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Artists

David Mounier - Graveur en Provence

We met David at the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence market. A quick glance at David’s display and we were immediately struck by his works. A tree, a landscape, a bird, all of his subjects draw you closer to the art, closer to the details, and captivate your imagination until you feel compelled to ask him: how?

And it is with passion that David explains how he creates his engravings, following a very old tradition that actually makes him one of the very few engravers to still practice that unique art.

Engraving has a long history and has seen various techniques develop in different parts of the world, from Europe to Asia. While the Japanese use wood to create the master, David is a master of the technique known in French as “pointe sèche”.

The “pointe sèche” technique uses a metal plate, typically copper, that is engraved using a sharp and very fine needle. It is used to etch the drawing in the metal.

Not only is the shape of the etching critical, but the amount of pressure and the angle of the needle will determine how much ink will be deposited in the grooves.

The scale and detail of David’s work require preparation. Because the print will be the mirror image of the engraving, when using a photograph for inspiration, David uses a mirror to look at the photograph, to end up with an inverted etching. Of course, a simple tree may not be concerned with being immortalized inverted, but the Mt Ventoux does. And of course, the detail of David’s work required a good magnifying glass.

David explains that he typically maintains a 45 degrees angle to etch perfectly shaped-grooves, creating along the way, thin copper threads like the wood shavings a cabinetmaker makes with his planer.

Also, as the grooves’ orientation is constantly changing, the plate is constantly moved and rotated, and the use of a rounded support becomes critical: turning and tilting the plate keeps the ideal angle for the light to illuminate the groove and ensure it has the desired shape and depth.

The engraving completed, the ink is then applied using a roller. Several iterations of rolling, rubbing and cleaning are necessary to achieve the perfect loading of the plate.

Once the plate is ready for printing, it is placed face down on a high-quality paper, and the two are placed on a layer of felt before going through the press.

David restored an old press that has the “they just don’t make them like this anymore” feel to it. It is very heavy, beautiful, and incredibly smooth. As David starts turning the wheel, the plate, paper and felt pass under the cylinder with the inertia of the mechanics keeping the rotation going, effortlessly.

A very fine work of art, indeed.

From April till October, you will find David at the following markets:
Mondays and Tuesdays: Bédoin
Wednesdays: Vaison-la-Romaine
Thursdays: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Fridays: Nyons

In David’s own words:

Je suis originaire d'un petit village du bord de mer en Bretagne. Depuis lors, ma connexion à la nature et aux éléments ne m'a jamais quittée. J'ai étudié pendant 5 ans à l'école des Beaux Arts à Lorient et ai suivi une formation d'interprétation nature dans le parc naturel du Vercors, avant de partir longtemps sur la route. J'ai passé plusieurs années en Asie, en particulier dans l'Himalaya, où j'ai rencontré mon épouse avec laquelle je travaille. Ces voyages ont permis de nourrir ma réflexion artistique et de créer des sculptures, dessins, installations dans la nature, estampes.... Actuellement, le Mont Ventoux et la Provence sont une source d'inspiration.... Aujourd'hui, je vis avec ma femme et nos deux enfants en Provence où se situe mon atelier, et le reste de l'année, nous partons ensemble en voyage.

I am originally from a small village, along the southern coast of Brittany. A connection to nature and the elements has always been with me. I spent 5 years studying at the Ecole de Beaux Art in Lorient and followed a nature interpretation training course in the Parc Naturel du Vercors. I started traveling after that. I spent several years in Asia and in the Himalayas, where I met my wife that I now work with. These travels have inspired by art helping me create sculptures, drawings, standing art in natural settings and prints. Presently, The Mont Ventoux and Provence are sources of inspiration. Today, I live with my wife and our two children where I keep my studio, and we travel together when not working.

Richard Esteban

We met Richard at his poterie in Aigues-Vives (Gard). This was no coincidence, having researched the art of making pottery, we had come to Richard’s website, and our interest was piqued. A visit was in order.

