A French Village Sketchbook: A watercolor workshop given by Catherine Stock

"The only people I have ever seen paint successfully, consistently, with great authority, unselfconsciously and without fear of failing were about four years old." – Brian Johnson

Catherine Stock, an illustrator of children's books and portraitist, has been giving watercolor workshops in southwest France since the summer of 2000. She writes, "I used to be an art teacher and I find great satisfaction and joy helping to find and draw out the dormant talent of my students."

You can email Catherine here: catherine@catherinestock.com

1. The first five day course, Monday July 16 to Friday July 20 2018, is a good foundation in the technique of watercolor painting. It is a thorough review for any artist, but not too difficult for a serious beginner. Catherine demonstrates how to stretch paper, paint washes, mix colors, create textures, create a sense of depth and lay out a good composition. Most of the week is spent in the barn/studio working on exercises and still lives.

The following are examples of classwork from previous years:


2. The second five day Sketch Class takes place the following week, Monday July 23 to Friday July 27 2018, for students comfortable enough with the medium to tackle the outdoors (weather permitting). Catherine explains linear perspective and we begin drawing buildings in the village. We discuss aerial perspective and paint local landscapes. We spend one day sketching animals, sometimes at the local zoo, and one morning sketching in a local market.

This week is for more independent painters though Catherine is constantly available to help and advise. She will be painting and sketching with everyone else, to demonstrate her approach and technique. She seriously recommends students to take the first class before enrolling in this class, as in the past, students have struggled if they begin working in the field without the warm up class.

Here are some paintings, photos from the Sketch Class:



 Anne-Marie Mamet can join us on either Fridays for an optional three and a half hour bookbinding workshop, in which students can bind their exercises or small paintings into books. Students may also bind a book of blank watercolour paper to paint in later. At least four students must register for this class, and the charge will be 20 euros per person. All equipment and materials will be provided. Contact me for more information.

Students at the Rignac fête in July, 2011, Click here to read about the Wisconsin June 2007 workshop.


Formal class time runs from 9:30 am to
5:00 pm with a break for lunch, which is provided. Lunch usually consists of hot soup or salad (depending on weather), a local dish, bread and cheese, dessert, wine and coffee or tea and is pretty substantial.

Class sizes varies between five and ten people. Instruction is in French and English.

Students can and do continue working, or they may prefer to use the time to cycle, walk or explore the area which has much to offer.


Click here for a list of materials that you will need.

Reference books

Some of you asked me to compile a list of the books in my studio that I refer so here they are. Some are more useful than others and I have underlined the ones I particularly like. I recommend everyone to establish a personal collection of books and postcards of favorite painters.

 The Area

Rignac is a working village with small farms: cows and sheep clog the roads on their way to grazing each morning and evening. The landscape of Quercy is green with gently rolling hills- perfect for hiking and bicycling. It is a lovely area for watercolorists from daubers to professionals.
The Dordogne is half hour away and has lovely spots for swimming. Canoes can be hired on an hourly or daily basis.

Rignac is seven kilometers from the medieval pilgrimage site of Rocamadour and five minutes from the train from Paris. A rental car is definitely advisable for exploring the area, if that is something you will want to do.

Pigeonnier in Rocamadour valley by Catherine, Cath and a buddy, local farmhouse

The Teacher

Catherine Stock (BAFA, PGCE, Ms) is an award-winning artist who has illustrated close to one hundred books for children. She studied art, education and design in Cape Town, London and New York where she worked for several years as the art director for a major publishing house. She divides her time between France, New York and southern Africa.


The fee for each weekly class is 395 euros. This fee includes lunch but does not include materials. A deposit of 100 euros is requested in advance to reserve a place in each class, and is not refundable. Should the class need to be canceled for any reason, a full refund will be made.


Within walking distance, there are local chambres d'hôte, gites, a campsite, hotels, and the four star Chateau Roumegouse. Click here to check out some places to stay.

Some kind of independent transport is necessary unless one finds accommodation within walking distance of the studio. A car will be important for getting to painting sites during the second week, though a certain amount of doubling up with other students should be possible. But if you would like to explore the area which has much to offer, a car is essential.

For my directions, click here.
For a more detailed map and directions, click this link to Michelin. The postal code for Rignac is 46500, and the GPS coordinates are Latitude
44.806914, Longitude 1.696379

Click here to email Catherine
You can check out Catherine's blog here: letramizal.blogspot.com  In it, you will see a kind of daily journal/sketchbook, which is what I suggest you do while here as well. If you bring your laptop with an airport, you will be able to log on through my DSL connection any time your want to create and update your blog. But of course, this is just a suggestion. Luddites with old fashioned private journals and sketchbooks are most welcome too.

