Press and Student Comments on the Montmiral Experience


Leisure Painter: “The appeal of Montmiral is in the quality and substance of the learning experience.”

Artists and Illustrators Magazine: “An artist of formidable talent who has carried out research into how we perceive colour and how we draw."

The Artist: “The tutor aims to help people free themselves from habits that are holding them back, to get in touch with their feelings and express their individuality...the personal attention and tuition are exceptional."

The Independent: “The course is unique… Francis uses accuracy as a means of introducing ideas about creativity and self expression… His theories on colour are persuasive."

The Sunday Times: “A singular approach."

BDSA Magazine: “Takes endless trouble to help individuals. Anyone who is serious about painting should think about going, whether an absolute beginner or an experienced professional."

David Elliot, B.W.S., in British Watercolour Society Catalogue: “It gave me one hell of a stride forward."


COMMENTS BY STUDENTS (from England, Scotland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand)

Mother and son

"Francis is the most remarkable teacher of painting I believe you will find. I first encountered him when my mother, who had been a painter for over fifty years, returned from his course with some beautiful and exciting paintings, the like of which she had never done. He had somehow managed to nudge her forward just enough to produce towards the end of her life some brave and surprisingly beautiful landscapes which challenged much of what she had done before. He then took me on, a difficult unschooled banker who wanted to find out if he had any talent as a painter late in life. Francis provided me very easily with the tools, not only to progress and judge my own work, but to give me the means to look at the work of serious painters with a really appreciative and informed eye. His teaching is not difficult to take on board if you have had no teaching before or if you are open to change. He distills the every essence of how the eye and the brain work in looking at images and how this translates into working on a canvas or a sketch book. The reward is self evident in the quality of the output. His influence and effect on me has been transformative. I have an enormous amount to thank him for.” - Paul Zuckerman, a banker, on behalf of himself and his mother Joan, an exhibiting artist.


"You managed to share your knowledge with an adult beginner and encourage early efforts without patronising. You knew when to praise and when to criticise without destroying a shaky confidence." - Pat Naysmith, Primary School Course Director

"You have proved I have powers to see and to draw that I could scarcely have imagined. You went to prodigious efforts to find, encourage and bring forth such talent as is there." - Karl Bottigheimer, University Lecturer

"I would like to put on record the intellectual impact of your teaching and my appreciation of your very special knowledge of perspective." - Frank Esterkin, University Lecturer

"You made the whole experience very moving and meaningful. Your quiet presence made it possible to look and learn in an unpressurised way." - Carrie Gall, Housewife

"I wanted you to know that upon my return to the States, I did confirm that my trip to Montmiral was NOT a dream.  I knew it was real from two clues:  one, I had a curious mixture of cerulean, ultramarine, cadmium yellow, and orange oil paint smudged on my left ankle.  Two:  when I woke up at dawn the first morning back at home, I saw color everywhere!  Golds were glowing on the windowsill, purples were vibrating in corners, cool blues along the edges of things - it was magnificent.  And no two colors the same.  I was looking at the same old scene in a totally new way.  And I thank you for that.  I really appreciated the time you spent with us in Montmiral - it was a great experience that has changed my perception of the world." - Anne Meneghetti, Medical Website Manager

More experienced students

"Once again I found the course a renewing, enriching and unique experience; it is quite different each year." - Donal Bannister, Trombonist

"For the first time I know I have the capability to do some of the things I have always wanted to do. If anyone is looking for a radical reappraisal or rebirth of their thinking about art, Montmiral is the place where it could happen
.” - Jane Brook, Research Officer

"A deeply felt thank you for a superb two weeks where you "blew my doors off". Your impartiality, precision and feedback were like a lighthouse on a hill for me." -
Ben Hopkins, Company Executive

“I really valued the way you looked with me at what I was trying to paint. The fact that your criticisms were so positive was a great help. One of the main things was the special approach to looking you shared; another was the complicated but very practical colour teaching. Finally, you gave me the confidence to tackle things I wouldn’t have dared try out.” - Cathy Walker, Student

"Francis really cares about his students and wants each person to gain as much as possible from their time at the school.” - Sarah Edelstein, Film Services

"My two weeks in Montmiral and the opportunity to immerse myself in painting and to learn your invaluable principles were immensely worthwhile and exactly what I needed.” - Jennifer Bennet, Forest Management

"Painting has become much more of an adventure.” - Claire Laytem, Further Education Lecturer

"Montmiral had a very positive effect on my work, especially with respect to the depth of the painting and the subtlety of the colour." - Moyra Campbell, Research Scientist

"It was three years since my sixth visit, and on this seventh time round I was wondering if perhaps the gilt would have come off the gingerbread by now, but far from it, I was again almost foundering, rather deliciously, within an hour under the impact of landscape, history, colour and light. Tools for this journey, as usual under Francis' direction, were not to be so much practical tips about canvases media or brushes, but everything that makes for thoughtful observation of object, of space, of relationships and most of all of what effect my last pencil line or brushstroke has had on the whole, because it is not possible to know any of this in advance.” - David Gibson, General Practitioner and Hospital Chaplain

