Aix en Provence with Cezanne and photographer Mme Miceli Brigitte on the Painters Ground

I rose only sort-of-early in a French city that overlaps its evening and day crowds. It is Aix en Provence at 7:45 am and I am headed up to the Painters’ Ground with my small painting box, tripod and camera.  The morning is pleasant and, though the walk takes about an hour, I enjoy the climb out of the old city center and into the more tranquil edges of the city. As I walk, I stop to rest on a bench just before the street reaches Paul Cezanne’s historic studio. But it is much too early to visit. Maybe we will stop in on our way back.

While I am climbing I am thinking about what it must have been like for Cezanne as a painter. What might he have been thinking about as he climbed this hill in the 1880’s? This was a time when he had separated himself from the ideas of impressionism. It was a time when Cezanne was working mostly on his own, developing a unique painting language that would later become a key plank and supporting strut in a bridge that eventually lead towards abstract painting. We often think of Matisse and Picasso in this regard but there are others that came later like Diebenkorn, an American expressionist and figurative painter, who also sites the influence of Cezanne. We could spend the whole of our climb discussing the relationships and the strengths and weaknesses of focusing on light, colour, form, realism and abstraction in the painting process. But we won’t. Let’s just say that Cezanne added some powerful and unique painting language to these conversations.

The street becomes quieter as I continue to climb and turn around meandering bends that lead me higher up the hill. I spot Cezanne’s mountain at an opening and stop to give it my full attention. Though a prominent outcrop on the horizon, in some ways it doesn’t really look like much. What was it that had him paint this landscape of the Sainte-Victoire mountain more than 87 times?

I keep walking until I see a sign on my right pointing across the road to the left indicating a trail to the Painters’ Ground. The path is rough-laid stones and though uneven, it is not difficult. I suspect that these are a newish addition – maybe to keep the ground from wearing away as admirers and painters such as myself trek up and down repeatedly. According to the little pocket-size walking tour brochure I picked up at the tourist office, “Cezanne’s most famous pictures were painted from this marvellous vantage point on Chemin de la Marguerite on the Lauves hill.”

Slightly flushed with the climb and excitement, I stop almost at the top and turn. This is it. This is the spot. There are places on this earth where the ground hums with a heartbeat of stillness, an energy that settles and becomes observable on the inhale and exhale of a breath. This spot is one of those places. This is what I believe brought Cezanne here to paint again and again. It was a place where he could work uninterrupted on his painting problems and the mountain became a convenient tool to this end. Oh, who knows if this is true or not. We both know I just made it up on the spot but I believe it could be true so I take a few reference images.

May morning on the Painter Ground by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 092

Then I go about the task of attaching my small painting box to the top of my camera tripod and maneuvering the tools around in the less than ideal conditions of facing the direct morning light. Just as I am about to start to apply paint to canvas an elderly couple wave and come down from the very top of the hill to greet me. We quickly establish that it was going to be a dramatic signing and gesturing conversation with bits of French and English Language thrown in for good measure. Believe me, this approach is often extremely effective when human-beings are determined to have a conversation that just MUST be had. The woman searches her pockets for her phone and made a long face. The fellow asked why she wants her phone and she said, for a photo. I thought she just wanted to be able to remember who I was so I reached into the top of my camera case and pulled out a business card. Her face lit up like halogen bulb but it wasn’t at my business card. It was because of my camera. With unrestrained enthusiasm she asks if she can use my camera to take photographs of me. What could I say? Yes, of course. I set the camera on automatic, put the cord over her head and, as best I can, indicate that it is ready to go and where it is she needs to press the shutter. She nodded repeatedly, pulled the camera down where she could see the dials and started turning them.

Well, my face must have given me away because the fellow said – its okay (hand up in the calming position). She is a professional.

