Rocamador, France; Chapel of the Black Madonna

Rocamador, France Black Madonna Chapel Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Platinum Carbon pen

I have left the tape on this ink sketch of Rocamadour because I will paint it tomorrow. I drew the sketch in pencil first, then went over it in ink. It is copied from a photo. I have a finished black and white print that I would love to show you but it is just too large for my scanner. The purpose of the sketch was to give me the opportunity to practice perspective and proportion. The slight curve in the top left corner is there because Rocamador is carved out of the limestone of the gorge it overhangs. It is actually carved into the cliff!

I have photographed here several times and it truly is a special place. The chapel at the top of the staircase houses a Black Madonna brought there in the early 1100’s. The first miracles were recorded in 1172. Draping the chapel are the chains, ankle and wrist irons removed and left there by freed prisoners who crawled on their hands and knees to receive healing and spiritual pardon.

As I sketched this I began to recall or rather experience a strong kinesthetic sense of the place – the smells and sounds, the warm air of a South of France afternoon and cold night winds that came up from the gorge, the meals we ate, the fragrance of burning candles in the chapel and the bells of the hermitage.  I suspect this is particular to sketching. I have worked for many hours in the darkroom with the negatives I exposed at Rocamadour, framed and prepared for exhibit several, and yet I don’t recall such a full sense of being there. Even as I shuffle through a stack of contact sheets, there is nothing. Yet just looking at this tiny sketch I am drawn back to the day I was privileged to have access to a locked chapel at the top of a turret dedicated to Michael the Archangel. I recall the excitement, the tentative and cautious climb up worn stone steps in dim light, the hush, the awe of being in a prayer chapel used by monks at the Hermitage for at least 1,000 years.

I’m looking forward to giving paint to this sketch tomorrow, already wondering what in my palette will suit.