30 June 2021

La Drôme en Automne, but here it is!


I came across this small study yesterday while looking through emails for something entirely different. My friend Hélène Fraisse in Lyon sent it to me after my return from France where I went for a three month trip two years ago. I left all the paintings at her place in Lyon to safe keep before returning to Australia. It was the most marvellous trip! I saw so many friends EVERYWHERE, all over. 

I started in London (and finished there) to see dear old friends in East Sussex before taking the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe where I rented a a small zippy citröen which I kept for the entire time. I picked up just enough paints, turps, and material to travel and work out of the boot of the car. It was really lovely, heaven really, to be free, working, and seeing so many friends who received me with the greatest of hospitality.

This small picture was one of a few which I made of La Milande, a small mountain just to the east of Dieulefit. It was done in the field  behind the home of my painter friend Giulia Archer. 

By then, (late October) the weather had turned, and the air was chilly and damp, the skies were turning silver and looking opaque But, many of the trees had dropped their leaves and the hills revealed their violet secrets; all kinds! Blue violet, pink, yellowish, and deep reds too. Delicious!

Autumn isn't the easiest time of year to work as a painter, at least until the trees are thread bare. Otherwise, it can be messy with melodrama. The orange and red leaves tend to quickly become sentimental, and they demand too much attention. 

This is a tiny painting! But it packs a punch as we say in Cincinnati! It is mysterious and there is almost nothing in it to explain how it was painted. I really like that in a picture. It is so simplified that one can barely discern the transition from the very first plane (at the bottom) to the 'red field' just above it. Then the line of trees runs across the whole painting to indicate the firmament of earth upon which we all inhabit. It is the ground of Winter which has yet to come. Then, a bluish atmosphere of light separates it from the violet hills.

It is a short, simple impression of that moment when I painted it, a feeling of (and for) the landscape at that very moment, on that particular day in the Drôme.
This will sound terribly corny, but I am so happy that I painted this picture. From the distance of now almost three years, it is easy to forget the awful angst of being there at that moment in the cold chilly air, feeling that one can never really capture a scene such as this. But here it is.

28 June 2021

Evening Prayers, people are so cool around painters


      Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 27 June 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Two offering from last night that came quickly and without hesitation to my surprise. I hadn't worked in a while and it always makes me feel like a real beginner, not just the usual one. 

I am happy to be in Beginner Mind much of the time when painting at the beach. I don't wear a badge on my painting smock announcing to to the world that I am a professional, even though so many artists want the world to see them as such. I couldn't give a hoot as we used to say in Oklahoma back in the 30's. All the Wise Guys of the East talk about Beginner Mind incessantly, and this state of creative being has taken up a home inside me over the years so I am thankful.

Painting as a baseball player means to step up to the plate like a batter at the ball game, though usually without the crowds. This is when everything becomes really interesting. Will the batter hit a foul? Will he hit a home run or will he strike out? No matter, it's to step up to the plate without chatter in the mind is the right mind. (The Wise Guys of the East assure us of this!) 

It was a somewhat hazy, late afternoon which the first picture (top) shows. The second one was made in the afterglow, and I had to wing it a little because the sky had already lost so much of its power. 

There was crowd of teenagers who had arrived, they were quite sweet, but they wanted to take photos. I never say no. Yet, I would really never allow this at any other place in my life. I am far too discreet! But, I am at their mercy in a such a moment. With my left hand clutching paint brushes, I suppose I feel compromised in a curious way, I am open and vulnerable all at once. Moreover, my painting on the easel, in an unfinished state, might seem like an embarrassed young woman hardly wearing a thing. And, my attention is glued onto both the horizon line and the small canvas board on my easel so I acquiesce. What's a fellow to do??

Thankfully, people passing by need to make an effort to get up to to the dune where I am working. And with only a few exceptions, they have all asked permission. I really love that. People are so cool around painters, sometimes 


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 27 June 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

26 June 2021

Housekeeping for l'air de rien

For anyone still receiving the email from FOLLOWIT rss (the green logo appearing at the top right on the home page of l'air de rien) please unfollow this rss. Everyone is already receiving an email notification from Mailchimp which has replaced FOLLOWIT rss. 

