Trail’s End

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Dear Artist,

I feel like I might die on this trail. It’s cold and wet and my bones ache. Some of the paintings are constipated. Winston Churchill, who wasn’t a bad painter, said that when he died and went to heaven he wanted to spend the first million years painting — so he could get to the bottom of the subject. Right on. If it were easy perhaps everybody would be doing it. Right now there’s a big Percheron watching me paint. I cut him into the gray-primed panel. I put “Corot was here” on the back. Then again, my palette has turned brighter, more risky my stroking is more casual. I’ve generally found that I’m more creative in my studio — less so en plein air. But here I’m starting to loosen up. Maybe it’s the trail. I know one thing: It’s a great feeling to pass along here after Robert Louis Stevenson. Farmers still toil in the stubborn fields beside these old cart tracks and Roman roads. Wars and fads have passed and France is still France.

I’m asking — what’s the point? Backpacking through the central massif and stopping now and then to make a little panel painting. How Luddite. Still, they’re mine, they’re original, and some are not bad. They remind me of a bag of grouse. Art’s one of the few professions where you get to do it all yourself. The sun’s coming out. The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail is a metaphor for something else. It’s peace. There’s bluebells. If I should die this would be the place to do it.

perouges-street_cevennes

Perouges Street, Cevennes
photo: Maxted Travels with Modestine 1

The path comes to an end. We enter a patisserie and call a cab. While we’re waiting Robin and I look over the bag, spreading small panels around the establishment. “Did you do all these?” he asks.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much: — surely that may be his epitaph of which he need not be ashamed.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

“The world is so full of a number of things that I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

 

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