Belinda Del Pesco

Il Fico Ristorante 6.5 x 8.5 Watercolor (Sold)

I keep a notebook to scribble To-Do’s, painting ideas, and tidbits gleaned from books and the web. It’s old fashioned to keep a paper To-Do list, I know, but I love the feel of paper, and I enjoy writing lists. It’s as important as keeping a moleskine for field sketching in my car, and in my bag. Sketching while you wait for kids, or a lovely piece on NPR to conclude, or a chapter in an audio book to close, etc… that’s a great use of double-pleasure time. Checking things off a To-Do list is pretty snazzy too. A notebook in my hands feels solid and reminiscent of scholarly things. The calendar on my phone is great, and I use it every day, but moving through tasks on a keyboard doesn’t supply the same gratification I get with old school pencil & paper.

Beautiful vantage point in a field of lavender near Bonnieux, France

While in France last month, I tried to write a little every day about where we were, and what I thought might be compelling to paint back in my studio. I scribbled all flavors of wanderings and wonderings in margins and around little sketches and notes. It’s a pleasure to look through the notes now, and recall tidbits; “Find Creme de Marrons to add to plain yogurt!”, and “Carve a 3-color linocut of lavender fields!” I was sitting in the field above, pondering how I’d sequence the carving; which color first, how dark to go on the last color, what size plate to use, and which tone of paper, etc. Can you see in that photo how it might work as a relief print?

Field Sketch in Watercolors – 5×16 Moleskine – Lavender Field near Bonnieux
Field Sketching near a quilt of lavender (photo by Linda Queally)

I’m pretty sure I would have forgotten the idea of making a linocut from this scene if I hadn’t written it down. (Three cheers for paper notebooks!) As soon as I finish the series of watercolors in process for Fall exhibits, I think a little lavender field linocut might be a perfect project to recall the buzzing bees, fragrant air and all that purple, as far as the eye can see. Maybe I’ll use the project as a video tutorial too. Do you want to learn to carve lino blocks?

The monetary Abbey de Senanque with newly planted (not mature enough to bloom) lavender fields.

One of the treats I brought home from the Abbey de Senanque, near Gordes is lavender oil. Their famous lavender fields had just been re-planted (certain lavender cultivars have to be pulled & replaced with new plants every six years), so the purple-ratio was low, but the grounds were beautiful and the gift shop was open. Lavender is the most popular oil used in soaps worldwide, but the plant has been deemed a noxious and invasive weed in parts of Australia and Spain. I love the scent, but my husband thinks it smells like bug spray, so I put a drop on a cotton ball and set it on a tiny dish by a breezy open window when he’s not home. 🙂

One way you can bring the lavender fields home with you.

Metallic Green Rose Chafer beetles feasting on Queen Anne’s lace

The field where we painted lavender near Bonnieux was flanked by a vineyard on one side, and a creek lined with hedges of queen anne’s lace on the other.  The white canopies of flowerettes were all dotted with metallic green beetles twice the size of the green fig beetles I sometimes see bumbling around our macadamia nut tree in California. With more time, I would have enjoyed doing some plant and insect studies, but I’m grateful for the photos to play with that idea later.

One of the resident outdoor cats lounging on the grounds of the chateau as the sun went down. This guy was one of the favorites for the artists at the workshop: great social skills, and jade green eyes (see below).

I’m almost finished with a watercolor of the view beyond the castle wall, just to the right of the cat lounging above. Twilight views in watercolor seem challenging to be, due to the spots of bright lights in the distant villages against the indigo landscape, but I decided to tackle it while the image was fresh in my mind. Hopefully, I’ll finish before my next post. (Subscribe to get these posts via email.) Have you painted a twilight or nocturnal scene in watercolor? How did it go? Did you have to use frisket or masking to preserve your spots of light?

Leaning, and meowing for attention, in french. Bonjour, doux petit chat.
Part of the stone deck with a view of the landscape below the chateau, perfect for afternoon painting and an evening glass of wine

Thanks for stopping by today. Happy painting & I’ll see you in the next post!

Art Quote

I can be inspired by a face, the juxtaposition of two colors, a flash of something out of the corner of my eye, a distant horizon, an intimate corner of a stream, the way two globs of paint interact with each other. For me, there’s no such thing as an “artist’s block” or a dull moment – there’s just not enough time in a day to explore everything I want to get to.

~Quang Ho

17 thoughts on “Watercolors: Cafe & Lavender Field Sketching”

  1. Pingback: Watercolor Sketching: Kitchen at Chateau Renard and painting from travel photos - Belinda Del Pesco

  2. Carolina Morelli

    Lovely pictures of the land of my ancestors. I adore France and have yet to produce a painting that does it justice
    thanks for the great blog…. enjoying your journey which encourages me to get to work….

