“Class Demonstration – Rennie”, oil on linen, 2012 | Nicole Michelle Tully

FAQS Frequently Asked Questions about ARGENTON-CHATEAU

This page answers frequently asked questions about ALL courses in Argenton-Chateau ONLY.

For answers to frequently asked questions about ALL Paris Programs, click HERE instead.

Arrival — Departure — Supplies — Visas — Shipping — Internet/Phone — Weekend Transport — Models — etc.

Q: Will instruction be in English?   Do I need to speak French?   Can I learn French while I am there?

A: Yes, all course lectures are delivered in English.

Basic understanding of spoken English is required.

Some instructors also speak Spanish and French, for individual critique.

Speaking some French is very useful to function well on your own outside of class. The French rarely speak English to visitors, and the majority cannot.

As a practical matter, students wishing to learn or improve their French language skills are encouraged to take a 2- or 3-week immersion class in Paris, or elsewhere in France, before they arrive in Argenton-Chateau. There are no language schools in town, and private instruction almost always requires a rental car.

Also, experience shows that the visual-spatial and artistic immersion required of students in our Intensive Courses — as well as the 40 hr/week schedule of every class held in Argenton-Chateau — make it very difficult to learn French language at the same time.


Q: How and when should I arrive in France?

A: Students for all our programs in Argenton-Chateau are advised that their group arrival time and date is always theThursday before the first Sunday of class, meeting at 5:00 PM, at the Angers-St Laud TGV train station.

You can get TGV bullet train service directly from CDG airport to Angers-St Laud. See our TRAVEL to FRANCE page for advice.

A privately hired taxi/shuttle service will meet arriving Intensive students at the Angers-St Laud TGV station at 5:00PM, and depart by 5:30PM for Argenton-Chateau. (Shuttle costs 20 euros per person, one-way, payable after arrival).

Students wishing to rent a car for the season, or just for entry, should pick up their car in Angers, and follow the group shuttle.
All the major European car agencies are represented inside the train station (Hertz, Avis, Europcar).


Q: How and when should I leave Argenton-Chateau?   How should I connect to my exit flight?

A: The group exit shuttle is always scheduled to leave Argenton-Chateau at 8:00 AM on the Saturday after the last day of class, arriving Angers – Gare SNCF at 9:00 AM.

All students pay individually for their own exit from Argenton-Chateau (either by group shuttle on Saturday at 8 AM, or by 10AM that same day by private taxi, etc.)

All students must vacate their program housing no later than 10:00 AM on the Saturday after the last day of class.

The group exit shuttle to Angers on Saturday costs approximately 20 euros per head. The cost is paid in cash upon arrival, and split equally between all riders, regardless of their number of bags.

Note: Please do NOT schedule your exit flight on the final Friday of class.

All students have a two-night “cushion” after the final Thursday of the program, for cleaning, packing and a farewell evening.

All students must return their assigned housing to Studio Escalier in the condition it was received, or face loss of their security deposit.

For a Saturday exit to Paris itself, you may depart Angers at 9:37 AM, arriving Paris-Gare de Montparnasse at 11:15 AM.

For students flying out on Saturday, the easiest exit is a 9:46 AM train departure from Angers direct to Paris-CDG airport, arriving at 12:15 PM

For all outgoing flights on Sunday afternoon, it is best to exit Argenton-Chateau on Saturday, and spend the night in Angers, or at an airport hotel, on Saturday night.


Q: I have a specific housing need or concern (no smoking?  allergies?  expecting guests?  family visitors?  etc.)

A: Please let us know about any of these housing concerns when you submit your application.

Please Note: Those students wishing to receive non-student guests, or to bring family guests are warned that:

1) Most program housing is unsuitable for guests. Our housing network only exists to serve the excellence of our art program. Studio Escalier cannot and does not provide the service or accommodation one might expect
from a tourist hotel, hostel or B & B.

2) Individual students receive priority in housing assignments, and flatmates retain the right to refuse your guests.

3) Non-student guests are therefore welcome only under very specific conditions. Family members are requested to schedule their dates during housing assignment, to be assessed a lower fee. All other guests must define the length of their stay, and are subject to a 20 euros/night fee, due in full upon arrival. Please notify us of any family housing needs at the time of your application, or if you wish to receive frequent guests.

