Friday, August 31, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunflower Heatstroke Dordogne, France


The sunflower season started off with high hopes of a countryside draped in a cheery cloak of yellow spreading out as far as the eye could see. But, from the beginning, this season has proven to be less than the usual iconic sunflower-filled version of France. At first it seemed that there were not going to be any fields planted with these much anticipated flowers. But then, as the weather warmed up, we began to see the distinctive double-leafed sprouts and each evening we kept track of their rapid growth from tiny sprout, to knee high, on up to our shoulders, all in a matter of a few days. As the flower heads filled out the landscape was like a shawl of chartreuse and golds with threads of white and green. Finally it was just about time for the glow to start and I was all in a tizzy to get Tom out there en plein air to capture on paper the glorious landscape.

Then the weather changed from perfect sunflower growing weather to way too hot and way too dry. Suddenly that big locomotive of anticipation came to a screeching halt. Golden flower petals emerged, lasted a day or two and then wilted to miserable tufts hanging on the edge of the large seed heads. Quickly the golden petals drooped and clung as black fringes. It has just been too blinking hot and dry here for anything to flower for more than a day or two. If one was quick and in the right spot at the right moment you could catch the fields in their full glory.  But there were very few iconic sunflower filled days. The fields never really had one good glow, their golden robes faded to the rags of summer’s end: scratchy leaves and big black seed heads drooping heavily on the stalks. 


On our evening walks Tom would say, “Maybe it will be cooler tomorrow and I can get out there and paint.” But the days just kept getting hotter and hotter and there was no way I could fuss and push him out into that oven. Even rigging up an umbrella wouldn’t have done anything to alleviate the inescapable sun-baked air.
All this led to thinking about how we take for granted the beautiful en plein air paintings that are so iconic of France. van Gogh’s sunflower fields. Monet’s flower-filled Giverny paintings. Looking at these images in a museum we don’t think about the weather conditions, bugs and hunger that the artist had to endure to capture an image. My guess is that few of us ever stop to think about what was happening in those gorgeous fields around these obsessed, focused artists. Was it hot and did they have to rig up an umbrella or wear a bandana around their forehead to keep the sweat from rolling onto the canvas? Was it too windy and they had to figure out how to tie everything down? Did they leave at the crack of dawn to set up their easel ready to capture the first rays while the morning air was still fresh and before the beating sun rays rose to high? Or did they have to suffer the hottest part of the day in order to have the sun-light hitting the hills just to their liking?
Normally Tom would have been right out there battling whatever got between him and the perfect composition that he had found. But this year he has had to sweat through this heat wave by mixing concrete and laying a foundation for his new studio. My expectations for next year’s sunflowers will be doubled by this year’s dry spell - both of sunflower fields everywhere and new painting images that can keep us happy all the year long.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yellow Striped Awnings Perigueux, France


Yellow Striped Awnings    Perigueux, France
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at www.tomviethsketches.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Midway Comes to Bourdeilles



The Midway Comes To Bourdeilles





Mayhem followed when Pierre went to the carnival after watching all of his collection of Tom Cruise movies.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Festival of Bourdeilles, France



Hotdogs, hamburgers, tractors, marching bands and local color were key ingredients for a celebration in Vermont and most any small community in the U. S of A.

The annual Festival of Bourdeilles, (yes, yet another festival !), has all the key ingredients of a village celebration, lots of similarities, but with some pretty big twists.

Here are ten points of comparison:

Our little burg of Williston , VT (pop. 8000) had enough various fire trucks to extinguish Dante’s hell. In our even littler burg of Bourdeilles (pop. 500), I have never seen a fire engine in the two years that we have lived here. So our parade is very, very short. This lack of fire trucks either has something to do with stone houses or the fact that, unlike their Vermont counterparts, the firemen don’t come to every minor traffic accident.  In which case we would see them all the time.

Second, no self respecting French person could ever confesses to liking hamburgers or hotdogs. So instead they serve up two choices of dinner: barrels of mussels soaked in garlic and oil, or a fine slab of beef with no soaking, or sauce of any kind. Of course these are accompanied by french fries served with mustard or mayonnaise. Ketchup can not be consumed in public. (Think of opium dens with, instead, Americans passing red bottles, the smell of vinegar in the air...)
Did I forget to mention wine instead of beer?


Third, the French do not exercise so there will be no local Jazzercise, or Zumba dancing group in the parade. This year instead we had male majorettes, decked out in skirts, wigs and some outrageously stuffed bras. Funny, the loud pulsing music is just the same as our bouncing jazzersizers. Except for an electronic version of Frere Jacque,Frere Jacque, Are you Sleeping? And everyone in the crowd was happy to make fun of their hardworking friends, but really glad it wasn’t them showing off their hairy legs, hairy faces, and beautiful smiles.


Fourth, the closest Bourdeilles has to a town band is a few ex-hippies playing guitars and a wheeze of accordions at the local bar on a Friday night, so if you are looking for a marching band you need to hire one.  Which Bourdeilles did!  There were only about ten members, but they played like heros. I wonder about next year.. maybe the money that went to the hired guns could go toward the purchase of 500 kazoos, tambourines, and whistles. 

Fifth, there are not enough neighborhoods to make floats, we are only about 300 full time villagers, so there is one committee that does all the preparation for the floats. During the winter this small group spends hundreds of hours twisting crepe paper into flowers (10,000 flowers!) and then for the last few weeks has stuffed the flowers into metal forms. They were beautiful.  If you were on your knees looking up you could even say that they were monumental. God forbid that it rains on parade day or the gutters would run with a rainbow of crepe paper colors.

Sixth, the National Guard flies so low on their daily maneuvers that if they were to do a “fly by” up the parade route it would be like having Jedi warrior spacecrafts threading the narrow passage of buildings. The shock waves would surely bring the chateau down on all of us. We do have a local ultralight flier who eventually passed over.  

Seventh, insisting upon fairness to the fair sex has seen the disappearance of parade queens in much of the US. But not in Bourdeilles! Every year Bourdeilles has a beautiful queen and her court.  Barring any change up or down in population growth, the two runner-ups will be crowned queen in their turn in the next two years.

Eighth, a tractor is a tractor is a tractor no matter where you live. And the older the better for the local parade.

Ninth, thankfully it is universally accepted that a vital part of growing up is the physical and mental conditioning that only comes with a whirl on a rickety fair ride, spending some time upside down, and taking a few neck cracking rounds on a bumper car. 



10th no matter where you are a parade will bring a twinkle to your eye. 



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bourdeilles, France Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Young Cows
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at www.tomviethsketches.com




Thursday, August 2, 2012

Three Levels of Sales Events......

Looking for stuff somebody else used until they didn't want it anymore?  There are three levels of sales events for this.



The first is the Vide Grenier, literally empty the attic. When's the last time you were in your attic?
Oh, and the whole village empties their attics on the same day.



The second level up is the Brocante. This is where you find enormous pieces of furniture from France's Belle Epoque. You would never know that the average Belle Epoquet was a petit five foot two by the looking at these mahogany monsters.



Finally, for the really old and valuable stuff, there is the Antique level. The booth next door to Pierre has a lo of fancy stuff from the many King Louies. Pierre got the old part right.