Monday, February 18, 2019

Painting Holidays in Provence 2019

Guest Kitchen.jpg
Many of my readers and travel-planning clients ask about painting workshops in Provence...and I've found some wonderful instructors happy to give half- and full-day lessons. (Interested? See some here and then email me:  But if you'd like something more comprehensive, you might consider a trip devoted mostly or entirely to painting. (Sounds like heaven, no?) Most of these painting holidays last about a week, with accommodations ranging from rustic to highly refined. They happen all over Provence in spring, summer and fall...and I'm hearing about new ones often. So once again I've gathered a sample for you here, chosen because they're either led by painters I know and admire, or are recommended by people I trust, or they look really promising online. I've included a few in the Languedoc as well (it's not really Provence but, who cares?) For questions about anything you see listed here, please contact the organizer or instructor directly. If you see a workshop that you like, definitely book soon...the best ones always fill up quickly. 

* The talented watercolor artist Tessa Baker, originally from London, is one of the most popular instructors in Provence, where she has lived full time since 1985. This year, she's offering four week-long watercolor workshops here, plus one in the Charentes region and one in Arizona/Utah. The Provence workshops that still have space available are as follows: Luberon, Les Baux, Camargue and More (June 8 to 15), Lavender Fields of Valensole including the Lac Sainte Croix and Moustiers (June 22 to 29) and Autumn in Provence (Oct 12 to 19). "Painting is a joyful moment in time so I encourage students enjoy, laugh, have fun, create," Tessa says. "And it seems to work very well!" For info:,

* Philip Levine, founder and first president of the Art Students League of Denver, has been organizing painting workshops for 25 years in France (all regions), Italy, Portugal, England, Greece, the Netherlands, Cuba, Argentina, San Miguel de Allende – Mexico and in New York City, where he lives in Greenwich Village. In France, he’s organized workshops in La Rochelle, Paris, Giverny, Honfleur, Beaune and in Brittany. This year he and French artist Jean-Louis Diaz are co-teaching a workshop in Aix but with a full cultural immersion experience including a cooking class, wine tasting, a visit to Cezanne’s studio and day trips to paint in Gordes and in St Remy at the ‘Van Gogh asylum' where Vincent checked himself in after a falling out with his buddy Gauguin. The dates are September 14 to 22 and all the info is here

* This year, Workshops in France is running six Provence painting trips. Three 10-day uninstructed "art retreats" are being offered from a château in the Luberon near Aix for "Lavender Season" in June with "Glorious Provence" and Encore Provence" in September-October. 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, program director Julie Snyder tells me.  Click here for details. In addition, three workshops with master instructors are scheduled in early May, June and mid-September. The artists for these trips will 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:,

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 Provencal countryside for all ability levels. (For those who share her passion for Cezanne and Van Gogh,  arrangements can be made to paint on the very sites where they did.)  Workshops are designed for both confirmed painters and beginners, focusing on experiencing nature through the senses and encouraging each student to "bring out his own inner poetry." Jill continues: "My joy comes from watching the beginner or more-advanced painter climb a mountain in their creative way and in their inner soul." 2019 dates are May 17 to 25,  July 5 to 13 and Sept 13 to 21. This year Jill will also lead a number of two-day workshops in the US; contact her for info. For info:,

* 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, and the group size is always 12 max.,

Provence Art Experience will host five workshops this year: three based in Arles and two in the Luberon. All workshops feature "gourmet cuisine, local organic wines, off-the-beaten-path excursions and plein air painting," with instruction by five different artists. For info:,

* Atelier Provence (July 1 to 12) combines a 7-day painting workshop in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with a 4-day art-history tour in Barcelona. This is a great opportunity to paint in plein air (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, 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 (US$2800) includes painting instruction, lectures, 11-night double accommodation (7 in Provence, 4 in Barcelona), most meals, all ground transport including high-speed train Avignon to Barcelona and entry fees to museums and sites. For info:,

* This year, French Escapade is offering four 8-day painting vacations in Provence--each led by a different instructor--plus four workshops in the French Alps and two on the French Riviera. Choose from oils, watercolor or journal sketching. Groups are 12 people max and prices start at $2,990 for a double. From an ideal base location, guests are taken on a wide variety of daily painting excursions in a comfortable van; the company says you can expect gourmet food, high-quality cultural visits and fully bi-lingual tour leaders that stay with you throughout. French Escapade also has workshops this year in Spain, Belgium/Holland, Tuscany and San Francisco. For info: 

