Provence Painting Weeks with Jill Steenhuis Embrace the Soul
Have you ever dreamed of painting in the place where Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and many others found inspiration? If so, join Jill Steenhuis, an American who has spent four decades studying the same landscapes as these masters, for a painting week in Provence.
Provence Painting Weeks
These painting workshops require no prior painting experience, simply a desire to learn in the “footsteps” of famous Provencal artists. Whether you are a beginner or wish to improve your artistic skills, Jill understands the trepidation of standing before a blank canvas and willing that first brush stroke. During the week, Jill reveals her painting process, including embracing the silence and meditating in nature.
Art exists to make one taste the eternal.
~ Translated from a letter by Paul Cézanne
The workshops are limited to ten (10) students allowing Jill sufficient coaching time with each participant. Every detail is organized from your arrival on Friday until departure the following Saturday. Your “job” is embracing the freedom to paint without limitations. During the week, there are several venues for the plein air painting sessions. While the exact locations depend on the weather, and they may include depicting the flower market in Aix-en-Provence or capturing the seascape in Cassis.
Over the years, Jill Steenhuis has produced thousands of canvases in the same countryside that inspired famous artists. Her work hangs in private homes and national galleries. Immersing herself in the landscapes, Jill paints like the masters did plein air devant le motif – open air in front of the subject. During these workshops, you will paint outdoors in nature just like the masters did.
Who is Jill Steenhuis?
“I could not have imagined what destiny had in store for me.”
Destiny or not, Jill’s journey to Provence was far from a forgone conclusion. Losing her mother as a young child was a devastating loss. However, Jill’s father encouraged her artistic side to blossom and attend Sweet Briar College in Virginia. It was his graduation gift – a trip to Provence – that would change the course of her life in more ways than they could have imagined.
In June 1980, Jill Steenhuis arrived in Aix-en-Provence to study at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts for an intensive six-week program. On this occasion, the 21-year-old stood in front of Mont Sainte Victoire, the mountain that was Cézanne’s muse, a subject he sketched and painted obsessively during his lifetime. Speaking no French, Jill’s life in France began when Serge Ruffato, a charismatic Frenchman, asked her for directions two days after her arrival. Their chemistry remains despite initial language barriers after 38 years of married life, and Jill’s artistic journey in Provence continues.
During the Marchutz School program, Jill grasped the disciplined focus that a full-time artist requires. Recognizing that the base of painting begins by mastering drawing, she concentrated almost exclusively on sketching for two years. To this day, Jill paints or draws daily.
Whenever possible, her work is outdoors – en plein air – surrounded by nature. She paints in the moment and never from a photo. Jill always begins her piece by preparing a minimum of 13 paint colours on a white palette. She refers to this starting point as the “keys of her piano,” mixing her paints in advance is part of Jill’s artistic routine for removing the intellect and inviting creativity to take over.
“Nature is my dancing partner, and we are waltzing together to bring into being a new poetry on the canvas – one of sound and movement like music – wild brush strokes and freedom of spirit and then letting go.”
Jill Steenhuis is considered an expert on Cézanne and van Gogh. She has traced their footsteps, studied their canvases, read all van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo, and even painted for 15 years at Château Noir, where Cézanne once rented a studio. According to Jill, Château Noir is a place where one feels the presence of Cézanne and the authentic soul of Provence and its history.
Painting Week Details
“It is about climbing a mountain, a spiritual and artistic mountain.”
Provencal flora provides seasonal motifs for these workshops. Springtime poppies are followed by fragrant lavender and bright sunflowers during the summer, then the multi-hued grapevines in the autumn. Regardless of the weather, Jill invites participants to celebrate nature with paint during their week in Provence. Each week promises a personal and spiritual journey from Jill’s l’Abeille studio to Cézanne’s atelier in Aix-en-Provence to your brushstrokes on a blank canvas. Join Jill Steenhuis and discover the soul of painting in Provence.
These weeks are intense, meditative, and rewarding. It’s an artistic journey where participants are encouraged to apply sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste to their work. Jill encourages students to slow down and observe, listen to nature, and ignore the inner voices throughout the week.
If a creative week in Provence sounds magical, place yourself in Jill Steenhuis’ hands. Everything is taken care of accommodation, transport, meals, and art supplies. Whether you have prior experience or have barely touched a brush, Jill welcomes anyone interested in challenging their artistic talents. Each day brings a new scene to paint from Jill’s studio just outside Aix-en-Provence to perched villages in the Luberon to the mesmerizing seaside and dynamic markets.
Online Painting Course
As the world pivoted to Zoom in the last two years, so did Jill Steenhuis. She now offers 2 ½ day online oil painting courses a few times a year. Jill provides an overview of colour theory, mixing a harmonious colour palette, and working with oils during these classes. At the end of the session, you will have completed 2-3 oil paintings.
The first workshop of 2022 is on February 12, 13 & 19. So book your spot for this Valentine’s workshop that is open to all levels. For more details, please follow this link.
Connect with Jill Steenhuis
Order a copy of Art, Soul & Destiny: An Artist’s Journey from America to Provence is a 162-page book that traces Jill’s remarkable journey in the footsteps of Cézanne. The book’s text and images fill three sections: Art, Soul and Destiny. Beautiful and thought-provoking, this book makes an ideal gift for someone who loves art and beautiful prose.
Read more about Jill Steenhuis, her talented family, and previous exhibitions here.
Image credits: all photos were provided by and published with the permission of Jill Steenhuis.
Note: Marchutz School of Fine Arts is now the American College of the Mediterranean