I'm writing this on the train to Paris after a marvellous week learning to sketch and paint en plein air in the Lot region of France with seven other women. Our teachers, the talented, patient, and seemingly indefatigable Alison and Kelley, guided us through numerous techniques, helping us see colour and value and shape and proportion, supporting us in our various endeavours to register these elements on the page, and pushing us to get our impressions down quickly, as befits the nature of working on site.
Most of our sessions unfolded in the charming, tiny village of Espedaillac: sometimes in fields; sometimes, when it rained, inside a former school; once, even, at a table by the piscine at one of the village homes rented to accommodate us, and one long rainy afternoon, at the kitchen table in the house Paul and I were lodged in, sangria and Motown music amping up the fun to surely memorable levels.
But Alison and Kelley also arranged several outings. One was to the Saturday market at nearby Figeac; one was to Pech-Merl for a guided tour of the astonishing caves and their prehistoric art; and one was to the ruins of an ancient abbey in Marcilhac. The market offered many sketch-worthy scenes (along with an opportunity to load our baskets with far too many ingredients for the next few meals). The prehistoric cave drawings inspired us to think about the human impulse to art and to put our own efforts into that long perspective. But the trip to Marcilhac was much more specifically focused, the columns and carvings, doorways and details, stonework and statuary providing us a lesson in values from light to dark which we were to render using only pencils and erasers. Pencils and erasers and, I should say, a few very neat tricks which I tried to tuck up my sleeve and hope I will remember when I get home to practice them.
At first, as i worked, it was hard to see that any kind of attractive representation would emerge from what felt like very clumsy efforts. But I was surprised by how well even my novice efforts, guided by Kelley's patient and finely honed instructions, yielded an image I will probably frame up and hang in my office. And when we all arranged ours on these very old stairs to get some viewing distance from them, we were quite impressed by ourselves! Here, Alison is photographing them. . . If they appear on her blog, I'll post that link later.
And later is when I'm finishing this post, the train having proved too bumpy for managing on my iPad mini screen. As I write this, we're back in Paris where a dove/pigeon crows his loud morning greeting, just as his cousin did in our little village home in the Lot. Oddly comforting, that sound, even as it annoys a stubborn sleeper . . . What he's saying, of course, is that day is starting, and when Paul finally agrees with him, I'll be off. So it's time to wind up this post with a flourish of photos... .
We interrupted our painting for a stroll down to the river. Just a little bit picturesque . . .
Note that although Paul didn't take our course, he came along as chauffeur to all our outings, and he often brought his tiny notebook to capture memories in quick sketches. Alison and Kelley generously offered him some tips along the way and his style is developing quite happily.
You may have noted some changes in the commenting mechanism here. I've had to add a screening function in response to some of the family stuff I've alluded to. It's been cumbersome for me, especially given the slow speed of some connections here, the limitations of the iPad screen/keyboard, but worth it for the short term. I'm hoping that I will soon be able to get back to the older system, but for now,thanks for your patience and understanding. I'm really looking forward to engaging more with all my blogging friends when I get back to my home screen next week. I'm missing you!