The magnificent 42-year-old mural consisting of hundreds of ceramic pieces depicting the iconic buildings of Droitwich Spa, certainly one of the treasures of the town, resides in St. Andrews Shopping Centre.
The mural had suffered damage over time, primarily by the effects of the weather. Droitwich Arts Network secured permission to restore it and obtained funding for that purpose. The mural was removed on 7th November and sent for restoration at the ‘Black Dog of Wells’ factory. That leaves a large gap in the wall, which DAN is filling with temporary panels to explain the restoration and exhibit work by the people of Droitwich Spa, including contributions from local schools.
I have just completed a piece to be included in the space:
I returned from France at the end of October and have only just had time to take this picture to near completion.
I always leave a “completed” picture for a week or so before varnishing it. In the past I have finalised the picture only to discover some things I would prefer to alter – and it is too late!
I may have another look at the chinchilla, or add another llama or person. Perhaps my crab is too prominent. This reflection is needed once one gets away from the detail and looks again at the whole with a critical eye. At times when you are in the middle of painting, it becomes quite difficult to make changes to the parts just done, yet later you think “how did I miss that?”. What ever it is, I will now leave the canvas to allow for my reflection time.
Whilst staying in Voiron with our french twinning hosts, Marie-Noelle and Jean-Francois, we had the opportunity to participate in a local artistic trip to Crémieu, some 40km east of Lyon.
We are members of the Droitwich Spa French Twinning Group, which links us to the town of Voiron which lies between Lyon and Grenoble, (Voiron is known for the production of Chartreuse liqueur). As you may know, our town Twinning visits include events organised by the local twinning group. They also allow time for hosts to share their area with their visitors. These often provide a deeper immersion into French culture.
Thus, it was that on a Saturday morning in late April, bright and early (well, early) we drove with our host, Marie Noelle, to the nearby town of Châbons for a trip with a local group called “Sur le pas de Jongkind”, a group who share cultural interests. There we joined a coach full of people of which we only knew Marie-Noelle. She sat slightly apart from us so we were forced to speak in French with the others as few had any English. The group seemed pleased to have us with them and talked to us when they can and kindly helped correct our understanding of the French language.
The coach first took us to Crémieu, a small town to the east of Lyon. On exiting the coach, we were all given pastries and buns. The “Isle de Crémieu”, is a diverse countryside composed of hills, plateaux, plains and valleys, dotted with pretty towns and villages that sits to the south of a bend of the Rhône river. In the nineteenth century a number of landscape artists decided to paint from nature and based themselves in this area.
We were guided around the ancient streets of Crémieu to see the sites chosen as subjects for paintings. We were shown reproductions of the pictures to compare with the scene today. One was of a narrow street, near the church painted by François-Auguste Ravier.
The view was made a little more interesting by removals taking place at an old house. The staircase must have been a problem as furniture was being handed out of an upstairs window to a man standing on top of a van.
After stopping on the far side of town for photos, we visited various sites in the area that had been painted by artists such as Corot, Daubigny, Tassier and Claudel.
In the paintings below, the étang de Gilieu Siccieu fed nearby mills. Today the mills are ruined, the étang is no longer maintained and has almost disappeared and the landscape changed dramatically as a result.
These paintings made contrasted with the view today:
And again in Optivoz we saw artist’s pictures on wall of restaurant “Auberge de peintres”. We were also taken to see the remains of the mill and the sluices for the mill ponds
We also visited Brangues which is associated with writers Stendahl & Paul Claudel. We ended at Corbelin for drinks and cakes (sanguines? – a local speciality) before returning.
It was a long day, but very interesting and rewarding.
I have now completed the first rendering of Huayna Picchu, (the big peak that dominates the view), refurbished the distant peaks and skyline. Later on I intend to bring the weather in so that clouds pass in front of some of the scene. I have also started clarifying the walls, terraces and buildings. This is fun as I am using memory plus several photographs – the scene I wish to depict does not exist in a single photo.
Incidentally, the Inca were wonderful craftspeople with stone. Machu Picchu was not complete when it was abandoned and you can still see the stone quarry and incomplete buildings. Those buildings that have walls could easily have wooden roof put on and be habitable such is the quality of their work. The stones were worked so that they would fit together perfectly. A good example is shown below (this is part of a wall in Cusco). This marvel is a 14 sided stone which fits so tightly with its neighbours that you could not push a blade of grass into the cracks.
I have added more definition to the distant peaks, though they seem too dark at the moment. I have also started working on Huayna Picchu, the big peak that dominates the view, working top down.
The Incas built a trail up the side of the Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces on its top. The peak of Huayna Picchu is 2,693 metres (8,835 ft) above sea level, or about 260 metres (850 ft) higher than Machu Picchu. According to local guides, the top of the mountain was the residence for the high priest and the local virgins. Every morning before sunrise, the high priest with a small group would walk to Machu Picchu to signal the coming of the new day.
The word “Picchu” is a hispanicization of the Quechua (ancient language of the Andes peoples) meaning pyramid.
The river Urubamba almost completely surrounds Huayna Picchu apart from a narrow ridge leading from Machu Picchu mountain; the Inca ruins sit between the two peaks with extremely steep slopes on both sides down to the river.
My daughter-in-law, Lissete, comes from Lima, Peru. We have naturally visited this amazing country and have many fantastic memories and photos.
I have hesitated to paint the iconic Machu Picchu site, as even the many photographs I have do not do the place justice. The site sits above jaw-dropping cliffs down to the Urubamba river and has a calm, watchful atmosphere and an air of mystery. The Spanish Conquistadors did not find it when they invaded and there are many theories as to its purpose. One I like is that it was an agricultural research station – each terrace has it’s own microclimate.
I have decided to combine some of the detail I photographed in the morning when the weather was fine with the sombre shadows of the rain clouds we encountered in the afternoon.
This is the first stage – I have started to block out the shapes in the picture. That has already allowed me to see that some of the shapes are not quite right. I am using several photos in addition to my memory – so the final result will not exactly match any one of the photos!