Saturday, 26 April 2014

PAINTING IN LEZELE or THE ETERNAL SEARCH FOR GOOD WIFI (or "now, to find the bl...y post office")

I’ve just finished two paintings – the first in 6 months!   Interestingly, while the little piece is of a Mill less than a mile from my studio, and I’ve spent time sketching it, looking at it, and lusting after its open space and windows, I the bigger painting by far – thus most important? Not really – is the one I’ve done of Loch Shiel, looking north to the Glenfinnan viaduct and Glenfinnan Estate.  I looked at that view three times a week on my run, and FINALLY got it finished!  I thought you’d like to see the process, just a bit....  Sketch, interim painting – as yet unfinished -,  and the finished product. 

Part of the distraction of this past 10 days or so, when I finally started working, has been errands – those things that keep taking time.... and the last was finding a post office in which to post two letters I’ve put off posting purely because of the hassle of finding and dealing with in French, the local post office!  I did it.  So, perhaps we’re in a period of no longer putting off what can be done today!   Dancer presents the ever present distraction and much needed anchor that she has always presented....perhaps her tales from this period should have their own page...  The latest was magnesium deficiency, which manifested in her in neurotic, needy, panic’d behaviour.  Sorted, but not before we made ourselves a little unpopular in our local barn....Whew!  Poor thing!

Its good to be up to my elbows and eyebrows in oil paint once again; music of all types blaring on the stereo – helping me feel the places I’ve either taken photos or sketched, or both....  I’m still very much all over the place in my interest....  but I’m finding that ever so elusive focus. 
midway on the Loch Shiel painting... the sketch is in the last post!

Early Autumn, Loch Shiel  12 x 16 in., oil on board, £1,250.00

Mill at Pont Morvan, Brittany,  6 x 8 in.,  oil on board, £700.00

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Finding My Rhythm

I have now settled into my temporary residence in a mostly 16th Century Braeton house, courtesy of the generosity of a friend. The plan is to stay here, use it as a base to explore from (should a painting or two sell), and paint.  If you’re trying to find it, Lézélé en Plouyé, Huelgoat, Brittany is west of Carhaix....set in the middle of the finger that is Brittany and on the edge of the Finistere.  After spending hours every day working with my beloved mare, Dancer, helping her feel secure (still an ongoing process these days) and settled in HER new home, this past week, I began to paint. 

After a 6 month hiatus, the sense of relief was palpable, when I got out the oil paints.  Coaxing the tops off of disused tubes of paint, the jar of liquin, and finding my turps substitute (legal to take on a car ferry...) was nearly a religious experience for me on the first day!  Yet the two paintings I started have come along slowly as I picked my way through the image, trying to work with different light, an image across the room (electrical outlets being a challenge here), etc., etc. 

I first found myself sketching not Brittany, once I’d found the image I wanted of the local disused mill, at Pont Morvan; but Scotland and my beloved Glenfinnan, and also,  the beaches of Normandy and even more so, the markets and landscapes of the Cote d’Azur.  I also found myself suddenly aware that the sketches themselves might be, must be interesting to clients!  I had to tell myself not to be silly, to ignore that voice, because as soon as I paid attention to it (that voice), my sketches became stilted and awkward and DEFINITELY less loose.  Lots of laughter ensued; thankfully, I managed to quell the critic fairly rapidly.  The sketches are for ME and my work, and if a few of them get into the larger world, then fabulous – but not the other way around!! 

Some of the effort of the last few weeks, and continues in this completely new (to me) place, has gone to sourcing materials, solving problems, finding the market, necessary things for my horse, my painting, my sanity!  It’s nice to be able to run to a market and back in 20 minutes (!!), but the other side of that is that I’m finding that I’m more isolated here than I ever was in Glenfinnan.  It’s harder to get out into the world here  - Even to the rest of France.  Brittany is just that isolated in its little peninsula world.  So, a hard realization has been that my beloved cat, Ceilidh is best left with her next best friend, my neighbour, until I am able to move to a less transient home (I miss her terribly!); and that at the moment, any spare cash is necessarily used on exploring my new world, to find my rhythm, to see if this part of France ‘fits’ me. 

