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Photography by Jamie Hopper

Provençal Painting

by Wendy Bowman-Littler | The Atlantan magazine | November 25, 2011

When Atlanta artist Nancy Franke whisks people away to painting workshops in France, putting brush to canvas is often an afterthought. Woven in between bistro dining, wine sipping and shopping the adorable local markets, she finds time to teach them about painting.

Franke fondly remembers a recent trip to Provence, where she and fellow travelers enjoyed a two-and-a-half-hour gourmet lunch outdoors under the trees at an organic farm, complete with cheeses, pâtés, fish cooked in paper with fresh vegetables, dessert and plenty of rosé.

“It’s luxurious accommodations, lovely meals, wine, and me teaching painting and cracking jokes the whole time,” says Franke (a signature member of the prestigious Oil Painters of America). She shows her work at Atlanta’s Huff Harrington Fine Art gallery and joined co-owners Ann Huff and Meg Harrington to host the traveling workshops that help amateur and professional artists hone their crafts.

Two weeklong workshops are usually held back-to-back in France during September. Each week, six artists study with Franke outdoors in settings ranging from seaport villages to rocky countryside, and home base is “Les Murets,” Huff’s stone villa surrounded by olive trees, lavender fields and mountains on 7 acres outside of Gordes.

Huff knew Franke’s gregarious nature would add a “marvelous new dimension” to the trips that were born out of her and Harrington’s desire to strengthen relationships with friends and clients in a spot they’ve visited for years. Attendees have an incredible time, and they also learn how to “loosen up” their painting style with Franke, known for her fresh, open brushwork. Trips fill up fast for the chance to study abroad and at gallery workshops with the artist, whose still life and figurative paintings also are on view at Swan Coach House, The St. Regis Atlanta and national group shows staged by OPA and American Women Artists.

But for all of her accolades, Franke ensures workshop attendees like Atlanta artist Dawne Raulet do more than just learn how to enhance their work. “We painted enough to learn new skills and feel productive, but visiting the villages, enjoying wine lunches and shopping the markets was a treat,” says Raulet. “Nancy was the perfect host… and sunset candlelit dinners each night on the veranda were the icing on the cake.”

Franke’s next trip takes place in fall 2012.