This season, already naturally quite sad, is worsened this year by death and horror. The deadly virus won’t go away and we’re hit by barbarity once more. But we won’t let these abominations affect us.
Drawing life, giving images to soften our pain or exult our feelings, is the duty of the artist and the power of painting. Art is infinite. We need it. And we need its intransigeant freedom !
Saddened by this new phase of confinement which forces us to close the gallery in Lourmarin, Christine stuck a sign on the door : Visit our shop on-line : isirdi.com
From now on this will be our only means of communication. That’s why, for my part, I feel I ought to make the most of this quiet season, and get back to my blog.
Christine and I would like to convey to you our faith in the eternal beauty of Nature.
So let’s spend Autumn together my friends !
It isn’t so difficult to soak up this season. We just need to open the windows of our homes and it takes hold of our hearts.
The persimmon has become adorned with shades of rust, vermillion, purple and magenta. The big plane tree which thrones in the middle of the garden and once welcomed garden seats has swapped its green mantle for a cape of gold. These colours will become the reins of the chariot of my creation.
Sometimes, Christine or Claire will come with me. They’ve always loved the rare chance to follow me into the landscape.
But I’m sure you’ve understood that it’s you I’ve invited to accompany me during this creative period.
This blog is for you – like a little pre-Christmas gift.
Day one (Saturday October 30, 2020)
The first thing to do is decide on our means of transport : Jeep or Mercedes ?
I hear you exclaiming : well, they’re both old jalopies !
Yes, but just like the old people we’ve known, they’ve stayed optimistic all their lives and will strengthen our enthusiasm… and put up with paint marks and scratches on the bodywork !
If I’d gone alone, I would have taken the Jeep without thinking twice, despite a bit of a leak from the exhaust pipe, making me drive with the windows wound down.
Another weakness of this car – that you’ll no doubt laugh at – is that the support arms of the tailgate, which gives access to its vast boot, are irremediably broken. I have to hold it open with a stick with the risk, if I were to nudge it, of causing it to crash down & knock me unconscious in the middle of nowhere !
(Did I get the little smile I expected ? Do tell me !)
These little risks don’t bother me too much in comparison with the advantages : you would be amazed at the vast boot, rearranged to hold big pictures ! And I feel so much more comfortable in it when climbing the paths : it’s my favourite portable studio. Peasants recognize me and let me wander around the land like a happy old grandpa ! You’d be moved to see them greet us from up there on their tractors ! For them, an artist is sacred !
But for sure the Mercedes will be more comfortable for the passengers and will do fine for storage. Its boot is practical : its easy to get the plastic shelf out to wash in case of spills. We can make the most of the back seats for space, although its low chassis won’t enable us to go too far off the roads.
I just hope the police or the gendarmes will leave us in peace – I expect to see them around every corner.
As for the peasants, they’ll get to know us.
Day one is an excuse for a rehearsal. As space in the car is limited, we can only take essentials : for materials – easels, pots, brushes, paints , and for equipment – parasol, small tools, rags, water and food supplies.
Once everything is in place, Christine has to squeeze in.
What about you, my friends ? Where will I put you ?
Well, just follow on behind please !
Since the accident we had in a car driven by a mad man (of course we shouldn’t have trusted him) Christine doesn’t like being driven around. Even at a donkey pace she trembles. So we agree : I’ll drive there and she’ll drive back.
As for you, you can stay warm and safe in your beds or sofas. Lucky you ! Not everyone can be invited along by an artist on an outdoor excursion in his mobile studio.
So just let yourselves be gently rocked along as he looks for a subject. Oh ! what a good idea it was to visit his site !
Leaving the Bastides, we follow the road lined by the plane trees we planted 20-old years ago. They were, at the time, just one-meter high, hardly thicker than my thumb. Today, their trunks are as big as my torso and they’re higher than the house, creating an incandescant envelope. Christine would love me to paint them.
“Soon, maybe ?”, she asks.
“If the weather allows”. I reply.
We need to keep in mind that our outing is supposed to lead us to something new to paint a complete picture before the end of the day ! Quite a programme !
They say Faith can move mountains !
So we’ll leave this alley bathed in flames behind us and turn left towards Ansouis. Now we’re driving into favourite scenery. I know this place by heart, but there is always something new to do : a road I’ve never driven along, a light, a viewpoint, an event that will make it seem like new.
