Saturday, March 04, 2006

After so much snow, I spied my first flowers behind the barn last week- pierceneige, or snowdrops. They were soon followed by daffodils, shy violets, forsythia and a minute sky blue flower. Today the market in Figeac was full of flowers- pots of pansies, cyclamen, tulips, daffodils and red and pink azaleas. I came home with the back seat of my car covered in mimosa that had been brought up from Nice. My friend, Elisabeth, who is from Saint Remy, was overcome with nostalgia as she breathed in their fresh fragrance.
This is my little barn. I have spent sixteen years fixing it up. It was a ruin when I bought it for $3000, but now it is ready to welcome painters, writers and musicians. This is where I hold watercolor workshops, Laurel and Hardy film festivals, and host yummy meals. I am looking for a cheap second hand video projector so we can have Friday night soups and movies in winter, now that I have a warm woodburning poele. Anyone know where I can get one?
My Rolls, and my fourfooted loverboy. This hangar, behind the barn, is a wonderful shady place where my students and I lunch in summer. Who would have thought that one could get so hungry painting in watercolor, but we do. This year, however, I reckon we are going to have to hold back on the pates, cheeses, and breads and follow the South Beach plan. Some of my clothes haven't seen the light of day for a good few years.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The problem with portraits

The subject of these paintings is a pretty young girl I painted five times, three times from life and finally just working from photographs. The first portrait is painted from photographs. I like the second one best, because it's fresh and lively. It was painted from life. But the mother didn't recognise her daughter. I am very influenced by the confident, competent drawing of the impressionists and don't really like tight realistic portraits, especially when the subject is a child. I like a suggested, inspired, and personal interpretation of the subject. But when I get knotted inside, the painting doesn't work.

I have found comments on Robert Genn's website,, very helpful. Robert raises topics biweekly and a vast international community of artists respond. The most recent email inspired a lengthy debate between several other artists and me, about getting bogged down artistically.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Two commissioned paintings I am working on. I love painting people, but I have a distinct style and perception; it's perhaps a little rough for some people. I like a slightly unfinished look, because to me the painting is more alive that way. It still breathes. I prefer working from life. There is an element of speed because time is limited, especially when painting young children. I have to go for for the most important features rather than getting bogged down in detail. Though in these two cases, I have worked quite a lot subsequently from photographs I took at the session.
The moment of truth has arrived- I have sent off the images and wait nervously for a reply. Whether my approach meshes with the sitter's, or rather the commissioner's expectations is another matter.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Luckily for the birds, I tossed some suet balls studded with seeds into my shopping basket a few days before the storm. The birds are for the most part mousy brown sparrows, though there are some lovely yellow and blue masked tits(?) and some tiny red breasted robins too. Peaches spent the whole day in front of the window, trembling with excitement.

On my way down to collect the milk this evening, a ferret slinked across the road. The birds have to be pretty vigilent around here in winter. Foxes and badgers also hunt at night.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

45 centimeters of snow fell on Rignac yesterday. The locals shake their heads in disbelief. Even M.Cabrolet, the oldest farmer in the village, has never seen the like. This is my neighbour's house. Mme Bouyssou provides me with fresh eggs and a pint of warm milk every morning.
Thabo is doing his nut. Who would have thought that we had lunch at this very table in the sunshine and shirtsleeves three days ago...

Friday, January 27, 2006

This is a detail from the jacket art for my new book Vinnie and Abraham, written by Dawn FitzGerald. It's a great story about the very young woman who was commissioned by Congress to sculpt Abraham Lincoln for the Capitol building in DC. I post it off tomorrow, and hopefully will have a bit more time for my own sketching and painting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Here is a small oil painting of flowers and quinces on my table that was inspired by my love of Cezanne. I wonder how many people over the years have been inspired by the "father of us all", as Picasso called him. I did this painting in about an hour, and am not sure whether it is finished. Does the unpainted canvas bother you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cezanne died one hundred years ago this year. He has to be my favourite painter. Here is a beautiful study to share with and inspire you. It is called Still life with apples, and is in the Getty Museum.

I am still slogging away on the jacket. No sketching for the moment, but lovely foggy walks with Thabo.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Another cold day. Where is the sun? Thabo and I climbed up the other side of the valley to look for it. We left Peaches sleeping in the chair. When we got back two hours later, she was still in the same position. However as soon as I started painting her, she moved. Cats.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Far too cold to sketch outside today. I warm my hands around a steaming bowl of milky coffee and gaze out through the frosty window pane at the grey sky. Across the street, amongst the detritius in my neighbour's barn, I spy two pointy ears above a bale of hay. I cross the street with an offering of food, but the ears disappear.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This afternoon, the sun finally managed to push its way through the clouds and shine for a few hours. I took Thabo and Peaches out for a walk, to check on the new lambs that were born in bitter weather between Christmas and New Year. I can't imagine why sheep lamb in the middle of winter but they do.

I took along my sketchpad, and arrived in time to see Antoine, the old refugee (from the Spanish Civil War) pitching hay into the sheep manger. It made a nice sketch.

New Year's Resolutions

Mine are already beginning to fade as my head recovers from a wild night of village feasting and feting beginning on the 31 and continuing well into the 1st. There were flagons of champagne. There were pots of foie gras. There was even a boar roasting on a spit above the fire. And there was far too much dancing for these creaky old bones.

In New York I would be in bed with my book and cocoa by 9:30. Will I be able to keep up with the pace of life in Rignac? I heard this part of rural France was quiet in winter- mortel même. I also heard that the winters were mild... I feel like a Dickensian creature as I make my way gingerly down the icy steps to the cellar to retrieve faggots of wood for me fire. Brrrrr...

Here is a picture of the Rignac I have known and painted for the last fifteen years- Rignac in summer. Will I be able to survive here the whole year round? Stay tuned.