Dordogne Sketchbook and Paintings

I’ve gathered a small collection of the many sketches I did on a trip to France this spring. Dave and I traveled to the Dordogne region to see the prehistoric cave art of Lascaux, Font de Gaume, and other caves. The experience of walking through these caves by flashlight and seeing these ancient paintings on the walls, especially in Font de Gaume, where we walked through the original cave and saw paintings dating back 15,000 years, was awe inspiring. I will carry the images of those sacred paintings forever in my mind.

sx370 Bison Sculpture, La Madeleine

sx371 Lascaux

sx372 Lascaux

When not exploring the ancient caves, Dave and I rode our fold-up bikes around this beautiful countryside of walnut orchards and poppy fields, small farms, and medieval villages made of golden stone. I carried a sketchbook wherever we went, painting along the way. I try not to have any preconceptions of the subjects I will paint on a trip like this, only to react to the beauty around me and paint whatever catches my eye. Some sketches are done very quickly. In just a few moments I try to capture the gesture of an ancient roof, or weathered stone sculpture, or the color of a blooming wisteria. 

sx381 Beynac

sx363 Rocamadour

sx380 Beynac

sx375 Wisteria, Brenac

sx379 Sarlat

sx382 Rooftops, Sarlat

sx365 Cabanes, Sireuil

sx377 Medieval Sculpture, St. Amand

sx362 Walnut Orchard

sx368 First Night, Les Eyzies

sx369 Sarlat

sx372a Medieval Church Sculpture

sx373 Poppies, St. Cirq

sx374 Shop Window, Sarlat

sx376 Les Cabanes de Breuil

sx378 Churchyard, Fayrac

sx383 Mont St. Michel

sx384 Gull, Mont St. Michel

Other sketches are more like a complete painting done in the field. They represent a place where I found joy sitting in a beautiful spot for a couple of hours, pulling the details from the scene in front of me and recording them into a painting I can carry home as a reminder of all I saw and felt. The paintings are rarely perfect. Wind and rain, shifting light, cold fingers, thistles and mud encroach where I sit and keep any thought of seeking perfection far from my mind. But all of these obstacles combined with the beauty of a stone building, the music of the birds, the heavy scent of spring flowers, and the mystery of the rich history of this place create a kind of painting that I could never complete in the studio. Experiences like this are a wellspring for later inspiration. They are an opportunity to grow, and to learn to see new things. Most of all, they offer the experience of just seeing, and then reacting through through brush and pigment with an urgency that ignites the passion I have for painting. It is a restorative act that shelters the creative drive to make art each day.

sx364 Limeuil

sx366 Limeuil

sx361 St. Amand

sx360 Marquay

sx367 St. Julien

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