Very often, when an artist returns from a trip or experience out of their usual realm of reality, they are asked about the inspiration they now have that they didn't have before. What are you bringing back? What will be different about your work after soaking up all that new info? Personally, I like to be surprised because if I focus on it too diligently, I don't see anything... or, conversely, I see everything where there really isn't anything. Of course, the landscape, in all it's spring glory, will stay with me, and the brutal Cathar/Crusades history is a source of continuing interest... though most of the ruins (and probably the facts) have been so tampered with over the centuries (how could they not be?) that one can only suppose that this or that was true. The answer? I don't know.
I do know, however, that I could not have been in a more satisfying location... being a gardener and lover of all things having to do with nature, I was in my element!
First noted was the rows of plane trees lining the roads which were probably cart paths when planted. Some still girdle busy highways and perhaps an additional lane has been built along the other side of the row... or not. Our large vans and SUV's best stay home... they would not be happy here. We loved our little rentals, btw... so civilized!
The trees are much like our sycamores, but I understand there is a difference. Some had the twigs still attached, some had been stripped bald, for kindling, I'm told. During our month, they leafed out with the most astounding yellow-green ocher color, and began to create a canopy which is probably most welcome in the hot summer ahead. Tortured trunks from irregular pruning and close encounters with passing vehicles seemed to speak of the land's history, the Inquisition and all that went with it.
So, of course my early sketching efforts were drawn to these subjects. (A reminder that all photos enlarge with a click.)
I did several in watercolor on long, skinny half sheets meant for landscape, capturing, I think, the unique colors of the bark. I don't know what I was after, certainly not a realistic interpretation, but perhaps just a bit more information that I could use in connection with the myriad of photos I took of these stately soldiers.
Eventually, I had to begin to explore how and what I would take from these trees, if anything. Had to work through it, first by tracing the realistic images, then searching for the essence... something I could translate in paint. I'd brought sumi-e ink and bamboo pens and brushes (the lines in the w/c were used with same) and I began churning out little squares of rice paper scribbles... most of which related to these trees in some way, even if very remotely.
I won't focus on these at this time, but will show here the temporary assemblage I put together on the floor of the studio on our last day in residence. We were asked to 'perform for the cameras'; there to make a video for promoting the center, and I had to unpack all this stuff for the occasion. I thought I'd use the time to try one more thing I'd meant to do but hadn't because I moved all my gear to my bedroom. I made a long bamboo stick and taped a bamboo pen to one end and a brush to the other... then taped large sheets of rice paper to the floor... and proceeded to dip into what was left of my ink, and make intuitive marks on the paper. Since my efforts to capture the plane tree in an artistically abstract way were less than wonderful, I added some of my predrawn squares which satisfied me. Okay... it isn't great art, but I expect to use it as a springboard... just don't ask me how!