Why painting the same chickadee?

painting workshop retreat in Tuscany, Italy,
Confronted with the landscape, the artist needs to surrender to nature in order to truly express on canvas the unique emotions and feelings resulting from this challenge. Here, Zoe letting go in the Val d’Orcia during our painting workshop in Tuscany Studio Italia.

Recently I finished reading an excellent book about time by Carlo Rovelli, L’ordre du temps (Flammarion, 2018) also translated into English: The Order of Time. Well written, in a simple manner, the author was able to tame my artistic nature allowing me to enter one of the most complex questions of physics, the notion of time. I bought the book because as I get older, time seems to go faster and faster. After reading it, I have learned that time doesn’t exist. Time, as we know, is a mere human construct.

Maybe it is a coincidence, but last week I went to the screening of …and Suddenly the Dawn ( … Y de pronto el amanecer), a wonderful movie by Chilean director Silvio Caiozzi (the man in the image above). It is about an old writer, Pancho, returning to his hometown in Chilean Patagonia in order to find inspiration for his next short stories (seen here as a boy in image above). There, he is confronted by his own past, and he must rethink his life. I sat through the whole three hours and plus, as if time disappeared, and Rovelli’s came to my mind.

The notion of time as Rovelli’s defines it is well underlined in the film. On the one hand, often we see the movement of the clock, the endless mobile phone calls and the screen of the cellular phone; on the other hand, we saw the juxtaposition of Pancho’s memories, traces and emotions. Throughout his book, Rovelli invites us to understand that time per se doesn’t exist. This because among other reasons, the world, in the sense of what we perceive as reality, is composed of “events” and not “things”. In order to demonstrate his train of thought, the physicist uses the example of the stone and the kiss:  a thing (a stone) lasts in time. If I put a stone on my desk, tomorrow I can check if it is still there. An event (a kiss) is a happening; it is the product of an interaction that is limited in space and time. Tomorrow I cannot look for a kiss that happened just now.  Therefore, the world is made of networks of kisses, not stones. He also says that time is manifested not through the Tic Tac of a clock (in the movie), but by the entropic nature of the world, simply physical “changes”, such as the growth of animals and plants and the changes of the physical body (also in the movie).

My post is not to summarize Rovelli’s work, but to make a relationship between art and time, hence my question to Sylvio Caiozzi, the movie’s director who was present during the screening. After a needed preamble, I asked, “ … therefore, your movie is a succession of stories. Señor Caiozzi, what is time for you?” He was a bit cut short after so many questions that dealt with the logistic of the making of his film, but his answer reflected so much Rovelli’s book. He said more or less: “You saw the presence of a man-made time, the hands of the clock, the cellphone, but also I wanted to show time through the juxtaposition of Pancho’s physical and emotional changes. There are no flashbacks in the film; what we see is Pancho’s imaginative revival of emotional past events as he thinks and writes about them in the present moment”. And, slowly, introspectively, he kept answering the question in a highly philosophical manner. We could have discussed a bit more, but it was late, and the public was desperate to taste the empanadas and the Carmener offered by the Chilean embassy in Ottawa.

To conclude, if time is a juxtaposition of events, “a network of kisses”, the manifestation of the world in constant changes, why so many “artists” always paint the same subject, the same shapes; repeat the same colour schemes, the very same stories, the…?  John Baldessari was tired of repeating, the reason he did the lithograph I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (in the image above, with the chickadee).

Which comes back to my post on repetition. After 40 years, Pancho returned to his native Patagonia to confront his fears, his feelings, his old relationships, the network of events that shaped his identity. And he found many answers in the little village and the old friends whose aspirations had not changed much. This is a good lesson for us as artists searching to innovate, to break with old patterns, to make art that is more personal.

Ultimately, does the mystery of time belong to us, to whom we are? Are we Time?


1 Comment

  1. Louise

    Toujours un plaisir de te lire,

    Tes pensées, ainsi que celles de Rovelli et de Caiozzi sur le temps, ce qu’on appelle le temps, m’ont interpellée. C’est un concept qui m’intrigue et auquel je réfléchis. Oui, on dirait qu’en vieillissant le «temps» passe plus vite. Et, d’une part, ce qui s’est passé hier semble être très loin derrière alors que, d’autre part, ce qui est arrivé il y a des mois ou des années semble très récent. À un certain moment, je ne sais pas trop quand, j’ai commencé à dire et à croire que ce n’est pas le temps qui passe, que c’est plutôt nous qui passons dedans… Notre vie se mesure-t-elle en pierres ou en baisers? Faut dire que j’aime bien cueillir, encore à mon âge, des pierres sur la plage. Et l’âge, qu’est-ce que c’est?…




  1. Plein Air Painting = Trapping the Moment – Walk the Arts (living through the arts) - […] Publishing, 2017), and noticed that there was maybe a link between what he had just read and our recent…

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We all make art! It is part of culture. It is deeply rooted in human nature as a way of communicating with others. We all need to tell our stories because it is stories that link us all. We are all one, one creative mind! Though, all unique and equipped with unique ways of expressing ourselves. We live in constant search of that unique liberating voice. At Walk the Arts we aim to facilitate our art makers to explore new territories. Our painting classes and art history trips on three continents are meant to be rounded art experiences among small groups of like-minded adults. We offer an environment that fosters creativity. As we always say, art as religion is just a matter of faith. This blog is about living fully the experience of art, about finding our single artistic path, about the joy of art-making. We believe that making art accessible to all will lead to a betterment of our society.


