'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.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Oliver's Ait

Although I started urban sketching regularly only two years ago, I have occasionally dabbled in plein-air painting and drawing over the years. On one such occasion, a blustery April afternoon in 1993, I spent a chilly half-hour on a bench by the Thames at Chiswick doing a quick rendition of the small island known as Oliver's Ait at low tide, before rain stopped play and I repaired to my friend's house nearby for a reviving cuppa.     

Oliver's Ait at Low Tide, 30x23cm, acrylic on paper

At the time I thought it was rubbish but one day decided to put it in a frame I had lying about and it looked altogether better. Now it hangs in my hall in France and every time I see it I think maybe I should experiment with working loose like this again. It has an energy and freshness that can be so easily lost when I get bogged down in detailed line work.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Friday Evenings

This year my daughter has weekly piano lessons with a teacher in Limoux, a town I've never sketched before. Limoux is famous for two things: the champagne-like tipple Blanquette de Limoux and its carnival, reputed to be the longest in Europe, that runs every weekend from January to Mardi Gras. It also has some pretty nice buildings, an arcaded central square and an attractive river front along the Aude.

So every Friday evening, after dropping Delphine off, I have just 40 minutes to find a suitable subject, do the sketch and get back to the piano teacher's house for the pick-up. Not long but it's good discipline.

Week 1: Found a parking space near the indoor market and, not wanting to be too ambitious given the limited time, decided to focus on a detail of the entrance to the market hall in ink, no watercolour.

Week 2: Delphine's piano teacher and his wife are also good friends and for the second week's sketch, I stayed on their terrace to draw some weathered terracotta pots sitting on a pair of rickety wooden chairs. No time to paint it on site but I took a photo and added watercolour at home.

Week 3: Had a bit of shopping to do and only had time for a quick pencil sketch of the old bridge (inexplicably called the Pont Neuf) in fading light.

Week 4: Mid-October, chilly and damp and I wasn't really in the mood for drawing. After wandering around the rive droite area, I ventured onto the Pont Neuf (see above) and saw that there was quite an interesting view of the Eglise Saint Jacques, now the Piano Museum. Stood on the bridge and did a quick ink sketch of said building.

Week 5: The last lesson before the half-term holidays. A cool evening, light fading so I headed for a cafe in the main square and sketched the view through the windows, while sipping a kir royale - a glass of blanquette with a dash of blackcurrant liqueur. Pas mal.