Alumni Spotlight: Valerie Liotard

I'm an English teacher. I've been living and working in France for a while now. I'm 53.

Why did you choose this program?

I love drawing and painting and I had never tried oil painting before. I found Gregory Pelizzari's paintings mesmerizing and utterly impressive. I had no idea you could reach that level of detail before. The first lessons went back to basics in drawing with an emphasis on key techniques and what to look for to achieve more realism.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Living in the area, I got in touch with Gregory Pelizzari on my own. That was over ten years ago. I've met quite a few American art students studying at Greg's on an intensive course. What struck me is how well they get on with Gregory and how keen they are on learning from him and improving their skills.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The most obvious piece of advice is: learn useful phrases in French to help you get by outside classes with Greg when you want to buy food at the local market for example.

Speaking French will also make it easier to mingle with French-speaking students who paint at Greg's. Gregory Pelizzari is perfectly bilingual and speaks both English and French.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Art students who take part in this program have a very busy schedule: painting all day long following Greg's instructions and advice. Students are free to turn up earlier or stay in later to work on their own, too. Lunchtime meals are usually taken all together.

In the evening, participants are free to organize their free time as they wish.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Talking to American students who were on this program - I got the feeling they were really thrilled about living and painting in France. Those who had already been to France before found it a bit easier to adapt and less shy about talking to French people at Greg's atelier.

Gregory is always available to discuss any issue that might crop up and takes extra care to make sure everybody has a happy and rewarding experience in France.

What was the most memorable part of your experience?

I remember taking some students to visit the world-famous Lascaux caves in Montignac in Dordogne, a good hour's drive from Monflanquin. My 8-year-old daughter was with us and it made the trip extra special as she'd never seen prehistoric wall paintings before. We were all impressed by what we saw. This world heritage site is definitely worth visiting!