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The Art League Returns from Provence

Student Painting Sault by Susan Abbott
Student Painting Sault by Susan Abbott
A student painting the lavender fields at Sault. Photo by Susan Abbott.

Last weekend, artists returned from the latest Art League travel workshop, where they spent two weeks painting en plein air in the beautiful landscapes of Provence, France. Susan Abbott led the latest edition of the long-running workshop, June 22–July 7.

The workshop focused on daily independent painting work (in oil, acrylic, or watercolor) and not on sightseeing. Each day includes a morning plein air session after breakfast, and another session in the studio or outside, after lunch, followed by a critique.

“There’s also time for walks, swims in the pool, and lingering over a glass of wine at dinner,” Susan wrote. “We cap off our two weeks with a show in the studio, and there’s always more strong painting produced than I have room to hang!”

Opening Night on the last day of the workshop, with everyone’s work up on the walls. Photo by Susan Abbott.

Richard Ayres and his wife Beth took the workshop for the fifth time, and probably not their last.

“The Impressionists were right — there’s something special about the light in Provence,” Richard said, adding that it inspires people to become better painters.

The group painted in the Luberon Valley in southern Provence, an area with lots of little hills, each with a small town at the top. “Each of them is an exquisite stage for painting,” Richard said. The group visited and painted areas off the tourist track, making for a peaceful experience in the countryside.

Susan explained that the Luberon Valley’s agriculture and architecture is protected as a French national park. “The landscape is a patchwork of small fields: olive groves, cherry orchards, vineyards and lavender. Villages are perched on hills, and date back centuries.”

Like Richard, Amy Sabrin is a repeat traveler — this was her fourth year taking the trip. Susan gives the experienced painters new challenges each time, Amy wrote. “This year in particular, she emphasized color theory — a natural subject when surrounded by the unique beauty and colors of Provence. I felt like it all came together for me and my work improved tremendously.”

A work in progress by Amy Sabrin at the Cliffs of Lioux, and “Fountain, Saignon, Provence” by Susan Abbott.

When the group wasn’t painting, they enjoyed dinners made by the group’s hosts, David and Liz Atkinson of Arts in Provence, and long walks with their new friends, hailing from Toronto, California, Paris, and the DC area. They stayed at the hamlet of Les Bassacs (pictured below) near Gordes, making short trips to nearby locations for painting time. The group “became fast friends united by our interest in art,” Amy wrote.

The Art League’s travel workshops are designed by artists, for artists, taking participants to locations domestic and international to push their boundaries and find inspiration. Susan Abbott teaches the Provence workshop every year in addition to a painting workshop in the Bahamas, coming up this February. Looking for a travel workshop closer to home? Here’s a recap of last month’s trip to the lavender fields of Pennsylvania. You can read more about Art League travel workshops here.

More photos after the jump:

A lesson in progress. Photo by Amy Sabrin.
Painting at Saint-Saturnin-Les-Apt. Photo by Amy Sabrin.
Working in the studio. Photo by Susan Abbott.
The village at Les Bassacs, the workshop’s home base. Photo by Susan Abbott.

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