EZE, France — Paintings and collages of all colours, sizes and types fill every inch of space on the stone walls, skinny tables overflow with prints, smaller paintings and bookmarks with the same signature. Leaning against a desk is a folder containing nude sketches of every size, and palettes are visible hanging in the corner of the tiny work space.
This is the studio of Barbara Blanche on a small winding street in Eze. The tiny village sits 13 kilometres from Nice on top of a mountain 700 metres above the turquoise Mediterranean sea.
Blanche is one of many artists in the south of France who enjoy working from a studio that is independent from one of the galleries found throughout the region. It provides them a place to create and display their work by itself. Each has different reasons for working from a studio instead of a gallery, but the common thread between them is their passion for their art and appreciation for the independence and lifestyle it grants them.
In Blanche’s studio you can find her painting behind a small desk that serves as both a counter and workspace. She is frequently interrupted by customers coming in, but she doesn’t mind.
“I get to interact with different people every day,” Blanche said “I can show the real colour, the real size and the real work.”
Another benefit Blanche sees with studios is being able to control the price of her work.
“It is better for the customer and for me because no gallery is taking a percentage of the price,” Blanche said “It is a better deal for buyers, and I get more of the price than I do if it is in a gallery.”
Blanche, who has been working out of the studio for 27 years, still attends art classes in Nice once a week.
Her work, which includes sketches, collage and various types of paintings, cannot be found online. She said she believes it makes it too easy for her ideas and creativity to be taken without her control or input.
Georgette Johanne has been involved in the Cote D’Azur art scene for 21 years. She has spent time helping artists connect with galleries and museums and often works with artists who want to switch from galleries to studios. She says that the price difference can be a big deal for both artists and buyers.
“When that money is going right to the artists, it is often more beneficial than paying more for a painting and having a big part of that go towards a gallery,” Johanne said
Johanne says she has seen a trend of international buyers looking online to purchase art from the region.
“It has become a way for small studios and less well known artists to sell their work around the world” Johanne said.
In another small village almost 40 kilometres to the west of Eze, Pierre Laurent packages a painting at the Jean Tron Studio in Saint-Paul de Vence. In stark contrast to Blanche’s beliefs, Laurent openly discusses the benefits the internet and social media have had on the studio where he works.
The painting currently Laurent is packing in layers of cardboard and bubble wrap will be sent to California in the afternoon and arrive in 10 days. A woman saw a photo of it on their Facebook page and bought it within days.
“We just sold this painting on Facebook,” Lauren said, “People who have never heard of Tron or visited the studio can now find it online and purchase a painting.”
While they differ in their opinions on the use of the internet, Blanche and Laurent agree on the benefit of independence granted by working from a studio.
“Your buyers are paying up to 20 per cent less for a painting than they would in a gallery,”Laurent said, “and you also get to present the paintings you want to, rather than only what a gallery asks for.”
He also said studios provide the benefit of more choice for the buyers. There is a wider variety of types and sizes available. Because any space available can and will be filled up, buyers can select from more options. In galleries more space is dedicated to each piece of art, which means the wall real estate is more exclusive.
For Antoine Adrien, space is no problem, but each day he can only offer what he can carry. The past three years he has sold his paintings on the streets of Nice.
Like Blanche, he is wary of the internet, not allowing any photos to be taken of him or his work, which is carefully arranged on the Promenade des Anglais along the sea in Nice. Tourists and locals alike walk by and admire his delicate paintings of the city.
While it might not be a physical studio like Blanche’s or the Tron’s, Adrien choses to make his living outside, selling directly to customers instead of trying to sell through a gallery.
“I would lose 20 per cent of my income or more if I sold through a gallery. This way I can meet the people who are buying my paintings or prints,” Aidrien said, “and we both benefit from cutting out the gallery in between.”
He enjoys selling his work outside rather than inside a traditional store because of the freedom it allows him.
“I can chose my own hours,” he said. “I don’t have to pay rent. I get to spend my day outdoors.
I couldn’t do any of that if I was tied to a gallery or traditional studio.”
Johanne says whether artists are selling in a gallery, studio or on the street, they all crave independence.
“There is nothing like being able to support yourself while doing something you are so passionate about” Johanne said. “These artists are all just looking for the best way to live while being creative and doing what they love.”