oils are my strong point. No postcard-sized minatures here. 30 x 40 cm is small for me (12 x 16 inches).
trogoodlyte en perigord - aquarelle

‘Maison Troglodyte dans la Vallée de La Couze’
52 x42 cm (20,5 x 16,5 inches)
© the artist

Watercolour of an Owl Hut built into a Cliff in Dordogne

‘Maison Troglodyte’ means literally a troglodyte’s house, or a subterranian house built into a cliff-face. Here the mouth of a cave has been converted into a little house with a door & two windows, with stone bench in front with the typically Périgordian motif of a ‘coquille St.Jaques’ (a sea shell denoting St.James of Compostelle). I like how the stone of the building is the same stone as the cliffs, the wonderful warm honey coloured stone that raises at the Couze valley & runs all the way to Terrasson. The weathering & staining further disguises the house.Troglodyte houses are typical of the Dordogne. They represent a continuity of inhabitation (or in-hut-ation, as I like to call it) which goes back at least 40 000 years, if not longer, going back to neanderthal times. Funny story: one of these troglodtye houses (Les Comberelles at Les Eyzies) used to be a cow shed. The prehistorian Denis Peyrony explored it’s dark nether-reaches, going back into the cave behind, where he discovered many hundreds of engravings on the stone walls, some of which represent aurochs – that’s to say prehistoric cows. 40 000 years plus of man & his docile companion, the cow!

The little construction above is a pidgeonnier – or dove cot. Actually I suspect it’s not a pidgeonnier but rather an owl’s nest, as the owls love to nest in the dark nooks & crannies. This lovely site has two stone sculptures of owls, os the creator of this garden is obviously an owl friend.


Quatre Carte-Postales de Mon Co-Locataire, l’Hibou

Véritable sepia (encre des seyches)
Postacrd size – 10 x 15 cm (6X4inches)
© the artists

Here’s a detail of the owl hut large unfinished oil of the same place. Can see where it is in the above watercolour?

Un Pigeonnier Troglodyte en Périgord


‘Bicorne 2 bis
Large Size Oil approx 33 x 24 inches
© adam cope

Un Pigeonnier Troglodyte en Périgord

I’ve been working on a large oil painting of the cliffs. As I’m not certain about the entire painting, I’m not going to blog it for the instant. But here is a crop of it. If you read my long posts about ‘how to draw rocks’ & the prehistory here in the Dordogne, you will know that I’m fascinated about certain elements in this non-humanised landscape.

Chaos I guess, that does something to the imagination.

I’m groping towards a way of painting this. The academic way of painting the light & shade on rocks seems to me to risk diminishing this chaotic aspect. Exactly that which I like.

Well… I say non-humanised landscape lightly, as here in this particular spot, there’s a house built into the rock-face, hence the amusing address ‘Biicorne 2 bis’ – the bis being French for ‘a’ such as in 13 a Duke Street.Right in the middle of this crop, you can see a ‘pigeonnier’ or a dovecot. A troglodyte’s dovecot!

photography in painting

Observe also how I’m using photoshop to crop a detail & zoom in on the postive elements in the actual painting. This will help me identify the next step. This is another example of how photography inter-reacts with the painting process. A direct example of my previous suggestion that photography can be used to help make visible, to suggest, to dream & imagine using digital images on the computer. Read more about photography in painting in this blog’s category.


Cliffs in the Vezérè Valley – some photos


see a collection of artist ‘s  photos of the dordogne


Canoes on the Vézère

Canoes on the Vézère
38 x 46cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.
450 euros framed
Typical holiday scene from the Dordogne, paddling down stream, under the cliffs, watching the tree-lined banks & groups of laughing holiday makers going by in bright coloured canoes.

My funny & true story … ‘it really DID  happened to me’ a plein-air painter

Funny story: I sometimes paint actually in the water when it’s hot. Sitting up to stomach in running cool water is a nice way of basquing whilst working. Such as the above. Sitting still for hours on end can however attract unwelcome guests…. once whilst painting in the river I was attacked by a lamprey eel! Black & ugly it was & it’s bite gave me quiet serious whelps & burns…
How’s that for an occupational hazard?

Watercolour of Cliffs – Sauliac sur Cele

‘Sauliac sur Cele’
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.


To see more paintings of cliffs & rocks, click on the ‘rock’ category on the right handside.
This painting is not far from where I led a painting holiday in France

‘Sous La Ruth No.2’
30 x 42cm – A3
© The Artist.

related posts in the rocks & cliffs & prehistory categories:
  • Cliff in the Vezérè Valley – ‘Sous Le Ruth, No.1’
  •  How to draw rocks & cliffs part one
  • How to draw rocks & cliffs part two
  • How to draw rocks & cliffs part three
  • How to draw rocks & cliffs part four
  • Rock Formations – John Ruskin – Prehistoric Shelters in the Dordogne
  • Caves in art – Ruskin


‘Sous Le Ruth, No.1’
A3 – 29 x 42 cm
© The Artist.

Typical rock formation of overhanging cliffs in the Vezérè
A5 sketchbook

  • How to draw rocks & cliffs part one – Marcilhac sur Célé – stone lithography
  • How to draw rocks & cliffs part two – Pen & Ink-Leonardo da Vinci-Stone Lithography – Mythological Images from Prehistory

Caves in art – Ruskin

‘Inside Looking Out’
Watercolour & Ink.
25 x 32cm
© The Artist.
Actually it’s not a cave but an overhang.

RUSKIN on Landscape painting


The landscape painter must always have two great and distinct ends: the first to induce in the spectator’s mind the faithful conception of any natural objects whatsoever; the second, to guide the spectator’s mind to those objects most worthy of contemplation, and to inform him of the thoughts and feelings with which these were regarded by the artist himself” (3.132).


…Although Ruskin begins by speaking as though the painter must always work toward two ends — to present the facts and the emotion caused by the facts — he quickly makes it apparent that all art follows, primarily, one end or the other:

‘ In attaining the first end the painter only places the spectator where he stands himself; he sets him before the landscape and leaves him…. But in attaining the second end, the artist not only places the spectator, but talks to him; makes him a sharer in his own strong feelings and quick thoughts. . . and leaves him more than delighted, — ennobled and instructed, under the sense of having held communion with a new mind, and having been endowed for a time with the keen perception and the impetuous emotions of a nobler and more penetrating.  RUSKIN – Modern Painters