4) Our one-week, mid-session summer break is the ideal time for family visits, getaways and vacations.

5) Sorry, no pets are allowed in shared housing.


Q: Is the school studio and housing network accessible to those with reduced mobility or other health issues?

A: Very infrequently, we are asked if we can provide programs or accessible housing for students who are physically challenged (reduced mobility or muscular control; visual, neurological and other infirmities).

Our courses in Argenton-Chateau are currently unable to offer admission to physically infirm or handicapped students.

If any prospective student is concerned that an otherwise undisclosed physical or medical condition may affect their daily attendance, artistic performance, or personal independence (climb and descend 44 stairs; walk up to 1 mile (1.7 km) daily, in and around town), they are asked to make a full disclosure of their concerns, including any known medical conditions, at the time of their application.

As a matter of policy, no tuition refunds are available for failures of student health. Furthermore, as a matter of liability, Studio Escalier cannot be held financially, administratively or morally responsible at any time for the costs, concerns or care-taking of pre-existing psychological infirmities, medical conditions or physical illnesses.

In the interest of fair treatment and good faith between all parties, any confidential medical concerns (psychological, as well as physical) should be made known to the school at the time of application.


Q: What about bringing supplies?   How can I order art supplies over there?

A: A course supply list is sent to all accepted students approximately six weeks before the first day of class.

You can bring all your supplies on the plane as checked luggage, or ship them 2-3 weeks ahead of your arrival.
(Always use regular post airmail. Ask us for advice on labeling to avoid paying customs charges.)

If you prefer to work with specific brands of extra-fine art materials (oil-primed linens, oil grounds, fine art papers, etc) you should bring them with you.

If you wish to buy extra-fine art materials in France, we suggest SennelierAdam-MontparnasseMaison Gattegno orDubois in Paris.

Some Intensive Course students prefer Boesner in Bordeaux for ordering general fine arts products. They offer an extremely large selection of fine arts materials, including Schmincke-Mussini and Old Holland oil colours at reasonable prices.

Students fill out their own orders, using order forms from the current catalogue.
Orders are placed by fax, and take 3 – 7 business days to arrive.

BOESNER online catalogue sales (Vente en ligne) are in French only. Click here for their site.

Note: Buying a new French easel/landscape box in France for private use is less expensive than mailing yourself one.


Q: What advice do you have on packing and shipping to France?

1) Ship yourself as little as possible, whether you are sending art supplies, clothing or personal effects.
Shipping items back home, out of France, can be very expensive.

2) Travel as lightly as you can. No one regrets carrying too little. Remember to bring shoes you can stand in all day, a good all-weather jacket, and clothes you are not afraid to get dirty. Our central school activities are drawing and painting.

3) We stock large pads of paper for purchase, but you should carry your own paint, canvases and brushes.

4) Previous students have left behind many dozens of books, which now form a lending library, including fiction and non-fiction in English and French, as well as various pocket dictionaries and many language study books.

5) If you absolutely must send/receive packages, ALWAYS USE regular mail (US Post Office, Royal Mail, La Poste, etc.) First class mail normally arrives from North America or the UK in 3 – 5 business days. First class airmail packages take 8 – 12 days.

6) Navigating any package through French customs can be a difficult and expensive experience.
Ask us for advice on how to label your regular mail packages for French customs.

7) Please, DO NOT USE Fedex, DHL or UPS. They will cost alot more, and will typically arrive in Argenton-Chateau in 3 – 5 business days, regardless.

So-called “overnight” deliveries always require counter-signed delivery, and can incur large customs charges upon delivery, or long after the fact, which is highly impractical for both students and administration.

8) Outgoing FEDEX envelopes from Argenton-Chateau to the USA can cost up to $110 USD, for a single letter, and will arrive in the USA in 3 – 6 business days. If you have an urgent letter or payment to send outside of France, we STRONGLY advise you to use regular first class mail from La Poste, never French Chronoposte.


Q: Can you give me exact instructions on how to get from the airport to the school?

