WITH a camera dangling around her neck and sketchbook in her satchel, accomplished Shenton Park artist Laura Cole zooms up and down cobblestone streets in the northern French region of Normandy on her tomato-red Vespa.
This snapshot typifies Cole’s 2011 northern summer sojourn to the historic Gallic province, home to the infamous WWII landing beaches, Calvados (a coveted apple-based brandy from Lower Normandy) and a scattered collection of faded advertising signs of chocolate, aperitifs and motor cars from a bygone era.
The signs, often painted many times over on old stone, plaster and wood, creating weathered textures, caught Cole’s eye on two previous visits. On return to her home studio late last year, she set about recreating the signs on canvas, using acrylic paint, to form a 20-piece collection dubbed letters de caractere Normandie.
“The beautiful signs had many layers of old paint, so to get the same effect I’ve used a layering technique,” she said.
A former art teacher of 20 years, Cole has traversed the world in search of inspiration, from whitewater rafting down the Zambesi to sitting in the cave on Patmos where St John the Apostle wrote the Book of Revelation.
Five years ago, she took off in her 4WD for a three-month jaunt in the red-dirt terrain of WA’s Murchison and Gascoyne regions.
Regardless of time, place and mode of transport, Cole always travels with open eyes and mind.
“In Normandy, I had half-an-hour to spare before I was to leave and I turned right instead of left,” she said.
“Then, within a two-minute walk, I saw something amazing that I just didn’t see before.
“It’s simply because I looked the other way.
“That happens all the time when I travel now.”