‘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


Notan Photograph – ‘The Wirly Gates’

‘The Wirly Gates’ 2004 © The Artist.
Notan can mean something/nothing as well as dark/light

Notan photography? Is the black emptiness?

Photography has difficult of reading things in shadows. It frequently makes pictures with black nothingness as shadows…

These digital cameras are great for ‘visual thinking’ … working things out in a visual way… kind of important to ‘think like a painter’ (ho hum), meaning to look at things visually … to take time to perceive their ‘abstract’ qualities. Black & white is already more ‘abstract’ than colour. Is that why black & white photography is granted ‘art status’ more readily than colour?

Here’s a little ditty I rhymed up …… don’t worry I don’t sing out loud whilst painting …the point is to think in way that helps you, personally & individually, to paint:

Notes on Notan

one tone
two tone
three tone
four tone

half tone
quarter tone

no tone

not quite a notan I know…


Notan : ‘La Maison Peyarade, Bergerac’

‘La Maison Payarade, Bergerac’ Encre Chine. Tous Droits Reservés

I’ve been following some the talk about ‘Notan’ over on Katherine Tyrell’s blog, so I thought I’d post this three-tone drawing. Not quite a Notan I know, as it’s not flat enough. Has perspective & depth rather than flat pattern. I decided to try however to use flat blocks rather than lots of separate brushmarks or ‘accents’. This, in my opinion, is one of the secrets of good ‘notan’. I did it by floodlight one dark & mysterious night.

A painting needs good tonality to work well. Especially watercolour.

Quarter tone & half tone drawings

Quarter tone & half tone drawings are great practise at this. Helps students work out in what order to construct a painting. Once you get into them, you see black & white everywhere. I teach tonality at my Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais, as the chateau does have some wonderful light/dark painting opportunities.

Even Turner was seduced to paint the occassional interior, albeit Petworth Castle. The important thing is that the learning helps – & don’t worry, students do get out in the sunglight as well.
Later on , the students ‘did their own thing’ in black & white.

lanquais alumni – ink pen

Lanquais alumni – oil on gesso


Vignoble dans le Quercy Blanc

‘Vignoble dans le Quercy Blanc’
30 x 40 cm. Oil on Panel. sold

A passer-by on internet might well assume the white in this painting to be snow. But is not. It is something far more surprising…in fact, it’s white chalk, which gives the name to the region in the Lot called ‘Quercy Blanc’. A field of vines growing out of pure white stoney chalk. These things surprise me.

painting of clouds

‘Sur Boisse, Journée Pluvieuse’
25 Figure, 81 x 65 cm, Oil on Canvas. SOLD.

Rainy day paintings, rain down on me, shiny white gleaming reflections under dark clouds overhead, forces beyond our control…