Monday, February 20, 2017

Painting Workshops in Provence in 2017

Many of my readers and clients ask about painting classes in Provence...and I've found some great instructors who are happy to give half- and full-day lessons. (Interested? See some here and then email me: But if you'd like something longer and more comprehensive, you might consider a trip devoted mostly or entirely to painting. Most workshops last about a week, there are many happening all over Provence and a sampling appears below. (A few of these instructors allow for day-long drop-ins.) I can't tell you which of these trips 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 questions, please 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...or email me and I'll add it. Here's a great selection of what's available...with captions for all the photos above appearing at the end of the text.

There are still two places left for Julie Houck's painting workshop at the very beautiful Moulin de la Roque, not far from St. Remy and Avignon, April 22 to 29. Julie prides herself on small-group mentoring and highly personalized instruction while encouraging camaraderie between students. You'll stay in a lovely restored farmhouse with a full kitchen and enjoy daily painting excursions (the poppies will be in bloom!). Price: $2,250 includes lodging, workshops and use of the painting studio; airfare and meals are extra. For info:

The talented watercolor artist Tessa Baker, originally from London, has lived and taught in the Var region of Provence since 1985. In addition to day classes in a variety of locations, she offers popular week-long watercolor workshops. "If there are poppies we go to the poppy fields, if there's lavender we go to the lavender fields... and so on!" she says. "And I have a beautiful studio at my home in Lorgues on the off chance it rains. Painting is a joyful moment in time so I encourage students enjoy, laugh, have fun, create. It seems to work very well!" This year Tessa is offering her week-long workshop four times; the dates are April 29 to May 6 (two spots left), June 10 to 17, July 1 to 8 and September 9 to 16. Plus, Tessa will host "Cook and Paint with Tess" from May 20 to 27, during which you'll learn to make popular Provençal dishes with produce from the local markets. For info:,

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 sales. In 2017, he'll be offering just one painting getaway with his wife Ruth Phillips, a writer and musician. The dates are April 27 to May 4, the price is $2875 and there's one double room with two painting spots left. (You could also come alone and pay a single supplement...or come with a non-painting partner.)  "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 
Madelène, in the countryside at the foot of Mont Ventoux. For more info, click here or email:

This year, Workshops in France is offering four Provence painting trips. Two 10-day uninstructed "art retreats" are being offered from a château in the Luberon near Aix for "Poppy Season" in May/June and "Glorious Provence" in September.  These retreats include 10 days of artistic immersion (mentoring available) and daily painting sessions in private vineyards, small fishing ports, charming villages, markets, on the Van Gogh trail and more. There's plenty to do for non-painting travel partners as well.  Click here for details. In addition, two workshops with well-known instructors are scheduled in early May and late September. You'll stay and work in a château above the hillside village of Chateauneuf de Gadagne, not far from Avignon, and again, there's plenty for non-painting partners to do.  Click here for details. Workshops in France also accepts drop-in guests for the day. For info, click here or email Julie Snyder: 

Based in one of the Luberon's loveliest villages, the American artist Andrew Petrov lived and painted in Provence for many years before returning to the US in 2012. But his heart remains in rural France and he returns each summer to Saignon, to paint and teach. "There's no better place to learn, practice, and enjoy the process of plein aire painting than in Provence!" Andrew says. This summer, he'll be teaching two seven-day workshops--June 17 to 24 and July 1 to 8--and if there's room, day painters can join in (prices below). Otherwise, half- and full-day a la carte painting sessions will be available in between (June 25 to 30).  You'll paint beautiful fields...pretty, historic villages...prehistoric and Roman vestiges. And all skill levels are welcome; Andrew says his easy-to-grasp methods make it possible for someone "who's never lifted a brush" to create real and empowering artworks. The seven-day package (lodging, meals, art supplies and more) is $2500. Half-day sessions are 100€ per person; full day sessions: 200€ per person. Prices include all supplies and group prices are available. For info: or

French Escapade is offering six different eight-day painting vacations in Provence--each led by a different instructor--plus one workshop in the Loire Valley and one artist retreat in the French Alps (no instructor). Choose from oil painting, watercolor or journal sketching. Groups are 12 max and prices start at $2,990 for a double room. "We usually stay at the same lodging for the entire tour," says company founder Jackie Grandchamps, "so you can feel at home without having to pack and unpack every day and you can spend more time painting rather than on the bus. Best of all, choose an ideal base location and take you on a wide variety of daily painting excursions in a comfortable van." French Escapade also has workshops this year in Spain, Belgium/Holland and Tuscany. For details, click here or email Jackie:

British artist Jill Douglas will teach a class at the artists' studios Ateliers Fourwinds, on the outskirts of the pretty little town of Aureille, not far from Maussane and Les Baux. The property--a former quail farm--sits in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains, surrounded by olive trees. "When I first 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.” Jill has created a course appropriate for complete beginners to advanced painters, taking place in the studio and the surrounding countryside. Lodging is either at Fourwinds or a nearby hotel. Typical excursions are to colorful market in Mouriés, the Roman city of Arles and the village of St. Remy, where students will visit the places Van Gogh painted. "My focus is to help students develop and express their visual voice," Jill continues. "We do group and individual critiques, which helps you critique your own work better and learn how to know when you're finished...the much asked question!” 2017 dates are May 15th to June 3rd and Sept 18th to 30th. Price: 1860€ per week includes art instruction, transport, lodging and meals; come for one week or two. For info, click here or

