When I'm not at home in Philadelphia I'm often in a lovely town in the Loire Valley in the center of France. The region is rich with natural beauty and history, all centered around the great Loire river, the longest river in France. But France has many rivers, and nearby is the Vienne, where the fascinating town of Chinon stretches along the banks and then climbs a steep hill to the great fortress castle on the heights.
Finished scene: Chinon: River, Town, Castle
The drawing for this scene was done across the river looking back at the panorama of the town with the castle. It shows the bridge and guardhouse leading to the castle buildings (a 2nd sketch continues the line of the castle and may be completed at some point.)
I wanted to convey the majesty of the 'forteresse' (distinguished from a 'chateau' by its serious defensive history) looming above the long undulation of white stone houses of the riverside town. In my work I seek a balance of several factors: the spontaneity and light touch of my sketch, the truth of color and place, and a sense of the particular site at a given moment. I'm happy with the pattern of this scene: the bands of color marking river, grassy bank, houses, green hillside, fortress, and sky.
Chinon, a familiar name in the wine world, is also one of those places where time can seem to stand still. On the windswept hilltop, surrounded by very old stones and with the French countryside stretching out for miles, it might be any moment in a 1000 year history, but one date stands out. In early 1429, during the Hundred Year's War, Joan of Arc marched into Chinon and confronted the French Dauphin, the uncrowned heir to the throne. She gained his confidence, then led him through a series of obstacles to be crowned in Reims, thus turning the tide of the war and giving France back to the French. The room where it happened is (almost) still there - three walls are gone, but one with a great fireplace remains, marked by a plaque to note the importance of the site.
I've included the original sketch, a photo of the meeting room, 2 images of the scene in progress, and the finished scene. I'd love to know what you think!