Frequently Asked Questions
Do we paint the day of our arrival?
We generally start painting the first day after our arrival. Let's take as an example a workshop scheduled and listed as January 15 - 23. This means that January 15 is the day of your arrival and January 23 is the date of departure. This is true no matter where the workshop is - Europe, Mexico or the US. Of course when traveling to France from the US you take an overnight flight meaning that your departure from the states in our example would be January 14.
In any case, we would start painting the very next day: January 16 in our example. The last day of painting would be the day before departure, or the 22nd.
What is a typical painting day?
There are two options: either a charter bus will pick us up at our lodging between 8:30 and 9:30 AM and transport us to the days' painting location or I will have arranged to rent some vans to transport us to our painting locations. In Paris we will hop on the Metro. When we arrive at our location the instructor will often do a short demonstration and then you will set up and paint for the rest of the morning. After a break for lunch you will be able to do another painting in the afternoon before the bus or our vans returns us to our hotel.
I provide itineraries but how and when I do this varies. Sometimes you'll get a list of the painting locations before the workshop begins - I'll email it to you. Other times you'll get that information in our first meeting - the day of your arrival. Sometimes it may be a written itinerary and sometimes not. I find it important to remain flexible and open to events, both natural and man-made, beyond our control. Weather is a good example. If we get rain on a day I had planned to be somewhere with no protection from the rain, then obviously we will be making a change of locations at the last minute. We might get an invitation for a reception at a local mayors office or and invitation for a drink in someone's home. These kinds of things are more likely to happen in smaller towns in Brittany, but it's important to take advantage of these great opportunities at getting to see and know the local culture in a more intimate way. But these special events will never result in the cancellation of a painting day.
What about painting locations?
Speaking of weather it's important for you to know that having indoor painting space in case of rain is not always possible. When it is possible we will definitely take advantage of that. When it isn't, we do our best to find protected places in the streets of the villages and cities where we paint.
Painting locations need to provide access to toilets, shade and food. These are the 3 things that need to be in place for us to be able to stay a full day at any one place. Sometimes this will mean public toilets which vary in quality. For this reason I might suggest one day that you bring your own toilet paper with you. You'll be glad you did! Other times there are restaurants nearby and you can either order a coffee or coke and use their bathrooms, just walk in and ask them if you can use their toilets or just walk in and go directly to the toilets without asking. Three choices.
How is the instruction designed?
I like to give the instructor a day off somewhere in the middle of the trip. Of course that day you may paint to your heart's content. Some people do and some don't. During the instructed painting days the teacher may do a demonstration based on the needs and desires of the group. That demo can last 1 hour or longer. Those wishing to paint can just set up and paint and those of you wishing to watch the whole demo can of course do that. At the end of the demo, the students will set up and paint (if they aren't already doing that) and the teacher will make regular visits to your canvas to provide advice, help and direction. This is not a classroom situation and this is not designed for intense one to one instruction as you would find if you were taking private lessons. This method of learning requires that you watch or listen to the instructor and then try right there on the spot to practice what they suggest. As the instructor makes the rounds - perhaps three visits to your canvas during each painting session, it is your responsibility to listen and absorb and immediately experiment with the suggestions you receive. Each subsequent visit to your canvas will provide a new opportunity for you to learn and grow. Critiques may be planned at regular intervals during the length of the workshop. If you set up far from where the instructor is it will make it more difficult for him or her to find you. Keep that in mind when picking a spot to paint. Always let me know where you're setting up so if the instructor can't find you I can bring them to where you are.
What is the lodging like?
All rooms in all of the hotels or villas that I work with have private bathrooms and most come equipped with TV and telephone. Not all of the rooms at any given hotel are exactly the same. Some are a little larger, or are arranged differently than others - but all have the same amenities in terms of showers, phones, data ports when available or WiFi, and TV's. The hotel owners will have the rooms assigned ahead of time and most often it will not be possible to change them - especially during their high seasons.
What kinds of instructors are assigned to each workshop?
I choose the instructor generally based on two criteria: First, they make their living on the sale of their art and second, they have deep and varied teaching experience. Any new teacher I sign up must give me a list of current and past students I can contact for information.
What are the ages of the participants?
I've had people ages 15 to 93 on workshops so it's difficult to say that there is an average age. However, most of the artists/students who sign up are from their 40's to their 60's. I would estimate that 30 - 45% or the people on any given workshop are repeat customers.
