Wednesday 20 March 2019

CHARVIN - with thanks to Kevin Broughton and Ned Elliott @ GREEN and STONE

Why use staples, when you’ve got tacks!
- with thanks to  Kevin Broughton and  Ned Elliott 
@ GREEN and STONE - echoing my love of Charvin who I first 
discovered by chance one day whilst exploring the alleys and the 
streets of Nice.

'It’s sunny, my skin is being gently caressed by the sun and my hair
is flowing handsomely in the sea wind. I am driving somewhere along 
the Cote d’Azur having eaten something delicious at a small seaside 

My car is a gleaming scarlet convertible from the Golden Age of 
Motoring. It is very expensive and I am gliding across the landscape 
like a knifeful of strawberry jam across a freshly sliced piece of 
buttered baguette. I can’t help but look in the rear-view mirror and 
think how damn gorgeous I am.

However, I am soon distracted, an unmistakable smell penetrates
the salty pine-infused air. My heart is suddenly stung by memories
of disappointment, rejection, dashed hopes, ah, yes, art school!

But no, there is more, I remember my unwavering love of painting!
Suddenly I am filled with the electric buzz of seeing a picture come
to life. ‘What is it! What is that smell! What is it!’ I scream from
my beamer. It is the smell of fresh poppy oil, but what exactly,
Oh yes, Charvin, it is you, I love you! I do!'

This introduction was written from my cold bedroom.
I do not have a car, and I have never been to the south of France.
But I have smelt poppy oil, and I have used Charvin. 

And so, this blog is about Charvin, whose essence I have hopefully captured in this paradisaical opener.

At Green and Stone we sell several types of oil paint including Michael Harding, Sennelier, Winsor and Newton and Blockx.

All of them are good, but the most unusual of the paints is Charvin.
Charvin is solely made on the French Riviera. Much of the products charm lies in its heritage. It is a family business run by Bruno and Laurence Charvin and relies on recipes from 1830. It was popular with such greats and lovers of sunlight, Cezanne, Bonnard, and Ambrogiani.

Charvin sells both fine and extra fine oil colours. The difference between the two being that the extra fine oil is milled twice as long as the fine oil, with discrepancy on timings for each pigment. The machine used is a Buhler Swiss Three-Cylinder which is typically used for the manufacture of high-end cosmetics. The outcome is an incredibly smooth oil paint with a thick, creamy texture. 

In the extra fine range there are a staggering two-hundred-and-eight colours of which Green and Stone sells ninety-six and which is constantly changing. This means Charvin oil paints have the widest range of colours in the world including such delights as ‘Cyclamen’, ‘Absinthe’ and ‘Mummy Brown’.

Whereas Sennelier relies on safflower oil, and Michael Harding on linseed oil, Charvin uses poppy oil. By choosing this oil the paints have a lovely shine, are excellently lightfast and should age without any yellowing. 

With their buttery and fine texture, the paints are perfect for the traditional Flemish painting style headed by such estimable figures as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. However, they are equally suitable for painting using colour shapers and palette knives, whilst the small 20ml tubes are ideal for the keen traveller and plein air painter. 

Charvin paints are also unusual in that they mostly come in mixed colours, in stark contrast with Michael Harding who emphasises the importance of pure single pigments. Charvin are aware of this and suggest the artist picks their colours carefully and that they do not overmix them, as they warn they will take on a shade of grey upon drying.

The understated jewel in the Charvin crown of rainbow jewels is their oil-primed linen canvas, whether on the roll or ready-made. The linen is of a medium to rough grain with a characterful texture which reminds one of the sorts of canvases someone like Walter Sickert would use. 

The ready-made canvases come in traditional French portrait formats, as well as squares and elongated rectangles. They are handmade by talented Frenchmen who deftly wack copper tacks into the sides and firmly stamp ‘CHARVIN’ onto the back. The result is a canvas of the highest quality with a rigid structure and evocative 19th century look.

Why use staples, when you’ve got tacks!

The final aspect of Charvin which makes it so excellent is the philosophy of the owners. Indeed, Charvin are very much a business on an ethical crusade. In their own words they are a family business ‘rejecting the plasticization, consumerism and delocalised mass production to which the world of fine arts is engulfing’. 

With a business model they consider ‘utopian or crazy’ they have chosen to use raw materials only of the highest quality without any real economic outlook at their cost. They are against people who
only think of profits and margins, who make low-quality products for low-cost countries, simply to gain a foothold in the market without regard for the ethical consequences and the repercussions for art itself. They work for authentic values and true products of meaning.

As part of this crusade Charvin have stressed what they are against. In brief, they are against; colour range reductions (hence their rainbow colour range); the use of average ingredients; cotton canvas – an unreliable material over time, lacking the charming texture of linen. 

Why use cotton, when you’ve got linen! 

And finally, they are against online shopping. Arguing it means the end of advice, replaced only by a better price – thus resulting in a user who cannot progress in their work. The knowledge of generations being lost little by little.

And so, long may Charvin reign in the sunny south of France. A beacon of artistic heritage and quality artistic production, keeping the French oil painting tradition very much alive for all the world.

By Ned Elliott

Bruno Charvin Artist's Oils from Green and Stone - Chelsea 

Catching Light and Colours - Spring in Devon 2019

I write my blog for my own pleasure and in the hope that one day my grandchildren will be able to learn a bit more about who their grandmother is. This sentiment also applies to my children who have not as yet read it as I suspect they think that they already know me.

Down here in Devon where I live, we have had days and days of very strong winds and endless lashing icy rain. It is March and as the saying goes - 

The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing poor thing.

Not today - today - Sunday - we had a reminder of the beauty of a Spring day. So I gave myself an day off and took my little car out for a jaunt.

First I stopped of at Waitrose in Teignmouth to gather the ingredients for a little picnic - baguette, goats cheese, grapes and where I am suddenly stopped in my tracks by the sudden beauty of supermarket flowers - white orchids. 

Two very elderly ladies are chatting away over cups of tea as they sit in front of this magic moment. I hesitate to disturb them but it's simply too good to miss so I lean towards them and say 'Excuse me, do you mind if I quickly take a photograph of the flowers in front of you?' But they are completely oblivious to my presence or my voice. Sometimes I think that perhaps I am invisible after all - a figment of my own imagination. 

Well, I am delighted - a moment caught in time for ever - a moment to share with people I've never met. I may be a figment of other people's imagination but the image isn't. I get back into my by now quite hot car. Its sudden warmth envelops me. I love that feeling. It always stops me in my tracks. I never drive off. I always sink into that atmosphere. It is another form of happiness - the number of which seem to be infinite. 

Waitrose work with a company called Crocus who supply a lot of their plants. I need to do a separate post for Crocus who are really inspiring - take a look at some of their work at Dorney Court. 

I drive on and over the bridge that crosses the River Teign at the mouth of the estuary connecting Teignmouth, (which was the last place in England that was invaded by a foreign power in 1690) with Shaldon, where if I could I would stop and wander along the beach for a spot of beach-combing. But I don't see a parking space - there are very few in Shaldon though there is an enormous car park at the other end of the village. There is a zoo here I believe. I have seen the sign. I do not like zoos so have never been but maybe I will visit it before I draw too many conclusions. 

There are some old details of Shaldon Bridge her that shows an engraving of the bridge and rather strangely of three men casually sitting on the roof of a house looking across the river. Three Men on a Roof

There are all sorts of hidden places to explore here so I'll leave it for another day and get on my way.Onwards to Labrador Bay - to look for images for paintings - photo references 

- the horizontal lines that shift and blend into one another across the sky and the sea beyond - against that spiky Hawthorn Hedge that's only just beginning to show splashes of bright . In the foreground - hundreds of the self-seeded biennial Angelica Archangelica - commonly known as Wild Celery - now  at knee high - quietly growing through the grey days of a South-West Winter - already scenting the air with that fragrance. A certain fragrance that was so beloved of ancient poets who wore wreaths of it around their heads to bring them inspiration - quite literally. 

Next I head off towards towards Paignton or Peintone as it was known as in 1086 and specifically to Roundham Head - a place that I've grown rather fond of. And a place that was built into - actually into the rocky red sandstone cliff face to stop it eroding away in 1930. 

Now there is a network of weather worn narrow promenades that wind their way zig-zag fashion down to a row of painted wooden beach huts - this part of the bay has a certain faded elegance, it is peaceful - a step back in time. 
Most of the wooden seats have metal plaques on them remembering people who have loved this place and have since died. This one is set into the wall next to a fire hydrant.

I have always loved to choose a seat to sit on so that I can silently chat to the person named on the plaque. I bet I'm not alone. Mind you I am not a part of their family so maybe the numbers are not as high.

I looked up Peggy Denston - she is there to be found on the internet. I also found an interesting lead that has nothing to do with Peggy but that caught my interest. It's about archaeology in the 1920's and 30's and how it had once been a preserve of the wealthy and how it was now being pursued by people who didn't go to public schools. Contoversial in its day.

This Robin is not hiding away with his head tucked under his wing today though with English weather he may be back in his barn tomorrow. 
I believe that the Hairy Footed Flower Bees live here and when the winter is mild they are busy on most days. It is said that Robins like to eat them. 

Perhaps the one singing in the video has in fact already breakfasted on one or is waiting for some more to emerge from a late hibernation as today is so warm and sunny.

I almost stumbled across one as I walked up this path. A spider was trying to wrap it up in its thread. I intervened and set it free. Very hard not to.

I have heard that there are traces of an old Victorian walled garden round here. I shall come back another day and hunt for them. 

I carry on and walk along the paths. There are many people sitting quietly by themselves. This I can really appreciate. I also enjoy my own company. Being on your own gives you the space to muse and to discover. Other people have a habit of talking rather too much. I know do. 

I'm headed for Coleton Fishacre this morning to see the Magnolias and Camellias in flower before the clouds come back and the sunlight is lost behind the grey once more.


whilst searching - I discovered this - snippets of interest that may lead who knows where.

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