Category Archives: France

Fayac farm estate

Fayac Farm estate 14x20

Fayac Farm estate 14×20

(click for larger image)

On my recent trip to France I was very much drawn to painting simple scenes with barns and cows as oppose to pompous, medieval fortresses built into rock formations. Sometimes, scenes like this have greater appeal and work much better as a painting.  What looks great as a photograph doesn’t necessarily translate into a great painting!

I was very intrigued by the shapes of the barns in the Aquitaine/ Dordogne region of central France.  France is very good in preserving their traditions while keeping pace with the modern life in the 21st century.  They have big box stores as well, but at the same time also manage to keep their small mom and pop stores alive.

This scene depicts one of said barns at the end of the day. The play of light on the rooftop,  the deep shadows of the foreground along with the grazing cows were just waiting to be painted!

Fayac farm estate
Media: original watercolor on paper
Image size:  approx. 14″x20″
Unframed/ matted
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The Aquitaine region of France

Alliac, impressions Alliac, impressions 2

I am currently painting along the Dordogne river in the beautiful Aquitaine region of France. Life is good! This trip was full of adventures for me! The worst was probably the weather this time around. Europe is experiencing floodings and overall one of the wettest spring times in 25 years! Very fitting that I had to pick this exact time to come for painting! What can you do?

I made the best of it and produced about 25 plein air pieces so far. I am sure glad I brought my umbrella! There were a few times when I had to finish a painting in the rain! The umbrella I use is by Best Brella. It cost a bit more than others but it is well worth the money!

Next stop: Provence! Stay tuned..

I’d like to mention a few of my upcoming workshops this summer: San Clemente and Yosemite Valley, California. Please consider joining me at either or both! View my 2013-2014 schedule here.

June 22-23 Workshop at San Clemente Art Supply, San Clemente, CA.

August 18-24 Workshop: How to paint loose and atmospheric watercolor, Yosemite Art Center, Yosemite, CA.

A picture tells a story …not!

Meubles Florent, by frankeber 2012                     

Not until you do some ‘visioneering’. I have adapted this term from the great watercolor painter Robert Wade, who is in his eighties now but still going strong!

What he means is basically what I preach in my classes as well: do not just copy the photograph! Being able to paint something as it is, or copy what’s on the reference is irrelevant! Treat the reference as exactly that, a reference!
The goal should always be to capture the character, a feeling, a mood etc. Only then do we rise to the next level. Not an easy thing to do, but no-one said that painting well is easy, right?

The reason I wanted to paint this was the lovely shadow on the building in the late afternoon light. I took this picture in the south of France, a place called Isle-sur-la-sorge. As you can see, I changed the angles a bit to make it more interesting. On the photograph, the shadow seems to cut the building in half.  Also, there’s not a whole lot going on in this picture, is there? We need to do some visioneering! Add a few figures, some lights and a vehicle and, voilá, we might just have a painting! Please note that I didn’t try to copy the building too closely, yet ironically, it looks a lot like what’s on the photograph, doesn’t it?

I didn’t use any chinese white. Not in any of the lights, nor in any of the dark washes. Texture was achieved by spattering water or pure pigment. The lighter shutters in the dark areas where lifted while the wash was still damp, i.e. wet. I try to avoid lifting when the washes are dry. To me, it feels too much like ‘fixing’ things..but that’s just me, if you’re happy to lift and use chinese white: go for it. I just prefer not to!

Thank you for looking!

Revisiting France!

City of light 2, by frankeber 2011           City of light, by frankeber 2011

I know, I always say that I don’t like sunset paintings. The main reason is that they don’t seem to work very well in watercolor. These are two semi sunsets, sort of like the late light in the day. They are just made for watercolor, for the simple reason that the buildings are backlit. That way, you’re really just painting the silhouttes.

I found that although I didn’t paint in lots of windows, they still seem to be there! I am banking on the fact that the eyes of the viewer put them in, so to speak. There seem to be many details but it really is all just an illusion. I even omitted the headlights on the car and it works just fine..

On of the most difficult things in painting is to simplify objects so they still tell the story without looking overworked. If you paint a building with 20 windows and put them all in, just like in the photograph, your work will look stilted and tight.

How do you do it? By treating every single shape as part of the whole painting. How important is the window in the overall design of the painting? Not very…So, a simple suggestion with one or two brushstrokes is enough! What’s really important is the shape of the building! That has to be painted right.

From sketch to finished paintings

This is a sketch I did onsite a few years ago in Avignon, France. I was quite taken by the tiny streets and alleyways and I found this car parked in a spot that seemed impossible to drive to. Somebody did though, and it made for a perfect subject matter!
The cat was not in the picture, I made that up to give it a little more life. Also, the umbrella on top of the roof was actually folded up.

sketch Avignon, 2011 by frankeber
This sketch was largely responsible for the success of this painting. Without it, I don’t think I would have been able to remember this scene very well. It was over two years ago. I did snap pictures, but that’s just not the same as having this precious ‘note’ of what this corner felt like when I was there! Taking pictures of scenes like this is tricky, they usually come out too dark or too light and a camera can never capture the mood of a place very well!

A sketch like this (it’s less than 6″ long and maybe 3″ wide) can be done quickly, if you have a
small palette and some water on hand. I use an old W&N travel palette, it even has a tiny tray for water and you can put it on top of your sketch pad, painting standing up. Literally anywhere, anytime. A true lifesaver when you just don’t have enough time to do a bigger piece!

I also do this method when I am not sure if a scene is actually worth painting. Doing a little painting like this takes all of 10 minutes and you immediately feel if it’s worth an attempt in a bigger size. The painting process is pretty much ‘alla prima’, meaning in one go. The upper left side is the white of the paper and the umbrella and the yellow building with the windows and some highlights is the first wash. I started the second wash on the upper left side and connected everything with the yellow background wash and the right side, all in one wash. You can actually see that I barely caught the pigment before it started to dry, it left furry edges!

The details like the car, the cat, the streetlamp and shutters are last

sunny corner, Avignon, 2011 by frankeber
Sunny corner, Avignon 7″x 18″