French plein-air artist capturing Jamaican scenes
Paul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
BLAISE, A Frenchman living and working in Germany, has heard so much about Jamaica that he thinks he now knows the entire country. Hearsay knowledge was not enough for him, however, so the plein-air artiste recently came to the country as a tourist, and to capture its interesting sights and scenes on his canvases.
The “artist in general” told The Gleaner at his demonstration on the compound of The Art Centre in Papine, St Andrew that he is specially a landscape painter. And he has been such since 2015, after he retired from his job of 20 years. Everywhere he goes he brings his plein-air equipment, as he considers himself a full-time artist. And, while other people take pictures of the places they visit, he records his experience by painting, not by snapping away at everything.
“I visit country through my painting … today, I see a lot of tourists visit country by their phone … Me, I arrive somewhere, I taste the temperature, I look around, I set up my easel, usually somewhere quiet, and I spend two or three hours at the same spot painting. But, when you paint, you also listen to what is happening … Plein air painting is also sharing the life of where you paint,” he explained.
The experience of painting outside is much different from working in the studio where there are the coffee machine, microwave oven, radio, movies. “When you do plain air painting, you are in the sun, in Jamaica … You are freezing in winter in Germany. There is wind, there is wind, there is rain. It is about working with the elements, the man who loves to do urban scenes related.
Time and the weather are very important factors in pleinair painting. They are not static, and they carry with them light and shadow. So, the time of day and the prevailing weather conditions have to be considered to get a certain effect, and thus the painter has a latitude of two to three hours to complete the work. The strokes should be swift and automatic. “You are not here to create a masterpiece. You are here to capture with paint what you see at that moment of the day in your life. And that moment is a two-hour window, ”Blaise asserted.
It is not a free-spirit attitude that painter has towards the work. Whatever is to be done must be done intentionally. Preparation is key. Thus, there is the need to do a reconnaissance. It’s about checking out the scene to see when it is the best time to paint, bearing in mind the intended effect. For example, Blaise said the best time to paint is when there is no shadow on the subject or of the subject. Also, interest in the subject is also paramount, because if there is no deep interest in the subject, “it’s not gonna be a good painting, so you have to fall in love with the subject”.
Working with oil on canvass, Blaise regards his style as unique, but said he was influenced by the impressionists, especially from Canada and t he USA. Impressionist painters do not produce their subjects in exactly the same way they are; they are not replicating. They are putting their own style and touch on what they are representing. They seek to capture a feeling or experience rather than to achieve accurate depiction, conveying a particular emotion through light, colour and thin brushstrokes.
And, the Jamaican landscape? “Difficult, not easy” to capture. Blaise share. And, it is a positive. “I have to say this about Jamaica. Jamaica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Jamaican people are some of the most beautiful and friendly people in the world, but their landscape is one of the hardest to paint,” Blaise declared with a smile. “Why? Because that jungle is growing everywhere, in every form, in every colour … It’s like a wild animal, it’s everywhere!”
He is talking about the rich diversity of the form and vegetation of the land, the hills and valleys, the mountains, the forest, the flowering trees, the urban spaces. For instance, he spoke about the monochromatic look of certain parts of Germany. There is nothing to paint, really. “Actually, I am interested in everything about Jamaica,” he said, but unfortunately, he is concentrating only on the Corporate Area of Kingston and St Andrew, this time around, of which he has painted many scenes.
Kingston, it seems, is this urban painter’s dream as he was delighted by its sights. “I absorbed the life around me, having cars around me, people pushing their trolleys (push carts), the vendors, etc,” he said. But, what exactly inspired his decision to come for the captures. “This is a longtime love for Jamaican music. My father used to buy Jamaican vinyl music,” he replied. So, the music led him to the landscape, and he was not disappointed with its beauty, which challenged his pallet and his artistry.