Tuesday, May 29, 2012

French Studies

watercolour and pencil

Bonjour! Madam and I are just back from a short jaunt in Northern France. As well as a bit of a holiday, we explored the landscape further than Google Streetview allows, and saw a couple of features I’d used in paintings. The Nord Pas–de–Calais is a national park area, and very varied – high flat plateaux, rolling downs, densely hedged valleys, and seaside beaches and cliffs, plus a nice variety of cheeses.

Our first pre-planned location was the site of Wreck No.5. Bien sur, there was the track curving round up the hill, and the higher ground further away, but the central clump of trees – gone!!! Only a small elder bush remained, a re-growth from the culling. Quelle horreur!

The second was where I had found a herd of white cattle - the models for Wreck No.7 - and in that very same field, there they were, young and pristine. Merveilleux!. They weren’t the actual animals in the painting (those were long gone) but it was SO good to see my inspirational Vaches Blanches there, and more beautiful. Cows are curious, but these ones walked straight down the field, and stood looking at me over the fence as I babbled away to them. Eventually we had to drive away, and as They stood watching us leaving the valley, my eyes were, well… un peu blurry.

The French Studies? Alors, les vacances is maybe not the best time to be pursuing l’excellence artistique. The watercolour is of the Wimille valley, done late on a VERY windy afternoon. C’est mon excuse. 

The pencil cows are just the black and white Fresians (sketches of My Vaches Blanches were, frankly, pas bien) next to where we stayed. Sketching them with my super-duper finely-graded factory-made lead as they browsed around the field, I couldn’t help thinking about those ancient Gallic cave-dwellers who drew wild lunging bull aurochs and deer in soot and ochre…

…and how they did it so much better.