Comments from past students:

"Greetings. I want you to know how much I enjoyed your class and you. You created a great learning environment with such energy and warmth. We had such fun.You put your soul and talent to work for us and your cooking is the best."–– Carol K.-C.

"Just to say thank you for an excellent two weeks in Rignac." –– Brian C., Vernet-les-Bains

"In reviewing the paintings I made in your recent workshop I realized how very much I learned from you.  Your clear explanations, your ability to patiently repeat your main points, your instructive demos, and your many suggestions have made a difference in my watercolors.  Not many talented artists can also be excellent teachers, Catherine ~ you certainly are.  The two weeks I spent with you were extremely valuable and lots of fun!  Thank you for everything! " ––Cynthia G-S, Aix-en-Provence

"Our whole trip was spectacular, but the highlight was our week with you. It was such a wonderful week, and yes, we really did learn. I am very inspired to use all your techniques and actually come out with watercolors!!" ––Wendy L., California

"I did so love your classes, hope that I will be able to do something someday that you could be proud of from a beginner student of 88 yrs. Never to old to learn they say. Wendy and I will cherish our memories of our time with you and the girls." ––Barbara L.. California

"Martha and I had lunch last week and talked about our wonderful time in France last year. I am just starting to paint portraits so I look at yours all the time for inspiration ,tho I'll never get how you capture your subjects with such economy of line.  I had such a wonderful time at your place last summer, sothanks so much!"  —Sally G., Wisconsin

"Inspired by those first two glorious weeks with you, I've painted my way around France, Spain and Italy. You gave us so many insights about how to make the paint and paper work, fed us your wonderful home-cooked abundant meals, told us wonderful stories - with music, took us out to draw, paint, party, swim and explore and looked after us caringly in so many ways. Now I'm trying to find someone back here in Melbourne who has your breadth of skills in painting and teaching but most painters don't do portraits, landscapes, people, flowers, vegies and everything as well as you do. I appreciate your after-course input in response to my questions when I'm stuck - very helpful, thanks." ––Susan C., Australia

"I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks in the Rignac countryside participating in Catherine's watercolor workshop this past July. Catherine nurtured both our artistic and culinary appetites, preparing elaborate lunches every day with fresh baquettes, local wines, home baked desserts. After painting all day Catherine invited us to the local swimming pool to cool off and exercise every evening. It felt great to be a student for a change! I bonded with the other students from South Africa, England, Idaho, Australia and Michigan. We challenged and nurtured each other, and we appreciated one another's strengths. Catherine painted alongside us, critiqued our work, and was an inspiring influence. Upon my return, I was invited to participate in a group art show and proudly displayed the dozen paintings I had created in Rignac. One of them sold! The experience revived my painting and I brought home many watercolor techniques to share with my own students." –– Laura L., Connecticut

"France and the whole workshop experience was wonderful: the art, the people on the course, Rocamadour, the many places we visited, you Catherine.   I have come back feeling refreshed.  My blood pressure was the best it has been for a long time.  My doctor said he should send his plood pressure patients to France for a holiday.  It is quite possible i could decide to join you again one day.  I have been painting for a number of years now and do sell a few but thoroughly enjoyed the first week going back to square one and refreshing myself with the basic water colour techniques. As for the second week I loved the painting 'au plein'; it has increased my confidence." –– Pam H., New Zealand

"Thanks for today. I am really enjoying the workshop, learning and having fun mingling with the other ladies. After you commented on the wonderful wash on the pottery, I tried to add some more value and messed it up! But I feel better about working this way than I did yesterday. You are an excellent teacher and I am really glad that I decided to come; it is exactly what I need. "–– Kate vL., New York

"A splendid two weeks! Thank you for your skill, your enthusiasm, you constructive criticism, your friendliness and your generous hospitality. You, the house the barn, Rignac and the surrounding area have all been wonderful, but the soups have been superb!" –Peter R., Nottingham, UK

"I really enjoyed the class and the time in Rignac. The whole experience was life giving and refreshing. Thanks for all you did to get it organized, to offer the class with such zest for life and for looking out for everyone." –Nathalie M., South Dakota

"Wonderful time, be back!" –Richard vL., Michigan (And so he was.)

