‘Le Vieux Pont’
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.

A Short History of House Prices in the Dordogne

Here’s a story for the Quatorze Juillet about ‘les anglais debarquement en Dordogne’…

An old crumbling bridge over a stream, an abandoned road, the ghosts of yesteryears, deep in the woods, in the bottom of a steep valley. Fascinating how the erosion of this bridge is creating stalactites just like in an underground cave. Note there’s a fallen down tree as well. Nine years since I last painted here & the forces of nature reclaiming architecture are already visible…

Confess this process of ruination & return to nature attracts me (though considerably less so when it occurs on my own real estate).

‘Le Vieux Pont’
25 x 32cm Moulin de Larroque
© The Artist.

Nature reclaiming Architecture

Not many ruins in old stone left in SW France after the real estate boom of these last thirty or forty years. There’s been a large influx of foreigners such as English, Dutch or Belgian. Europe on the move. The occassional American or Russian. Actually even the Parisians count as foreigners here according to some locals.

‘Old Abandoned House’ – detail

The newcomers had an immense desire to restore & to build. They bought up many of the old abandoned farmhouses etc, often paying over the odds to willing sellers (who could not find buyers amongst their neighbours, none of whom were ready to pay ‘le prix fort’, nor unsurprisingly neither to the real estate speculators who accumulated great fortunes in the 1970’s by buying portfolios of pretty, old ruins for a song & a dance) & thus pushed the prices of this range of real estate right up. They are now the most expensive range of real estate. A ruin costs proportinally more than a new-build or a restored old stone property & thus ironically can now be considered as ‘luxury’ real estate. In comparison to thirty five years ago, when I was first getting to know the area, these old ruins were just left to rot, sad testiments of the chronic fall of small-scale peasant farming. In fact, they were cheapest range of real estate during that time. Now they are mostly gites or second houses or belong to retired foreigners. Much beautified & newly restored, they are expensive articles of real estate.

Of course, there was (& still are) massive efforts by locals to preserve their heritage & their buildings. And the French & European governments have done the work of titians in restoring the chateaux, the churches & other outstanding ‘monuments hstoriques’. Frightening budgets & expenses. France, then as now, boosts some of best builders in the world. ‘Les Compagnons de France’ are quiet simply amazing master builders & master craftsmen.

‘Old Abandoned House’
28 x 38 cm (15 ” x 11″)
© The Artist.

The processes of ruination continue but mostly in the poor, urban, industrial, ‘arrondissements’ blighted by unemployment. Not now here in the picturesque, historic Dordogne countryside, where human endeavour have reversed the processes of nature reclaming architecture.

All part of an economic cycle akin to the cycles of formation & erosion in nature?

‘Vendanges à Monbazillac’
oil on canvas

I was lucky to know the ‘old days’… my wife’s ancestors farm & vineyards in Monbazillac, where I vendanged & worked during my first years of ‘installing’ myself in France, my home, my adoptive country, the country of my (french) wife & children.

I must post a piece of writing I wrote in 2002 about this episode. Another day.

Quatorze Juillet en Dordogne

14 Juillet en Dordogne…parties & fireworks. Hoping to get out painting tonight (teaching tomorrow) as it is a good paint. Next post is about the English in Dordogne & house prices… & here’s an expert from last year’s bloggy Jour de la Republique…

TONALITY : ’14 Juilliet – Fête de la Republique’

‘Quatorze Juillet, Beaumont, Dordogne’
28 x 38 cm (15″ x 11″)
Toutes Droits Reservés© The Artist.

“…Then later on, when the crowd had thinned out, white plastic cups & on-lookers & a few adolescents still eager to play the flirting, mating game. The white tressle tables & black silouhettes making a good tonal subject.”


The historic roots of provincial France

Anyone wanting to better understand the historic roots of provincial France outside of cosmopolitan Paris should read Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France, which is a critical view of ‘La Patrie, La France, La Republique’ aka central government from Paris. For instance, Robb cites that, during the call-up for the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870’s, many men from remote farming hamlets in the Dordogne, didn’t even know their own surname, only their first name…they never had the need for their surname as they never left their hamlet of seven or eight houses… this is very different from the tragic First-World War memorials in every single village where whole families’ names are listed, annihilated by tragic war.

‘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

Watercolour Pages on Website Updated

I’ve updated & organised two pages of watercolours on my artists-atelier.com website:

Watercolour Gallery 1 : Selected Recent Watercolours 2007 (18 images)
Watercolour Gallery 2 : Selected Recent Watercolours 2000 – 2006 (18 images)

I’ve only got a cranky, old, freebie, promotional copy of Dreamweaver 1, which is very buggy & difficult to use, so the work was slow.

Here are two images from the pages:

‘Tourette #2’ (view over the Dropt Valley)
56 x 76 cm Full sheet Arches
© The Artist.

