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French artist has passion for painting Brittany

Samantha David meets the artist who has brought his favourite corners of Brittany to the canvas

Bretagne Aquarelles, also published in English as Brittany Sketchbook is a glorious collection of watercolours accompanied by evocative texts which conjure up the various aspects of Brittany.

Fabrice Moireau painted the pictures between June and September last year on a series of six 10-day trips to various parts of Brittany, an area he knows well from his childhood.

“I was born in Blois and spent many happy holidays in Brittany, but I didn’t know all of it and when I started this book I was amazed at the variety of scenery I discovered.”

He says he has been painting since before he can remember. “I sketch in fact, and only paint in watercolours because I love the colours, I need them, I relish them.”

He always wanted to be an artist. “I drew like a maniac at three years-old and I never stopped. So it was always art for me, I always had top marks in art at school, and when I left school I studied art in Orléans and then went to study in Paris when I was just 18.”

Very modest, he says he doesn’t see himself as an artist because he paints work which has been commissioned by a publisher. “People says it’s quite rare to earn your living from your art, but when people say I’m an artist I laugh because I produce commercial images. I have to produce what my editors sell, I produce books on classic subjects. So I’m not completely free to follow my own artistic path.”

The watercolours in Bretagne Aquarelles/Brittany Sketchbook capture well-loved seaside images: the sea crashing against the rocks; a lighthouse standing tall; a yacht tossed on foamy waves, boats drawn up on the sand, as well as scenes from inland: peaceful farmland; half-timbered townhouses; a sleepy church, moss-covered stones; tranquil hamlets and villages.

Reading it really is like touring Brittany without moving from the sofa. 

M Moireau finds it hard to choose which region in France he prefers painting most. “France is very big, and extremely diverse, and its shape means it touches different worlds at its frontiers; Spain, Italy, Germany, etc and if you count le Centre, the Alps, and Paris that makes 5-6 universes at least, so it’s impossible to choose.

“Brittany is a favourite because of my childhood memories, but the Périgord is also fabulous, I love the area around Sarlat with all those stone houses. And Provence is also wonderful, as everyone knows. Who can say which region is the best? They’re all wonderful. Normandy is sublime also. I was born near the châteaux of the Loire Valley which is also stunning and my memories of it are very fond.”

His other great love is Paris. “I won a place at art school and off I went full of hope. I remember stepping out of the train and in that minute thinking ‘this is it, this is my city, the place I belong’. I was fascinated by it. I knew that Paris was made for me, I knew I would meet my future there, meet much more varied people, make new friends, develop my full personality there...”

So it is no surprise that his next project is a very large book all about Paris. “It’s an enormous project. There will be around 400 watercolours in total, painted in all the various parts of Paris even including some of the closer suburbs.

“I’ve started it and still have quite a lot more to do. I’m enjoying it tremendously because of course it means spending time in that magical city. I’m very excited about it – I think the book is going to be fabulous.”

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