Atelier Provence (July 3 to 14, 2017) is a unique course that combines a 7-day painting workshop in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with a 4-day art history tour in Barcelona (easily accessible by high-speed train). This is a great opportunity to paint in plein air (glorious lavender fields, ochre cliffs, Cézanne’s beloved Mont St. Victoire), learn art history and theory, visit Barcelona’s greatest art sites and enjoy famous Provencal and Catalan cuisine and an intimate environment fostering creativity and fun. Visit Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence, Gaudi’s marvelous Sagrada Familia, the Picasso and Miró Museums and much more. Atelier Provence is sponsored by Walk The Arts, which has been hosting workshops in Europe since 1997. The price ($2750) includes painting instruction, lectures, 11 nights double accommodation (7 in Provence, 4 in Barcelona), all breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 gourmet dinners with wine, all ground transport including TGV train Avignon to Barcelona and entry fees to museums and sites. For info, click here or email Walk the Arts' co-owner Monica Marquez:

Based in Monterey, California, Cindy Wilbur will offer a Provence workshop September 3 to 12, hosted by Provence Art Experience Workshops. The group will stay in a guesthouse in the heart of Arles (20 meters from the Roman arena!) and explore many of the enchanting villages of Provence. The price ($3,950) includes the workshop, airport or train transfers and ground transport,  lodging and all meals....everything but airfare and painting supplies. Cindy tells me her course is suited for serious beginners and seasoned painters alike. For info, click here or email:

Judy Ryan is a talented landscape painter who has taught adults at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) for more than 20 years; she loves to share the basics of plein air painting with beginners and offer practical advice for more-advanced students. Her two 10-day painting workshops will be kept small, allowing for individual attention and intensive painting time. You'll be based in the very-rural area of northern Provence in the Drome region, near Montelimar and Pont-de-Barret, an area of lavender and sunflowers, quaint hill towns nestled in the foothills of the French Alps and mountain rivers with rustic stone bridges. Lodging is in a beautifully restored farmhouse. Each workshop includes a private room, wonderful French meals, all painting supplies (easels, umbrellas, chairs, paint) and lots of time to paint "the legendary light that inspired the French Impressionists." The 2017 dates are June 27 to July 7 and July 11 to July 21.  Price: $2150 singles (private room) and $3150 couples (one painter and one non-painter).  For info:,

Jill Steenhuis is an Atlanta-born, French Impressionistic painter who lives in Aix, 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 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 supplies or Jill can provide them. Details are on her site here. For info:

Under the auspices of Coastal Maine Art Workshops, Tony van Hasselt will lead a 10-day watercolor trip Oct 13 to 23. Tony has led workshops in the region for more than a decade. You’ll stay in a lovely 16th century, 3-star hotel in the old section of Vaison la Romaine, take day trips to nearby medieval villages and spend the last night at a 4-star hotel in Marseille. Tony creates terrific sketchbooks to capture and keep handy the memories of every trip; he’ll also teach you the tricks of these quick painterly sketches and how to enhance them with written notes, menus, photos and more, to bring back a sense of place...“an easy way to be creative without bringing along your entire plein air kit.The price ($3995 for painters in double rooms; $3595 for non-painting companions) includes lodging, all ground transport, all breakfasts, 2 lunches and all dinners.  All levels welcome. For info, click here or email:

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 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 14 of them, between early May and late September.  Group size is 12 max...and all the info is here.

And One for the Sculptors...

Ateliers Fourwinds offers a wide range of art programs for locals, travelers and visiting artists. (Read more about it in the listing for Jill Douglas’ painting workshop above). Fourwinds' co-founder Ursula Hanes will lead her very-popular clay sculpture workshop here October 9 to 13, with instruction from 9 am to 12 noon daily. Students will work with a model and produce a full-figure sculpture. Beginners are welcome and, as Ursula tells me, "their experience is enhanced by working with students who've already had some training. The emphasis is not only on acquiring knowledge and technique but also in meeting other sculptors. My groups have always been friendly and helpful towards others." The fee of 180€ per person includes daily instruction and the firing of your completed piece; students buy their clay at an extra charge of 13€ for a 10kg block. Everyone is responsible for finding their own lodging but Fourwinds can make suggestions and in some cases, offer lodging on the property. Students are responsible for their own meals, with a group potluck the last evening. For info:

