Provence-based artist Julian Merrow-Smith became something of a celebrity in the art world when he launched his daily oil-painting concept “Postcard from Provence” in 2004. The idea was ambitious and at the same time, quite simple: Julian would create a painting a day, which was auctioned online to the highest bidder. He's now at painting #2053 and averages five to six original oils per week. He continues to sell them very successfully online, using both the auction and a traditional pricing format.
And now, having lived and worked in the landscape around his home near Mt. Ventoux for 15 years, Julian and his wife, Ruth Phillips, will be offering a second season of painting workshops at La Madelène, located in a 12th-century priory between the villages of Malaucène and Entrechaux. It's 10 minutes south of the ancient Roman town of Vaison-La-Romaine; 30 minutes from Orange and Carpentras; and 45 minutes from beautiful Avignon.
"There are no frills to this workshop," Julian says. "We usually visit one of the local markets; otherwise the week is all about painting—talking, living and breathing it together. Our aim, above all, is to give you the experience of living the painter's life in the south of France."
Julian says the workshop is best suited to painters with some experience, those who wish to broaden their scope and learn by example or experience the rigors of plein aire (outdoor) painting for the first time. There are 12 students max per class.
Two of the six planned 2014 sessions are already sold out. Remaining sessions include May 18 to 25th; May 28 to June 4; and sessions in September/October with dates to be confirmed.
During the first part of the morning, Julian gives a short plein aire demo followed by individual help and instruction. The group breaks around 1 pm—for a seated lunch, an on-site picnic, or a meal in a simple restaurant--and lunch is usually followed by a bit of free time. Then there's another three- to four-hour session, followed by an informal critique during the aperitif. Then it's time for a three- or four-course dinner, served with wines from top local vineyards.
All painting materials and equipment are provided. The classes concentrate on small-scale paintings, using the same palette and materials that Julian regularly uses. These consist of a set of artist's oil colors, fine hog-bristle brushes, a pochade box, a tripod, prepared gesso boards and cleaning materials, all contained in a small rucksack. Umbrellas and chairs are also provided. "All you need is your straw hat!" Julian says.
The price is $2,725 for shared occupancy and $3,185 for single occupancy. This includes seven days’ full board and lodging, all painting materials and equipment, transport to and from painting locations, and transfer to and from the Avignon TGV station.For all the info on the workshops, click here.
To see Julian's work and sign up for his email alerts (which are sent whenever there's a new painting for sale), click here. To see his blog, click here.
La Madelène, run by Philip and Jude Reddaway, is known for Rhone wine holidays, wine classes and other wine-themed activities. For all the info, visit their website here.
Photos: (1) Doug, a workshop student, painting by the pool in October, 2013. (2-5) Four of Julian's paintings: Apricot, House and Vines, Garden Roses and Sunset through Trees. (6) Another student, Gina, painting lavender in summer, 2013. (7-8): Lunch might be on the terrace at La Madelène or it could be a picnic like this one, from July 2013. (9) The workshop gang, July, 2013.