Tag Archives: Isle-sur-la-sorge

A week in Provence

I had the privilege to teach a class in the beautiful south of France last week. There were an interesting mix of painters from Alaska, Texas and California as well as Israel and Norway!
The trip was organized by Jackie Grandchamps of French Escapade.  Jackie knows her stuff, she was a pleasure to deal with and did everything she could to accommodate us painters! I highly recommend French Escapade!

We lived and painted in Venasque, which lies in the mountains just east of Avignon, Provence.
We also did excursions to different painting locations like Isle-sur-la-Sorge, Gordes, and St.-Remy-de-Provence, where we painted in the garden of a famous hospital: the same one where Vincent van Gogh checked himself in so long ago. Remarkably, it is still a hospital today! Only the section where van Gogh lived is a museum.

Painting en plein air is hard work when it’s hot and we had very warm weather. Better than rain, that’s for sure, so nobody was complaining. There was always a nice and shady spot where we could hide from the heat! How does one deal with the heat when painting outside? Arguably, it might be better to switch to another medium but when painting watercolors, it is essential to bring a spray bottle to keep the washes wet. In dry conditions, every brushstroke dries in seconds! The sprayer helps to extend the drying time. I also make sure my painting and palette is never in full sun. Before I start my drawing I always spray my wells and close the palette so the pigments are ready when it’s painting time!

In other news: Yours truly will be featured in the October/November edition of Plein Air magazine! I was interviewed by Steve Doherty, the editor, and I am very grateful for being included! Here’s my painting philosophy as the magazine printed it:

“Painting should go deeper than copying nature as it is,” says watercolorist Frank Eber. “I want to find an interpretation of the thing that’s underneath — what gives it life. In essence, I am trying to paint what cannot be painted.”

Maybe I overdid it a bit, eh? …But seriously, wouldn’t that be something!!

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!