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What is “metaphysics”?


Since the advent of History, there has always been metaphysics: the Greek, the medieval, the rational, the modern. Each of these metaphysics answers to the other. The metaphysics of Plotinus responds to that of the Stoics, as that of Spinoza responds to that of Descartes, etc. (p. 80). Metaphysics is a deep reflection on things.

I return to visual art, especially to the matter of the intelligible aspect of painting: doesn’t Monet’s thought meet that of Turner, Picasso’s to Cézanne? Doesn’t Monet’s thought respond to Turner’s, Picasso’s to Cézanne’s? Shouldn’t we feed our own work of art from a greater one, which has withstood the test of time? Would metaphysics be evolutive? Would my current work necessarily prevail over the one of yesteryear?

Are We Jugglers of Life?


I am currently in Colombia on a beach, far away from the crowds because of the pandemic. And every year that I am on that beach, Picasso’s painting Les pauvres au bord de la mer (title in French) comes to my mind. More than a century passed by, and we still witness the same inequities. I keep thinking about them, the reason I wrote, during the pandemic, a novella on our society today’s conditions of which I am sharing this dialogue.

“Perseverance” is the key to all successful artists


Perseverance is the key to all successful artists.

I always ask my painting students to memorize … “Until then, we will not rest or falter. Hand in hand with others thirsting for a better life, no matter how long it takes, regardless of support or persecution, we will joyfully respond to a savage need for liberation”.

Studio Italia, a painting vacation with…


If our art workshops focused mostly on painting techniques, then why traveling to Italy and spending money when you could stay at home and learn everything you need through the Internet for free?

We can’t wait to see you again!


Travelling to Italy to paint and eat! This is what we want! We are optimistic about our upcoming art workshop in Tuscany, Studio Italia 2021 (October 1–10).
In a nutshell; we cannot wait to meet everyone, to see you again, to have this morning coffee together in Tuscany, to do art as a group, in brief, to fully enjoy life all around a gourmet meal with excellent wines.

Art and Neurosciences


When a subject becomes familiar, the brain activity shuts down like when viewing a lovely chickadee painting…

Can we talk about the neuroscience of art? This is the question that French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux addresses in his beautiful book The Beauty in the Brain or La Beauté dans le Cerveau (Odile Jacob, 2016). Prof. Changeux describes how the human brain behaves when making or contemplating a work of art. To make a long story short, he argues that the neural bases of aesthetic pleasure are the product of the link between cognitive and emotional brain functions, in other words, the harmony between reason and emotion. Moreover, he gives some tips on how artists can maximize the impact of their works on their audience.

Evolving in art is just a matter of faith; only believe!


We refrain from teaching painting techniques easily found on the Net. We prefer taking the necessary time (36 hours) to fully involve the participant in reflecting on her or his art — including all levels, all media […]
Rest assured that having attended one of our online classes, you will be more confident in taming the landscape in your own way while on a plein-air painting workshop.

May I see the instructor’s works?


So why do we attend a painting workshop In Tuscany, Provence or South America? We attend a workshop to learn from each other, to share our passion, to live an art experience and to enjoy the power of knowledge through creation. This is what we offer at Walk the Arts.

Plein Air Painting = Trapping the Moment


Here’s a curious paradox: stopping time by painting quickly. Can one set a trap to catch the moment’s impression? Can the artist’s canvas trap the beauty and the wonder of observed events which melt all too quickly in the flow of time? Can time be halted? Yes, says Michael Findlay, obviously, this is what artists do…

Let Go! The Artist’s Way of Cooking

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Ten years ago, here in Tuscany, we decided to write a recipe book but with so many good cookbooks in the market, we needed to propose a new idea. We had to find a modus operandi close to who we are and what we do as visual artists. The answer was in front of us and painting gave it to us: art and color!

Travelling with meaning : a painting workshop in Italy


More and more travellers from the developed world are looking for meaningful travels. We are aiming for journeys that allow us to learn something new, to deepen our culture, to enhance our lives. Purpose, inspiration and self-discovery are now vital elements in our traveling choices. Probably, this is why our quality painting workshops offered since 1997, have become more and more popular.

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