PDA : It is at the sides of the painter Albert Malet that you studied the landscape, at the beginning of the Eighties. Today you are still faithful to this school of nature, even if we can wonder whether it is the real subject of your paintings.
Annie Puybareau : I like to vary my subjects and the landscape is often a pretext to insert figures. I am attracted by the places where there are some people, like the markets, the circuses, the beaches. I also seek the country scenes, because they will probably disappear : the picking of apples - one of the symbols of Normandy -, the cattle fairs, which become rare... The figures are so important to me that I sometimes begin my paintings only with them. I do not worry any more about the landscape, which becomes an accessory.
During the Armada of Rouen, I built my composition around sailors, the boats interested me less! In my studio, I also paint still life or my cat, Géricault, which was familiarized little by little with the poses. But I frequently return to the human being, with portraits of my daughter or the painting of a model.
In the Art School, I practised the drawing a lot and in particular the anatomy, which pushes me to paint indoor scenes, intimists, that request much organization, the models available and a large studio! In the same spirit, and for the description of the movements, I was very attracted by musicians or dancers...

PDA : All things considered, it’s the human beings, their attitudes and the life that animates them which causes in you the need to paint?
A.P. : Yes, I like to enter the intimacy of people. With my paintings, I attend very different spheres, it is a perpetual trip : fish merchants, circus people, farmers, sailors, musicians, riding schools... This is curiosity. As I practise my art, I learn a lot of things. This possibility to penetrate all these universes is a great privilege. And all these subjects enable me to paint outside like inside... Unfortunately, in Normandy, the weather is rather unsettled, I thus benefit from the sunny days to work outside and to paint in plein air , even if I had planned to paint in interior.

PDA : Precisely, let us speak about your passion for painting in plein air. It is a tradition in the area of Rouen, tradition which comprises interests but also disadvantages. How do you manage this uncertain practice?
A.P. : In Rouen, by the seaside or by the edge of the Seine, it is not rare to meet a painter working. This is a tradition, a pictorial culture that remains. I like to paint in group, with friends. On the spot, there are two disadvantages: during the day, the sun revolves and it is sometimes difficult to confine yourself to paint with the light chosen at the beginning. And people that you paint are always moving, which obliges you to speed the gesture, the synthesis. This is why I need to observe my subject a long time before painting it. I need to dissect, analyze, understand the scene I had just fell in love with. It is a moment of great concentration, during which I should not be distracted. Then, I am relaxed, I can throw the colors on the canvas, with large brushes, without precise rough sketch beforehand. But I do not finish a canvas in only one session: I need to stand back because it is frequent to be overwhelmed with your subject at the time. The finishing touches are thus made in the studio. After, I put the canvas aside a few weeks before doing the last final retouchings if required, even if the painting is already sold.

PDA : Painting in plein air inevitably attracts the curious ones. Are they stimulating or disturbing in your work?
A.P. : People often comment on works in progress, sometimes with sarcastic remark: whereas I am doing the rough sketch, some think that it is finished and consider that rather poor. They are surprised when they come back a few hours later!
I also remember the amusing remarks, like this woman who asked me one day: "Ah, but doesn't your painting melt in the sun? -- No Madam, it is not painting with butter but with oil! "It is necessary to admit that in general, all categories mingled, people are admiring, avid to understand and lenient. They are also my favourite models.

PDA : You talk about figures, but your paintings also talk about colors and luminous atmospheres, all Norman.
A.P. : Indeed I look after the choice of my colours. It is absolutely necessary to know how to make your colours naturally at the first shot to paint: on that point, after many drawings, I was a little confused by the brush which was not yet the natural prolongation of my hand. The dry pastel was an ideal transition between the two techniques: I continued the drawing while tackling the color. Now, I always put my tones on the edge of the pallete in order to make a great place for the mixtures. Those are done in the field, before painting and according to the tonalities that I see in my subject. Thus, I have all my gradations of green, flesh color or blue close at hand and when I need it. It is a considerable saving of time.

PDA : You thus apply these rules which are characteristic to your painting?
A.P. : The impressionists were the first to destroy all the rules in painting, but after having received solid academic bases. Painting is not an exact science: there are things to know, basics of history of art or anatomy. But each body has its particular morphology! Then you should not seek to show these pictorial principles, since others tested them before us, you just need to learn how to develop them and to transgress them.
Practical of Arts, n°33 July-September 2000 Anne Suignard