"When the painting sessions end every day, you're enjoying it so much you want to keep going. But Rignac and the surrounding area is so enriching and inspiring that you are caught up in a continuous swirl all week! Catherine goes out of her way to make everyone à laise and happy." –Anne-Marie M., Paris

"Une semaine de vacances à mon gout: être avec Des stagiaires d'horizons différents, étaler de la couleur à l'eau sur mon papier à dessin, écouter la prof. commenter nos progrès, rire de mes taches et retouches désastreuses; laisser sécher tandis que je vais voir le travail Des autres; interrompre pour la pause de midi, mangeant ce que (j'imagine !) typique de la France profonde - le Périgord - du potage frais, Des tomates, de l'ail, du pain et du fromage; Sur la table, la cruche est en grès. Vite un café et nous revoilà dans l'atelier-grange. Toutes-tous nous sommes penchées sur nos tables d'artiste. Le chien nous regarde d'un oeuil humide, pousse UN gros soupir et s'endort. Je reviendrai, Catherine, c'est sûr."
Marie-Caroline C.
, Brussels

"After two weeks in class with you, my "seeing" the world around me has become extraordinarily enhanced. I continue to paint and thank you for introducing me to what will be a lifelong hobby." —John G., Denver, Co.

"Your art classes are terrific and I enjoy very much the ambiance in which you allow us all to work. As I have never had any special lessons in watercolor I have had tremendous fun learning and experimenting." –Jenny H., Geneva

" Catherine's seemingly limitless enthusiasm and care for all aspects of her students' time in the Lot was most impressive and much appreciated." –Jane M., Montvalent

"I had a wonderful time with you in your classes and just wanted to thank you again for your time and talent. It really was a treat - I tried a little experiment today and hope to continue as much as I can...am seeking French food and wines --just don't want to give the trip up just yet." –Dian S., New Jersey

"Just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoyed your workshop this summer. When friends ask, I tell them I had a wonderful time! And, what has really stuck is when to use soft lines and to omit 'fake' light." —Forrest P., USA

"I can't thank you enough for showing me how to lay down a smooth wash. Also, I appreciate the technique of drawing with masking fluid with a pen rather than trying to brush it on, though in the meantime I've discovered that cotton swabs are useful for rounded solid areas." —Penny P, Chindrieux, France

"Thank you for all the patient painting education you offered us. I learned so much and I had a great time in the process. It truly was a life-changing experience!" ––Karen T

"Catherine, I've been working on a journal of my experiences in France. I thought you might enjoy looking at some of them. The journal started as the menu we received on the flight over during our first class upgrade. Making the journal has allowed me to relive my French experience. Thanks again for your hospitality and the awesome art instruction."
–– Lana (See website page about 2007 Wisconsin workshop for examples of Lana's journal)

"Just wanted to make sure you know that I really had a fantastic time at your workshop! I'm already starting to make plans for my next trip to France."
–– Andrea A, Vermont

"I really enjoyed the class, and I find that I am looking at watercolor paintings with a totally different appreciation.  It was a lovely week and it was interesting being in the class with the others. Always interesting for different lives to come together for a while. Your lunch-time meals were absolutely fabulous– a great treat to sit outside and enjoy the air and the lifestyle and great food." ––Elizabeth C., Boise, Idaho

"I'm writing 'dear' and not my usual "hello or hi" as I have such good memories of you and my time painting with you. Thank you for enriching my life."
–– Pam H. New Zealand


"France was a dream come true! The watercolor class was phenomenal! This is what it was like:

• We woke up in our little ancient farm house (gite) to the sound of a rooster calling in the distance. I would put on the coffee while Steve went into the nearby town to buy fresh (need I say warm?) croissants, bread, and the local goat cheeses. After breakfast, Laura and I would stroll across the lane to the studio- actually a converted 15th century barn. The lighting was great and there was always fresh coffee and tea waiting for us. Some days our instructor, Catherine Stock, would give us a lesson in technique, and some days we would go off on a field trip. The trips were great- the first time we went to a marketplace where we painted fruit, flower, and olive stalls, while groups of curious French children gathered around us. We set our paints up on the wall of the town fountain so we always had a little water for our painting and the burbling of the fountain in the background. Another time we went to a cliff side to paint the ancient town of Rocamadour. It was amazing how differently we each saw the same gorgeous scene. Laura and I took a break to get a hot chocolate and crepe de sucre (of course). Nice to know there is always a cafe nearby! Near the end of the week, we went to a little village barnyard to paint donkeys and horses. What an experience that was- the animals never held still long enough to get the right shape, so all our paintings were quick and really, really loose.

