Painting Courses in France

I’m back from teaching two painting courses at the chateau de beduer.

All went well. We have over thirty percent student return-rate (as we’ve been running since 1998, it’s always nice to see familar faces & old friends), which counts for us. Nice to be able to say that we are recommended by Time Out London as well as France magazine.

Some photos from the Lot, France

Here are some photographs of the event. First, in this post, some of the setting & then in another, I’ll post some photos of the students hard at work (yes, students do tend to work hard & put in long hours!).

The Lion Gates, Entrance to Chateau de Beduer, Lot , France. This photo shows the medieval part of the chateau, dating from the Hundred Years War.

Two guardians of the seventeenth century wing.

Beautiful early morning valley mists from the specular terraces.

Lots of colourful painting opprtunities

The chateau is located in ‘le Parc Naturel des Causses de Quercy’, so nature is protected & agriculture isn’t intensive, monocultural & out-sized.

The shady lime trees in the park

happy days in a beautiful place 🙂 Lucky me, beauty is good for happines.

joking apart, animals are looming large on my horizon…sphinx, owls & now chocolate bunnies?

‘Mains dans les Poches’ – Marché d’Issigeac
© The Artist.

Mains dans les poches = hands in the pockets, which is a saying that means not spending, just looking.
Here’s another old boy in a berry, one of my neighbours & his dog. Observe that he is wearing no socks inside his plastic clogs. I took this photo when the temperatures were COLD, the evening I painted that last blogged oil, when it went sub zero. COLD. I admire this generation of old boys. He told me that during Feb 1956, it rarely went above zero all month. Bad news for a plein-air painter.

Journées Européennes du Patrimoine 2007

Last weekend was the ‘European Days of Heritage’. It’s a wonderful chance to see some of the sites that aren’t always open to public or just not very well known.

Visiting out-of-the-way ‘manoirs’ & ‘chartreuses’ always surprises me. Not just the amount of restoration & rebuilding that has gone on in the Dordogne these last twenty years but also, more quietly & lesser well-known, just how many charming gardens have been sculpted, imagined & manicured. The above garden is an innovative version of a ‘potager classique’ (like the famous Chateau de Villandry) but with a hydralic feature like a feature from the Alhambra. The owner explained to me that sound of gurgling water made the exprience of gardening on a south facing slope more ‘agréable’.

I did a watercolour of the very french formal facade & formally laid-out gardens. But it wasn’t finished, felt like a rush-job & well, why expect very single watercolour to come together successfully first-take, alla prima?

Watercolour; 38 x 28 cm. Arches hot pressed, 300gms
1 hr 15 mins.

Gone Rusty


‘Rusty Lock Gates on the Canal’ watercolour.


Gone Rusty with neglect? Technique gone rusty? Well, been painting outside but not necessarily achieving finished pieces. Red rust has been on my mind & on my palette. Sometimes it’s like that. Some paintings are long & slow & need a delicate approach. If they don’t get realised in the first attempt, well then, let them brood. If they must out, then they must out. “could try harder” – teach

Notan : ‘La Maison Peyarade, Bergerac’

‘La Maison Payarade, Bergerac’ Encre Chine. Tous Droits Reservés

I’ve been following some the talk about ‘Notan’ over on Katherine Tyrell’s blog, so I thought I’d post this three-tone drawing. Not quite a Notan I know, as it’s not flat enough. Has perspective & depth rather than flat pattern. I decided to try however to use flat blocks rather than lots of separate brushmarks or ‘accents’. This, in my opinion, is one of the secrets of good ‘notan’. I did it by floodlight one dark & mysterious night.

A painting needs good tonality to work well. Especially watercolour.

Quarter tone & half tone drawings

Quarter tone & half tone drawings are great practise at this. Helps students work out in what order to construct a painting. Once you get into them, you see black & white everywhere. I teach tonality at my Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais, as the chateau does have some wonderful light/dark painting opportunities.