Julia Morgan, a Massachusetts-based painter who's led workshops around the world since 2011, will host a 10-day springtime journey in Provence, taking students from the scarlet poppy fields flanking Mont Saint Victoire to the perched stone villages of the Vaucluse to the olive groves and flower fields that Van Gogh painted during his year in St. Remy. Part #1 (5 days) will base in Aix, in a gracious Provencal home not far from Cezanne's studio. From Aix you'll visit wild red-earth landscapes just outside of town (where Cezanne painted the many views of his beloved Mont St. Victoire) and Lourmarin (with Camus’s castle) and more. And of course you'll explore Aix’s famous markets, where the group will set up to sketch. Part #2 will be spent near St. Remy, with lodging in a gorgeous, historic "hameau," with a 500-year-old mill, wisteria-draped terraces, an art studio and a pool. Visit the clinic where Van Gogh spent a year and painted Starry Night and other famous scenes;  explore the beauty of the Alpilles mountains and the towns that lie in their shadow. An excursion to the Luberon includes Gordes, Roussillon and the Abbaye de Senanque. Another day you'll experience the Carrieres des Lumieres, an extremely unique sound-and-light show focused on Picasso, in an old bauxite quarry. And you'll have plenty of time in the Wednesday market in St. Remy, one of the region's best. Dates: May 21 to 31, with extra nights available.  Price: $3400 pp double; $3900 pp single. *NOTE: TRIP IS NOW SOLD OUT/WAITING LIST ONLY. For info:,

* For the past ten years, Claude Pasquer (a landscape architect, sculptor and professor at the Graduate School of Versailles) and Corinne Détroyat  (also a landscape designer), have been leading a popular watercolor and garden-sketching workshop in the Luberon. It's based at La Molière, a charming old mas 2 km from Saignon and 8 km from Apt, on a 70-acre estate surrounded by oak, olives and lavender. This year's dates are June 5 to 8 and August 28 to 31 but if space is available, students can also come for the day.  Each day's schedule includes two art sessions, three meals and some free time for swimming, site seeing, "and even a siesta!" Corinne says. The website is in French but Corinne can email you a flyer with all details in English. For info:

* 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!" Andrew says. This summer (2019) he'll teach at least one 7-day workshop (dates TBA soon) and if there's room, day painters can join in. Otherwise, half- and full-day a la carte painting sessions will also be available. You'll paint beautiful fields, pretty, historic villages, prehistoric and Roman vestiges and more. 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 7-day package (lodging, meals, art supplies and more) will be priced around $2500. Half-day sessions are 100€ pp; full day sessions: 200€ pp. Prices include all supplies and group prices are available. 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 2019, he'll be offering four painting getaways with his wife Ruth Phillips, a writer and musician....but two are already full. The ones with space available are July 11 to 20 and Oct 2 to 11.  The prices are either $2690 (standard room) or $3490 (deluxe room),  based on double occupancy; single supplement is $500. "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 in the countryside at the foot of Mont Ventoux. For info: 

* On this 10-day adventure (May 1 to 10), you'll visit and paint the sites around Arles that inspired so many of Vincent Van Gogh's great paintings...and the sites around Aix and near Mont Sainte-Victoire that captivated Paul Cézanne for years. Your hosts will be Royce Deans and Tali Farchi of ArtisTTable Art Retreats; this is their third painting workshop in the area.  Along the way you'll hear fascinating tales from the lives of Van Gogh and Cézanne, and getting encouragement, artistic prompts and instruction. "This is a trip that will take your plein-air painting experience to a whole new level," the instructors say.  Cost: $2345 pp single, $2205 pp double. For info:,

* The brilliant blues, warm golds, and lavender of southern France are what brought Van Gogh to the area; artist and writer Sharon Rusch Shaver will work with you to capture the subjects that Van Gogh loved most. The workshop "Painting Like Van Gogh" is based in and around Arles; all mediums and levels of ability are welcome. You'll stay in a gracious farmhouse with gardens and a pool, just a few km from Arles. Breakfast and dinner will be served at the farmhouse daily.  Dates: July 17 to 25. For info:, 

* Fiona and Jean-Louis Diaz are an Australian-French couple, based in Jouques, 30 minutes north of Aix. They run Artelier Provence, a fine-art gallery offering one-day drawing and painting workshops and four-day retreats. The retreats include five nights accommodation and take place in both village and rural settings, in and around Jouques. Scheduled retreats will be held June 17-20, July 8-11 and August 5-8. Other dates and programs can be customized. For more info:,

And a couple in the Languedoc...