Sorry for the confusion. 

Love from Cloudsandseafrance.com 

Salinger's Catcher in the Rye cannot save Shuggie Bain!

I find myself in a Salinger loop. I didn't mean for it to happen but it started easily when I picked out Nine Stories from my bookshelf a few weeks ago. It's a small book of short stories which I have cherished since I first read them in English class as a young man. I have continued to read them frequently over the years since then. But I had not, however, read The Catcher in the Rye in maybe twenty years and it has been a great surprise because I was immediately swept away out into the first paragraph of a long story.

The truth is that I have been wrestling with a few short stories over the past months (six to be honest). I find it hard to admit somehow, but a compulsion to write took me over this year. The problem is that I am not an author, a writer possibly, at best, but certainly not an author. There are lots of writers in every sort of medium these days but there is only one author, and he/she is the creator of fiction and non fiction. In a word: BOOKS. 

I love short stories, I always have, everything from Joyce to Tolstoy, Jack London to Bernard Malamud, I have read them over and over again throughout my life. I love novels too, but the brevity of a short story suits my anxious nature. 

Being in the world of Painting, where emotional content is conveyed so differently, I feel out of my depth by attempting to write stories. And yet, when I sit down to write, ideas spurt out of me in a free and chaotic fashion which is extremely pleasurable. But thus far, I have only written fragmented bits of memory with fanciful invention. And as they say in Britain (and Australia), I have written a few things which one could say is akin to being "mutton dressed up as lamb". But I really do have several short stories going which I only need to resolve, to bring to a close, to wrap up like it's a gift from a bookshop in Tokyo. A good ending is like when a conversation between two old friends comes to a close. There is nothing more to add but "Bye Bye, and take care". 

So naturally, in a last ditch effort I have jumped into my favourite authors to desperately search out ‘how the great ones finish their stories.’ Like paintings, it's often easier to begin them than to end them.
So I read for pleasure, but also to glean the magic imbued in these stories in order to sort out my own endings. I feel like a student in the week before final exams desperate to find the answers (and secretly hoping that Tolstoy's fairy dust will come off onto these pages and into my writing fingers). But speaking of muttons: Revenons à nos moutons! as the French say. The Catcher in the Rye is a gem of a story. 

But don't I really love it because I identify with Holden Caulfield's social and cultural background? After all, we shared the same kind of privilege which has been so taken for granted by whole generations of  white Americans. I also had the same kind of pimpled and smelly roommates in Boarding school (for Chrissakes! as Holden Caulfield would say).

But, I really love his narrative which is crafted with such clarity. Salinger was so eccentric and so terribly gifted. Would an inner-city child from Glasgow relate to any of it? 

And this brings me to the fact that I rarely start a book, then stop after fifty pages. But I did so last week with a book entitled Shuggie Bain by Booker Prize Winner Douglas Stuart. A friend in New York had loved it and told me about it. She is a big reader, no slouch, and quite critical. She described it briefly (the alcoholic mother!) and, I immediately went out to buy it. So it is not without a dollop of shame that I quietly put Shuggie Bain to rest in the mortuary section of my bookshelf and grabbed The Cather in the Rye instead. 

There are a few reasons no doubt, but mainly I just didn't relate to anything after fifty pages, nor was I compelled to empathise with any of the characters. I found it confusing, convoluted, and the phonetic accents too difficult to grasp, while pushing me away at the same time from what was going on between the characters. I lost my bearings, and I wimped out! I admit it! It's an awful thing to bail out of a new book which was a winner of such a prestigious literary prize! Though looking through the past winners of the Booker prize I saw that Arundhati Roy also won it for The God of Small Things about twenty-five years ago. I bailed on that book as well but with maybe just 50 pages to the finish line! Ha Ha! She write beautifully, it's a story intelligently told, and it was certainly interesting but it was just too sweet and sentimental for my own taste, I thought I would die of suffocation if I had arrived at the end of it. 