A: Directions for students who wish to drive from Paris (or elsewhere in France) can be made available on request.


Q: Do I need a French student visa to spend three months at Studio Escalier?

A: No, most students do not need a visa. Any US, UK, European, Canadian or Australian citizen with a valid passport is granted an informal three-month tourist visa just by walking off the plane in Paris.

However, US resident aliens are advised to apply for travel permission at least six months before they wish to travel.

All others should contact the French consulate in their country of residence for visa requirements.


Q: I am currently in school, does Studio Escalier offer transfer credit to my university?

A: Studio Escalier is an independent, private, studio art program. Our courses focus on keenness of vision, excellence of understanding, and finesse of performance.

We do NOT offer any college credit, certificates of completion, or diplomas. We are not NASAD affiliated, and will not be in future.

Therefore, your eventual attendance would most likely NOT be valid for any official accreditation or transfer credit to your current art college or university.

But, some universities DO offer credit for independent, self-directed or creative study. Ask that question of your university registrar.


Q: How can I connect to the internet?

A: All students are strongly advised to bring their own wireless capable laptop computer, Blackberry, or smartphone.

WiFi DSL service from Orange-Wifi is now available at our local bar/cafe/brasserie, the Cafe Calimero.

You must sign up for an Orange Hotspot service plan, before or after you arrive:

Virtually all Studio Escalier program housing now offers wireless hi-speeed (20 Mb/s) internet access. All students have free access to the school’s wireless network at Les Sylvains. (Non-tenants 6PM -10PM only.)

Free WiFi internet access via the school network is NOT offered during the figure sessions, for obvious reasons.

There is no free computer access, ethernet access or dial-up internet connection available to students through the Studio Escalier office.


Q: How will I speak with friends and family?   What do you know about French cellphone service?

A: The least expensive option is to bring your own wireless capable laptop computer.

Students with wireless capable laptops may use their own VOIP service (Skype, Vonage), via the wireless hotspot at the Cafe Calimero, or via the student DSL network at Les Sylvains. (Non-tenants 6pm- 10pm only.)

If you already have a cellphone in your home country, please check with your service provider for current overseas service options, including roaming charges. Many international options are available thru US telecom companies, and technology is always changing. We strongly suggest to all students that they do their own research.

If you need a new handset, a basic “pay-as-you-go”, rechargeable Nokia cellphone can be bought in France for as little as 59 euros. If you already have your own handset, installing a “pay-as-you-go” French SIM card in it will cost approximately 30 euros.

Such a phone offers a rechargeable Orange Mobicarte or SFR credit account, for making calls inside France and continental Europe only, with no contract needed.

Note: A “pay-as-you-go” French cellphone receives calls from anywhere, at zero further cost to the student.

This is perfect for students who need an emergency contact number of their own. Friends and family can profit from VOIP (Skype, Vonage) or any of many discount calling plans in the US to reach you.

However, calling out to the United States directly from a “pay-as-you-go” French cellphone is a very expensive proposition. (1 or 2 euros per minute).

International calling cards, available from the post office, offer everyone the option to call internationally from the payphones in town, at slightly better rates. But they offer a somewhat unreliable network.

Studio Escalier does not offer any housing that comes with its own landline telephone service. Experience also suggests that installing your own landline for 3 or 6 months is not a realistic option.


Q: What about bringing and using my other electronics?

A: French AC current is rated 220-240V. Virtually all recent electronics (computers, iPods, smartphones, digital cameras and camcorders) are universally rated AC100 – 240V, and are France-friendly. Check for ratings printed on your power cable.

If it is rated AC100 – 240V, all you need to buy (before you leave, in your home country) is a French plug converter. We strongly recommend AGAINST bringing any equipment that requires actual voltage conversion (no foreign hair dryers of any kind!).

No student use of phones, computers or cameras is allowed in the studio. Phones and iPods (etc) are not allowed in class.

We expect open eyes and ears in the studio at all times, to create a sensory space for non-electronic culture. We learn from one another’s critiques, as well as our own. The conscious presence of our neighbor is an amazing educational asset.


Q: How will I get around town? 

