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The Well-Travelled Painting: The Atlantic coast of France, on the Côte d’Argent

This series of Well-Travelled Paintings is designed to share my progress re-learning to paint, draw out the memories of the places and travel destinations I paint, and also keep myself accountable to my goal to paint more often. Each painting featured comes accompanied by a mini-guide to the place depicted – a taster to whet your appetite for when we can travel once again. Other paintings in the series so far include Hampshire, Cefalu and Palermo in Sicily, the French Alps, Greek Islands, and all paintings can be found here.

What does this painting depict?

Today the series continues with a painting of the Côte d’Argent, a 200km-long sandy beach stretching all the way down the south-west coast of France from the Gironde River, past Biarritz, to the border with Spain. Facing the vast Atlantic, the ocean is numbingly cold and the weather less predictable than the Mediterranean, so it’s consequently less popular and well-known – just how I like it! I’ve been travelling there since I was a young girl to stay in a pine-wood bungalow belonging to my mother, amidst a pine forest sheltered from the ocean by huge sand dunes. I returned there in September 2020 for a blissful fortnight – my only mid-pandemic holiday of 2020.

This photo was taken along the scenic route to the local market for a a session indulging in oysters, calamars and crémant. There is also a cycle path a little further inland, but the walk is just as enjoyable and sometimes advisable, if the sparkling wine has affected our ability to steer a bike! The two figures are my mother and sister, walking ahead chatting, on our way home from the market in the early afternoon. You can find out more about the place in my latest episode of The Well-Travelled Podcast: A Postcard from the Côte d’Argent in south-west France.

This place is synonymous for me with retreat, digital detox and relaxation. There is no sightseeing to be done – just sport, reading, practicing my French, the sea, the market, good food, fine wine and my family. So this photo for me screams contentedness, an ability to let time pass by without worries, my appreciation for the present moment, and the bond of family. We’ve been visiting this spot in France on-and-off for 25 years, so there are happy childhood memories involved too. It has history, influence and at the same time very little complexity. The painting conveys two women walking forwards in life, but very confidently and with roots into the sand, and symbolises my family’s enduring connection to this stretch of France and the fact that we’ll be visiting for years and hopefully generations to come as well.

What about the painting itself?

My perfectionism means that I’m hopeless at painting humans and the two figures were my greatest challenge in this painting. I had completed all other parts satisfactorily but toiled away over those silhouettes, finally conceding that I couldn’t represent them accurately, so they would have to be abstract instead. Besides that, I struggled over the finishing touches with footprints in the sand – knowing they were crucial to making the piece seem realistic, but also knowing that a shaky hand could spoil the well blended beach underfoot, risking sending me back to the drawing board. My lesson learned from this piece is to work on larger sheets of paper or canvasses rather than smaller A5 sheets, as you can paint more precisely and intricately when needed. The sky should be smoother and the colours in the sand are not quite right. I notice I have a tendency to paint with brighter, stronger colours than needed in reality, possibly because I imagine the world more vividly than it perhaps is?

I’m toying with the idea of selling some of my paintings if there’s interest. The places I paint hold memories for me but also no doubt for others who have visited or have a special connection to a place. If you’d like to discuss purchasing this piece, or any of the other Well-Travelled Paintings, then just hit the ‘Enquire’ button below and I’ll be in touch. 

This piece is acrylic on sketch paper, 13.7 cm x 21 cm.

Price upon enquiry.

2 Comments »

  1. It looks a wonderful stretch of coast and I can feel how bonded you are to the area and the memories. I like your rather abstract figures, but I don’t paint myself so wouldn’t judge harshly. Wonderful to be able to recreate the scene for yourself. 🙂 🙂

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