Richard Thorneycroft – The View From Provence

We miss Richard Thorneycroft. Richard first came to Heatherleys as a student on the Portrait Diploma and went on to become our Marketing Manager. Eventually he left the school to set up home and studio in France.

Here he gives us an insight into his new life:

‘The weather has turned and the crocuses have flowered, the spring bulbs have been planted and thoughts now turn to storing wood for next winter. Today I will be filling the large crack that has appeared in our bedroom wall. I can actually see the garden through it…
Despite winters cold, the lack of insulation, the crack in the wall and the fact that overnight the fat cat ate half a saussice aux noix, this is possibly my favourite time of year in Provence. The angle of the sun casts a new light on everything you see. The trees that dropped all their leaves during the winter are beginning to bud and the morning frosts colour the mountain and fields in powdered blues and violets and we start thinking about taking trips down to the Calanques before the tourists pour in.

If you had been transported from July to February in the wave of a magician’s baguette, you might not recognise the place. During the summer if you drive between Cavaillon and St Remy de Provence along the long straight Route D’Orgon, you’ll see that the road is lined with plane trees on either side whose large leaves form a lush green canopy for miles and miles. In the winter when all the leaves have fallen, the branches reach up and intertwine in thousands of silvery fingers, creating fanned vaults like the ceiling of the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. If there were an organ at the end of the road, it would knock the socks off any cathedral in the world. Add to the scenery the whiff of wood smoke and burning leaves in the cold air, the Marchés, the Vin chaud, chestnuts roasting on open oil half barrels… This is an eventful and plentiful time of the year, so what more could you wish for? Well, it turns out that even though we are slap bang in the middle of a region famous for its cuisine and beautiful landscapes, there a certain things we miss about the old country. We remember fondly visits to Emmet’s of Peasenhall, the pork scratchings from the Butcher’s in Monmouth, the cheeses from Paxton and Whitfield, Cheddar, Stilton, Sherry freely available from any supermarket, a leisurely pint of Ale at the Nelson in Southwold, walks through Fulham Palace gardens, Gingerbread Latte from Costa on the North End Road. London, Friends, Family. It may sound like I’ve chosen the wrong country to live in, but the really great thing about living here in France is the greater appreciation we have for all the things that we couldn’t fit into the removals van, the people and places we left behind and knowing what’s in store for us back ‘home’.

Being an artist here is hard work. Every gallery seems to be owned by the artist whose own work is displayed so other than your local Office de Tourisme there is little opportunity to show your work to your compatriots. The famous French beurocracy is enough to make you drink yourself into oblivion with Beaujolais nouveau. Painting plays second fiddle to filling in forms, asking for official documents to be sent from the UK at great expense, trying to remain calm when application forms keep being sent back asking for information you’ve already given…

But, despite all this I do paint and even though trying to make a living here feels like trying to shout at the Mistral to make it go away, painting is what I must do.
Being a student at Heatherley’s taught me so much more than just putting paint on canvas, it taught me about committing, obsessing, really seeing, really understanding, appreciating and above all, when it’s all going pear-shaped, to persist.’

To learn more have a look at Richard’s blog:

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4 Responses to Richard Thorneycroft – The View From Provence

  1. Sue Rowles says:

    How true. We share our time between Surrey and a ‘perching village’ in the Var, twelve miles west of Grasse; and I can never decide where it is best to be. Both countries have huge advantages and then the opposite. I think the French bureaucracy would stop me ever living there permanently. Sue Rowles, currently attending a painting course on Wednesdays and transferring next term to printmaking on Thursdays.

    • heatherleys says:

      Thank you for your comment. I apologise for taking so long to reply to
      it (this is what happens when you live in the middle of nowhere and
      have to rely on a flimsy looking Dongle for all internet activity!).
      We haven’t really been over Grasse way as much as we’d like to.
      Usually we aim for Tourettes Sur Loup to stay a night or two with my
      parents when they take their holidays in September.
      Re: the bureaucracy… It seems so strange that the public here all feel
      the same as me, yet the paperwork keeps on coming!

  2. Take heart, it seems that we all embrace the same delights and despairs of the French ways of life!
    Richard painted beautifully with words the long nave of plane trees sur la route d’Orgon.
    I recognised it well: I live in St Remy when I am not at Heatherley’s !
    I know several talented local French and English painters. Maybe we should meet and exhibit in the BEST SECOND TOURISM OFFICE HOTEL?!
    Meanwhile, not painting alone in the remote countryside would get me out in les Alpilles more often …
    A bientot?

    Sabine Hoysted
    0033(0)6435 87 468

    • heatherleys says:

      Thank you for your comment. We often go to St Remy… If we hadn’t moved
      to where we are now, I think that somewhere around St Remy would have
      been no.1 on our list. It would be fantastic to meet you! I’m a little
      out on my own here in the Vaucluse when it comes to living with or
      near a community of other artists, so to meet some would be a great

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