I know, I know, it was very popular! And still is. And it was very much loved by everyone, everywhere. I just found it too sugary, (trop sucré, as they say in France) Too, too sweet and precious. 
Now, Shuggie Bain is obviously a good book, and quite auto-biographical (which was my prime interest) but I didn't get far enough in to it to see anything on the horizon, though I am sure there was something,  somewhere. Maybe some day I will try again later, before I die. 

It has occurred to me that I must have been seeking to shelter in a place of my own, back into a comfort zone of my own dysfunctional childhood. Apparently, I was not patient enough to spend time in a foreign one belonging to someone else. I am still too obsessed with my own childhood which is why I want to continue writing, obviously. (but hey! We only live twice, right?)

In any event, I like that J D Salinger loves children, and he understands them. One feels this in everything he wrote. He wrote almost everything when he was still such a young man himself, and with such wisdom. 


22 June 2021

Summer Solstice, 2021, under the watchful eyes of God


   Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 21 June, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I have not been painting regularly and consequently it has made me feel somewhat out of touch with the motif. Remarkably though, when I do get there to set up at the beach, mix a palette, and put a white canvas board on the easel, I breathe a little less anxiously. The sky was clear but for a long bank of clouds hugging the horizon, the colour of a corpse. 

And I confess that I haven't a clue what I am doing, I am just doing. 

I once heard a guy talk about his meditation ritual. I had found him quite pretentious but this was years ago when I always found lots of people pretentious. I still do because these days, so many REALLY are pretentious around topics of meditation and spirituality, especially in this neck of the woods. But no matter, people find me pretty pretentious too, so I've been told.

Anyway, this guy was saying that after so much meditating his mantra was so ingrained in his whole body that he could no longer tell if was breathing, or the mantra was breathing through him. (Or something like that) 

But in any event, here is where my own pretentiousness kicks in; because though I haven't a cognisant idea how I proceed in a picture, I know that something guides me, and I like to think it must be the Motif which is steering the tiller. But it is certainly Nature which guides the motif and which tells people like me how to proceed, not the other way around. Contrary to many others in the Painting world, I watch and listen, I don't dictate to Nature or impose what I think I want to do, as my decisions (choices) are contingent upon what  Nature wants of me, what it shows me, not what I think I want to see in Nature because  Painting out in Nature doesn't give a hoot about my volition though I may think I makes the choices.

But this can open up a bigger conversation for another day.

These last two are not as successful but there are things in them which I like. As I was painting I was joined by a lovely older man, a retired meat inspector, who was fascinated by the speed at which I was able to work. I explained that I was an anxious child, to which he did not even blink an eye. 

So, these last two were painted under the watchful eye of a gentleman named Warwick, originally from a small town in Victoria.

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 21 June 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 21 June 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

18 June 2021

"Hey!,,, You hadda be there!"


Two studies from last week done on the same day, one after the other as the afternoon sank into dusk. 

The top one is more classical; conventional even, and closer to a verisimilitude which appeals to a certain crowd of art lovers. But I like it nonetheless and I accept it as an accurate response to Nature at that very moment in the afternoon. Its colour (and drawing) is mostly true. 

Below, is certainly a fanciful iteration of the fireball which appeared briefly only to fade
 into the memory of embers like after watching fireworks. But at the apex of bliss, there is the crescendo which lends itself to an explosive dénouement, as the French like to say and an operatic climax. 

But as we used to say in the Bronx of my youth; 
"Hey!,,, you hadda be there!"

10 June 2021

13 June 2021

14 June 2021

Evening Prayer, Brunswick Heads, 11, June 2021


This is from the other night which I post with an apology due to the awful RSS feed which my small group of followers received. !!

Truly awful! But Google Blogger has knocked off their RSS feed which was used to send out the notice of posts which I make. So, I scrambled around and found another one, but it too, will soon be discontinued because of the advertisements which are truly disgusting unless any of my readers have fungal issues with their toe nails. 

