On the Trail


Dear Artist,

As I said, it’s all very personal — we all have our way with what we see and what we feel. I look for pattern, complexity, and the potential for mystery. I also spend a great deal of time just sizing up foregrounds. Here on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in central France the landscape is enriched with remarkably well designed boulders. As I paint I’m remembering Flaubert: “Art is nothing without form.” For some unfathomable reason that no one has ever been able to help me with, number one is generally not as good as number two. So I start another panel more or less out of my head — a small village we came through — La Fagette — tile roofs in terra-cotta and a sophisticated gray on the walls — all held together with a lead-in roadway and a dark copse beyond. Robin suggests using the nearby rose hips for foreground color, and I put them in. While cutting the goat cheese he tells me he thinks there’s a secret formula in my palette; that I haven’t been giving him the full story. I try to give him the full story, but I can’t — some of it just flows without verbal knowledge.

But today I’m particularly thinking about certain elements: gray to rest the eye; gradations in large and small areas; a decent sense of design and pattern; over-paint and cut back in; warm against cool; color surprise. Then there’s the matter of the stroking. I’m wearing gloves so things are broadened out a bit. Confucius: “An inconvenience is an unrecognized opportunity.” It’s different. Maybe, I’m thinking, there’s a time to be ham-handed. I’m shaking. Robin suggests a shot of single malt in honor of the Scot. Another unrecognized opportunity. The painting is beginning to look good but I’ll reserve my thinking until the cold gray light of dawn.


“Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes” 1879
book by Robert Louis Stevenson

We’ve walked about eight miles today. Just beyond lies the village of Le Bleymard, where there’s a small hotel, hopefully with a heater and a place to plug in this laptop.

Best regards,


PS: “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)




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