I’m now alone in the house for the first time.  Not alone as in “going to the market”, but on my own.  To fill my day however suits me, to not share conversation with someone over dinner one or the other of us has cooked, to not say goodnight to anyone. I like that part of life! In fact, I’m realizing that this is the first time since I left my studio at the Steading in Glenfinnan that I’m truly alone in the biggest sense of the word!  And this timing here now, is pretty much when I thought I’d be ready to leave that studio for the larger world!  Whew!  What a journey! My own devices, bar the very welcome interruptions of new friends or visiting loved ones, completely – answering to no-one!  Rhythm indeed! 

Vuellettes sur Mer, sketch 2, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
 Vuellettes Sur Mer, sketch, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
 Mill at  Pont Morven 2, Sketch in Pencil for painting, 6
 x 8 in., pencil on paper  £100.
Loch Shiel sketch for painting, charcoal on paper, approx. 11 x 16 in., £200

Thursday, 10 April 2014

From Lezele en Plouye

old mill at Pont Morvan
Well, I’ve finally made it to Lezele en Plouye, Brittany, France!  I’m finally ensconsed in my ancient/new, temporary abode where I hope to find inspiration and be able to paint.  If not the surrounding scenery, then other places within Brittany, while I explore; or further south, where I KNOW I feel the inspiration!  Getting here wasn’t easy....and has taken all I had in reserve,  as hidden expenses, unforeseen problems, and just  time got in the way.  I’m here now, and am already itching to get settled enough to begin to paint.  I have been reunited with my beloved mare, Dancer, after nearly 6 months, and am now exploring creative ways to get my cat, Ceilidh here with me. 

Incredibly, I had an easy drive, once I saw Dancer (who was in Wales temporarily), and headed on to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel in my car (no ferry this stormy time....) I found myself in the  beautiful, big skies of Normandy, and landed with a dear friend I’d not seen in years.  She generously made her little gite available for my first week in France.  The perfect place for me to settle, get my bearings, and get my head around this huge leap I’ve taken in my life – if even for 6 months!  As you might guess, I got out into the sun each day and explored more of the Normandy coast around LeBourg Dun – returned to Sottieville for more photos and sketching, and Vuelettes  sur Mer, which is like a mini Etretat (just a bit further West along the coast, unsurprisingly!) .  This part of France has always inspired me, and I’m not surprised to be beginning there with my sketching. 
I then landed with new friends at Kervalen Organic Farm ( , in Kervalen, by Plouye (just a mile up the road from Lezele), where I waited for Dancer to arrive a day later!  A week there settling my very patient horse, then moved to Lezele, where I will spend the next 5/6 months, while I explore this new world!  So far, its been rolling hills, sunlight, riding, and finally, a bit of inspiration at an old mill, still fairly intact – although the mill works have been removed and stored in a barn...  A nice gentle beginning. 
I’m actively marketing my sketches now, as a way of raising a bit of cash to keep me afloat in between painting sales. It IS a way for people who can’t afford the oil paintings, to have a Wendorf – and many love the immediacy of a quick sketch.  And to  add to the mix, I’ve met with a Scottish neighbour (yep, in France, I’ve got a Scottish neighbour... ), and he’s asked if I’d be interested in a little summer exhibition with himself and a few other local artists in a wonderful space in Huelgoat.  I said unequivably, “Yes!!”  At least a chance to get my work out!  In the meantime, I’m also putting one foot in front of the other, as I spoke about before, leaving no stone unturned, looking for ways to make up for the loss of “potential income” of those two cancelled summer exhibitions.   
But what I really need is to find my focus, my rhythm – which seems a bit hard won at the moment, with so much on my mind.  I need to find that quiet place inside me that sees and hears the need to paint something; that understands, trusts, and knows that all will be ok.  I’d not have had all the help to get here if I was going to fail!  I saw on Facebook the other day a quote from Georgia O’Keefe, who basically said she never had a day where she didn’t have to face fear in her artistic life.  I suddenly felt in grand company, normal, not so alone. 
I’m ending this missive, by posting a few of the new sketches – note, I’m a bit homesick for Scotland as well as New Mexico, thus two large Scottish sketches....if that isn’t a muddle, I don’t know what is!!

 Loch Shiel scketch, autumn 2013,  approx. 11 x 16 in., charcoal on paper £200
Mill at Pont Morvan, sketch  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100

 Sottieville sketch, spring 2014,  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100