Missing Provence (and a new landscape painting of the Luberon)

I've really been missing Provence. But with the U.S. dollar faring so abysmally against the Euro, right now I'll have to console myself with paintings. On my last trip to France, I fell in love with the Luberon. With its gorgeous scenery, wonderful olives, cheeses, and wine, it is an easy place to love.

Provence landscape painting Luberon valley France art "Sentier aux Coquelicots" (Trail of Poppies) Oil on canvas, 24x30" sold

The village of Lourmarin is a little gem, and a great destination for the plein air painter. There is no train station there, but in many ways, I see this as a plus because it wasn't overrun with tourists. It was lively enough in the daytime as it is a very charming town and popular with daytrippers (it rightfully earned a listing in the book "The Most Beautiful Villages of Provence".) But at night it was extremely quiet and peaceful.

Lourmarin is easily walkable, and for a small town, there were a number of good restaurants to choose from. On longer hikes we soon found ourselves out in the dazzling countryside, with vineyards, olive groves, cherry orchards and lots of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Needless to say, I always had my painting gear handy. Thanks to my fabulous husband, my burden was usually relatively light, which is why he soon took to referring to himself as "le pack-mule". ;-) Further afiled, short drives easily took us to some of the other charming villages nearby (Ansouis, Bonnieux, Roussillon, etc.) which had their own charm and beauty.

I am sure we wouldn't have done wrong basing ourselves out of any one of the many lovely villages in Provence, but our time in Lourmarin was pretty darn near idyllic, and I long to return. Loooong. And I'm sure I will. It might take me a little time to save the extra pennies, but I will.

p.s. I did!

Slideshow demo: Provence cafe painting start to finish

While I diligently documented the progress of my latest Provence painting, I was remiss in posting about it here on the blog. So to make up for it, here is a short demo that shows the development. The painting is of an al fresco lunchtime scene in the lovely French village of Roussillon. To see a the slideshow (with captions), click here:

 French cafe scene provence painting

"Dejeuner a Roussillon", Oil on Canvas, 36x24". Click here for details about the painting.

On the easel- Provence outdoor cafe painting WIP

After spending so much time painting small pieces, it is nice to be working on something large again. This is the beginning stage of a 36x24" oil painting of an outdoor cafe in the Provencial village of Rousillon. I painted a small study of this scene some time ago and I have been wanting to create a larger version for a while.

Provence painting work in progress

Even as a full time, near daily painter, it's always a little scary posting a work-in-progress because I don't exactly know how it will turn out. I have a pretty good idea, but from time to time  a painting may not come into fruition in the way that I expect. But, that's all part of making art, I suppose-- a little trial and error, and a lot of practice.

It might be a little hard to tell what's going on at this stage, but what I'm painting is a village square with lunchtime diners seated at umbrella-covered cafe tables. I've started in my typical manner of putting down my design with a light wash of ultramarine blue and cad. red light or permanent alizarin, thinned way down with mineral spirits. I'm drawing with brushes, but also just with a rag, wiping in and rubbing out as I develop the composition.

While I'm still keeping it pretty light and loose, with architectural scenes I do a bit more drawing and shading than I might with pure landscape. This does not mean that my compositional decisions are done, however. Sometimes I will make changes, shift, add or subtract things as I am further along in the painting process. But I've gotten a good start and I'm ready to jump in!

*UPDATE: See the progression of this painting demonstration from start to finish here!

Little Shop on the Corner

Here is a recent inquiry I received from a fellow artist: "I, like you, have been lucky enough to be in Provence  during Lavender season, and i have been back several times. My question  is....that color of "blue" on the shutters and doors you see everywhere...what color is that, and how can I mix it.  William Alexander  got me hooked on painting several years ago, and I even have my own Mt  Ste. Victoire hanging in my house.  Any help you have with this color is  greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance. -JH"

To which I replied:

"Hi JH- could you be more specific? I've seen a particular blue/gray and also a more vivid blue in the shutters. But both are a challenge to mix. If you use pure local color, the shutters tend to look too bright and candy-like. However, I've had some success with mixing combinations of Rembrandt's Sevres Blue + Cobalt Blue + white and a *touch* of cadmium orange to gray it down as needed. How much of each in the combination depends on the value and hue of the shutter. Try that and see what you think."

...And here's my own bit of experimenting with just that very challenge:

Painting of Provence village

"The Little Shop on the Corner" Roussillon, Provence, France Oil on Canvas, 16x20" sold