Friday, December 11, 2015

Painting Workshops in Provence in 2016

Many of my readers and clients ask about painting classes in Provence...and I've lined up some great instructors who are happy to give half- and full-day lessons for travelers. (Interested? Email me: But if you're thinking of something longer and more comprehensive, you might consider a multi-day workshop...meaning, a trip devoted mostly or entirely to painting. Most last about a week, there are many offered this year all over Provence and a sampling appears below. I can't tell you which are best as I haven't experienced any of them myself. I've chosen these because they're either led by painters I know and admire...or they were recommended by people I trust...or they look really promising online. For specific questions, contact the organizer or instructor directly. And if you have another workshop to promote or recommend anywhere in the South of France, feel free leave the info and a link by clicking "comments" below this story. (The best way to comment is to choose Name/URL. Put your name as the name, put your website as the URL...then fire away.) In the next month or so, I hope to share some photography workshops as well. 

For those looking to avoid the heat and the crowds of summer, Penelope Anstice will lead a one-week workshop in Eygalieres, from April 3 to 10. Eygalieres is a small, very beautiful village 15 minutes east of St. Remy, about an hour north of Marseille. You can see all the info by clicking Penelope's name above or by checking her website here.

British artist Julian Merrow-Smith lives and paints in Provence full time. I think his work is exquisite and so do the thousands of people who follow his "Postcard from Provence" online art auctions. In 2016, he'll be offering seven- and eight-night painting getaways with his wife Ruth Phillips, a writer and musician, in May, July and October."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." The group stays in the lovely restored priory/B&B called La Madelene, in the countryside at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Julian also offers "self-catering" painting retreats for smaller budgets, for up to six people who stay in his rental house near Mont Ventoux. The full painting kit is provided (as it is in the workshops) and Julian is available to paint with the guests for up to three hours per day. For info on the worishops, click here.  For info on the independent stays, email: ruth@wintermane.

Jill Steenhuis is an Atlanta-born, French Impressionistic painter who lives in Aix en Provence, where she taught painting and drawing (at the American University) for ten years. In addition to leading Cezanne and Van Gogh walking tours for American museums and art lovers,  Jill offers week-long oil painting workshops in the Provencal countryside for all ability levels. (For those who share her passion for Cezanne and Van Gogh, special arrangements can be made to paint on the very sites where they did.)  "My joy comes from watching the beginner or more advanced painter climb a mountain in their creative way and in their inner soul," she says. Students may bring their own equipment or Jill will provide it. All ability levels are welcome and full details are on her site here.

French Escapade is offering seven different eight-day painting vacations in Provence this year--each led by a different instructor--plus one in the French Alps, one on the French Riviera and one in Giverny. Choose from oil painting, watercolor or journal sketching. Groups are seven to 12  students max. "We usually stay at the same accommodations for the entire tour so you can immerse yourself in the culture, meet the locals and feel at home without having to pack and unpack every day," says company founder Jackie Grandchamps.  "Best of all, we always choose an ideal base location and take you on a wide variety of nearby daily excursions." French Escapade also has workshops this year in Spain, Belgium/Holland and Tuscany; they'll add the Loire Valley in 2017. For all the details, click here.

This year, Workshops in France and The Art Engine are offering two uninstructed 10-Day Painting Retreat for Artists, led by Scottish artist Julie Snyder. There's one in June ("Lavender Season") and one in September ("Glorious Provence").  The package includes 10 days of artistic immersion (mentoring available) and daily painting sessions in locations such as private vineyards, charming villages, markets, on the Van Gogh trail, St. Remy and Les Baux and more. You'll stay in a château above the hillside village of Chateauneuf de Gadagne, not far from Avignon and the Luberon, and there's plenty to do for non-painting travel partners as well.  Click here for details.

Since 1990, David and Liz Atkinson have run Arts in Provence in the tiny hamlet of Les Bassacs, with its commanding views over  the Luberon Mountains and the Vaucluse. Surrounded by cherry orchards, vineyards and olive groves, Les Bassacs is within easy reach of the well-known Luberon villages of Gordes, Lacoste and Bonnieux. Workshops of varying lengths are led by different artists, reflecting a wide range of styles and themes. This year there are eleven of them, between late April and late September. All the info is here.