The Mercedes will get some rough handling !
Due to its low latitude,the zenith light of mid day exalts the colours of the vines. This bodes well for a beautiful symphony of colours.
We go at almost a walking pace. Christine gives me the impression she’s coping OK, overcoming her fear. Will she get a bit of her confidence back sitting beside me ?
The lovely village of Ansouis rises up before us like a monumental sculpture !
This assembly of roofs and facades, each with its own particularities, contributes to the beauty of the village. How wretched we all are in the grip of our difficulty to live together ; but here is an example of harmony created by man !
Traditionally these houses had a small plot of land that the inhabitants cultivated. Some of them still have them.
Christine and I exchange ideas on other views of the multicoloured scenery, isolated farms, trees, fields, all of it charming, even the graffiti on the bricks of the ruined huts don’t offend us. We live with the times. Painting invades the land with its tears and cries. Architecture will always rhyme with Nature. We agree that lovely architecture will leave lovely ruins !
Don’t you think that these villages are real treasures ? Let’s hope new builders will be inspired by their beauty !
We could meditate for ages about all the many examples of scenery. But we need to keep to our objective : paint a picture of Autumn just for you.
We drive in front of the wine Co-operative of Ansouis. The date on its facade : 1925.
One day I’d like to paint this place. Another time, I hope it will be before it’s a century old.
Along the way we decide to drive behind the houses in Cabrières at the foot of the Luberon. We set up the easel by a little road which we suppose leads to the top of the mountain. The locals call it “sur tête”.
Just near me a big iron cover rings out like a church bell against my easel. This tells me there’s a water reservoir beneath my feet (in case of fire) and reminds me that the forest is fragile and needs to be protected.
As soon as I’m set up, the light speaks to me and tells me her story. The gentle warmth in my back tells me where she’s coming from. The light on the tree trunks shows me what she’s doing.
It’s up to me to guess what she will do. She comes through the small branches of the pines and throws herself onto the path like a blood-coloured flame.
Oh how I’m tempted to paint everything at once ! But I hold back, otherwise it would mean changing the style I’d planned for today ; irrespectful of the rest of the scenery. And anyway I’d come a cropper later on.
Can a painter have several styles ?
Ah ! I see a reaction from you !
I can assure you he can ! What do you think Picasso did all his life ?
But let’s not mix style and writing.
Style can break into a thousand pieces so that another has to be found to answer life’s calling.
As for writing, that’s another story.
We’ll see that a bit later.
For now, first of all set up the Luberon then the different plans. Overlap these plans starting with the farthest away. That’s how I’ll go about things.
So, to work on colour, starting with the sky. For me there’s bluer than the sky, there’s painting it. The blue sky is impossible to paint, it changes non stop. Behind the hill you see it’s more yellow, paler, then more ultramarine, more dense above my head, vibrant and shimmering like the Pointillists’ skies. One thing is for sure – it will never be the same blue as the blue on my palette.
How can you compare the bright spots on the clouds ? Simply observing isn’t enough.
Yes, that’s the word I wanted to hear you say. But do we really understand the meaning ? It can be as faithful as friendship and as hard as a lie. It can happen that in the sky, passes the shadow of a cloud. This shadow, fleeing at the speed of the wind, can – I’m convinced – light up disasters, making them less horrific.
A walker – not looking much like the usual walker who strolls & exclaims at everything – throws me a worried look as he hurries by.
Don’t forget, we’re at day one of confinement. there’s no time to lose for him : one hour to get some fresh air isn’t much. I realize that I too am in a hurry. In a hurry to finish.
As you know, that’s all I’ve had on my mind since the beginning : finding that light. After all that is what this painting is all about.
Several times, I felt cold shivers down my spine, and each time Christine’s kind heart reacted and she put extra layers on me as time passed. The walker who passed earlier came back along the same path, puffing and panting. Didn’t he calculate how long it would take to go up to the crest and come back down ? Certainly longer than authorized !
As for myself; my painting is going well but I’m panting like him. We exchange compassionate winks.
We both know that, although the origins of the grimaces are different, both are dictated by fear. For the walker he has to avoid the gendarme, whilst I have to finish my painting before the light fades.
To be continued …
(Translated by Roberta Szourou)