“I had expected to come to Montmiral to learn a few tricks. In fact I have come back with a very new approach.” - Sue Loder, Masseuse

"It has been life changing." - Matyelok Gibbs, Actress

"I have made six visits over about eighteen years to the Painting School of Montmiral - I had drawn before but knew little about painting and the attendant difficulties. At the Painting School I have been given many tools with which to explore the possibilities with paint - discussions on light and colour and the importance of exploring and looking carefully are among them but the most helpful to me recently, has been the space and time to paint on my own in such a beautiful place, and the one to one sessions with Francis looking carefully at my paintings and often being encouraged to look at things in a new light. Drawing sessions with a model have moved me on in the same way.  It is a challenging experience, but without it I would not have experienced the sheer excitement in this journey with paint." - Di Gibson, Counsellor

"Since leaving Montmiral - which was very hard to do, as I felt I achieved so much. I felt a greater confidence and conviction that I'm on the right track regarding my art, I must say coming to your school has left me totally inspired. It is going to be very hard to carry on with my old life in Australia." - Michael Brierly, Carpenter

Professionals using visual presentation of ideas

“As well as discovering exciting new information on drawing, colour, light and space, I lost at least some of the blocks between myself and my creativity and now feel I have reached a clear and exciting new starting point.” - Frances Mullarky, Furniture Designer

"A simply splendid fortnight. I am particularly indebted for the seeing and looking philosophy which has really made me look and look again.” - Don Joyce, Architect

“Thank you for a stimulating and fascinating fortnight which has given me something more personal to work towards.” - Geoff Huntingford, Town Planner and Artist

"As a graduate student in Landscape Architecture, I came to Montmiral to improve my drawing skills. You taught me first how to see what I was drawing, then to represent it accurately. This skill enabled me to better understand the nature of my project. I would highly recommend 'The Painting School of Montmiral' for anyone in a design field, who would like to improve their drawing and rendering skills.” - Suzanne Vandamark, Landscape Architecture

“This course, with its application and explanation of the latest researches in both colour and line psychology, completely redefines and resolves the anomalies of what we see. The reference to proven research and the patient explanations of its implications with respect to how the brain receives and interprets information provides a fundamentally sound approach commonly lacking in other courses and literature.” - Iain McCowan, Architect

Art Teachers

“Montmiral is an idyllic place... I found the freedom that your colour theory gave me allowed me much more confidence in my painting.” - Sarah Thomas

“Your help on the use of colour and the process of drawing has been useful both in my personal work and in my teaching.” - Sharon Trotter

“I saw considerable progress both in my drawing and my understanding of colour. Your teaching was excellent.” - Mark Aldridge

Professional Artists

"Thank you Francis for a really rewarding experience. Though I consider myself an experienced painter your teaching has enriched both my intuitive and analytic repertory. The time with you was a really valuable and, I must say, unexpectedly useful experience which I seem to have stumbled on by good fortune. I must thank you for your generosity in giving of your time and knowledge to myself and all your students. Finally, I think that your publicity should put more emphasis on the high professional standard of the school.” - Oliver Gollanz

"You helped me see and understand colours in ways I had not done before… I have found again the joy in painting and I think my customers have noticed the difference.” - Charles Summers

"There isn't a day that goes by when something you have said doesn't pop into my head. It has taken me a long time to understand and integrate the change in my thinking inspired by your teaching... After the first visit, I spent a whole year drawing and painting and trying to practice everything you taught us like a mantra. You made me really think about what I was doing. I stopped teaching and painted every day... Forcing me to focus on my drawing in such a disciplined way promoted self confidence and  a greater trust in my ability and perhaps made me a tad less defensive! I came away from Montmiral feeling for the first time some kind of self validation. You were the catalyst for that change." - Ruth Geldard

"My experience at the Painting School of Montmiral has taught me to slow down, to observe carefully, and to execute thoughtfully, and all this with respect not only to painting, but also to life itself... Through careful study and informed practice, Francis' teaching clearly demonstrates that it is possible to fuse passion and the intellect, art and science." - Ken Maranowski

"Francis was able to present a wealth of well-founded ideas and understanding of the processes of making art that provided the proper tools for fruitful research, as opposed to the blind groping that I now realise was my former process.” - Clay Parten

“I couldn't have found a better place anywhere. I wanted to achieve that experience of liberation and getting completely outside myself… The release or, rather, the rediscovery of that experience, coupled with your teaching on colour, which had a revolutionary effect on my thinking and on my palette, added up to a new feeling about myself as a painter.” - Margaret Parker

“I feel I grew a great deal in a small space of time.” - Ann Haggerty

"You managed to create a fine working atmosphere while still retaining a sense of fun." - John Kendall

You really helped me to adjust my ideas so that the block I had last year - and longer - has been completely removed... my pictures have much more feeling of life and movement and space. I am enjoying the work so much. I can’t wait to get into the studio in the morning.” - Gillian Shilson