Satisfied that she had the camera set the way she wanted it, Mme Miceli Brigitte directed me to start painting. What does a painter with a professional photographer at her disposal, up on the Painters Ground, in Aix en Provence, facing Cezanne’s mountain do with such an instruction? There is only one thing that can be done. I pick up the brush and go to work.

In the Zone on Painters Ground by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 102

While I painted, the photographer moved around making satisfying and comforting comments in French that told me that she was having as good a time as I was. Among a few others, there was this moment…

Terrill Welch plein air on Painters Ground by Mme Miceli Brigitte  2014_05_18 103

and then this one…

taking on Cezanne's Mountain by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 107

and finally this one, which is likely one of my favourite photographs of me.

Plein Air pinting in Aix en Provence by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 109

It is a favourite because at this point I had relaxed and was able to focus on my painting. I was aware of the photographer but she had lulled me into a place of comfort with her soft voice and slow deliberate movements. She had become part of my work rather than an entity capturing it. She was deeply inside my painting space which is something only I usually get to experience. The man was standing back a little, quiet and waiting in an unhurried kind of way. I had stopped noticing him all together. It was a beautiful moment at 9:08 am on May 18, 2014 between three individuals up on a hill with the most important language of all in common between them – the language of appreciation and respect.

The photographer hands me back my camera and both of them encourage me to keep a close eye on it and tuck it under the easel so that it doesn’t get stolen. I make a promise to comply. I have the good sense to ask the photographer to write down her name and address so I can send her a copy of the photographs. We say our good-byes and they continue on with their morning walk and I finish up the painting in the few minutes that I have left before I need to pack up and start back down the hill and into town.

plein air of Cezanne's Mountain 25 x 35 cm acrylic painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 123

We can take a quick snoop into Cezanne’s Studio garden. Do you want to?

The Garden at Cezanne's Studio by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 160

Yes, I did go into Cezanne’s studio where no photographs are allowed. There is the dutiful splash of open turpentine for authenticity.  However, on this day anyway,  I do believe the painter was still up on the Painters’ Ground where we met the photographer this morning. But not to disappoint, one of most intriguing features of Cezanne’s studio is the opening he had built into the wall to bring large paintings in and out of the studio. I climbed all the way back up in the early evening to get an outside view of this for you…

Evening outside Cezanne's Studio by Terrill Welch 2014_05_20 012

and another photograph of Sainte-Victoire mountain.

Sainte Victoire Aix en Provence by Terrill Welch 2014_05_20 024

Generally, I like to work in the morning but this spot would be most interesting in the afternoon and early evening. Yes, I am sure I saw a quick glimpse of Cezanne heading down the path by some tall bushes with his painting gear resting heavily on the shoulder of his weary frame that had  put in a long day’s work figuring and painting slowly and methodically.

CEZANNE’S MOUNTAIN – 25 x 35 cm, 20 minute acrylic plein air painting sketch

Cezanne's Mountain 25 x 35 cm 20 minute acrylic plein air painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 139

(Art Prints are available in my Redbubble storefront HERE)

 

When was the last time you were totally blow away by the positive serendipity of a series events?

 

© 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

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Off to kick leaves and have a good visit

It is leaf kicking time! I am heading north for better than week to visit with family. With a bit of luck, I will come back with at least few photographs of brilliant autumn colours. I can’t make a promise but I can assure you that there is a good possibility.

In the meantime, I have been busy with a large stack of administrative work with little time to paint. But I do have a new large 60 x 36 inch oil on canvas resting called SEASIDE MAYNE ISLAND

Seaside Mayne Island resting 60 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_09_11 048

It is not released yet and still needs a final photo shoot. I will also do a full work-in-progress post for us sometime in early October. Regardless of its newness and still “resting” status, I placed the painting in a prominent location last evening for a dinner we hosted with good friends and collectors of my paintings and photography.

dinner with friends and art by Terrill Welch

The hit of the evening, after SEASIDE MAYNE ISLAND of course, was a new still life painting…