Mailchimp will hopefully be taking over as soon as I get it up and running.

In the meantime, be creative, and be full of the devil.

12 June 2021

at the beach, an actor unsure of his lines


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 June, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

The weather has been a bit crazy and it has kept me in the studio instead of getting to the beach later in the afternoon. This study came out the other night and though I didn't like it at the time, it seems to look better to me with each passing day. Below, is another one, the first done that night. It's smaller because I hadn't painted there in a week and felt insecure, suddenly feeling like an actor on stage who wasn't sure of his lines. But it worked enough to get me to the next three before I packed up in the cold twilight.

     Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 June, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

08 June 2021

other people's s**t, in both sitcoms and in real life

I read something the other day which got me to thinking about something which normally remains rather discreet in our everyday lives. It was a profile on somebody, maybe a celebrity or something, certainly someone in the news currently in a any event. In it this person recounted that they never, could never clean their own toilets; "That's what maids are for", they reasoned. (Ouch!) 

The very few times in my adult life when I had the service of a housekeeper at home, I always cleaned the toilet myself before they arrived. 

I would never wish for another person to clean up after me like that. And moreover, it seems too personal, too degrading if I think about it clearly. This attitude might have become cemented into my thinking from reading so many Zen "How to" books during my lifetime. And though I have never been in an ashram where one would routinely be assigned toilet duty, I  somehow developed this sense of modesty through other means.

(Full disclaimer, I was raised with maids as a young child, and they (the maids) routinely cleaned up after us in those early years)

I still carry a bit of shame over this fact. But I left home quite early, at the age of twelve, and I quickly learned to take care of myself in this regard, and in other domains too. Hey! we grow up the best we can, though sadly, many never do.

And so to broaden out the scope of this idea further, it got me to thinking about just how much s**t other people expect us to put up with or clean up. Actually, just how much s**t do we throw out to others while expecting them to deal with it? If Youtube is a barometer, then we are all in trouble.

But then I do live alone which makes the whole thing a lot easier for myself and others. 

When I watch films or television sitcoms, I understand just how the screenplay is loaded to the gills with discord, because without it, one wouldn't have a story. All of drama is about discord between characters, husbands and wives, family members, lovers, workplace colleagues, etc, etc. 

So, without any discord, what would relationships look like? What would our lives look like without altercations with others? Would the answer to this be peaceful or boring? 

Again, I live alone so my issues are well hidden from view, so I am imagine but I certainly know that others wouldn't agree that I am the easiest of people. 

And I guess this is why Trump came to power for four weird years.

03 June 2021

i-calendar and the daze of our lives

A funny thing came up this morning as I was writing about how, and when I first came to France to live. I went into i-calender and went back into time to look at September, 1972. I realised quickly that I must have arrived around the 12th or so of that month. 

But looking at the i-calendar in it's monthly configuration, I noted that it had anchored within it the birthday dates of several friends whom I had only met many, many years later. They are in it from the future, as it were.

Nathalie, whom I met in 2010 was a girl of eleven years that year, and Alan, whom I met about three years later was twenty one, Anthony, from the UK, I met in 2008, turned twenty seven years old that year in 1972! And so it went, etc, etc. For each month of the year, the i-calendar had embedded within it a chrysalis of the friendships I would eventually share with so many different people.

It's totally silly and irrelevant to anything or anyone but myself, of course. But it also allowed me to see into the timeline of my own life through friends whom I would come to know, appreciate, and love alongside of it.

As I continued to peruse the calendar moving quickly up through the years I saw many of my other friends turning and churning through their own lives. W was fourteen in 1973 and I would find out that she had been raped at that age. X turned 20, beautiful; she ran through men like a country auctioneer at a cattle farm. Y was eight and lived in Pakistan in a diplomatic enclave, and dear Z was six years old in the South of England and now has three boys 17, 16 and 13.

And in the same spirit, here is a painting  done in landlocked Dieulefit which I painted of the sea several years before I actually began working from the sea here in Australia.

oil on canvas, 150 X 150 cm