Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rough day

Had a rotten day. A couple of commissions seem to have fallen through, foul sleety weather, massive internet hassles, but those irritations paled when a neighbouring farmer arrived to tell me that Sam and another dog had killed one of his lambs early this morning.

So terribly distressing. I have ordered an invisible electric fence to cordon off the property and am hoping this will keep Sam from being able to wander off on his own at night. He always manages to slip out while we are schlepping in wood or taking out rubbish, or Thabo pushes open the door from outside.

Anyway, at least I have sorted out my internet problems and so was able to load a new batch of art for sale onto my website. This picture is of the vide grenier in Gramat last August, incidently when Sam first wandered into my life as I was painting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Concert at the Chateau

I thought I was being so discreet at the concert last summer in the courtyard of a beautifully restored castle near Gourdon that no one would notice me, tucked behind some bushes scribbling on stretched paper with pencils and watercolours.

It was a magical evening. The glow of the late summer sun turned the sky a pale green gold and small stars emerged in the darkening royal blue skies, while Schubert and Chopin enchanted the audience.

Yesterday I got a call from our host. Not only had he noticed me but he had tracked me down and wanted to buy the picture. I have just found it, after rifling around my studio all afternoon, still stuck to the board.

Temperatures are barely creeping above 0 degrees at the moment. How nice to be reminded of long summer evenings and why I love living here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Corot's house

Corot's house is the little one on the left, next to the river. The walkway leads into a tunnel that used to the circle the fortified island town of Crécy-la-Chapelle, under the ramparts.

Below right, is one of the many wash houses on the canals of the town, and behind it is an old defense tower.

It was too cold to sketch in January, but I would love to return in warmer weather with my watercolour pad.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moulin de Saint-Martin

I wish I could claim to be the creator of this lovely mill, but it is painted by a member of the nineteenth century French School and hangs in the Musée d'Orsay. The painting is not attributed to anyone in particular, but the moulin is around the corner from Corot's house in Crécy-la-Chapelle. This area has inspired many artists from Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to Fauvists and Nabis like André Derain.

The mill has been converted into a two bedroom chambres d'hôte and I am staying here for a few days. It's the middle of winter and the Grand Morin is roaring past under damp misty skies, but I couldn't think of a more comfortable spot to be sipping Monk Tea than in front of the fire in the moulin's livingroom.

I will pay for my supper by spending the next few days tromping around the huge and exhausting Maisons & Objets trade show in Paris, helping a friend select merchandise for his shop. But that's hours away, so for now I will pour myself another cup of fragrant tea and continue to toast my tootsies in front of the fire...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A young Australian couple has come to house and animal sit for two months so I can escape the winter. Zane was talked into posing for the Monday group before he knew what hit him. Here are two drawings of him, which are rather nice but don't have much to do with his cheery and upbeat personality.

I found them though by the way, should anyone need these kind of services.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

After the Kill

I am working on a picture book entitled After the Kill, by Darrin Linde, a zoologist at the American Museum of Natural History. The book is about what happens to a zebra carcass after the lions have killed it: all the animals that thrive off the kill until all that is left are a few bare bones.
I didn't know how I would illustrate the text which is graphic and realistic, until my eye caught sight of a postcard pinned above my desk of a small Picasso painting of a cat with a bird in its mouth. It inspired a quick series of thumbnails, that I am now working up into a layout. I hope to maintain the vitality and verve of the thumbnails in the final artwork.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Portraits from photographs

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone over the internet who asked me if I could turn a photograph of her husband and daughter into a painting.

I really prefer painting portraits from life, but sometimes its just not possible. I would not only have to fly to New York but time travel to someone's bedroom last year to capture this scene. I have spent a lot more time on this picture than I normally do. I have to capture the likeness of the subjects of course, but I also need to make an interesting painting. I keep going back and forth, back and forth.

I need to stop and send a photo off for feedback. If it's rejected outright, then I will feel free to do what I want with it... and perhaps submit it to the National Portrait Gallery's 2010 Competition...

Monday, January 04, 2010


Another three hour portrait session. Patricia brought her daughter, Zoë this evening. She was wonderful, and watched Singing in the Rain in French and then English while we painted her. I have always preferred painting portraits of children in watercolour, but I think it's just as easy to paint them in oils. I will let my clients choose the medium from now on.

It's difficult to avoid a bit of glare on oil paintings when photographing them, even when the paint is dry. I suppose proper photographers use careful lighting and filters to screen out reflective light.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


One of the members of our Monday night life drawing group brought her son in as a model this this week. He watched a video while we painted him. Lovely working in oils from time to time- so rich and sumptuous after watercolour. It's a good exercise too- having to complete something in three hours. I was pleased with the result. Paulo is on the cusp of manhood and I think I captured the transition quite well.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Film exercise

My good friend Ron McCullagh is here for the holidays. He is an award winning documentary film maker, and he has offered to make a stop animation film of my painting a still life. I suggested flowers, as it is the last painting we do in the foundation week. It combines all the the exercises we have done: washes, overlaid washes, tonal contrast, form, colour value and hue, composition, definition and edges. I should be able to post it on my website soon.