We spent a good amount of time looking at Richard’s creations. From platters and vases, plates and pitchers, replicas of traditional Provencal accessories, each item catches your eye. Each has a story, and a number of Richard’s creations are also inspired by patterns or designs he saw in museums. The combination of shapes, designs and colors makes for a wonderful experience and has you wanting to buy just about everything.

It is with lots of questions that we approached Richard who turned out to be a warm and engaging artisan. After 2 hours of looking, touching and talking with Richard, we left with a suitcase full of his creations. But it took a second meeting, months later, to really get to know Richard.

Of course, his sunny disposition and accent add to the charm, but his explanations for the various graphics he features got us to ask him if he would work with us. Naturally, he wanted to hear about our project: how we envisioned working with him, and what other artists we were working with. Soon, we were family.

Richard masters the old technique of faïence or earthenware. In the world of ceramics, earthenware is fired at lower temperature.

All starts on the pottery wheel which is used to give the shape of the object, including the hollowing out for vases, pitchers, etc.

Once the desired shape has been achieved, features such as a spout or handles can be added. And it is also when creativity can run free. A variety of tools are used to emboss the clay, adding to the elegance of the finished product. Walking through Richard’s atelier (just ask, unless the showroom is full, he’ll probably take you there, with a big grin), one discovers an infinite selection of tools designed to add to the elegance of the more intricate objects. These can be made of metal or wood, but little stones are also used.

Then comes drying, which can take less or more time depending on the season. After that, the piece is fired in a kiln at about 1,000 Celsius (1,830 F).

While it all appears quite simple, it actually takes years of apprenticeship to master the art.

Sadly, Richard is the only potter still using the traditional earthenware technique in France. But now that we have visited him numerous times, our home is full of his creations and these never fail to prompt questions about where we got them. And of course, Provence finds itself the subject of the dinner conversation. Again.

So next time you are in Provence, do visit Richard, you are in for a real treat.

André Aubert

Michele met André at the Cucuron market. It is a quaint market that takes place every Tuesday, Place de l’Etang. L’Etang, a large basin that is spring-fed, goes back to the 14th century and once provided water to a mill. It is also surrounded by old sycamore trees that provide a welcome shade in the summer.

Michele loves spending time exploring markets. And it is after walking every étalage that she met André. I caught up with her right after that, at the end of a long bike ride.

She was already convinced that André’s paintings would be a perfect addition to our growing artist family. Since it was the end of our stay in Provence, we agreed that we would try to meet him the next time we came.

It did not take too long. I called André once we were back in the US and explained what we had in mind. He remembered speaking with Michele and said he would be happy to talk further about our project.

André is, as the French say, "un homme haut en couleur". An engaging personality, a son of the Luberon, a lover of Provence and a wonderful artist. Ask him, he is "Le Peintre du Luberon".

It is at his atelier and showroom in Villelaure (Vaucluse) that we met him that second time.

Stepping through the front door, you discover André’s world. It is all about Provence, with bright, bold colors, and a definite style that André calls Provencale Moderne or Fauvisme Moderne. As André describes it, you hang one of his paintings on your wall, and every morning you will have an open window of Provencal sunshine that will bring you joy and happiness. We are told that wearing our Tee has the same effect.

André uses different techniques and supports. When we met him, André was focused on acrylic. A first sketch with a lead pencil outlines the background, often featuring the mountains of the Luberon. The same contours are then marked with a thin black line of black acrylic. Once dry, the bright colors can be applied for a stunning result.

It is easy to fall in love with André’s work. But as much as we love his art, what makes it even more compelling is the Provence storytelling that André is known for.

André knows a lot about painting but is “intarissable” (never runs dry) on the subject of Provence. Its history, traditions, people and language. He is a published author and has another book coming. Looking around his workshop, you will notice all sorts of awards and distinctions. In addition to being an accomplished painter, he is also generous of his time and wears his heart on his sleeve.

When we left, André promised us an “apéritif” at his secret hideout; we can’t wait to go back.

You can find more about André at http://peintreduluberon.free.fr/film.html.