"Bridge at Castelfranc"
Watercolor 22 x 15 inches

The trip to France is glorious!   I'll say that again and again and again!   The old medieval villages and their quiet little streets made just wide enough for two horses to pass in opposing directions is enough to arouse the most cynical person.   Cobblestones, eroded limestone buildings and facades which have stood for centuries can really get the painter in us excited.

This little arched bridge is in a little village, Castelfranc, that is no bigger than a few football fields.  It is right on the Lot River and at the junction of where the Vert river runs into the Lot.   Reflections, water rushes, gardens, odd structures, like the old Pidgeoners, abound in this village.   As I walked through parts of the village my camera was heating up from all antics I was putting it through.   Then we set up our easels on another bridge looking upstream to the little bridge in the painting.   We painted for about 90 minutes then had to fold up and get out of the heat and sun.

The painting I had was a fair representation of what was there, but needed a lot of work to bring it to life.   Plein Air painting is often that way . . . . .put the skeleton on the paper, go back to the studio and flesh out the painting.   This is where one must gather all of their courage . . . . .this is the "hard part."

Really, Mike?   What do you mean?   I just need to work from my photos . . . . . NOT!   It is definetely tempting to put the photos into the 50 inch flat screen and set about copying.   In my opinion, that simply is not art  . . . . . . what is left out is the artist and his (her) feelings.   

The hard part is to put the incomplete painting up on the easel, look hard at the painting, without any reference to photos and ask what does the PAINTING NEED?   In other words, the artist must inquire of the painting what is needed to bring the overall design to a place that, when done, will stop a viewer in his or her tracks.   Then to muster all the courage we can and paint it. 

Making good paintings is way more than copying a pretty picture of some cute place.   It is a painting. . . . .an object of art created by a person . . . . .not a painted version of a photo.   The Shapes, values, colors, textures and contrasts must all come together in a way to make a stunning composition that cries out the music of creativity.   Difficult to do without a reference, you say?  Of course it is!   This is why really great paintings are so few and far between.

If you are a painter, take the challenge!   Go out to a painting spot, block in the image, pack up and go to the studio and turn your back on what you saw and photographed and answer what the painting tells you that it needs in order to be stellar.

Here's where the inexperienced painters scream in fear of failure.   Note that nobody ever gets hurt or dies if a painting fails.   What does happen is the painter learns what he or she did wrong.   This is where the painter gathers that experience that is so valuable in setting oneself apart from all the other wannabe painters.

Go ahead!  Turn your back on it.   Make a piece of A R T . . . .not just a copy of a photo.