Art Workshops in Rural France

Children's book illustrator and writer Catherine Stock moved from a New York City highrise to a rustic cottage in Rignac, France. She now teaches art workshops and sells her paintings from her barn-turned-art-gallery next door to home. Visit Catherine's Web site here.

By Nicole Blades

The backstory: Nine years ago, while vacationing in France, Stock bought two antique cottages and a barn in the picturesque village of Rignac, 5-½ hours’ southwest of Paris. She planned to spend summers there. “Rignac was the antidote to my stressful New York life,” she says.

What inspired her: A high-rise erected next door to Stock’s Upper East Side apartment effectively sealed off its natural light. Meanwhile, her beautiful, sun-drenched summer refuge in Rignac beckoned. She loved France’s rich cultural history and traditions, was reasonably proficient at speaking the language, and had a portable career.

How she made it happen: Stock moved to France permanently after selling her apartment in 2007. “I paid $60,000 for the place and 12 years later sold it for $350,000,” she says, “and it had no light! This was just months before the real estate market went belly up.” After her move, she continued to write and illustrate for US publishers, but the decline in the American economy soon caused those sources of income to dry up. So Stock decided to flex her entrepreneurial muscle, teaching watercolor workshops at her home, and renting out one of her cottages over the summer at a weekly rate of $730 to $840. She also sells her paintings and holds exhibitions of other artists’ work in her small, converted art gallery. Her income is 40 percent of what it used be, but that loss is offset by her paired-down cost of living. “I made just over ten thousand euros last year on painting classes, house rentals and artwork sales, and just over twenty thousand dollars in book royalties.” Not much by New York standards, she says, but her mortgage is completely paid off. “Also, real estate taxes are pretty low in the countryside, and I’m in the French healthcare system,” she says. “As a freelancer in New York, healthcare was my biggest expense.” After living in France for three months, getting into the country’s healthcare system is as easy as enrolling at a local office—with a utility bill or anything showing proof of your residence there. Getting to the point where you are considered a resident is a little more involved, she says.

“The French love paperwork. If you plan to spend more than three months here, you must get a Long Duration visa,” she explains. “However, it entailed filling out eight applications—by hand—and I had to give the French Consulat in New York eight copies of everything, from the deed of my house and bank statements to tax returns and airplane tickets.” She had to repeat the process (five copies this time) for her Residence Permit after she arrived in France. “I practically needed a wheelbarrow to deliver all of this.” This permit is typically renewed every five years, though Stock was recently given a 10-year version allowing her to work there. Despite all of the hoops to jump through, she loves her French life. Stock rides her bike everywhere, buys fresh milk and eggs from her neighbor, and has time to paint, take her dogs for long walks, and grow her own summer vegetables. “My life here is so much simpler and less expensive,” she says. “It’s a country where a single, never-married woman can live comfortably. Fashionable new clothes, restaurants, and expensive entertainment are not temptations. It’s about the quality of life: spending long evenings over a good meal with friends under clear, starry skies in summer, or in front of a warm wood fire in winter.”

Visit Catherine's web site here

Want to learn more about how to start your Second Act in a foreign country? Read 10 Tools for Living Abroad and Start Your Successful Move Abroad

First Published January 31, 2011

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