Tag Archives: Marley le Roi

It is never too late. Madame Nottale harbouring a deep well of creativity.

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My first encounter with Madame Nottale was when I was invited to dinner at the family home in Marley le Roi – (south west of Paris) in 1983, when she made a huge impression on me.

I first painted her in 1994 (above portrait watercolour/gouache)…..At which point Madame Nottale was still raising her family of eight children and working full time as a nurse.

Three years ago, I visited Madame Nottale in a nursing home situated in the historic district of Le Pecq, south west of Paris.     Interestingly, it’s an area I am familiar with as I have  other friends who live almost next door to the home.      It’s what I call a personal ‘hot spot’ – a subject I will write more about in a future blog.

After entering the nursing home, Madame Nottale began to paint and write every day.     When I arrived, I was amazed to see her paintings and drawings covering every surface available.

A fraction of the work on display…….

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In this quick watercolour I caught the profound changes that had become evident in her face.       She had been liberated – and given the space and time to tap into a deep well of creativity which she had been harbouring all of her life.

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At this time she was 92 and no longer able to speak, however she said so much with eyes that sparkled with life.

During this visit, Madame Nottale made a drawing of me…….here she is selecting a pastel….with daughter Claudia, who I have known since 1977.

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From this point of view, it was interesting for me to observe Madame Nottale’s astute observational skills.

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Along with painting, Madame Nottale is writing remarkable poems and essays.        Her son, Laurent, was telling me that some of the language used in the poems goes back to her early childhood when she and her brother lived with foster parents on a farm.        It is language that wouldn’t be used to day….language and thoughts that have been harboured throughout her life.

It’s a joy to see the life and energy within her work.

Quick Watercolour last week of Madame Nottale

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Madame Nottale shows us that it is never too late to draw from within…..to immerse oneself into the joy and fulfilment of the creative process.

Needless to say, I came away feeling inspired and uplifted.

Madame Nottale died in 2016 aged 94.   A life very well lived. 

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A Bientôt

A Life Well Lived – Madame Nottale – a remarkable woman.

Madame Nottale died a few weeks ago.    Selfishly I would have loved to spend much more time with her, however at 94 years old she was ready to move on.     I feel a deep sense of gratitude for having known such a wonderful human being, whose life was indeed well lived.

A recent photograph of Madame Nottale with her daughter Claudia. 

P1050879When Claudia Nottale came to stay with my family in the States in 1978 she was just seventeen years old.    I had no idea at the time that she would become a life long friend.

Claudia Nottale – 17 years old – oil on canvas

10996105_10153048192965396_8451570209771699384_o-2In 1984 on one of my trips back to the UK and Europe to visit family and friends, Claudia’s Mother  invited me to dinner at her home in Marley le Roi, not too far from Paris.       I will always remember the first moment we met.        Her warmth and love shone through.

So much could be said about her life….Mother of seven remarkable children, nurse, friend to so many, lover of nature and in her latter years when she had time for herself….the brilliance of her painting and  writing shone through.

Portrait of Madame Nottale in 1985…..watercolour/gouache

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She was a woman who exemplified what it is to live life well.     She exhibited great courage and at the same time compassion for others. – I would say that she spent much of her life alleviating suffering in others in tangible ways as a nurse and Mother and in less tangible ways simply by being who she was.    For to be in her presence was indeed a beautiful experience.

Madame Nottale drawing me September 2015

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She loved colour and chocolate…….two things we had in common:)    During her latter years she painted and wrote every single day.    The walls and every other surface in her room were covered in her work.

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Three  years ago, I made this watercolour of her….which I feel demonstrates her letting go of worldly worries and coming home to her true calling…..that of being an artist and writer.

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Deeply spiritual, and an inspiration to all……Madame Nottale must surely be in a heaven with unlimited paints, paper, brushes and pens…and of course surrounded with beautiful flowers and hummingbirds:)

A special moment with Madame Nottale……

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‘There are always flowers for those who want to see them.’     Henri Matisse.  

Moon, Mountains and Magical hummingbird – inspired by a drawing by Madame Nottale. 

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A Bientôt

 

 

It is never too late. Madame Nottale harbouring a deep well of creativity.

P1090096

My first encounter with Madame Nottale was when I was invited to dinner at the family home in Marley le Roi – (south west of Paris) in 1983, when she made a huge impression on me.

I first painted her in 1994 (above portrait watercolour/gouache)…..At which point Madame Nottale was still raising her family of eight children and working full time as a nurse.

Three years ago, I visited Madame Nottale in a nursing home situated in the historic district of Le Pecq, south west of Paris.     Interestingly, it’s an area I am familiar with as I have  other friends who live almost next door to the home.      It’s what I call a personal ‘hot spot’ – a subject I will write more about in a future blog.

After entering the nursing home, Madame Nottale began to paint and write every day.     When I arrived, I was amazed to see her paintings and drawings covering every surface available.

A fraction of the work on display…….

P1170865

In this quick watercolour I caught the profound changes that had become evident in her face.       She had been liberated – and given the space and time to tap into a deep well of creativity which she had been harbouring all of her life.

