“Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the painting,” said Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about audacity–and about painting, too, it turns out.
In the 1920s Churchill took painting lessons in the picturesque coastal village of Cassis, France, where our group also painted during the workshop I attended in May led by Jill Steenhuis. See my Postcards No. 1 here and No. 2 here. Paul Cezanne painted there as well, so we were in good karmic company, n’est-ce pas?
What happens when you go out to paint en plein air, as I explained earlier here, is you walk around for at least an hour trying to figure out what to paint, and then you take another hour to set up…
…and then you have to tee-tee, and then you go get a Coke, and then you come back to your spot–in this case a boat ramp–to find a huge boat being hooked up to a trailer in the exact place you want to paint, and then FINALLY you paint there, and afterward you think, I wish I had painted in that other spot.
And by teacher Jill:
One of those other spots, a view of Cap Canaille, was where where Churchill himself painted.
Okay I’m not 100% sure the painting below is of Cap Canaille, but it’s close enough, don’t you think.
There was actually a 1983 French film called Cap Canaille that was entered in the Berlin Film Festival. (The amount of perfectly useless information I learn in the course of writing this blog could have its own Trivial Pursuit category.) This below for sure is Cap Canaille, by fellow workshop student Edwina. It is in oil but has an almost watercolor-y feel.
Another lovely spot was on a jetty, looking across the channel at a pretty house perched on the cliff.
Fellow student Anne-Kathrin painted a charming rendition, even after her palette blew away and landed face-down (naturally) on the concrete.
As I’ve conveyed in previous posts, plein air painting can be a perilous business. So can using a lot of Ps in a sentence if you are standing close to someone while parlaying. Hey, watch me, Monsieur Promenade Dangereuse…
This part of France is also famous and unique for its calanques, or steep-walled inlets, that are beautiful to sail in and around, and also lovely to paint.
And by Sir Winston’s:
So Churchill, like, helped plan D-Day and World War II, negotiated numerous international treaties, navigated decades of treachery and politics, served as PM of Great Britain during its darkest and finest hours, and still managed to paint more than 500 paintings. I, on the other hand, am trying to figure out how I can finish this blog post, go to the farm stand, and pick up my friend at the Jitney. And I haven’t even gotten dressed yet. SRSLY.
But here is what Churchill, and painting, are teaching me: Confidence; and failing that hutzpa; and failing that, faking one or both of the above, are a big part of anything worth doing. Even if you fail, you have more fun doing it because you think you are a badass. Or pretending to be one.
A few years ago when I was hosting the TV show Southern Living Presents, I drove a Nascar car a few times around the track, causing the camera guy to remark, “She looks like she’s driving to he Piggly-Wiggly.” Then I rode with Kyle Petty driving, and not to the Piggly-Wiggly, unless it was the one in Daytona. I asked him if he was ever afraid. He said, “Hell, I’m afraid every day.” Well, dang, he seemed like a badass to me.
How did I start out writing about painting and end up writing about fear? Oh yes, Winston Churchill, whose immortal words spoken about D-Day the 70th anniversary of which we observe this month – Fear, like D-Day itself, is and was, “the end of the beginning.” And if, as he said, “Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the painting,” it sure as hell was a great part of the invasion of Normandy. Isn’t it a great part of any courageous decision? To leave your job, to get sober, to stand up to your husband, to come out, to wear red … to do anything you feel called, but fearful, to do. You might, like my buddy Kyle, be afraid every day.
Then you do it. And sink or swim, a part of you has let go of who you thought you were supposed to be, to embrace who you are.
To see more of teacher Jill Steenhuis’ work, her Art in Provence website is here. If perchance you find your lucky self in the south of France between now and June 28, you can see it in person, along with that of her sculptor husband, Serge Ruffato.
Au revoir from France. Next stop, Italy with His Grace. Have a magnifico weekend.