• After a morning of painting next to my talented daughter (would we ever find the time to do this at home? I doubt it!), we would have a leisurely outdoor lunch at the studio: usually an incredible meal of meats, salad, fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and (of course) wine. After lunch, we would return to the studio where Catherine would get us started on another project (maybe a still life) and then she would go make a pot of strong coffee or English tea, sometimes served with a few chocolates or cookies. (A habit I could easily continue here!)

• Laura and I usually put our paints away around 4:30 and joined Steve at the pool (nothing fancy but clean and refreshing). In the evening we would go out for a lavish 4 course dinner (one better than the next- the local specialty is foie gras and duck confit!). One night we drove to an opera in a pretty nearby town (dinner preceded it with all the locals) and once we attended a troubadour fest in a gorgeous old chateau. At night we would tuck ourselves into our cozy duvet-covered beds and dream of colors. The next day we would start all over again!

• The experience was perfect for me. I got to spend a wonderful week side by side with my daughter, doing something that we both really enjoyed (and still had relaxing evenings to spend with my Steve.) The instructor was really helpful but not pushy. The French were lovely- very friendly and patient with me whenever I would try to speak my pigeon French. Laura and I both left there feeling that we had a renewed way of looking at things. Just looking at the sky as we drove towards Paris made both of us think about how we would go about mixing the colors to paint that same sky. Our powers of observation had definitely been heightened. " – Cindy S. Trenton, NJ, USA, from a 2005 letter to a friend

The Magazine of French Culture and Travel
2009 Travel Study Guide: The Immersion Experience
Your guide to studying the French language, arts and cuisine

Travel Study Program: Catherine Stock’s watercolor workshop

Why I decided to study art abroad: Since I’m an art teacher, I’ve long wanted to travel to Europe and see some of the art that I’ve read about in art history books.

My experience at this program: Catherine Stock is wonderful. Her course is well planned with excellent instruction, painting demonstrations, studio time and outings to explore the region.

My biggest challenge: Leaving when it was time to go. The hospitality of Catherine and the residents of Rignac made it hard to leave. They welcomed us and even invited us to share their food and bonfire to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve. I would have been happy to wander the countryside and paint for the remainder of the summer.

Surprises: I went to France with no preconceived notions or expectations. I saw it as a long-anticipated adventure. Every surprise I had, from the food to the people to the markets, was a pleasant one.

My tips for readers who want to study abroad: I wish I had read more about the region before going there. Do some research about the area you intend to visit.

Cultural differences I faced: I didn’t face any cultural difference in France that I didn’t like. I did have the experience of trying to buy rubbing alcohol (to be used in a painting technique, not as a disinfectant) at the small pharmacy in Rignac. One of my fellow travelers spoke more French than I did, and we managed to communicate our need to the store clerk. Our game of pantomime eventually produced the bottle of rubbing alcohol and was part of the fun and adventure of traveling in a foreign country.

What to expect from a study experience in France: If it is southern France, in Dordogne or the Lot region, you can expect to see scenic rural landscapes, colorful outdoor markets and friendly people. While I was in Paris I felt a strong sense of time and history. As I crossed streets that are older than the United States I realized just how young our country is.

My favorite places: I highly recommend a tour of the cave paintings of Pech-Merle and exploring the historic monument of Rocamadour. While in Paris, buy a two-day ticket for L’Open Tour bus, an excellent way to see the sights and become familiar with the city.

Some interesting and useful sites to visit

Absolute Arts
Americans in France a useful site for Americans abroad
Art Cafe
Art Courses UK
Shaw Art Guides
Art Walker

Art Workshop Directory
Cheap Joe's Art Stuff
Exploring Color and Creativity

French Entrée: Property, Holidays and Life in the Lot and Quercy
French Word-A-Day
Isabel Gallery
in Paris, for some pretty fab fakes!

Kolinsky Art Brushes
Meta Vacances:
creative holidays in southwest France
New Mexico Watercolor Society
Pearl Paint
for art supplies
Watercolor Magic
Watercolor Online

Watercolor Web
Wet Canvas
World Wide Art Resources
Worldwide Art Schools and Colleges Directory
World of Watercolor

Terrific painters and teachers

Robert Genn
Bob Heatly
Phil Levine
Julian Merrow-Smith
Pat Pendleton
Charles Sovek

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