135830_10151286353205396_2041716361_o

At this time she was 92 and no longer able to speak, however she said so much with eyes that sparkled with life.

During this visit, Madame Nottale made a drawing of me…….here she is selecting a pastel….with daughter Claudia, who I have known since 1977.

P1170882

From this point of view, it was interesting for me to observe Madame Nottale’s astute observational skills.

P1170885

 

Along with painting, Madame Nottale is writing remarkable poems and essays.        Her son, Laurent, was telling me that some of the language used in the poems goes back to her early childhood when she and her brother lived with foster parents on a farm.        It is language that wouldn’t be used to day….language and thoughts that have been harboured throughout her life.

It’s a joy to see the life and energy within her work.

Quick Watercolour last week of Madame Nottale

P1170870

 

Madame Nottale shows us that it is never too late to draw from within…..to immerse oneself into the joy and fulfilment of the creative process.

Needless to say, I came away feeling inspired and uplifted.

Madame Nottale died in 2016 aged 94.   A life very well lived. 

20200227_115745

A Bientôt

Babette’s Feast – a story of transformation

I am someone who enjoys reading obituaries, and so I was interested to learn that Gabriel Axel recently died, aged 95.    He was best known to the English-speaking world for the film Babette’s Feast, adapted by Axel from Isak Dinesen’s short story of the same title. 

I first saw this Danish production when it was released in 1987.    It was a film that spoke to me in many ways, not the least of which was its visual beauty. 

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The story is about two 19th century spinsters, Phillapa and Matine who live a pious existence in their fishing village on the west coast of Norway. 

Using flashbacks, the film returns us to their youth where we see the lives of two young women controlled and governed by the tyrannical rule of their minister father.    

After the fathers death, Phillapa and Matine continue the faather’s dictate of self denial and chastity. 

Much later in their lives it was the arrival of  Babette, a refugee from Paris that was to bring transformation not just to Phillipa and Matine but also to the few remaining souls who had been part of their father’s flock.

The pivotal moment is when Babette wins some lottery money and invests the winnings into a memorial dinner to mark what would have been the 100th birthday of the dead Minister. 

Babette preparing the feast. 

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The feast which celebrates life, love and food, is made up of all sorts of exotic delicacies and wine…….

To begin with the villagers are horrified, but as the sensuality of the experience works its magic, they are transformed. 

This is a story that resonates with me on so many levels, and reminds me of a very special person in my life, Madame Nottale. 

I painted this portrait of Madame Nottale in the eighties, after she had prepared a feast in my honour when I visited her in Marley le Roi, outside of Paris. 

A remarkable woman on so many levels, Madame Nottale’s life would make an amazing book.     Along with her extraordinary experiences as a child and in World War 2, she  raised eight children, continuing to work as a nurse throughout.   Her husband, was away at sea for most of the time. 

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I met Madame Nottale through her daughter Claudia, who came to stay with my family in 1978 when I was living in the States.    Claudia introduced me to her Mother, Madame Nottale on a visit to France in 1985. 

A small oil on canvas portrait of Claudia as a young girl.

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Madame Nottale continued to work as a nurse into her late seventies.     Over the years, she had suffered great loss, and yet continued to be there for her family and those that she was nursing. 

Then around the age of eighty came transformation…..

For the first time in her life, she was able to do what she wanted to do, which was write and paint.     Her family were amazed to see this huge part of her being revealed.     

When I visited her two years ago, now in a nursing home, her room was full of paintings and drawings….every surface was covered.    She asked me to call her Annette – and together we talked about painting, colour,writing, love and life, all of which Annette embodies. 

Annette’s whole countenance had changed – a softness had come to her face.   During our time together, I made a quick watercolour sketch which I feel expresses her transformation. 

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Babette’s Feast, and the story of Madame Nottale show us that it is never too late to open up to the simple joys of being fully alive.  

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A Bientôt 

 

Working with Gouache.

About 15 years ago when working  in my studio in Wales, I started to PLAY with the idea of mixing transparent watercolours with Opaque Gouache. 

In this quick study of my friend, Claudia Notalle, the French actress, I worked from paper that had a cadmium orange gouache ground, along with all sorts of other paint spatterings!      I have intentionally integrated the paint spatterings into the image. 

The moral of the story is don’t throw old pieces of soiled paper away…….

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Frame 1)

I sketch out the face using Indian Red…..and at the same time throw in Gouache permanent white for the highlights and some dark tones to indicate shadow areas. 

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Frame 2)

In this frame I add more Indian Red and strengthen the darks around the image…..always working the whole painting….not just one

segment at a time…..

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Frame 3)

I now add the vibrancy of turquoise…which is a mix of Cotman watercolour Turquoise with permanent white Gouache….again moving the colour around the image. 

I also add violet, more Indian red and strengthen the darks…..allowing the cadmium orange ground and spatterings to show through the painting.

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Final image. 

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Wishing everyone a lovely weekend….back here on Monday. 

A Bientôt