We interview reader Nigel Fletcher, an artist who lives in the Limousin, painting en plein air and teaching others how to capture the charming châteaux, villages and markets in watercolour.
How do you divide your time between France and the UK?
I’m a painter and hold two or three exhibitions in the UK every year. They occupy two weeks each, but I usually stay longer and catch up with family and friends. I don’t have a property in England but I’m very fortunate to be allowed to use a friend’s cottage in the Cotswolds.
I drive back with the dog (Jemima) and stop along the way so she can have a run and I can stretch my legs and maybe find a small bar/café to enjoy a coffee with some of the locals. Its always worth it because I get to see different parts of the country and I can sit and sketch.
What attracted you to the Limousin and how long have you been living there?
I’d been painting small oil paintings almost every day since May 2009 and sending them as soon as they were finished to my email subscribers. So I figured that if I could get internet access where I lived in France, I could continue doing the same thing.
I bought this small house in June 2011, had the attached barn converted into a painting studioduring the summer and moved in the December. I’d looked at lots of properties, but this part of the Limousin suited me as it retained the small rural community way of life that’s been unchanged for decades.
From the sounds of your blog, you have some lovely neighbours. How have they helped you settle in?
I came here with very little French, but am slowly improving. I was very uncertain what the reception would be like to this single English man and his dog who had suddenly arrived in their quiet little village, but I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone is very friendly and extremely patient when I try to speak their language.
In front of my house, which sits on a small lane, the farmer and his wife lead their five beautiful Limousin cattle to the fields at about 7am in the morning and collect them at 6pm each evening. It’s a chance to practice what little French I know with the farmer.
How did you get involved with painting holidays at l’Hirondelle?
After about a year of painting and getting to know the area, I was approached by a couple who run a gîte, L’Hirondelle, near St Mathieu. They were interested in extending their business to include watercolour painting holidays and asked if would I be their art tutor.
What is your favourite subject to paint?
I really enjoy finding new and interesting places to take our visitors for painting sessions. The last time we visited a nearby château, the owner – a countess – said we could come back and paint anytime, so that will be a regular venue for us.
Do you think you’ll ever run out of things to paint in the Limousin?
For me, there are endless subjects to paint in this area of unspoilt France, not only beautiful châteaux, small rural villages, markets, of course, but also the everyday life that goes on around me. I am a keen plein air painter so am usually out with my paints in fields, lanes and villages making the days painting before heading home with the dog and uploading it.