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  • Writer's pictureWill Topley

Weekend in the South of France

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PSL Morning Light

A weekend in the South of France: we could have been characters from F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night or even St Tropez, queuing to get into cordoned off VIP areas for overpriced drinks but it was neither of those. Apart from the total lux of the billet it was a normal weekend with our friends and their family. I was free to paint and had no washing up or other daily tedium to impair my fun. All I had to do was turn up on time for lunch and dinner.

We went in comfort by train and on arrival I started a picture straight away. I only had an hour or so but I had made a start. I had decided to try using a viewfinder with a red cellophane filter that I had put together and which slips nicely into a slot in the new Pocharde box I have been making. Basically the red causes the colour to be removed from what you see and allows you to judge the composition purely on tone, similar to the way squinting at the subject does the same thing


Red Viewfinder


A red filtered view

View without the red

The next day I started a picture of the back of the house. After a bit one of the children said I should sketch her so, never one to refuse the chance of a free model, I broke off to do a small 6 by 4 inch oil sketch. In the afternoon the light had shifted and the front of the house was looking good so I started that.

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WT Painting the PSL.

I find that when the light is very directional having a couple of paintings or more on the go is the best approach. Not too many though as it becomes like spinning plates on sticks; some or all of them will crash to the ground!

Very near by the town of Roussillon stands on a hill of red ochre. On the last day I went with my host to buy local pigment and ice cream there. The ice cream was heavenly, I’ll try the pigment before long and write about it.


Tubs of Roussillon pigment, various shades of Ochre

I had an hour free to try and finish the first picture. The problem was that I had conceived the composition in the evening and I only had a bit of morning to do it in. So I changed the painting to a morning scene – it was not good. The shapes that had been so strong in the evening had disappeared and the composition was all too flat with not much else to hold it together – probably not a keeper. I wonder if  I hadn’t used the red filter whether I would have composed a picture that was so reliant on tone. |I could perhaps have done one that was less sensitive to the change in the light. Moreover observing tone to the exclusion of other elements does tend towards very dull and academic work, something I would like to guard against.

Even though they are quite small, four paintings in three days is fast as hell for me and I was really pleased with how I had done. It was a wonderful weekend. Being with our friends would have been fun enough but painting does add an extra layer to the enjoyment.

PSL Afternoon light,

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