Sunday October 31 2020
Christine and I go back in the Mercedes along the road to Cabrières. We get to a grassy hillock with a few wild bushes. The view is of a farandole of vineyards and olive groves surrounded by small roads dotted with huts. Painting a picture outdoors like this is, for an artist, like a prisoner who is set free. Hope is unlimited at each of the 360 degrees. So let’s enter into the immense and transparent chamber of our imagination and, like the fairy tale, put on the magic boots and set off. We’re about to be transported into every corner of the landscape and, as if on a gravestone, pause for a moment of silence, noting our impressions on a page in our hearts.
Then come back to the easel without losing that page along the way, and transfer it onto the canvas with form and colour.
If only I could cut out a piece of sky or earth! That is sometimes what an artist achieves once his work is finally finished, even though he is no longer asked to reproduce things realistically. It is his own style that makes each creation unique.
– So, what is painting, in fact ?
One day, one of my painter friends (back in the days when I had more than one) asked me that question. He went on:
– It’s knowing how to add red to yellow or to blue when necessary, and there you are!
I asked him to explain drawing to me.
– Learn a few rules of perspective: the horizon line, the vanishing point as it crosses our viewpoint and there you are, again!
I agreed with him, as the best thing to do is to let yourself get carried away by creative outbursts, drawing and painting with your soul with these rules in mind, in order to see then erase the prison bars.
Getting back to the day’s subject, I had to do a lot of back-and-fore, making wagers with myself: is this colour I’m mixing on the palette the right one? Only I can be the judge of that.
It’s more or less what I want.
– Right! Let’s see if I can do better. My movements around the canvas can be better. It’s sometimes long and tiring. But as Christine is there, I might as well ask her opinion.
– What do you think about the colour of the pines
– Hm, it’s all right.
Or she might say “A bit darker green”.
Thanks! I go back to the landscape, I compare it to mine again and come back, determined to let the paint dribble from my brushes onto the canvas. May the gods of paint forgive my approximations!
At the end of it all, I’m worn out.
– That’s enough, you need to sign it now, says Christine, standing behind me and seeing me dithering.
It’s practical for a painter like me, in a frenzy, to have an artistic assistant. Christine is so much more than that; she makes the gallery viable. She’s a heaven-sent art goddess!
In the glare of the sun, the light is without pity.
– I haven’t painted the damage in the roof on the middle hut.
– What damage ?
I point the end of my brush to show her the roof of the hut: from here it looks undamaged whereas from a distance in the blue evening vapours, the roof timbers must have rotted and the tiles knocked down part of the wall in their fall.
– But we don’t care about that !
– Now, that’s what’s important, she said, pointing to the rebel tufts of olive trees in the foreground!
She’s right, we don’t care so let’s get going!
I’ve still to paint & draw these branches crushed by the peasant’s cart, and the stones with their shell prints that the plough lifted.
But I’m going too fast and the goddess catches me:
– Keep your mind on what you’re doing! You mustn’t rush it.
She knows how to keep me on track. Meanwhile the great master of light pursues his course on its low orbit.
At the end of the day, when I’ve signed and dated the picture, when Christine and I pack up the material, seeing the palettes still covered with thick paint, I’m ashamed.
All that paint, hardly touched, ready to be thrown on the fire, such a waste. No no! All this, witness to my labour, I’m going to share it with you!
Everyone can have a palette signed and dated for each day of my Autumn work. All you need to do to get a piece, is make a comment on my blog.
Christine will be pleased to send it to you … like a Christmas gift!
To be continued …
(Translated by Roberta Szourou)