Ian Roberts is an Iowa-based artist leading two "Plein Air Painting in Provence" workshops this year. "No place continues to call me to paint like Provence does," he says. "And of course I'm not alone. Corot, Bonnard, van Gogh, Gaugain, Matisse, Cézanne and Picasso all came to live and work here. I know you too will love the quality of light, the folds of the earth, the old stone farm buildings and medieval hilltop villages, the poplars and cypresses." Workshops are based in the medieval village of Le Barroux, a place "so rich visually, so full of possibilities, each day you'll find something that sings to you." Lodging is in the village's only hotel, which has just 11 rooms. "Dinners are served on the terrace overlooking the valley below," Ian says. "With the sun setting after a long day of painting--and wine from just down the road--it's a great way to end the day." Info on Ian's workshops is here

Tessa Baker--who has lived in Provence since 1985--offers week-long watercolor workshops at her home in Lorgues, in the Var. Here you'll be surrounded by beauty, as vineyards, rolling hills and fields (lavender, sunflowers, poppies) surround the farmhouse Tessa shares with her husband David. Meanwhile chef Anna prepares the meals, served with wines from top chateaux, some of which are in walking distance. "And our picnics have certainly stolen a few hopeful glances, especially when we set up our table in the port of St Tropez!" Tessa says. Visits to the famous Gorges de Verdun, the village of Moustiers, the wine domaine Mas des Brun in Bandol and of course a local market are all part of the trip. The group paints at least six hours, most days. "We all have such a lovely time together and become such good friends," Tessa says, "it's hard to say goodbye." For or +33 6 11 25 29 72. You might also enjoy her blog here

"Whatever your reason is for opening up to a creative pursuit," says artist Andrew Petrov, " there is no better place to learn, practice, and enjoy the process of painting than in Provence!" This summer, in the picturesque and historic village of Saignon (which he considers his second home), Andrew is inviting painters of all levels to  "live and breathe art" with like-minded travelers. (He lived in Saignon full time before moving back to the US in 2012 ...and has offered workshops there since 2001.)  One of his 2016 workshops is already full, but the one scheduled for June 19 to 29 still has space. "If you know Saignon, you know it's the perfect setting for plein-air painting," he says, "and these dates should be ideal for lavender seekers." You'll find more info on Andrew's website here or contact him directly:

Milan-based painter Francesco Fontana will teach in Provence again in 2016, as he has done since 2008. You'll stay in Isle sur la Sorgue, a charming village with a river running through it, known for its 250+ antique vendors and large Sunday market. Exact workshop dates will be announced soon but you can see the details--and Francesco's workshop in Paris and Giverny--on his website here

British artist Jill Douglas will teach a class at the legendary artists studios Ateliers Fourwinds on the outskirts of the pretty little town of Aureille, not far from Maussane and Arles. The property was formerly a quail farm and is surrounded by olive trees at the foot of Les Alpilles, the small mountain range in the Bouches-du-Rhône. “When I spent time painting here, it was life changing," Jill says. "After painting every day for two weeks I knew I was breaking through to a new level in my work.” Jill has created a course for artists of all levels from complete beginner to advanced, with work taking place in the studio as well as outside in the surrounding countryside. Accommodation is either at the Fourwinds or a nearby hotel and transport will be provided for excursions, for instance to the beautiful market in Mouriés, where students can browse, shop and sketch, perhaps taking photos to paint from at the studio. "My focus in teaching is to help the individual student develop and express their own visual voice," Jill continues. "We will do constructive group and individual critiques after painting at the studio, which will enable you to criticise your own work more effectively and learn to know when you are finished – the much asked question.” For info:

Finally...Atelier Provence 2016 combines a seven-day painting workshop in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with a four-day art history tour in Barcelona...a fine opportunity to paint, learn art history, discuss and enjoy Provencal famous cuisine and wines in the land of Cézanne and Picasso. Their July 2016 trip is full (with a waiting list) but the trip will be offered again July 1 to 12, 2017. Check it out here.

Photos: (1) Painting the village of Gordes with Workshops in France. (2) A painting by Brenda Swenson, who will teach this summer with French Escapade. (3) Whoever takes the group portraits of the Workshop in France students has a great eye. (4) "Avignon Mobylette" by Julie Snyder, workshop leader at Workshops in France. (5) "Le Vieux Port in the Rain," a 2015 oil-on-canvas by Jill Steenhuis, who leads workshops in the Aix countryside. (6) Jill, second from left, with students. (7,8) Painting in Cucuron and out in the lavender fields with Arts in Provence, which is hosting 11 workshops this year with different instructors. (9)  Arts in Provence students stay in David and Liz Atkinson's home...and swim in this glorious pool. (10-12) Three paintings by French Escapade instructors: Tracy Lewis, Evelyn Dunphy and Frank Eber. (13) One of Julian Merrow-Smiths recent groups; men are very welcome too! (14) Julian's groups stay at La Madelene; here's a guestroom. (15) Julian and his group picnic-ing...and looking very painterly. (16. 17) Two paintings I love by Julian Merrow-Smith. (18, 19) Students in an Ian Roberts workshop. (20) Lunch during Ian's workshops is always  "the most delicious, simple Provencal food," made by this owner of a local B&B and served on an outdoor terrace. (21) Ian likes to take students to the Friday morning market at Carpentras, which has run continuously since the year 1150. (22) Ian's painting of a village just down the road from Le Barroux, where his workshops are based. Call "Below Crillon le Brave" the painting, by coincidence, sold yesterday!