Even Turner was seduced to paint the occassional interior, albeit Petworth Castle. The important thing is that the learning helps – & don’t worry, students do get out in the sunglight as well.
Later on , the students ‘did their own thing’ in black & white.

lanquais alumni – ink pen

Lanquais alumni – oil on gesso


‘Dordogne Marchande, Lalinde’ photograph by Adam Cope

I used to have a good digital camera & used to photograph ‘en plein air’ whilst painting. Here’s a snap I took whilst painting ‘Reedbeds at Lalinde’ (see a few post previously). It was a Minolta Dimage A1, which I had a for a brief couple of years, before the internal processor stop processing. Last week, after a six month wait, I was finally reimbursed for this manufacturor default.

Anyway, I’m now reimbursed for the totality of the buying price (no ‘jouaissance’ however). Sony Minolta have stopped making cameras (I’ve always had a minolta) & now am looking for a new camera. I need lots of photos for my ‘learning to paint’ book that I’ve been working on during these last five years. Watch this space.

Photographs by Francis Annet

Photo : Francis Annet . Tous Droits Reservés. Copyright : Francis Annet

During ‘Le 3eme Festival Flore Faune’ I exhibited alongsides Francis Annet, a photographer whose work I greatly enjoy. I feel his photos or ‘cliches’ as they are sometimes called in french, go beyond the ‘happy snaps’ (or ‘cliches’ as they are known in english) of ‘THE VIEW’ but rather contain a strong personal vision of Perigord. He’s spent a long time looking, selecting & composing with his camera. ‘En plein air’ on the spot alot of the time, I would imagaine. It’s always something of a pleasurable shock for me to recognise in the works of another artist, something of same landscape which I also paint & have grown to love. To discover the landscape through paintings or photographs…. a journey that requires that you always dig deeper….. this is why I could never been an non-figurative artist. Having said that, Francis has a very strong sense of the abstract in his compositions.
His photos are wonderfully printed up, about 30 x 40 cm & mounted on metal. They have wonderful precise defintion, being all digital rather than silver halide. Good ‘bokeh’ as well (deliberate use of unfocus blur). He has also published a fabulous book about trees as well as another about landscapes of the Dordogne. You can see more of his work at

He photographs the colours of light so well, often how the light plays with humidity in the air (which is otherwise invisible, only visible in certain lighting). I’ve often been driven to complete despair & utter defeat whilst trying to paint this. Whilst talking to Francis, something he said stuck in my mind, about light not being captured’ but rather light in a photograph ‘se merite’ (literally ‘deserves itself’, in the sense that it comes to you, something you learn to see). What makes a good photograph doesn’t necessarily make a good painting. But what is true to both painting & photography is that beautiful subject matter doesn’t necessarily make a beautiful painting/photograph (just look at all the dreadful & banal postcards!). That’s in the eye of the artist.

Photo : Francis Annet . Tous Droits Reservés. Copyright : Francis Annet


«Je suis resté trés intuitif» dit-il quand il parle de son travail. «c¹est souvent avec les thèmes les plus simples que je réussi mes meilleurs clichés. Dans un paysage, j¹aime tout particulièrement rechercher les lignes d¹équilibre, recadrer sur un sujet plus petit mais plus fort graphiquement, recréer une image à l¹intérieur d¹une autre et mettre ainsi en valeur un morceau choisi de la nature qui ne se révèle pas au premier regard. La lumière, certainement le facteur le plus important pour réussir une bonne photo, révèle le sujet, lui donne vie, relief, volume, elle réhausse les couleurs, souligne les courbes, crée des transparences, elle est mon premier instrument de photographie. J¹aime aussi l¹abstraction et partir du concret pour réaliser une photo qui nous entraîne loin du point de départ, qui stimule l¹imagination. C¹est en cela que ma démarche peut se rapprocher de celle d¹un peintre et que certaines de mes créations ressemblent à des tableaux.» Francis Annet