A: Located as it is — in a very tranquil, small, completely self-sufficient town — the program is designed for minimal commuting expense and maximum concentration. It is a great place to walk, jog, hike or bike.

Though most working people in town have cars to drive in/out, much of the daily life in town is conducted on foot. If you wish to spend three months drawing and painting in a small medieval town, walking or biking everywhere, surrounded by quiet, green countryside and abundant wildlife, you have come to the right place.


Q: How can I get to Paris or other cities on the weekend?

A: There is no public transport directly in or out of Argenton-Chateau on Saturday or Sunday.

In light of this situation, Studio Escalier schedules its studio programs to run Sunday through Thursday,
and takes its weekends on Friday and Saturday.

This allows our students to connect to existing departmental bus service, to travel at much lower cost. (For example, taking the public bus to shop at the weekly farmer’s market in Thouars on Friday morning costs 3 euros round-trip. The same trip is only possible by taxi on Saturday morning — when there is no market — and it costs 50 euros round-trip.)

Please refer to our PUBLIC TRANSPORT page for the easiest day-trip and “studio weekend” itineraries in and out of town, recalling 1) that our “studio weekend” is on Friday and Saturday, and 2) that Saturday and overnight trips always require you to reserve a taxi. See next question below.


Q: How do I hire a taxi?

A: Saturday daytrips and “studio weekend” getaways — leaving Thursday evening, or early Friday morning, with a Saturday evening return– always require the student to hire a private taxi to connect them to a nearby bus or train station.

It is smart to share the cost of the taxi ride, and students should expect to organize themselves and their trips with one another.

Local taxis are NOT on-call 24 hrs/day, and need to be booked in advance. Please write down your name, address and itinerary on a piece of paper, walk over to their dispatch office, and hand it to them.(Remember: use 24 hr time, i.e. 13h00, 19h45, etc.) The dispatcher can closely estimate how much it will cost, if you ask.

Important: Taxi reservations must be made Monday thru Friday, and preferably at least a week in advance.

Cancellations or changes must be made at least 24 hrs in advance. You will be billed for missed connections.

(Taxis du Chateau, 6 route de Bressuire, 79150 Argenton-Chateau – Tel: 05 49 65 71 90)

Taxi rates can be considerably higher before 7AM and after 7PM, as well as on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.


Q: Can I rent a car? 

A: Many students will wish at some point to travel freely around our region.

Long-term rentals are easily arranged online through Hertz, Avis or Europcar.

You can reserve and pick-up a rental car from any of these agencies at the Angers/St Laud train station when you arrive, or afterwards from more local agencies in Bressuire or Thouars.

NOTE: Fuel is VERY expensive in France (1.37 euros/liter; $6.55 USD/gallon).
Also, virtually all European rentals are manual transmission only.


Q: Can I buy or rent a bicycle or scooter?

A: Purchase, yes. For bike or scooter purchase, call or visit Entreprise LIGNE (Tel: 05 49 66 10 52) in Thouars.


Q: Will we have a male model/ a French model/ a female model/an English-speaking model?

A: We hire a variety of international, professional models over the course of the year, but details are always being worked out. Our models may speak English, Spanish, Dutch or French.


Q: I want to learn to draw, but I am not ready to paint, so I want to draw all summer, can I do that? 
(also: I already ‘know how to to draw’, so I want to paint all summer, right away, can I do that?

A: Our Intensive Courses offer daily instruction in both drawing and painting.

If you have never painted before, or you think you know all there is to know about drawing, please simply apply first, showing us your best work, either drawings or paintings, and let us decide if this is the course for you and what you need to learn.

Our tradition has always maintained that the better part of painting is drawing.

(“Le dessin comprends trois quarts et demi de ce qui constitue le peinture.” – JAD Ingres)


Q: I have become mainly interested in portraiture, can I focus on that? 

A: Pursuing likeness, in all its aspects, is a central part of learning to paint and draw in our tradition. The human portrait is part of the human figure, and its differences are those of content, not of kind. When the time comes for longer poses in the Intensive Program, you can focus on portraits, if you like, and we can discuss what you most need to work on.

Or, apply for our next Special Program in Portrait Painting, held in Spring in Argenton-Chateau.