'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.


  1. Love your paintings: you have a lively and observant touch. I absolutely agree about creativity: not doing it is like le petit mort.