I am the youngest of three brothers. Thats me in the middle, below. In the late 1960`s Dad would pack us into a VW Camper van he called `Modestine`- after the eponymous anti-hero of RL Stevenson`s `Travels with a donkey` - and drive all the way from Liverpool to Agay in the South of France for summer camping holidays. This photograph must have been taken near there.
Where exactly, none of us are sure. I have tried to locate the spot using Google Earth. It could be the valley behind Frejus showing the after effects of the 1959 Malpasset dam disaster. See below. But the topography is not particularly the same...
Dad - using old 35mm film - has managed to capture a moment in time and the effect is strangely compelling. We stand on a rocky scree on a seriously hot summer`s afternoon overlooking the scene of a disaster. Or maybe its somewhere completely different, and something else has caught our attention. Either way you get the sense that we are contemplating a future looming up to meet us...
I have tried to convey some of this emotion in a painting based on the original photograph.
The focus of the painting of course is the three brothers and the way the light bounces off them, the depth of the shadows cast, and the slight sense of mystery. But I struggled to capture the background landscape - the way that objects in the distance recede into haziness. Claude Monet was a genius with the rendering of light and could do it instinctively - just look at the way the distant rocky outcrop in the painting below recedes back using a wonderful combination of cobalt blue dulled perhaps with raw umber and a touch of yellow ochre.
I think I should have used more of that smoky blue effect. Whatever. I have got to the stage where I will have to let the painting `go`. I could keep on tinkering but that is usually a mistake...here is the finished work.
Remembrance of things past. A la recherche du temps perdu. I never did get around to reading that voluminous novel by Marcel Proust (its waiting for me on a bookshelf in France). But this photograph - and the painting it inspired - brings me wistful memories of magical summers, and of the man who made those holidays happen. Dad died aged 93 last November. Thanks for the memories, Dad.