Why Paint a Landscape of Avignon France?


Fingers pressed to lips and on tiptoes I invite you to quietly join me in the loft studio this morning. You see, I don’t believe that my page full of “to do” items including paintings to be shipped to their new homes and time management will exactly approve of this diversion. But if we keep it quiet, maybe no one will notice us. So come on up. It is a little early so we will need to turn on the studio lamp.

With all the gorgeous west coast landscapes to paint you might wonder why I would travel half way around the world to paint a landscapes in France. The truth is I wanted the tension of a shorter, but still substantial, span of time. We might say that North America offers this with its more recent European occupation. However, what I experience on the southwest coast of Canada is thousands of years evident in the landscape and then the present interruption of humankind. Most buildings and such on the west coast still standing are less than two hundred years old. Yes, aboriginal people have been here for a few thousand years but they have left few footprints on the landscape. Europe and France in particular are different. We can still see evidence for easily over 600 years in one gaze looking across the Rhone River in Avignon France. This is somehow important to me as I intuit the tension in a landscape. We live in environmentally parlous times of exponentially climate change. In 2012 about half the world’s population lived in urban areas and this percentage is expected to continue to increase – quickly. the result is that our agrarian sensibilities and relationships to our natural surrounding on the whole are weak. For those populations that survive the next few hundred years, I believe this must become a strength. Yet, as we abstract our way through internal and external elements of our human creations, the natural landscape appears to hold little interest other than a thing of beauty and a place of recreation. This objectification of our natural surroundings places us and it at great risk through our false sense of possession or proprietary combined with ever-decreasing regard and understanding of the lines of tension and intersection of our relationship. These are my musings anyway and is the backdrop for my most resent painting MORNING BY PONT D’ AVIGNON (24 x 36 inch oil on canvas)   and its cousin below of the same size which is still in its underpainting state with bits of masking tap marking lines of intersection and tension.


compositional tension in Villeneuve lez Avignon France 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_07_07 005

Judging from the plein air acrylic painting sketch I did, once the painting is completed these tensions will be mostly felt rather than seen (though now that I have so explicitly shown them to you, I am sure you will notice them more readily.) I anticipate that our eyes will keep roaming the scene searching for something until it unravels these tensions to the mind’s satisfaction. My desire is that we will know that it is more than a beautiful view, someplace to gaze,  to sit, to stroll or to sail. I want us to  intuitively sense the strength and fragility of this landscape – after all there are hundreds of years of human intersection with the environment visible in this painting and my intention is to inviting us to take the time for such an exploration.  Our west coast of Canada has a much harder time offering this same invitation. It is much more immediate, wild and possibly even too forgiving of our ignorance – until possibly it is too late. So I have called on a morning in Avignon France with her abandon bridge across the Rhone to give us a hand.

I know! Here you thought I was on vacation and this was all about just painting another pretty picture.  It could be I suppose. But I intend to instill such strength and tension in my brushstrokes that you will stay long enough to get past the beauty and to the substance behind this work. The act of painting is a spiritual exercise, a meditation, a recital of a poem and possibly even a practice of prayer. The subject in this case, in most cases, has to do with our fragile, temporary and continued existence.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must do a wee bit of painting before that  “to do” list comes charging up the stairs and demands to know where I have been.


What invitations are you accepting to strengthen your relationship to our natural environment?


© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

12 thoughts on “Why Paint a Landscape of Avignon France?

  1. “This objectification of our natural surroundings places us and it at great risk through our false sense of possession or proprietary combined with ever-decreasing regard and understanding of the lines of tension and intersection of our relationship”
    So, so true…and a diversion driven by the pangs of creation is always a good thing.

  2. Terrill – Your sentence, “This is somehow important to me as I intuit the tension in a landscape. We live in environmentally parlous times…” grabbed at my heart. I can hear/feel your sense of urgency as time presses on oh-so-quickly!

    • It is true this is how I feel Laurie. Somehow it takes great effort to speak clearly and firmly with an invitation in my paintings so that hopefully I can be heard. Shouting only works for an immediate life-threatening situation like “FIRE!” But a “fire” kind of urgency is exactly the kind of urgency I feel as we navigate this global change. Seeing the Roman ruins in Narbonne France seemed to calm my fear because though our current social organization is ending and we are creating devastating climate change in the process, I believe something new will come afterwards. Much will die, including humans, but I believe not all. There will be a few people, a few animals and enough plants and viable ground for a cutting or seedling of civilization to start again – giving the earth time to recover from the burden we have placed upon it. Such heavy thoughts I know but it is what I muse about as I paint.

  3. “Our west coast of Canada… Is… Possibly even too forgiving of our ignorance. Until it is possibly too late.” This struck a cord deep within me, and I see this all around me; even in myself!
    My family has recently moved to a small acreage where we are raising chickens and vegetables, and children that will hopefully not be so naive to the frailty of our formidable west coast. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope to one day have the pleasure of meeting on beautiful Mayne Island!

    • It would wonderful to meet your here on Mayne Island someday Caran. I always enjoy showing people around our home and my home studio and the island too if I have time. What you are doing with living on a small acreage where you can grow some of you food is definitely worthwhile. When we were traveling in Italy recently we stayed in a place like this that had orange and lemon trees, raised garden beds, berries, grapes and chickens. I don’t think it was a half acre and it was a terraced hillside. Though it was beautiful it was also functional. When we need to do so we can do a lot with very little. Here is a link to a quick acrylic still life painting sketch I did during our time there http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch/works/11960854-basic-essentials It is called Basic Essentials and everything including the wine was from that little plot of land.

  4. Terrill,

    I know your “to do list” was speaking loudly to get things done and distract you from the important ideals that you wrote about here. Yet Muse spoke louder! Thank the Universe for that! Your vision is one of laying down on canvas the beauty and “tension” of nature. Your vision and purpose is to share that experience with the world outside the beauty and possible loss if not consciously considered in our everyday life.
    Even your journey to Europe was practiced that way, being part of the environment, immersed in the daily lives of those who lived there. Your life and art is your daily meditation, your prayer to the world.

    • What an astute observation Jeff! I would never have thought of it so broadly but I think you are right. Thank you for this. Hum! But today I AM going to package those paintings for there new home. (This is possible because I worked by studio light last evening until midnight and feel that the painting is now ready to rest.) I am not sharing it though until the others are in the mail and off to their new homes 😉

  5. I live here in Kentucky USA. Even though the summers can be very warm and humid, Kentucky is very diverse in landscape. From very flat lands to mountains,rivers and lakes abound. Maybe someday you can come visit,Autumn is sensational in splendid color.

  6. I attended a woman’s event last week. The speaker has a doctorate in science and math, is a professor at one of our Universities. Her talk was about dreams. (Life dreams, not nightly dreams).

    She started off talking about the “ought self”. Women in particular tend to put off our dreams because we are busy doing what we ‘ought’ to do. We ought to – clean/cook/shop/attend every event in our children’s over scheduled lives/walk the dog, etc, etc.

    We tend to forget we are the wizard and can control how we use our time. Life too short to keep doing what we ‘ought’ to do and neglect what we want or need to do.

    Those thoughts are my take away from the hour. Your post reminded me that postponing the ‘to do’ list is OK, especially if you are pursuing your passion!

    Thank you Terrill for sharing your thoughts and wisdom 🙂

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