'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, 31 January 2013

Plein air sketching in January?

January has ended with two unseasonably warm days. Yesterday I sat by the river in Quillan and did a quick watercolour sketch of the Pont Vieux. After the heavy rainfall of the past few days, the river was rushing noisily past. 

Janvier se termine sous le soleil. Hier à Quillan il a fait 18° C ! Le beau temps m’a fait sortir de ma voiture pour croquer le Pont Vieux, vu d’un banc au bord de l’Aude, grossi par les fortes pluies des derniers jours.   

Today was even hotter so I ventured out again, this time to sketch the strange sight of a huge cable drum teetering on the edge of a very large hole in the road, just along from my house. The electricity company is in the process of laying bigger cables to bring more power to homes in the upper part of the village. With the yellow drum and the red-and-white safety barriers, it made quite a colourful scene.

Aujourd'hui il a fait encore plus chaud. A Fa, EDF est en train de poser des câbles plus gros pour amener une puissance supérieure aux foyers de la partie haute du village. Cela nécessite des travaux importants. Au croisement ils ont creusé une grosse tranchée et laissé un énorme touret au bord du précipice ! Un tableau haut en couleurs pour ce dernier jour de janvier bien ensoleillé.

Monday, 14 January 2013

A prolific weekend

Think I broke my own record this weekend, with a grand total of four pictures completed and posted on my Flickr and Facebook pages. Of course the quantity is irrelevant... what's important is the fact that I'm motivated at last. 

On Saturday afternoon I took myself off to the local spa town of Alet-les-Bains which, in addition to its healing waters, is home to a ruined Benedictine abbey dating back to the ninth century. It being winter, I was able to park my car right outside the abbey's ticket office, from where I had a perfect view of the ruins, offering a glimpse of the cathedral's unusual hexagram-shaped stained glass windows.

At home that evening, Simon was sitting opposite me, engrossed in a game of Beach Buggy Blitz on his Nexus 7. A perfect opportunity to get in some badly needed life drawing practice...

Later, much later, I couldn't sleep and, instead of lying awake overthinking my life, I opened my sketchbook again and added watercolour to a pen sketch I had done on a recent visit to Villerouge-Termenès. It's really a study of a small section of the chateau entrance gate because, as often happens, I started too big and there wasn't room to fit in the scene I had originally been attracted by. The colours turned out well though. I'm really loving the pinks and violets at the moment, perhaps because they are a good antidote to winter.

On Sunday night, I decided to attempt a studio drawing of the street I had wanted to capture in my sketch, using a photograph as source. What drew me to this scene was the bluish quality to the light in the alley through the gate and the way it contrasted with the warm ochres and pinks in the archway's stonework. The biggest challenge proved to be the values, since the whole street apart from the very top of the houses on the right was in shadow. The result to my eye is rather flat as there are no stark contrasts to give depth.

This painting also, to my mind, lacks the looseness and spontaneity of my sketches. A good exercise though... and a satisfactory conclusion to an art-filled weekend.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

La Mouline

Our friend Irving pitched up in the Haute Vallée nearly forty years ago in a gypsy caravan, bought the crumbling ruin that was La Mouline and gradually turned it into the delightful and still decidedly rustic dwelling it is today, with lots of quirky features like windows made from old car windscreens.
Now it's home to Irving, his wife Juliane, who came from Berlin as a Couchsurfer and never left, their little boy, and a menagerie of domestic animals including Jasper the dog, a donkey who sleeps in his own personal stable on the ground floor, chickens and a herd of goats allowed to wander freely over the surrounding hills.

Notre ami Irving a atterri dans la Haute Vallée dans une roulotte il y a presque quarante ans, a acheté le hameau de la Mouline, en ruines, et peu à peu l'a transformé en cette demeure charmante et toujours résolument rustique, des pare-brise récupérés faisant office de fenêtres.
Maintenant, il la partage avec sa femme Juliane femme, venue de Berlin en tant que Couchsurfer et n'a jamais quitté, leur fils, et une ménagerie d'animaux domestiques : le chien Jasper, un âne qui dort dans son propre écurie au rez de chaussée, quelques poules et un troupeau de chèvres qui se promènent librement sur ​​les collines environnantes.



ather than occupying an elevated position like most of the Cathar castles, Villerouge-Termenès is smack bang in the middle of the village, amidst the undulating countryside of the Corbières, with its abundance of evergreen shrubs, red earth and limestone outcroppings. 
From my vantage point on a mound near the church, I had a perfect vertical view, from the café terrace in the shadows below me, over the rooftops to the crenelated towers of the chateau and the hills beyond. 

A la différence de la plupart des autres châteaux cathares, celui de Villerouge-Termenès n’occupe pas une position élevée, se trouvant en plein centre du village, au milieu des terres rouges et des affleurements calcaires des Corbières. 
Pour faire mon croquis, j’ai trouvé un monticule rocheux près de l'église, offrant une parfaite vue verticale de la terrasse du café en bas, passant par-dessus les toits jusqu’aux tours crénelées du château et les collines derrière.