Horses of the Camargue: Preparing to Paint

Line Drawing on Watercolour Paper

The Line Drawing on watercolour paper

I have transferred the sketch just as a line drawing onto the watercolour paper. The size of the image is roughly what I want, about 30×40 centimetres

The painting will be interesting to say the least. The horses should be lighter than the background, and as you know, you can only go from light to dark with watercolour and not vice versa. The manes and tails in the photographs seem to glow as though they have light behind them. I think they will have to be masked out for that to happen. I may have to put background in first, which will be amusing

I won’t have a lot of time this week as we are going away soon to Sicily, another wonderful source of material. I think before I go, I will hopefully have time to give the painting an all-over wash of Naples yellow and Raw Sienna, which should give the glow of low sunshine that I want. Fingers crossed on that one

So, it may be nearer the end of the month before I can finish the painting completely. This won’t be an easy painting to do for the reasons stated. We shall just have to see how it turns out

 

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue Horses

White Horses of the Camargue

When we were in the south of France a few weeks ago, we finished our voyage down the River Rhone at Arles. I have already mentioned my walking tour of the city in the footsteps of van Gogh, as well as the magnificent Roman amphitheatre

Just south of the city, and in the salt marshes of the Rhone estuary, is the Camargue region, famous for its semi-wild horses, its black bulls bred for fighting and also flamingos, which breed there, the only breeding ground of that species in Europe.

I say the horses are semi-wild. They roam the region more or less at will until round up time, but also they are used for riding, and the tamer ones used by riding schools and trekking stations. They are, I believe one of the oldest breeds in Europe, and because of the remoteness of the area, the bloodstock remains undiluted

I wanted to paint them. I do paint horses occasionally, usually heavy draft horses as I find them intriguing, but the Camargue horses are something of a challenge, because of their colour as much as anything. You can always find one white horse or two perhaps in a herd, but a complete herd all the same colour is unusual, and would make a striking painting.

I took some pictures of my own, which were shot from the hip very often as an opportunity presented itself, and were ok but not the best. I bought a photograph from a local, which was much more impressive, and am using this to compose something which I hope will make an interesting painting

I have sketched something out as above, using Paynes Grey watercolour which I now prefer to ink, which I think will work. Quite a lot of shadow of course on white and how to make it stand out against white paper will be interesting too. I shall transfer this sketch onto watercolour paper and see how we get on

Van Gogh and Arles

I have been away for the past week. We cruised down the River Rhone from Lyon to Arles which was lovely, and took three places off my bucket list. One was the Pont du Gard, that amazing section of Roman aqueduct still remaining crossing the River Gard. Very hot that day but still summoned the energy to go down to the water’s edge and look up at this amazing structure whilst envying the people in the water. The second place was the Camargue National Park to see the famous white horses and the black bulls, as well as of course the flamingos who breed there, the only breeding ground of this bird in Europe. Curiously they are not very pink. The third place, as an artist that I wanted to visit was Arles made famous by Van Gogh, and those of us who wanted, were treated to a fascinating walking tour taking in some of the places made famous by the artist.

Van Gogh arrived in Arles in 1888, and took a room in a house near the railway station. he called it the Yellow House and it is depicted in one of his paintings. The house isn’t there anymore. It was destroyed by bombing in WW2. The house next door is still there, not yellow but a sort of buttermilk colour, and curiously enough still a cafe.

The light in Arles is extremely attractive for artists. The sun shines and the sky is blue nearly every day. More importantly, the famous wind, the Mistral blows down the Rhone like a corridor and clears the air of water vapour, dust etc, and produces a clarity of colour that would be hard to find elsewhere. The Mistral in summer is like a cooling breeze, like an electric fan in the heat of the city. In winter, I am told, it is something of a tyrant, getting inside your head, making you ill, and in some cases inducing madness. It goes in three-day cycles. If it doesn’t stop after three days, it will go on for another three, and so on

Vincent’s time in Arles was highly productive, producing something like 300 paintings.He was bi polar so was capable of great energy at times. ¬†On our walk we visited some of the sites made famous by van Gogh. One of them was the Night Cafe or Le Cafe la Nuit. The exterior of the cafe is depicted in Cafe Terrace at Night painted in September 1888. My picture follows.

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Another shot with the van Gogh painting as a reference

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He wanted to set up a society of artists in Arles, and to this end, persuaded his brother Theo, who was already financing him, to persuade Gauguin with financial inducements, to come to Arles, which he did. The two of them had a turbulent relationship which turned violent and Gauguin left.

Van Gogh’s despair and self recrimination led to the famous self mutilation incident, when he took a razor to his ear and sliced off a lobe. He wrapped it in newspaper and gave it to a prostitute whom he knew. She reported him to the police, who thought he had killed Gauguin. He was admitted to a hospital in Arles for treatment, where he continued to work, and produced the following painting of the hospital garden

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The garden which he painted is not dissimilar today. Later his condition was to worsen and he was admitted to a nearby asylum in St.Remy.He was estranged from Theo who was about to marry. As we know he was to shoot himself in a nearby field, amidst some controversy. He shot himself in the chest and did not die immediately. People usually shoot themselves in the head and then death is instant. How did he come by a gun. He was unpopular in the town, because of his strange behaviour. Had someone else shot him? All unanswerable questions

I have tried to condense the walk down to as few words as possible. Not easy to convey so much information, but hope you find it interesting nonetheless