What is included in the workshop cost?
Instruction, lodging, transportation to all painting locations and breakfasts are included unless otherwise stated. Airfare is not included. The student is required to get to the workshop lodging on their own. I provide all the necessary information and direction on how to do that and will spend untold hours on the phone with you until you feel comfortable with the directions. I also provide phone numbers for you to reach me in case you're not sure what to do and feel that you're lost. Even though you're responsible for your own airfare I will work with you on helping to find the best fares and with help in coordinating the best times for your flights. I will suggest several consolidators that I work with. They buy large blocks of tickets from the airlines and resell them to groups and individuals.
How are meals arranged?
We often take our dinners together although this of course is not required. I like to make a meeting time in the lobby of our lodging so that people wanting to eat with others can meet and go out together. My preference is the group meal because it's just more fun. I've come to know the restaurants pretty well in each village and love to share what I know about French wines and food. I have also come to know the great eating places in San Miguel de Allende.
Are spouses, friends and significant others invited to come along?
Absolutely! It's common to have a number of non-painting spouses, friends or family members join workshops. They are welcome to come with the group to painting locations, but are also encouraged to explore on their own or with others. Advice, suggestions and assistance are freely given to those wishing to see more of each of the regions.
Is it a problem not speaking the language?
This is never an issue. I speak French and sometimes have a French assistant on trips. I lodge with you, eat with you, go to all painting locations with you and act as intermediary for your needs at the hotel or elsewhere. Many of the hotels have at least some English speaking capacity. I do recognize that it can be sometimes frustrating not being able to speak the local language so for that reason I recommend studying the simplest of phrase books. I also encourage people to experiment with the French that they do know. Knowing just a couple of words or phrases can make an exciting difference and you're encouraged in this way. I've been learning Spanish but I have a long way to go to be fluent! Occasionally I will have an extremely competent and experienced person to take my place on your trip. This has always worked out really well because I choose only the people I absolutely trust to be hard working and attentive to details. I speak no Italian so we're probably in the same boat there. But in the Tuscany villa (in Lucignano) we do have English speaking assitants and the owner is bilingual.
What about taking paints on airplanes?
I suggest that you read my page on carrying art supplies by clicking here! With the new airport security rules now in effect there are certain things you can do to take some of the worry out of your trip.
How can I transport my wet paintings when the workshop is over?
There are a number of things you can do if you're painting in oils to speed the drying process and make transporting your paintings back home a stress-free process. I like to bring some tubes of Alkyd paints with me. You can start mixing some Alkyd white with all your colors several days before the end of the workshop. Alkyds dry incredibly fast and used in combination with a drying medium like Liquin you should have your paintings nice and dry when you're ready to leave.
Want more information on easels?
Some people bring French easels with them and some bring pochade boxes (small painting boxes that offer great portability and provide storage space to carry and protect wet canvases). The pochade box is set up on a camera tripod. Feel free to ask me for suggestions regarding materials and supplies.
There are two sizes of the French easel. The full box size and a 1/2 box size which is much more appropriate for traveling to workshops.Look at this pagel The first easels shown are the full box size but scroll down a bit until you come to the 1/2 box size. As much as I still love the 1/2 box Jullian I find that more and more people are bringing pochade boxes as an alternative to the French easel. Here are some of the more popular onesand one of my favorites is this one The open box M I've used is this one. And all you would need to add is a camera tripod and you're good to go. Here's one made by the partner of Teresa Vito - one of my great instructors. I would say that 80% of the people coming on my trips paint on 8 x 10 canvas panels. Some of these pochade boxes are adjustable as to the size of canvas they will hold - some are not. You should plan on bringing two canvases for each painting day. If you do consider one of these pochade boxes you need to remember that some of them will require a fairly substantial tripod to hold them securely. That adds to the weight and approaches the weight of the 1/2 box French easel. The Open Box M that I've used is the lightest weight of all because it requires just an ordinary camera tripod - nothing too heavy. If you narrow down your choices and want to run that by me please do. I can tell you the positive and negative points for any of these options. The Soltek easel has become pretty popular of late. Some people swear by them and others swear at them. The legs can sometimes refuse to retract making it pretty uncomfortable transporting it. But there are many people who have not had those problems with it.
Phil Levine Workshops, Inc.
69 Bank Street #102. NY, NY 10014
phone: 212-414-8875 fax: 866-501-6873