AUGUST STILL LIFE WITH CEZANNE AND MATISSE
36 x 24 inch oil on canvas

August Still life with Cezanne and Matisse 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_08_23 034

There are distinctive elements of Paul Cezanne‘s work that go far beyond his use of colour to represent form. He had a way of presenting different viewpoints in his compositions that was and is exciting. This is something that Henri Matisse continued to explore while allowing the paint to become colour fields of flat surfaces. At one point in the of the development of this work I had a choice. I could continue to build up the colour fields or I could continue to follow the light and movement within the landscape. Matisse of course was arguing for letting paint be paint in its colour and simplicity. Cezanne was slowly working his way into the tension of form and structure of the still life using colour as his guide. I observed. I thanked the masters. Then I picked up my brush and continued to paint the light and movement between the forms until the painting came to rest. Edges are currently unfinished and can be completed to meet your needs.

Detailed view and purchase information at:
http://www.artsyhome.com/product/August-Still-life-with-Cezanne-and-Matisse

Where might be your favourite Leaf-kicking stroll when the golden light is shining low through the trees?

Psst! I have also started working on my second art book. The working title is ANYTHING BUT NEUTRAL: Mayne Island in paintings and photographs, Volume Two. I have about 57 of the estimated 80 pages completed in draft form. Tentative release will be early November. I shall keep you posted as it progresses 🙂

© 2013 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

Golden Plums Summer Flowers with Rilke Cezanne and Matisse

August golden plums and a large arrangement of local flowers provide sensual release in the abating summer of paint and canvas. Yet, it is not so much the canvases where the study and work is occurring. I have been reading Rainer Marie Rilke‘s LETTERS ON CEZANNE that he wrote to his wife in 1907 while viewing an exhibition of Paul Cezanne’s paintings shown one year after the painter’s death. This master painter, along with Henri Matisse, has cast a distinct hue and influence over these most recent canvases – none of which are released as I am not sure of their completeness. Maybe they will remain studio studies or maybe just a few brushes of paint and they will separate from the creative process and stand on their own. But complete or not it is time to bring you my dear friends into my painterly space.

I start arranging and exploring the possibilities for the still life with my usual camera sketches.

Should it be this way?

Cezanne comes to visit by Terrill Welch 2013_08_12 023

Or maybe this way?

Flowers on a chair painterly by Terrill Welch 2013_08_12 007

And then of course there is just the plums…

Golden Plums and an Apple painterly by Terrill Welch 2013_08_12 134

What would Paul Cezanne have to say? Well, very little probably. He certainly wasn’t know for his eloquent oratory. Rilke on the other hand and to our good fortune gifted with words:

It’s as if every part were aware of all the others – it participates that much; that much adjustment and rejection is happening in it; that’s how each daub plays its part in maintaining equilibrium and in producing it: just as the whole picture finally keeps reality in equilibrium.

(Paris Vie, 29, Rue Cassette, October 22, 1907)

Shall we begin?

The first challenge is to get the still life up to a desired level for painting so that the view-point is similar to that of the photographs. This is likely not all that common an issue but it is one I have discovered to be a significant difference between painting from life and using my photographs for reference – I often photograph on my knees and almost always paint standing. I like the low angle so how might we do this with this chair and still life arrangement?

Coffee Table still life set up by Terrill Welch 2013_08_13 039

By setting it on the coffee table of course. I set three framed and finished paintings behind the set up not for any other purpose than to leave me room in another part of the room for the wet canvases. But after I did it I liked the effect and added a few cushions under the chair to pull everything together. Now it is time to paint.

Beginnings August still life with Cezanne and Matisse by Terrill Welch 2013_08_13 083

I feel very much alone in the studio. With the ground on the two new canvas I will be painting today, I wait for a little more natural light to reach the great room where I am painting. While I wait, I review yesterday’s work in progress images looking for clues that can possibly be brought forward in an even more conscious way into today’s work. It is interesting to me that one day can feel so different from the next. Well, there is only one thing to do – paint.

