It seems rather arrogant to think that one can visit a place such as Collioure, with it’s extraordinary art heritage, and even dare to think that one could come away having produced anything that might be called ‘art’.
But for this summer’s trip, I took oil pastels, pencils and pads in response to a developing urge in the weeks leading up to our departure.
It’s a long time since I did any sketching, let alone anything more than that.
There are a couple of pieces on the wall at home that – my material of choice used to be quality colour pencils, used in conjunction with felt tip pens. It was an odd method that I’d developed myself when I was doing art at school, and deployed particularly for my own brand of photo-realism.
It's perhaps rather revealing that, in those days, my aim was to impeccably reproduce a photograph: I couldn't simply let myself go artistically.
I didn’t want to attempt such an anally retentive style in France – that hadn't been what was motivating me. Rather, inspired partly by the vivacity of the place, I wanted to ‘loosen up’ my old, oh-so-precise style and see if I could convey things in blocks of colour and a sense of shape rather than the sort of precise detail that would have days to render.
One morning, I sat down on my sunlounger at Bora Bora (on the front row in the snapshot), pulled out the larger pad, carefully pointed myself to my left, in the direction of the slabs of rock that constitute the Royal Chateau, took a deep breath and began to flex my art muscle.
The subject had appealed even when I was sitting at home in London contemplating such an endeavour, precisely because it is such vast slabs, which seem to rise organically out of the sea.
The initial pencil sketch was not bad – and it was certainly looser. But the oil pastels proved considerably less worthwhile. It didn’t help when I realised that, in opting for a textured paper, I’d made very much the wrong choice.
Muscles lose strength when they're not used for a very long time.
The following week, I tried a small pencil sketch on San Vincent Plage of the lighthouse. That was better, but I don’t think Leonardo need fear yet.
It did illustrate that I struggle to do anything without having massive expectations of myself. In one sense I enjoyed it, but in another, I was frustrated. It’s as though I can never divorce things entirely from a work ethos or from a competitive one – even if the only person I’m competing against is myself.
Fortunately though, the holiday wasn’t entirely without some artistic success on my part – but that was definitely with the camera.
Visiting the chateau on our final night for a local event (of which more in a forthcoming post), I had the opportunity to take a rare shot of Boromar promenade and the iconic bell tower from above and at night.
The camera didn’t want to play. And after attempting to hold it completely still for what seemed an eternity as it supposedly exposed my chosen shot, I waggled it about in frustration.
The result is possibly more interesting that it would have been otherwise. But I shall not bother showing it to my mother, who is stymied by pretty much anything other than the most obvious pictures.
I never really felt that I ‘got going’ with my photography in Collioure this year, although looking at what I took, there are some decent shots. I have some studies, which I took on our sailing trip, of a particularly stony beach that I still need to process and which, as much as I've analysed them thus far, think are pretty decent.
But by and large, the only shot that I think comes close to the project I undertook last summer, is one of a moped, parked around the corner from the Sports Café in the town.
Ideally, I’ve have preferred to shoot this from the front, but that would have meant having the café itself in shot and that, I think, would have detracted.
On the other hand, the lines of the building and the direction that the moped is facing all work together and give the picture movement. It's simple – but it works.
Remarkably, the colour of the moped almost matches that of the wall. It might have been in France, but there’s something about it that could be Italy.
So, it might not be Michelangelo – and the light play shot might not be Jackson Pollock – but I’m really rather pleased with both of them.