Photos: (1) A student paints lavender at its peak, in a workshop led by Judy Ryan. (2) Judy Ryan's painting "Small House in the Field." (3, 4, 5) Two paintings by Cindy Wilbur, who will teach in Provence Sept. 3 to 12...and the terrace of the guesthouse in Arles where Cindy's group will stay. (6) A student on one of Julie Houck's Provence painting trips; there are two spots left in Julie's workshop April 22 to 29 at Moulin de la Roque. (7) One of Julie Houck's own paintings, "Les Cocquelicots" (The Poppies). (8) A painting by Tessa Baker, who will lead five Provence workshops this year, including one pairing cooking with painting. (9) Last year Tessa Baker's group did a day trip to St. Tropez. (10) A typical meal during Tessa's workshop: fresh, colorful, healthful and Mediterranean inspired. (11) One of Julian Merrow-Smith's lovely fruit paintings. (12) Julian with students among the poppies. (13) One of Julian's Provencal landscapes. (14) Julian's group might lunch on the terrace at La Madelène or share a picnic like this one.  (14) Julie Snyder returns to Provence each summer to teach, paint, host and mentor through Workshops in France. (15) Julie Snyder's oil-on-canvas "That's Done." (16) Artist Patricia Alexander painting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape; she has attended four art retreats hosted by Workshops in France. (17, 18) Two paintings by Andrew Petrov, who leads week-long workshops and day classes in the Luberon.  (19, 20, 21) Three paintings by Sandy Delanty, hosting a June workshop through French Escapade. (22) Shari Blaukopf will teach travel sketching in July, through French Escapade; this watercolor is from Costa Rica. (23, 24) Two paintings by Jill Douglas, who'll be back this summer teaching at Ateliers Fourwinds. (25) A painting by Jill Steenhuis. (26, 27) From Tony Hasselt: A couple sketchbook pages...and a watercolor of a Provence village.

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Show Opens in Les Baux March 4

The Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is a magical space in a vast cave-like quarry at the base of the village of Les Baux. There in the cool darkness, close to 100 video projectors and 27 speakers generate the choreographed movement of 2,000 images over an area of more than 75,000 square feet, onto walls as high as 45 feet, onto the ceilings and even the floor. The sound-and-light show changes once a year and has become one of the most-popular sites in Provence. Since its opening in 2012, Les Carrières de Lumières has attracted more than 2.1 million visitors.

The 2016 show, Chagall: Midsummer Night's Dreams (March 4, 2016 to January 8, 2017) drew 540,000 visitors. In case you missed it, it will be shown again this summer as part of a program called Les Intégrales des Carrières; more on that appears below. (To see my story on the Chagall show, click here.)

The new show, called Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo: Fantastique et Merveilleux , opens on March 4, 2017 and runs through January 7, 2018, exploring the “fantastic and wonderful” worlds painted by these Northern and Southern European 16th-century artists.

The first part of this "immersive art experience" is dedicated to Hieronymus Bosch; you’ll discover his emblematic triptychs and the characters that people his work. The next section is devoted to the Brueghel dynasty, portraying the countryside and the lives of its peasants. The third section plunges into the fantasy world of Arcimboldo, known best, of course, for whimsical, fantastical heads made of fruit and flowers.

The show lasts roughly 30 minutes and plays on a continuous loop. It’s accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana to Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Moussorgski to Led Zeppelin.

Also on view will be a six-minute film about "cinemagician" Georges Méliès, an early silent-film pioneer and master of special effects. Another short film, about Jean Cocteau, will be projected in the Salle Cocteau.

Once again, this summer the Carrières will reprise the last three shows on ten special evenings in July, August and September. Called "Les Intégrales des Carrières," these special 8:30 pm projections will allow visitors the chance to experience Klimt and Vienna, a Century of Gold and Colours (2014), Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael: Giants of the Renaissance (2015) and Chagall: Midsummer Night's Dreams (2016). On each of these ten nights, you'll get to see all three shows. Tickets are 24€ and can be purchased here.

The Carrières de Lumières are located in the Val d’Enfer, a stone's throw from Les Baux. The quarries here first produced white limestone, used in the construction of the village of Les Baux and its château. In 1821, the aluminum ore bauxite was discovered here by geologist Pierre Berthier, who named it after the village. In 1935, economic competition from modern materials led to the quarries' closure. Dramatic and otherworldly looking, the area has inspired artists of all sorts; it provided the setting for Dante’s Divine Comedy and Gounod created his opera Mireille here. Later, Cocteau came to film The Testament of Orpheus in these very quarries.

Formerly known as the Cathedrale des Images, this particular quarry was closed in 2011 and re-opened (after a €2 million re-do) as the Carrières de Lumières the following year, under the management of Culturespaces. The Carrières du Val d’Enfer have been awarded Natural Monument status in France. 

For opening hours, prices, directions and more, click here

Route de Maillane  
13520 Les Baux de Provence 
Tel: +33 4 90 54 47 37

For general information including upcoming activities in Les Baux, click here.

Want to spend the night in a quarry? Sure you do! All the details on one very cool Luberon rental are here

Photos: (1, 2) Glimpses of the new show, which opens March 4. (3) The quarry in daylight. (4) Another section of the vast space is often lit beautifully for private parties and other events. (5) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo.