The source at Fontaine-de-VauclusePosted: August 7, 2018
There are some sketching experiences that are so special you know you will never forget them. This one happened to me back at the end of June in Provence where I taught a couple of week-long workshops. It was after a long day spent painting in the lavender fields and sketching around Roussillon. After returning to our home base in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a few students joined me for an end-of-day sketching expedition up to the source of the Sorgue River. The town is famous for having this gouffre, a spring that is the largest in France and the fifth largest in the world, according to Wikipedia.
What is astounding about the town —and I may have mentioned this in a previous post — is that the water from this spring rushes all around it. In fact you can’t walk anywhere in the town without having some stream from the river gushing by you. It babbled by as we ate in various restaurants, it gurgled past as we picnicked in a park, and we even awoke to the sound of it every morning as a tributary ran right under our hotel (a former mill).
Our short expedition up to the source led us past much loud and quickly running water, which led me to believe that when we finally arrived at the much-anticipated gouffre, it would be some sort of torrent of water surging from a giant hole at the foot of a high cliff. But in fact it was nothing of the sort. The source at the end of the path is, surprisingly, a deep and very still pool, at least in summer. Nothing at all like what I was expecting.
This quiet pool can only be viewed from a distance — no doubt because of the many hazards of the deep water and the slippery rocks around it — but a low metal fence is no deterrent to most. We crossed it easily, as did most other tourists, and sat close by for a good sketching view.
For me there was something very eerie about that still water. I think all of us felt that way as we sketched, half expecting Gollum to emerge from its depths. We sketched in near silence for about an hour, stopping occasionally to compare techniques for capturing the green of the water or the opaqueness of the rocks. When our sketches were done and we got up to leave, I think we all felt we had shared something special.
If you are interested in going for a virtual dive to explore the depths of the source, here’s a link to a really cool site I just discovered. From there you’ll be able to see what I couldn’t while I was drawing. And if you don’t understand French, just click on “Lancer la visite” to start your tour.