‘Albas # 1 ‘ (view over the Lot Valley),
Quarter sheet Arches Rough 300 gms.
28 x38 cm

It’s kind of a relief, as this act of organising feels like the end of a long cycle of work. Most of them are already sold & gone. Sometimes difficult to get a clear & objective overview.And I tend to work in a what feels like a very stop start kind of way, due to all the other demands on my time : Dad to two young kids, restoring a house (roof to come off soon), running painting holidays, teaching locally & oil painting as well, not to mention my ‘how to paint’ book which is ambling along in a simular stop start way, with the usual fits of self-doubt.Keeping focus all the time isn’t always possible I find. Or one could say, being more generous, that Life bumbles along, so enjoy the ride & the fellow passengers that one finds oneself sharing the wagon with… things always take longer that I imagine. I also imagine some fabulous watercolours that have yet to be made apparent. Some day soon, I hope.
Beautiful watercolour.
Good to be busy with what one loves.
Stay wet.
Running two painting workshops here in South West France in 9 days time.

Back from teaching two workshops. Ah me, blogging again? When I get out of bed… maybe…. & clear the decks in the office, family & garden. La Reprise.

‘Exhausted Tutor Syndrome’
A5 sketchbook
© the artist

Hope this post doesn’t sound too spammy self-promotional nor too much like me banging away.

Here are a few of the images I made whilst teaching. They are demonstration pieces, intended to help the learning of students.

‘The Two Bridges at Limeuil’ Demonstration piece – two hours
28 x 38 cm
© adam cope

Painters & Draughts-Persons

It’s also good fun to paint people painting & drawing. All levels of painters should try it, IMO. Here’s a watercolour that a student did in the studio during one of the Painting Holidays in France that I’ve lead over the years.

‘Students Painting’
Chris Sharland
© the artist
Personally, I would like my ‘painters & draughts-persons’ (the name I give to the paintings of this genre) to communicate something of the fun & ‘bonne ambiance’ of a successful painting trip.

‘Painters in the Park’
Demonstration Piece – one hour 15 mins
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.
DETAIL : ‘Painters in the Park’
Demonstration Piece – one hour 15 mins
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.

I was quite pleased with the above two figures. The watercolour is fresh & ‘just-so’, if I may say so, somewhat immodestly.

Lots of quick scribbles too. Of people moving about, painting & drawing. ‘Moving targets’. These sketches were done in less than five minutes each ‘take’.

‘Picnic People’
A5 Sketchbook
© The Artist.

A5 sketchbook
© The Artist.

‘The Chairman’
A5 sketchbook
© the artist

A5 sketchbook

©the artist

The above are demonstration pieces. Should one exhibit them? Learning is the desired product & not a finished painting.

The Educative Value of Demonstrations

I believe in the value of demos. True that they are only one teaching technique amongst many others. Sometimes the learning environment can get too wordy, so watching someone paint, seeing a painting unfold before your eyes can open up the non-verbal & encourage the natural.

WORK IN PROGRESS – unfinished state – two hours demonstration piece
‘A. & I. Painting’
Full Sheet Watercolour
56 x 76 cm (30″ x 22″)
© adam cope

Now please don’t get me wrong, I do know that the real goal is student-centered learning & not tutor showing-off. However, by seeing an experienced painter in action, who is also teaching & explaining – ‘sur la vif’ & in front of the subject – is something you won’t find neither on internet nor in a book. I myself have learnt so much this way ( & would be game to do so again).

Demos also quickly sort the chaff from the grain; if a teacher doesn’t have the years of painting experience integrated into his or her hands, his or her gestures, well then …. you should ask yourself just who do you have as tutor?

Here is some of what I have to say about the good uses of demonstration as a teaching/learning technique. I quote from my website What Makes a Good Painting Workshop Tutor? (hoping that this won’t trip a google duplicate content filter…nor sound too self-important nor spammy)

“A true teacher does not explain – he invites you to stand beside him and see for yourself.” Raymond Inmon

A good painting workshop tutor should also have a whiff of turpentine about him. Painting is first & foremost an activity & not a theory. It will help you if the art teacher is a practicing artist. On a practical level, you’re far more likely to have an exciting & educative learning experience from an experienced painter/teacher. The demonstrations will be more natural & the guidance more relevant because he/she has been there too. It takes many years for a teacher to become good at the art of demonstrations.