* Sketching Holidays with Annette Morris take place in a variety of locations. Annette tells me these holidays, from 3-7 nights, are ideal for single travelers and especially those new to sketching or looking to 'loosen up' their style. Based between Montpellier and Carcassonne, Annette is British but has lived and worked in France for 11 years and is fully bilingual; she'll help you enjoy French life like a local and capture the essence of it in your sketchbook day to day. Holidays and workshops may include cookery, wine-tasting and private cruises on the Canal du Midi; special dates can be arranged for groups if you're traveling with friends. "My short-stay holidays take place in pretty B&Bs with private pools," Annette says, "and plenty of classic French ooh la la!"  Dates: April 26 to 29, May 10 to 14, June 6 to 9, Sept 6 to 12 and Sept 26 to Oct 2. Prices start at 340€ pp (double room). For info:,

Sketching for Foodies is hosted by Anne de Ravel, a food writer, cookbook author and former producer at Food Network in New York.  Through her company Saveur Languedoc, Anne (a native Languedocienne!) leads food-and-wine tours of this lovely region located to the south and west of Provence. The Languedoc is know for lush vineyards, richly historic cities, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, stunning mountain trails and, of course, the world-famous Canal du Midi.  (Anne returned from the US, to live here full time, in 2007)  Sketching for Foodies,  a 6-night holiday, adds joyful sketching sessions to Anne's popular mix of cooking classes, food and wine touring, tastings and more. The sketching is led by Annette Morris (see just above), while Anne takes care of the rest.  From your charming B&B in Quarante, you'll travel through some of the most picturesque places and discover the area with an insider. You'll meet artisan producers and sample rustic traditional foods; you’ll lunch in wonderful restaurants favored by locals. And along the way, you'll become a skillful sketcher. Dates:  April 4 to 10 and September 26 to October 2. Price: € 1450 pp (double occupancy), € 1600 pp (single). For info:

* British artist Simon Roberts is a professional painter and tutor who's lived in the South of France for 8 years. Based near historic Pezenas in the Languedoc, Simon and his wife Monica run 7-day watercolor holidays and 1- 2 day workshops. "With over 30 years of commercial experience," he says, "I’m happy working in a wide range of styles and techniques which I find brings out the best in our students. Beginners welcome!" You'll stay in a beautiful, traditional villa set in private gardens with a pool...not far from cafes, restaurants and shops. Every day you’ll be taken to superb painting locations including Mediterranean ports, ancient villages and sweeping mountain panoramas. In the evening, the group wines and dines in local restaurants or in the garden; Monica is an excellent cook and may even be persuaded to teach the group how to make a couple of local specialties. This year there are four one-week holidays: June 1 to 8, June 22 to 29, Sept 7 to 14 and Sept 21 to 28. Prices start at $2395 pp (double occupancy). Shorter workshops are also available; all the info is on the site. For info:,

* Tod Ramos and Kate Lovegrove run a residential summer painting school called Academy Studios Abroad. Tod has taught and lectured in drawing and painting, in all mediums at all levels, for more than 30 years. Based in Aubais, near Sommieres (about 20 km from Nimes), the Academy will this year offer portrait painting, life painting, landscape painting (see website for dates) and one course for adults and children called Generation Art (April 13 to 18). For info: 

And a final note from Julie...

If you have a workshop to promote or recommend in the South of France that isn't on this list, feel free leave the info 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 UR and fire away.) Or, just email me the info and I'll add it. 

Photos: (1) Pretty as a Painting: A French Escapade student at work. (2,3 ). Two pieces from French Escapade instructors: flowers by Betty Carr; street scene by Kristi Grussendorf. (4, 5)  Capturing two iconic views of Provence:  the hilltop village of Gordes (Workshops in France) and the beautiful bassin in Cucuron (French Escapade). (6) Jacqueline Newbold will teach "Watercolor with Mixed Media Art Journaling" in May with French Escapade. (7-10) Asparagus by Julian Merrow-Smith...the villa where Julian's students will stay this year...and one of Julian's recent groups painting in the poppies. (11, 12) Watercolors dry in the sunshine during a Simon Roberts' workshop; September evenings might be cool enough for evening fires but they're still perfect for rosé! (13, 14) Two paintings by Tessa Baker, who teaches multiple workshops each year. (15, 16) Meals during Tessa Baker's workshops are fresh, colorful, healthful and Mediterranean inspired.  (17, 18) Julie Snyder runs Workshops in France, offering painting holidays and retreats taught and mentored by various artists. Pictured are two of  Julie's own paintings: "That's Done" and "Homeward."  (19) A Workshops in France student feeling the lavender love. (20) Guests from  the Workshops in France "Glorious Provence" trip (Sept 2018) came from from the Philippines, Australia, Scotland, Canada and USA. (21, 22)  Jill Steenhuis lives in Aix and teaches three painting workshops this year. Pictured here is her "Activity in the Port of Cassis,"  a 12" x 16" oil on canvas. (23) Students who book with Arts in Provence stay in David and Liz Atkinson's home...and swim in this glorious pool. (24) Provence Art Experience has five workshops this summer, each with a different instructors. Guests choose from three places to stay; one offers this lovely pool and view. (25, 26) Two paintings by Julia Morgan, who'll teach this year in May. (27) Annette Morris teaches sketching upside down, so the students can easily see her working. (28) Anne de Ravel, who organizes food and wine trips in the Languedoc, has teamed up with Annette Morris to offer "Sketching for Foodies" twice this year.