I am happily painting and visiting with Paul Cezanne when Henri Matisse shows up.

Visiting with Cezanne when Matisse arrived by Terrill Welch 2013_08_13 104

There are distinctive elements of Cezanne work that go far beyond his use of colour to represent form. He had a way of presenting different viewpoints in his compositions that was and is exciting. This is something that Henri Matisse continued to explore while allowing the paint to become colour fields of flat surfaces. At this point of the development of this work I had a choice. I could continue to build up the colour fields or I could continue to follow the light and movement within the landscape. Matisse of course was arguing for letting paint be paint in its colour and simplicity. Cezanne was slowly working his way into the tension of form and structure of the still life using colour as his guide. I observed. I thanked the masters. Then I picked up my brush and continued to paint the light and movement between the forms until the painting came to rest.

AUGUST STILL LIFE WITH CEZANNE AND MATISSE  resting 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas

August Stilllife with Cezanne and Matisse resting II 24 x 36 inch oil on canvasby Terrill Welch 2013_08_13 132

I have done more on this painting now but it is not significantly changed.

But I am not done. I start on another canvas and move more towards form. Hovering between representation and abstract I bring us in close to the still life setup.

GOLDEN PLUMS AN APPLE AND GREEN VASE resting 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas

golden plums an apple and green vase resting 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_08_14 075

I am left wanting for a chance to peer over his shoulder as he painted and I assume paced his way through long periods of time constructing the structure and rendering his still life paintings. How did he decide to have falling fruit, and tilted vases, tables, paintings or twisted warped, walls and furniture with more than one view-point in a single painting? What was it that brought him to these considerations? The results are of course a still life that is anything but still.

I set up a third canvas

PLUMS APPLES AND MOSTLY SUNFLOWERS – resting 20 x 24 inch oil on canvas

Plums Apples and mostly sunflowers resting 20 x 24 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_08_14 058

 

The light IS filtered for most of my painting session this morning. Hence the contrasts are minimal as I paint the spaces in between enjoying the colours and the tension in the relationships.

I set up a four and small 8 x 10 inch canvas.

one canvas still on the easel for still life set up by Terrill Welch 2013_08_14 091

But after looking at it for a few moments I realize I am done. I have exhausted my drive to capture this particular still life. So with a room full of colour I begin to muse about these three works.

These three paintings are “resting” and they are still very much attached to the process of their painting. I have left them here in the window so that I may look at them unintentionally as I go about other tasks. I am checking to see that I truly feel they are complete. Sometimes this process takes hours before I am sure and other times it takes months. While I am doing this evaluation, a question came to mind:

Which room in a home or office would be best suited to hang these paintings?

 

which room for these still life oil paintings by Terrill Welch 2013_08_14 102

You might think this is an odd question but many people who buy my paintings and photography prints hang the work in their bedrooms or in their private office space. I see these as the two most intimate places for people to choose to hang the pieces. Much of my work is in quieter colours with lots of natural blues, greens and earth shades. The paintings and photographs are full of movement yet the compositions are simple and spacious. Hence, it is easy for me to understand why the work might enhance restful and thoughtful spaces.

But these three are possibly not as visually quiet so it got me to wondering where they will most likely be hung. What do you think? If you were going to choose one or all three where would you hang them?

To help with size needs the smallest is 12 x 16 inches, the middle painting is 20 x 24 inches and the large painting is 24 x 36 inches.

So my curious mind wants to know – if you had a choice and these paintings arrived at your home, in what room would you hang them?

 

© 2013 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

Wanted alive not perfect – still life painting with Paul Cézanne

There is an immediacy to painting still life that is even more evident than when painting landscapes. The subjects are closer to the painter and therefore the light moves even quicker when painting alla prima or wet-on-wet then when painting the sea or the forest using the same method. But it is my favourite way to paint and with the west coast being so perpetually grey this winter, I wanted some colour. So colour we shall have!