“A picture is worth a thousand words and watching a picture being painted is worth even more….The best teachers I’ve had show you rather than tell you how to do something. Talking the talk is far less important than walking the walk.” – Charles Sovek

Springtime in the Dordogne

‘Springtime in the Dordogne’
24 x 32cm
© The Artist.
I’m going off-blog for a few weeks, teaching, so wishing yo all well.

overhang watercolour

‘Overhanging Rockface in the Dordogne’
2001 – 2008
Watercolour & Ink.
30 x 40cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.


pen & ink of ooverhanging rock

SKETCH : ‘Overhanging Rockface in the Dordogne’
pen & ink
doublespread A5 sketchbook
© The Artist.


a prehistoric shelter…

Crazy cliff faces that I wrote about in ‘how-to-draw-rocks’ & elsewhere… click on the rock category to see them all. The above watercolour portrays a prehistoric shelter. These ancient places for me feel charged with … our beginnings as a species. What was once there & what might be there one day.Note the bluish greenish tint. There’s a type mold that forms on the never-sunny parts. Copper sulphate? You can watch the cliffs light up in the sunlight & grow blue in the shade. I’m assured it’s not purely optical but chemical too… Always walk on the sunny side of the street!I had an interesting conversation with a rock climber yesterday. Funny how one can talk for along time about geology & rock faces. I suppose most people don’t spend alot of time looking closely at things that don’t interest them. Hence they won’t recognise them when they are portrayed in painting. Rocks & cliffs interest me, which is great as the Dordogne & the Lot has some fantastic limestone & limonite geology.

John Ruskin

John Ruskin (1819–1900) was another artist who was mad about rocks. He was a lake-lander (the Lake District in the UK. I used to walk & watercolour there whilst at Newcastle University :-). He also an in-depth student of geology & amassed a comprehensive collection of rocks & minerals.

If only the Geologists would let me alone, I could do very well, but those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of Bible verses and on the other side, these unhappy, blinking Puseyisms; men trying to do right and losing their very humanity – Ruskin

He paid very great attention to detail, lovingly, as if each ripple & blow hole was significative of ‘The Hand of God’. So much so that he was criticised by an Parisienne asethete for ‘having the eyes of a bird’ (ie he saw only details & not wholes). But map making & exactitude, for me, is an important element of respecting ‘the spirit of the place’. Even the wildest flights of imagination are more convincingly portrayed in painting when yoked with a real & close observation of ‘the facts’.

Look at this great pen & ink from the Ashmolean, Oxford. I’ve not seen this one ‘in the flesh’ (wish that Wiki would note it’s dimensions! decontextualised internet…). A monochrome of great power. At a guess I would say at least two sittings, maybe of about tree hours each. Maybe more. One of the many things I adamire about Ruskin’s painting is that you rarely feel rushed. He would just leave the piece unfinished, incomplete rather than rush or ‘fill-in’.


John Ruskin (1819-1900)
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, 1853
Pen and ink and wash with Chinese ink on paper
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.
Photo credit : wiki commons
It’s in this kind of vein that I painted my ‘Spirit of the Valley’.
oil painting of spirit of the valley

‘L’Esprit de la Vallée’
Oil. 1997. © adam cope

More Old Rocks in Watercolour & Ink -1999

‘Crack in the Rocks’ 1999
25 x 32cm
© The Artist.


Here we go digging out ‘the old,old past’ to fill up the blog… Not much of a fan of that…silly old blog, who cares…. Opening old portfolios can take up time & attention that may well be better spent on new work.

how to paint rocks

Finished the above last week, & will carry on with my ‘how to paint rocks’ review for the next few days, with the paintings I finished last week. Finished after a few years lapse. Some works I can’t finish immediately. Don’t know where to take them nor do I have the technical know-how to ‘knock the shoot home’. So forgetting about them for long period helps I find. When one digs them out, then I can sometimes see what needs to be done. Actually I was going to us them as scrap paper….

‘Le Vieux Pont’ 1999
25 x 32cm
© The Artist.

THe Great Sphinx of Giza – Watercolour

watercolour of great sphinx of gaza

‘The Great Sphinx of Giza’
60 x 77 cm
© adam cope


The Great Sphinx of Giza

Fascination lasts.


Some disconfabulation : The Great Sphinx of Giza is an Old Kingdom Sphinx & is not to be confused with the later day Sphinx of Oedipus & the Greeks. Though the riddle of its meaning remains. Orion Belt astrological figure dating from Altantis? Sekhmet Lioness of the Desert? Guardian of the Pyramids? Guide for the Rebirth of Pharaoh? New Kingdom Horus-on-the Horizon?

Two excellent pages on Wikipedia on Sphinx & The Great Sphinx of Giza, as well as this site http://guardians.net/egypt

One thing about Ancient Egyptian art is that animals are everywhere. Some humans have the head of animals and some animals have the head of a human, like the above lioness. The crocodiles are very ‘animal’ too in the sense they retain their ‘animalness’ & aren’t simple pictograms for directions (like road signs are simple pictograms for road-code orders)

 an artists travel sketchbook of egypt … Carnet de Voyage en Egypte 2001

‘Sobek – Kom Ombo’ Carnet de Voyage en Egypte 2001
A5 Sketchbook
Watercolour & Ink
© Tous Droits Reservés


‘Khperi’ Carnet de Voyage en Egypte 2001
A5 Sketchbook
Watercolour & Ink
© Tous Droits Reservés

COMING SOON ON INTERNET : read more about animals in Ancient Egypt in my Egypt :: Carnet de Voyage :: Egypt