A Little Bird Told Me 

 November 8, 2020

By  Emma

Sometimes, life gives you signs. It’s up to you how you interpret them, but tuning in to how something makes you feel can be a key to contentment.

I’d like to take you to Carantec. It’s a coastal town on the North Finistere coast in Brittany, France, and it’s one of my favourite places to be. I have visited many times with my daughter, and although we have travelled France widely, this is a town that pulls us near. 

Last year, I lost my father following a lengthy illness, and it was shortly after his funeral I returned to the place that brings us peace. When we arrive, we feel immediately at home and the familiarity is like a warm blanket to us, and on this trip that was exactly what we required. 

Until this trip I had been in a battle of writing versus art, and if I’m honest, that is still the case. In fact, that is one reason I set up this website – to combine the two. But it was during this trip I saw how simplicity can be powerful.

There is a market on Thursdays in Carantec, and it’s something we look forward to. The fresh produce in this part of Brittany is very special, and the strawberries are the best I’ve ever tasted. On this sunny Thursday, our mission was to find them and eat them whilst walking back to our accommodation near the water. It’s a tradition!

As we walked around the stalls we smelled the rotisserie, we ogled trays of creamy potatoes and we found our strawberries. But out of the corner of my eye I saw an elderly gentleman sitting at his easel. He seemed oblivious to those around him and to the hustle and bustle of the market – he was painting miniatures. It drew me to him. It was as if the world was moving around him. And being an artist myself I know that when I paint I too become absorbed.

We approached the easel to be greeted by his wife who spoke rapid French and smiled a homely smile, putting me at ease. Across the table were a multitude of painted shells and tiny boards with landscapes, seascapes and birds. I looked to the gentleman who had not flinched and continued to paint, and I saw the tiny brush move from his oils to the five centimetre picture in front of him. At once, it reminded me of my father and his attention to detail in his passion for Peugeot. He would polish his classic cars to perfection and carefully file away every article he read or had written. 

Close to tears, I looked at his beautiful work. I realised that for this man, painting was his life and his wife was his soul-mate. I could feel her pride as I complimented his work. Eventually, I chose a bird painted on a shell; my father would spend hours watching the birds from his chair. The lady wrapped it in tissue paper, rummaged around to find a box to fit and passed it to me as if it were gold. I gently took it and the tears welled in my eyes. 

When we got back to our cabin, I almost dared not open the package. I noticed that it was a box from a previous purchase, and I understood it was the contents that were important. No flashy packaging required. I confirmed my thoughts when I took the painting out to study it. Mounted on a simple square of wood, with a signature on the back, it drew images of a production line of sorts. Slow and steady, much like the pace of life in Brittany. He paints on what he finds, then between them they use off-cuts of wood to display his wares. It is an existence I would enjoy.

Meeting these people changed my view of my art. I had put obstacles along my creative path because I live in a small bungalow – how can I paint when I have no space? But now, I look at things differently. It is possible to live a creative life is you so choose, and simplicity is the perfect partner. 

When I returned to England, I changed my focus. Large acrylics and oils are not realistic at the moment, but smaller pieces and sharing my passion is entirely possible. That man, along with my father, reminds me that contentment need not cost you dear. So take time to focus on what you can achieve rather than what you can’t. 

I believe it’s possible… a little bird told me.

Miniature oil painting of a little bird


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