I have been struggling of late, painting. In the last couple of weeks I have abandoned three paintings. One I have restarted and the other two await the gods of inspiration to call – they appear to have a number of house calls.
In situations like this I like to take a break and mess around, hence the sketch above of the shady alleyways of Villefranche Sur Mer on the Mediterranean. I loved the yellow building, the shadows and the washing and painted it in an hour and a half – trying to focus on simplicity, as if I was on the spot. It was good therapy.
Another one was a painting I had posted before of the Strand near the waterfront in Liverpool. I found it in a pile of paintings and thought that it could do with some tweaking. So here it is duly tweaked.
I liked the unsubtle juxtaposing of the warm and cool colours and the buildings disappearing into the hazy sunlight and carbon monoxide.
Returning home from the French Riviera, I was trying to find some source material to continue my series of local paintings but they seemed to be hiding from me. Instead of turning the place upside down I found an image I liked from my trip and proceeded to paint to calm my nerves. Menton, and many of the towns on the riviera, have shady passageways which suddenly spill out onto sunny courtyards and squares and you get this great interplay of light and shade. This was one such scene as I descended into the old town on Saturday.
Yesterday a walk around Castellar a 15th century village perched up in the mountains above the coast. We couldnt get to the Italian border ( which is very close) as there are now armed troops preventing migrants moving into France from Italy and they dont take too kindly to tourists with cameras – so much for Schengen.
The previous day we had a holiday from the holiday. So we had a wander around town and visited the museums. This view is from the cemetery looking east from Menton over to Italy – painted whilst we waited for the museums to open.
The day before the holiday from the holiday we visited another hill-top town called Eze. Here is the view as I waited outside the church for the others to arrive. It was unfortunate that wave after wave of tourists arrived from a cruise ship at the same time. Tourism on an industrial scale.
Well, decamped to the South of France for a few days walking. It is walking in a group so I dont get much time for painting, but this is what I managed to do, by sprinting ahead and carving out some extra time. The sketch above is of Sospel bridge in the mountains above Monte Carlo. The building on the bridge is an office for the tax man who charged medieval passers-by who mainly who came by with salt for sale in the mountains.
We walked along the coast on the first day. Whilst the rest of the group munched their sandwiches I painted the view through the trees to the sea below.
I started a version of this last week whilst on duty again at the exhibition I was part of. I don’t think it is as successful an image as the painting I did of the dog walkers on my last stint at the gallery, but I do love the impatient anxiety of the woman trying to catch the waiter’s eye and the nonchalance of her husband, given charge of the lapdog.
In the gallery I followed my sketches and did a version of this but by the middle of the afternoon I realised I had the scale wrong. So the painting displayed above was one I did at home. The half completed first attempt is below. As you can see I beefed up the figures and pulled in the scene.
As for the exhibition. In the end I sold 3 paintings which was a good result as far as I am concerned. Today I entered 4 paintings for a juried exhibition, so I wait to hear the decision of the panel’s deliberations,
I must admit to losing interest in this painting midway through, though I do love the cluster of readers under the umbrella. I noticed that there were a lot of these small libraries on beaches in Normandy, France. This was in Fecamp and there was one in Etretat. The hut had the label: Lire a la Plage and people came down and read in the sunshine. It seemed amusing to see people fully clothed clustered in a group reading, ignoring the temptations of the beach.
I may have another go, focussing on the people and cutting out the bulk of beach and cliffs, though the shadow of the cliffs gives a good counterpoint.
We only went for a few days to Dieppe, mainly to pick up some cider and salad dressing and allow for my wife to use a bit of the French she has been working on all year long. This sketch was done by a small village stream whilst we rested during a walk we did, picking up a grande randonee (long distance walking track) out of Dieppe. We didn’t have a map so it we didn’t know where it was going. I had hoped it would take us along the cliff-tops, but it veered off into the country and took us here instead.
As the wife went to the market I took a few minutes on the beach, as the mist started to come in. Just enough time to get the distant cliffs before they disappeared.
I was taken by the image of the three sunlit boats against the shade of the harbour wall, but despite mixing colours on the paper the harbour wall has come out rather dead and there is a lot of it. Well, I thought that it was a good idea at the time.
There was almost as much paint removal as actual painting in this one as I tried to get the dark textures in the foreground. I added some figures at the end which do draw the eye through. I loved the dark shade leading out into the bright light.