'Aller au fil de l'eau' means to go with the flow. It is also, appropriately, the name of the café in the small French village where I live. On the terrace, the atmosphere is relaxed, life seems to mosey along no faster than the river that slips lazily by. In spring and early summer, conversations are often accompanied by a chorus of croaking frogs. Creating this blog is some kind of commitment to take brush or pen or pencil in hand every day and make art. As Julia Cameron says: "...creativity is not a marathon event that we must gird ourselves for, whacking off great swaths of life as we know it to make room for it. Creativity is not aberrant, not dramatic, not dangerous. If anything, it is the pent-up energy of not using our creativity that feels that way". Not making art is like trying to stop the flow of the river. I surrender to the flow and watch where it takes me.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


The final sketch from my Christmas visit back home. Delph is one of the villages of slate-roofed, millstone grit houses that make up the rural area of Saddleworth in the Pennine Hills. It was damp and not very bright for eight out of the nine days I was there. Living in the south of France, I am used to strong light and deep shadows creating depth and stark contrasts. Here in Delph on a damp, dark day typical of the area, the views are flattened and lines softened by the misty atmosphere.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas in Delph

A first for me this year: painting on Christmas Day, a great antidote to overeating and awful telly. This is the view from another window of Mum and Dad's second-floor flat. At twilight the lights in the craft shop window are reflected in the wet road. Delph has won awards for its Christmas lights... many buildings have real Christmas trees with white lights mounted on the walls.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Delph Rooftops

In Delph for Christmas. View over part of the village from Mum and Dad's second floor window. There was still snow on the hills when we arrived on Monday and the first three days were dark, misty and rainy. This morning the sun came out and there were shadows to enliven my sketch.
Nous sommes à Delph au nord-ouest d'Angleterre pour les Fêtes. J'ai fait ce croquis de la fenêtre de l'apartement de mes parents au deuxième étage. Il y avait toujours de la neige sur les hauteurs quand nous sommes arrivés lundi et les trois premiers jours il a plu. Ce matin le soleil était au rendez-vous pour faire des ombres. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Open All Hours

I wanted to sketch this old-fashioned greengrocer's shopfront with the clementines shining bright orange in the lights. The only place I could find to park my car was behind a huge plane tree so I could only glimpse part of the fruit display. In the end I decided it made for quite an interesting composition!
J'avais envie de croquer la devanture de cette vieille épicerie avec ses clémentines orange tape-à-l'oeil. Le seul endroit où j'ai pu garer ma voiture était derrière un énorme platane qui cachait la moitié de la vue. Je me suis rendue compte finalement que cela rendait la composition assez intéressante !    

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Sketched from my car, parked across the square from this busy newsagents and tobacconists. At six thirty in the evening, there is a steady stream of customers, calling in for a pack of Gauloises or a copy of the local paper on their way home from work.

The lighting was a challenge. The front of the building is lit by the street lamps in the square and the two floodlights on the shopfront cast diagonal beams. The style of the lettering caught my eye. I wondered if "alhumetur" meant "match" in Occitan (the local dialect) but I haven't been able to verify that.

Doorstep Jumble

Sitting on the terrace the other day, enjoying my coffee in the late November sun, my eyes fell on this random collection of objects clustered near the outside tap. We'd been decorating and there was a paintbrush soaking in a pot, a container of white spirit, a jug I use for watering, our wood-chopping block and some pebbles and shells in front of the plant pots. A few months ago you'd have heard me frequently muttering that I never know what to paint but now anything and everything is fodder for my sketchbook.   

Monday, 28 November 2011

Footbridge at Dusk

It's getting chilly as well as dark in the evenings now. Did this from the car while Delphine was at dance class. I realise I should have shifted my position to avoid the church tower looking like an extension of the bridge support... oh well.

Drawn on the spot, washes added at home.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


On both the houses in this sketch you can see the génoises which are a common architectural feature on old houses here in Languedoc Roussillon and other parts of southern France. These are single, double or even triple rows of canal tiles fitted under the eaves and filled in with mortar. Their purpose, I've learned, is to protect the walls of the building from rainwater, in the absence of guttering. The taller the house, the more rows of génoises are needed to do the job.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

White Van

The village was rockin' last night with the blues gig at Café de Fa, back to its usual quiet self this afternoon. I rarely put parked vehicles in my sketches, let alone people, because they have a habit of moving. This white van looked like it was there for a while however so I took a risk and managed to finish it before the owner came back. And what do you know, it belonged to Uncl'Stf, the blues man from last night.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Potasse d'Alsace

Now we are well into November, there are not many minutes of daylight left for my weekly sketching slot while my daughter is at dance class. Tonight I took a wander over the footbridge in Espéraza and noticed what I presume is an old agricultural merchants building with a faded Potasse d'Alsace logo with its stork emblem painted on the facade. The light was fading fast but I just had time to get down the pen drawing. The colour was added at home with Derwent coloured pencils.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Simon's Boots

Proud of myself for taking advantage of an odd ten minutes, while my husband was getting ready for the market, to sketch his boots, just where they lay, nonchalantly discarded in the hallway when he came in from a gig last night.
Pilot marker coloured later with Derwent watercolour pencils.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday Sketches

Sunday in the Haute Vallée is market day. Just like in the old days, people flock to Espéraza from the surrounding villages, to buy fresh produce and catch up with friends. Today, the day before Halloween, there was a calm, unhurried atmosphere and the sun shone, though more softly than in the heat of summer. For the first time in the seven years I have been coming to this market, I dared to sit sketching amid all the activity. 

In the afternoon, it was still warm enough to sit on the bench opposite Fa café and do a watercolour sketch. The parasols are folded down for the winter now and the trees on the hillside behind are just starting to turn colour.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Riverside Houses

My regular Tuesday evening sketching hour this week found me down by the river Aude in Quillan. I sat on a bench and drew the houses on the opposite side of the river. It was probably the last opportunity I will get this year to sketch outside while my daughter is at dance class. It had been a glorious day but the sun had already sunk below the mountain by the time I started and there was a definite autumn nip in the air. On one of the balconies, a man sat sipping his aperitif and was briefly joined by his wife before they both withdrew into the warmly glowing interior of their home. A faint whiff of wood smoke from the first fires of the season hung on the air.        

Saturday, 15 October 2011

No Entry

This month's Virtual Paintout took me, via Google Street View, to Sardinia which, like last month's location New Orleans, abounds with the colourful facades and wrought iron balconies I am so fond of painting. What really interests me is the shadows, their shapes and tones. Edward Hopper said: "Maybe I am not very human. What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house". I feel very much the same.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Quillan rooftops

Found a great viewpoint for my sketching this evening: Quillan castle, high on the hill where you can look down on the red rooftops and the Aude river flowing through.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Big Easy

Having visited New Orleans years ago, I was inspired to participate in this month's Virtual Paintout, an online art challenge hosted by American artist Bill Guffey. The idea is to cruise around the month's featured city in Google Street View and paint a scene that takes your fancy. The view I chose reflects my enjoyment of the architecture of The Big Easy, with its wrought-iron balconies and colourful facades, and the interplay of light and shadow.