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How to choose a painting holiday in France

Barbara Walton

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There are many people offering painting holidays in France, so how do you choose the right one for you? Ok, I am biassed. I confess now that I run drawing and painting courses, but we want you to have a wonderful holiday, so it is important that you make the right choice for you. I've put together a few thoughts on how you can go about selecting the right holiday for you.



Location, location, location

OK, I've narrowed the location down to France, but you need to decide on north or south, city or country, coastal or rural, bustling or quiet, plains or mountains. France is large and rich with such a varied landscape that many French people simply do not travel abroad. Or perhaps it doesn't matter to you as you think everywhere in France is lovely?

First things first

Answer the major questions first: What, where and why. We have answered the what, a painting course, and the where, France. The next question is why. Here are a few things that might motivate you:

You want to learn to paintYou want to improve your painting skillsYou want to explore your creativity furtherYou would like expert advice You have painting experience but you want to branch out or learn new techniquesYou have painting experience but you want to gain confidenceYou want help to move forward, try something new or get out of a rutYou want to go on holiday (otherwise you would book a course in your own town)You want to meet other people

You might have all sorts of other aims and objectives so make a list of your needs so that you can ensure that the course will meet those needs.

So, how do you find your painting course?

There are many ways to find painting courses but the two obvious ones are on the internet or through magazines or manuals. Magazines also often have adverts on line as well. Start by asking Google for sites - painting holidays in France, painting courses in France, chateau painting holidays etc. Useful magazines include Artist & Illustrator, The Leisure Painter and The Artist. Or look at sites specialising in Art holidays such as Krazart. You will find a wealth of information on a wide variety of creative courses and holidays worldwide.

Krazart is an excellent site to search for painting courses not just in France but world-wide

Accommodation

Bright lights or rural bliss?

What sort of environment? Town or country. Sea or countryside. Lively or quiet? These may seem obvious choices but friends with a campsite said that clients that had booked well in advance had left early saying that the the site was 'too quiet'. If they had looked at the web site they would have seen that the site was in the middle of a forest. Ideal for bird watchers!

Chateau or farmhouse?

What sort of accommodation are you looking for? Would you like to stay in a chateau? Do you need a pool, extensive grounds, a hot tub or sauna? Will you have time to make use of these? Are you willing to pay a premium for these?

What sort of food is being offered?

When I asked my followers on Twitter how they would choose a painting holiday they said location and food would be important. Look at the food on offer. Do you want haute-cuisine, cordon-bleu, wholesome home cooking or a slimming nouvelle-cusine. Is the food being prepared on the premises or will you go to a local restaurant or restaurants? If you have specialist needs can they be catered for? Is full board included in the price, if not you will need to budget for these in addition to the basic fee. In Limousin you will pay 10 - 15 euros for a 3 course lunch, and 20 - 25 euros for a four course dinner.

Quality

Does the establishment have any sort of official assurance of quality? If you see the Gites de France, Charmance or Clevacances logos you can be sure of a high standard of accommodation for the 'stars' given - in France they give ears of corn or 'epis'. It certainly does not mean that those who choose not to adhere to these agencies are not excellent, it is just that the standards are less certain.

Accessibility

Do you need wheel chair access or ground-floor accommodation? If so check out accessiblity

Are there any hidden extras?

Will you be charged for drinks, coffees, excursions, snacks.

The Course Itself

If you simply want to paint in France, use a bed and breakfast or a gite. Self-catering holiday cottages offer fantastic value in Limousin, and in France generally. A painting holiday will cost considerably more and you are paying for the tuition and the fact that you will be working in a group and perhaps have organised outings.

Quality of tuition

Is the holiday experience the most important or is the quality of your tuition the driving factor? If it is the latter, check out the qualifications of your tutors. Do they have experience as professional artistes? Do they have teaching qualification? Look at the quality of their work. Will they help you to really develop your own potential or just to paint like them? If in doubt, drop an e-mail or give them a ring and sound them out. How flexible are they able to be?

Hours of tuition

Would you prefer a more intense course, or one that has fewer tutored hours but allows you more free time? Remember you are paying for that tuition, so if there is more free time are the fees lower? How about taking an intensive course and then booking a gite for a more relaxing holiday that will allow you to put your new-found knowledge into practice?

Type of course

What type of course would suit you best? Do you need a beginners introduction to certain techniques, water colour or acrylics? Do you want to branch out and try to expand your potential? Would you like a taster course with lots of different things on offer or would you prefer to concentrate on one particular medium? Are you looking for traditional tuition or a more expressive or even spiritual approach?

Large scale or homely?

Painting holidays in France range from an artist offering tuition in their own home, to large-scale organisations. Which would suite you best? Do you respond to a more or less formal environment?

Size of the group

This is important as a larger group will provide a party atmosphere, but a smaller one will give you more one-to-one tuition. How many tutors are there to students?

Will you be out and about or confined to a studio?

Some people prefer to work in the studio, others would like to see a bit of the surrounding countryside and a bit of the local colour. Don't be shy to ask

Transport

Check out transport links. There are excellent low cost flights to many parts of France. Ryanair often has free flights - absolutely FREE, no taxes even. Keep a keen eye open for deals. Also have a look at Flybe for some good deals. Rail links are quick and easy since the channel tunnel has been installed. TGV trains are fast and comfortable.

Some important questions to ask

- Size of class
- Flexibility of tutors
- Accessibilty
- Is transport provided
- Are materials provided and are they included in the course fees
- Can specialist diets be catered for
- What sort of facilities are provided
- Qualifications of tutors as artists and teachers
- How many hours of tuition will there be
- Price, is the course offering value for money?
- Do you really want the facilities that you are paying for?
- Are there any additional fees
- Are there good transport links?
- Remember the cost of transport can double the price of the course

Never be afraid to contact the organisers by e-mail or phone and ask questions. They should be pleased to answer any queries and be keen to ensure that what they offer corresponds to what you want.



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