I grab some available subjects and pulled them together on the kitchen counter and then I snug my old easel up to it. After roughing it a view lines with paint, I am ready to begin.

defining the canvas space for Wine vase pears lemons and blood oranges  by Terrill Welch 2013_02_09 041

The newsprint is intended to help keep the subject close to us and to provide additional reflected light and lightness to the composition. In the end, as you will see, I let go of some of this in favor of more depth and warmth. With an afternoon of painting large loose brush strokes of delicate colour, we come to about here.

set for wine vase with pears lemons and blood oranges by Terrill Welch 2013_02_09 052

There is something about a still life for the impressionist painter that brings home the need to render it alive rather than perfect. If in doubt follow the light and colour. This is what I tell myself anyway – render the light and get it alive.  It is not my idea but the wise perspective of Paul Cézanne. I set it aside to “rest” and at bedtime it looked something like this.

Wine vase pears lemons and blood oranges resting 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_02_09 072

I mean “something like “because every time I looked at the painting I made an adjustment. While the painting was “resting” I cleanup the still life set up, eat one of the pears and set a blood orange aside for morning. I am not completely happy with the painting yet. There is a lost space on the left that leaves the composition more centered than I would like. I wonder what would Paul Cézanne have to say?

Let’s ask the Web Museum in Paris:

Paul Cézanne, one of the creators of modern art, was called the “solidifier of Impressionism”. And indeed he does not draw his picture before painting it: instead, he creates space and depth of perspective by means of planes of color, which are freely associated and at the same time contrasted and compared. The facets which are thus produced create not just one but many perspectives, and in this way volume comes once again to dominate the composition, no longer a product of the line but rather of the color itself. His still-lifes, in their simplicity and delicate tonal harmony, are a typical work and thus ideal for an understanding of Cézanne’s art.

Most of his pictures are still lifes. These were done in the studio, with simple props; a cloth, some apples, a vase or bowl and, later in his career, plaster sculptures. Cézanne’s still lifes are both traditional and modern. The fruits and objects are readily identifiable, but they have no aroma, no sensual or tactile appeal and no other function other than as passive decorative objects coexisting in the same flat space. They bear no relation to the colorful vegetables of Provence — gorgeous red tomatoes, purple aubergines, and bright green courgettes. In his pursuit of the essence of art, Cézanne had to suppress earthly delights.

(reference: Web Museum Paris at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/sl which includes several images of his still life paintings)

Well, I am not sure I agree that his paintings “have no aroma, sensual or tactile appeal and no other function other than as passive decorative objects coexisting on the same flat  space.” However, he did focus on using planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields of viewer recognition. This is what I am after in this painting. But I want to be sure the viewer experiences the life and sustenance of the subject. These bosc pears, sweet lemons and blood oranges are ready for eating. Delicious in fact. How do I get past the idea of decorative? How do I create more weight on the left side of the composition? Ah yes, questions to sleep on.

It is morning. I cut up the blood orange. I look at it. My mind goes into a long pause. I pick up the cutting board with the orange slices still on it and climb the stairs to the studio.

Rightly or wrongly, there are now slices of blood orange slid in beside the rest of the fruit in the painting. Of course, as always, when one things changes in a painting there is the need to change a dozen others. So here it is. Finished. Not perfect but still alive I think.

WINE VASE, PEARS, LEMONS AND BLOOD ORANGES 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas

Wine vase pears lemons and blood oranges resting 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_02_10 015

The still live painting’s softness and colour harmony in this morning’s light pleases me. And do have a slice of blood orange. They are delicious! The painting will be released over at Terrill Welch Artist at some point in the future.

What might you be wanting to render alive not perfect?

All the best of Sunday to you and wishing you a marvelous week ahead!

© 2013 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