“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo PICASSO
The lucky few among us remain artists. These creative creatures mingle with childlike enthusiasm shining their light on everything they touch. With open minds, they absorb their world, see things differently, and dream in vivid technicolour. They feel with strong emotion. They find ways of managing themselves in situations, searching for solutions while trying to make sense of their complicated worlds. It is through their sensitivity that new ideas are born.
Our society doesn’t place enough value on imagination, and tries to stop us early on from tactile immersion into our environment. A child eagerly explores his universe though touching, feeling, experiencing, destroying, voicing, questioning, experimenting; we go from one interest to the next with exuberant eagerness.
Once in school things drastically change for children and to hold on to their natural creative part becomes difficult. The school system trains us to succumb to one academic ideal, reformulating spiritual beings to submission. Why? Control. Ease. Order. Not sure. But I do know that the world missed out on many new ideas by conforming these explorers to academic studies and it makes many people needlessly unhappy.
Creativity is the basis of all humans. We naturally find art in all we do. It is our spirit’s imprint like bodies moving to the sound of a drum, fingers manipulating clay into forms, brushing colour onto a canvas, or bellowing into the air chanting a tune. It is not a scribble on a page that makes artists unique; it is the fact that we want to express ourselves i any way we can. It is manifestation. It is our process to gather information and to try to make sense of it in some way.
Art is our soul communicating with the outside world.
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Pablo Picasso
Meet English artist Nicola Blakemore, a frequent attendee at the J2!CoNetWork networking meetings where I first met her. Her free spirit, likeable aptitude draws you in and wants to know more about her. The more I got to know her, I realized she would make a lovely addition to our Expat Life Series. I know you will agree!
I drove to the neighbouring village of Quarante with my sister to interview Nicola. Parked my car on a busy street and we made our way through the meandering walking streets until we came upon a house with happy plants blooming in a flower box placed the windowsill. I looked at the position of the house; sunlit and a delight, and I thought this must be it, the perfect location for an artist. I didn’t even check the address, instead I peeked in and there she was; eagerly working on a commissioned piece of a Languedoc landscape with our beautiful Capestang collegial in the distance. With the light pouring in through the open window, it seemed the perfect place to paint, the moment of pure creativity captured in my memory before she knew I was there.
I knocked on the door, and Nicola cheerfully welcomed us inside. The house was charming, her creative flare apparent at every turn; handpainted light shades and tables, a variety of framed paintings throughout the house from a giant red pepper to seashells on the seashore. She talked to us about her love of colours, the variations of mediums to paint with, and the necessity to let yourself make mistakes. I felt inspired. She encouraged me to try my hand not at mimicking other artists as I do, but to embrace the courage necessary to let your hand be the guide. ‘The brush will do most of the work.’ she said. I left her home feeling capable. I left her home feeling that I just brushed elbows with a very special artist. Nicola Blakemore.
My Expat Life Interview – Painting Workshops with a seasoned artist
Why did you move to France?
After visiting many times I felt that I would always like to live here. Unfortunately my ‘knight in shining armour’ hadn’t turned up to share the adventure with me, so, as a child free, sadly parent free woman, I decided that it was time to just do it.
Did you experience culture shock?
Not really as I had a fair grasp of the language, had lived in Paris for a while and was used to the country and it’s ways. However, making a move from a city to a small village took some time to adapt to and being on my own presented other challenges as well.
Did you do anything since moving to France that you never would have expected?
I never expected to be teaching people via painting holidays. I came to France with the intention of continuing with my creative works, both my own painting and some teaching, but doing the holidays have been a welcome experience.
I have been invited to other places in France and also Sweden, so who knows what’s next. It’s always good fun to paint with other people and help them discover their own unique creativity. So many people have limited beliefs about their abilities, and I feel that it’s my mission to help them overcome that to release their inner child. Sometimes there is resistance, even tears, but when they realize what they can do, it’s nothing short of amazing. And many keep coming back each year for more painting lessons during their holidays.
I am not particularly computer savvy, but there is a large growing market online for teaching platforms. I had a huge learning curve to master; media, video, sound editing to eventually launch my profile on the American teaching platform Udemy. I never would have imagined that I could come this far in the technical field. It has some challenges, but another interesting direction to expand in.
I also have a YouTube channel giving tips and lessons on how to paint to new artists wishing to learn the trade. Here is my video on Watercolour Basics.
What do you do for a living?
I run ‘Painting Holidays France‘, teaching people how to paint in watercolours. I run these artistic holidays from my home in Quarante, France.
My painting holidays at www.Painting-Holidays-France.com are based in the Languedoc-Roussillon of South West France, the biggest wine producing region in France. The air quality is superb giving you crystal clear light, bright colours and the biggest blue skies you can imagine, making painting and sketching ‘plein air’ a real pleasure.
It’s probably the best kept secret if you’re looking for the real south of France. We are positioned in a golden triangle formed from Beziers to Carcassonne to Narbonne making it full of variety offering you long sandy beaches, mountains, flowing vineyards, pretty villages and history by the bucketful.
Has this always been your passion?
I have had great chunks of time where I didn’t paint but I did other creative pass times. Creativity never leaves me, it simply manifests in other forms. It is part of who I am.
What did you do to integrate with your community?
The usual things. I joined some local expat groups to start with and as my confidence grew I did so much more within the village and French community. Also as I live in the centre of my village I can’t go out my front do without seeing and chatting to someone.
Tell me something special about the Languedoc that most people don’t know?
It has a lot that Provence does but at a lower price and without the pretension.
What is the worst thing about being an expat?
Not being able to see my family and friends as often as I like. And of course going through all the admin to be able to live here. It can get frustrating.
What is your favourite thing about being an expat?
I have met more people from other countries and all walks of life. I guess that’s because they too have been brave enough to make the move from where ever. It bonds us expats.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
English gardens, theatre, cinema and of course family and friends.
What is a myth about your adopted country?
That they don’t like speaking English? Certainly not true of the younger generation. I often have conversations where I speak French and they speak English. We both get to practice.
What advice would you give other expats?
It depends what experiences in life they have, their age, their backgrounds, if they have children… etc but having a very open mind and flexible behaviour are paramount. As a singleton take advantage of every expat group to get the support you may need at the beginning is good advice and through these groups you will make friends.
What are you currently working on? Projects, books, business ventures…
I am always looking for new creative opportunities. My other blog is Gallery 40.
But I am currently working on expanding my painting holiday venue empire as ‘have paint box will travel’, building up my on line teaching following and looking at getting published. As I earn the money I am also making big changes to my old terraced house, which has the best view in the village. I am open to suggestions…..
If you want to get in touch with Nicole Blakemore to book your holiday please visit the link below. www.Painting-Holidays-France.com