    1. Hello Carolina, I’m glad my trip is encouraging you to paint, and think about family. Two of my favorite combined subjects in the studio. I’m with you on doing France justice in a painting. We’ll both keep at it. 🙂

  3. Now you’ve nudged me to do another lino cut of a lavender field.I did one (from a holiday sketch from years ago), but it was rubbish! Thank you.

  4. Your paintings, photos and wonderful words instantly took me on a virtual trip to Provence. I’m thankful for having a vivid imagination and for bloggers such as you to activate it because it’s the only feasible way I can travel. Love Suzé’s recipe for a room spray and suggestion for bug bite relief! Lavender scent is so soothing. I find that rendering the color is difficult – seems I always send up with either too cool a blue or a hue too close to a magenta. I’ve decided to plant some so that next year, in order to compare a brush load of color mixture to the real thing (maybe I’ll visit a plant nursery for now and bring my paints!). Any video you share is always enjoyed, whatever the technique. As for rendering nocturnes — that’s one of the reasons why I decided to stick with acrylics – I can keep piling on or glazing paints until I finally get it! Love that quote and added it to my 80+ pages – an endless pursuit, as you know.

    1. Thank you for the kind words & encouragement. I so agree that the blogosphere is a steady stream of inspiration and tips and ideas and camaraderie. The phrase “We’re friends online” is a regular part of my vocabulary, and it makes no sense at all to my elder friends who aren’t online. I hope your visit to the nursery is fruitful. There seems to be a hundred different colors of lavender cultivars, so I applaud your repeated attempts to get the ones you’re looking for. Happy painting to you!

  5. Hi Belinda!
    So happy you made it to visit my most favorite place in the world! We spend time each year in Provence and will be there for five weeks beginning Sept. I never tire of the beautiful light there. Your photos and watercolors of Provence are just lovely, I can hear the din of the bees and the chansons of the cigales. When I was in L’isle sur la Sorgue last year, our apartment was near one of the canals and the tiger mosquitos were horrible. Normally, mosquitos ignore me and bite everyone else, but these attacked me and the itching was intense. So much so I still have the battle scars. The pharmacist recommended lavender oil. I just looked at him but he seemed sincere. After the second application of lavender oil, the itching had disappeared and the bites began to finally begin healing. I am a lavender advocate now! I make a spray from water, vodka, and the lavender oil and it smells great as a room freshener and helps to spritz your pillow before you go to bed as it helps with sleep.
    I think a three or four color linocut of the lavender fields would be great, people don’t believe you when you show them that astonishing purple, they think it’s photoshopped. Pleas keep sharing your wonderful images and artwork of France and your thoughtful musings on art and your process. It never fails to make my day.

    1. Hi Suzé! Thanks so much for the visit! Your recipe for room freshener sounds lovely! A drop of oil on a cotton ball by the window is working, but the idea of sinking my head into an entire pillow of lavender scent makes me swoon with grins! The mosquitoes weren’t out yet in L’isle sur la Sorgue last month, so we were lucky.I loved that town, and took hundreds of reference photos and video. Will you be staying there again in September? Your trip sounds fantastic, and I am really looking forward to your fb posts about it! Thanks again for your encouragement. xo

      1. Hi Brenda, we’ve been staying a week in Vaison la Romaine for the past few years and this year we are doing the entire time there. We’ve made some wonderful French friends there and they convinced us. For my husband it’s a work/vaca but for me it’s all about painting and photography. The cité médiévale is quite quiet and lovely. I hope you are able to visit there on a future Provence trip. Julian Merrow Smith isn’t far from Vaison and I hope tiny take his painting workshop one visit. I just saw your new post and I think your nocturne is gorgeous. You have that Maxfield Parrish blue for the sky and that is exactly what the provençale nighttime sky color is. I especially like the town in the distance and the perspective of the building.

        1. Hi Suzé –
          Thanks for the description of your amazing season in France… I’ll have to look up Vaison la Romaine. And if you take a workshop with Julian, I hope you document it on your vlog! It would be so lovely to follow along! Thanks for the compliments on my nocturne study – fingers crossed the next version sits closer to what I had in mind. Happy travels to you!

  6. Mar Ellen Gale

    I’ve been thinking about linocut lately. A video would be great! And I’ve painted a night scene of Mt Etna erupting in watercolor. (Just had a vision of the mountain erupting water colors, but I’ll save that for another time). Had a hard time with the lights in the windows. I did frisket those but I was trying for an orange glow and that sort of dampened the feeling.

    1. Hi MaryEllen – I think I know what you mean about the frisket and getting a “glow” affect; the edges are too hard after removing the frisket, and that’s probably why I don’t use the stuff much. I’ve had better luck using wax (an uncolored candle) as a resist… Thanks for the encouragement on the linocut. I’d added it to the (long) list. 🙂

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