Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Colors of Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux ... I'm fascinated by this ghostly mountain in Provence. After watching the Tour de France race to the summit in Stage 20, I thought I'd get to know it better by painting a watercolor...

The most difficult part was the color ... or more specifically, Ventoux's lack of color. Using images from the Versus television broadcast as a guide, I used up almost all my white paint washing out areas where my colors became to bright, drawing too much attention to themselves. Mont Ventoux sits in one of the most colorful regions of France, but its bleak summit is the antithesis of color. That's what makes it so magnificent.

When I removed too much color though, that made it feel cold, which isn't right either. Ventoux's colorless summit isn't the same as snow, which simply reflects light. Ventoux's peak seems to absorb all the colors of Provence, pulling them into itself and then scouring them clean with its gale-force winds, leaving you with nothing but memories of greener pastures down below.

It must be a fantastically miserable place to ride a bike. The mountain cast an ominous shadow over all of Stage 20, looming in full view of the riders well before they began their ascent. The climb itself was thrilling, but I found myself enjoying those hours of lead-up through Provence just as much. Mont Ventoux's barren summit seemed to intensify the beauty of the Provencal countryside at its feet.

Maybe one can never really get to know the mystical Mont Ventoux. But it's wonderful to try...

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