By Domhnall O Suibhne
Anyone who ever approached a canvas with the intention of starting a painting feels the tension of getting it right. However according to Loreto that shouldn’t ever be the approach. There is no right. According to Loreto it’s like taking a plunge into a river.
Without a doubt there are rules to painting. There are rules of colour, tone, line, texture and all the rest. It’s important to be aware of them if you wish to take a serious approach to becoming an artist. But you must also remember that all the great artists have regularly broken those rules, and that’s the way we should be thinking as well, according to Loreto.
Accommodation is in Loreto’s house in Quarante about an hour’s drive east from Carcassonne. The entrance doesn’t look much but as soon as you enter by the large door from a very narrow street, there is a beautiful courtyard upon which all the rooms look. The courtyard acts as an open-air sitting room, studio, classroom and dining room. Everything happens here. There is a tower at the top just in case you need to stargaze or watch fireworks.
The house in Quarante is where Loreto runs her painting courses. The age profile is usually over 50, and they come from as far away as Australia, to attend the 7 day sessions which begin at 8:00am with breakfast and conversation, usually about who stayed up last night till all hours. After breakfast there is a field trip of one kind or another to the Canal du Midi or a local park, bringing all the gear paint, boards tripods and even a picnic on occasion. Loreto makes her way round the artists encouraging and usually bringing up the styles of various famous artists that may be relevant. It all helps to make you feel you have something unique to offer to the canvas. The more adventurous and even reckless you become, the more excited her response.
Afternoons usually are spent back in that cool courtyard, some sleeping in the hummock or finishing a painting started earlier in the morning. Those who had burnt the midnight oil the previous evening hit the bed for a while, or read a book.
At 12:00 o’clock the bees would have arrived on the top of the wall to tend to and pollinate the great ivy. From then until 4:30 they hum their way down the wall in their “bee loud” way and promptly stop at that time as if some foreman blew a whistle. All goes quiet but for the sound of falling seeds from the great ivy.
A day trip away to Collioure on the Med is just the way to get the idea of what the Fauvists, the first Twentieth Century movement in modern art, were about. There is a trail about the town, which has the paintings of Henri Matisse and André Derain in posters just at the point where they painted. What a way to view a painting! In the spot where it was painted. They broke from the impressionists and introduced unnatural colour and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings. So inspired with this freedom from realism, we were encouraged to have a go. Wherever you wanted. I went for the end of the harbour where nobody could bother me, “lashed off” two paintings in quick succession shooting from the hip as compared to those who took careful aim, one from the beach the other from a park bench and was lauded for my reckless abandonment of any reserve. Hit the target both times according to Loreto “those are the best you have ever done!”. So much for the hours of careful attention to detail. If I was going to produce work such as this in such a short space of time, then I would have to take up residence here and who knows make a fortune? Ah but that’s the thing, the moment was gone, just like one of those great nights that can never be repeated no matter how hard you try, you cant make it happen the same way again. But at least I had a glimpse of the possible, I knew what she was getting at. I had sailed on the magic carpet for a brief time, and whats more I can remember catching hold of it and jumping on.