'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.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Cathar Castles

This part of southern France, the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees, is known as Cathar Country, dotted with ruined chateaux where the Cathars, branded as heretics by the Roman Catholics, took refuge during the crusade which ultimately destroyed them.

On the day of the Winter Solstice this year, we went to one of the most spectacular of these Cathar strongholds - Quéribus, down towards the Mediterranean, on the edge of the Corbières.

It was cloudy and threatening rain when we arrived but just as we reached the top of the steep path, the sun made a brief appearance and I sat down to sketch the steps leading up to the arched entrance.

At one point the light started to fail though it was only midday; I turned around and saw, hovering over the valley below, the strangest and blackest cloud I've ever seen. We hot-footed it back down to the car park where I did a second sketch from the warmth and protection of the car.

Boxing Day was sunny and warmish so I took advantage and drove over the hill to sketch another Cathar castle - Puivert. I particularly like the view of the back of the chateau as you come down the hill into Puivert village. It was a clear blue day and the light was exquisite.

Yesterday also dawned sunny and mild so we jumped in the car again and drove over to the Ariège. Between Lavelanet and Foix is another, rather spectacular chateau that we had often passed but never visited: Roquefixade. This time we made the detour - and didn't regret it. We parked in the delightful village square and made our way up the steep path to the ruined chateau, perched on top of a limestone outcrop. It was a perfect day to come up here, to enjoy astonishing views of the snow-capped Pyrenees and the neighbouring chateau of Montségur on its pog further along the valley.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hunting Shooting Fishing

For my first post on the Urban Sketchers France blog since being invited as a correspondent, I drew one of Quillan's traditional shops on the Place de la République. 

Yesterday afternoon, with my daughter at her usual two-hour dance class in Quillan, I found a much coveted parking space with a good view of the quirky aqua green shop front of the hunting, shooting and fishing supplier's. This side of the square was in shadow and the buildings opposite were mirrored clearly in the shop's windows. With its murals of leaping salmon and unsuspecting ducks flying over a pond thick with bulrushes, this place is a blast from the past.

Mon premier poste en tant que correspondant du blog Urban Sketchers France…
Hier après-midi, quand je me suis garée devant le magasin « Aux Loisirs de la Haute Vallée » pour dessiner, ce côté-là de la place était à l’ombre et les bâtiments d’en face se reflétaient dans la vitrine comme dans un miroir. Avec ses peintures murales de poissons et de canards survolant une mare avec des joncs, c’est une vraie relique du passé.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Passion Fruit

Well, it's been ten months since I posted anything on this blog. In that time, I have been getting involved with the art community on Flickr and created a fan page for my art on Facebook. And I did wonder what the point of a blog was, especially as I don't always have the time, the inclination or indeed the skill to write an interesting commentary. But now, having just become a correspondent on the Urban Sketchers France blog - an exciting new stage of my artistic journey - I think it's time to revive my own blog.

And what better day to start than a crisp, sunny Sunday in the Haute Vallée... the light was exquisite. It was cold but so beautifully sunny that I just had to get out and sketch. In Espéraza, on the road that runs alongside the railway, I found a house, clearly a holiday home, its green shutters closed for the winter, the stubby plane trees opposite casting huge shadows onto the facade. My eye was drawn by a few golden passion fruits dangling from a vine that crept along the railings in front of the house.

Quoiqu’un peu froid, il faisait tellement beau aujourd’hui que je rongeais mon frein pour dessiner dehors. A Espéraza, sur la rue qui longe le chemin de fer, les platanes dénudés jettent leurs ombres gigantesques sur les façades des maisons d’en face. Passant devant une résidence secondaire, ses volets verts fermés pour l’hiver, j’ai été attirée par les fruits de la passion dorés qui pendaient toujours à sa liane sur la grille devant la maison.