After nearly a fortnight in the Algarve it was a pleasant surprise to come back home to a sunny London. Still, it’s quite an adjustment from the open horizons over the lagoons stretching along Olhao harbour, to the narrow skylines of the metropolis. But each painting holiday must come to an end, which this time was made sweeter for me by tacking a few extra days onto the course to explore the area more, and enjoy the miles of sandy beaches. It was also an opportunity to do some more drawing and painting. Though admittedly, the painting side took got the short straw when the open sea was beckoning on my outing to Farol, one of the nearby islands. Walking along the extraordinary long stone jetty towards the lighthouse after the painting course had finished, also gave me time to contemplate the fantastic week we’d had: “Oh we had such an amazing time - we didn’t want to go home.” My thoughts exactly!
Our time in Portugal started off unseasonably cooler in tone, with around 21 degrees Celsius, actually an ideal temperature for painting outside! As in previous years our home for the duration of the painting course was the wonderful art school ‘Art In The Algarve’ lovingly created by the Hon. David Clark, and since his untimely death two years ago run by the wonderful Margarida - also a fantastic cook - and David’s daughter Camilla. To get us all in the mood and to encourage casual sketching, the art school presented everybody with a ‘concertina’ artist’s sketchbook on our first night.
There was no need on our first day to search out shady corners, and we were free of such mundane considerations when we choose our first painting subject. We settled in a typical narrow side street in the old town of Olahao, minutes away from the art school. We could have stayed at the art school, which has many delightful terraces with roof top views across town, or intimate courtyards and the spacious studio itself, however I wanted to reserve these for our last day, when time is of the essence. The street scene in front of us was also a good (if somewhat steep on the learning curve) opportunity for us discuss the perspective of buildings, and how people walking along a road can be sketched quickly in watercolour. The white buildings were gleaming in the sunshine, and strong shadows helped with getting perspective lines right. There was no shortage of slow moving people, since the small pedestrian only backstreet services the restaurants at the front of the tall houses, and deliveries of all sorts of goods were made for lunch and evening meals. Needless to say, the aromas wafting down the road as lunchtime approached made us very hungry, despite one of Joanna’s luscious breakfasts only a couple of hours earlier. So the first of many delicious lunches to come was very much enjoyed and everybody returned to to their paintings with full vigour.
Our next painting location was very exciting. We took a water taxi to the island of Armona, a great boat trip across the lagoons made even more enjoyable by our skipper Nuno, a local marine biologist who gave us a short lecture on board about the area and it’s special marine wildlife. Thus fortified with knowledge and eagerness to get our watercolours out, we took a short stroll to a spot with trees to sit under, should we want to sit in the shade. I had painted there before because there is a long low building by the beach - typical of the many small cottages of this island village - with palms and jacaranda trees framing it in just the right way. The perspective lessons from the day before came in handy and by lunchtime most drawings were complete. My watercolour demonstration after a sumptuous meal of freshly caught and grilled fish on the top terrace of the ‘Armona4’ restaurant, focussed more on the landscape aspect of the view. The relationship between the far distant hills and sea in the background, and foreground motifs, is always a bit tricky, but easy to handle once you know how. The distance needs only a very thin, watery layer of watercolour paint, while the sandy foreground and trees require stronger colour mixes with more paint pigment. It was a successful encounter, and we boarded the water taxi in high spirits, dashing across the water on our way home.
Saturday is Market day in Olhao, a spectacle not to be missed. The red brick market halls by the town harbour are magnificent, and only a couple of minutes walk from the art school. The outdoor stalls arrayed between the harbour wall and the market building itself were shaded with vivid red, orange and acid green sun umbrellas, only matched by the multiple colours of the the various fruit, vegetables, spices and household goods. A heaven for the painter, and a chance to try out long forgotten colours from your palette. Watercolour painting is ideal for capturing people on the move, and we had ample opportunity for practice and warm up sketching, before attempting to apply paint. There were plenty of people of all shapes and sizes to observe, with some kindly taking a rest on close by benches, making sketching even easier. Some of our group opted for the amazing fish market inside one of the market halls, and produced impressive watercolours of those silvery, scaly sea creatures.
Soon it was Sunday and ‘no rest for the wicked’. Though it was a non-tuition day, I am proud to say that the painting and sketching was not neglected. After enjoying our painting trip to Armona island everybody choose to take the ferry to the other island of Farol I mentioned earlier, to experience the ocean side of the islands, as well as the flatter expanses of the lagoons. The ferry winds its way around sandbanks and clam fields, where one can observe fisherman collecting clams for the dishes served later in the evening. A pleasurable trip, rewarded by welcoming cafes and bars right by the jetty where the ferry passengers disembark. Reports of swimming in the sea, interrupted by sketching (or was it the other way round ?), reached my ears later on that evening, when we met for dinner at the ‘O Piteu’ restaurant, to round off a perfect day with wine, fish, and a stroll to view a series of impressive murals depicting the the life of fishermen and women, painted on old factory walls nearby.
The week was progressing fast, and so were we, in the sense of skill and our modes of transport! Not a water taxi this time, but another Nuno with a fleet of taxis whisked us off to the coastal village of Fuseta, where a small lagoon inlet harbours working fishing boats, and where fishermen clear away nets and the debris of the morning’s catch. By then the painting of people in their environment had become not exactly routine, but definitely no longer daunting. Though getting the size of people in a boat into the correct proportions can still be a challenge.
It’s easier to compare the size of a person to let’s say a door or a tree we are all familiar with, and it’s another matter when the person is standing in an unusually shaped boat. But what boats! With huge metal cages at the back and disc like winches for pulling in bright green nets, they make splendid painting subjects. You can also take a bit of artistic license when it comes to representing those colours and shapes, since their organic forms and functions vary quite a bit from large rounded ones to smaller trim vessels.
And so, reluctantly, we came to our final day in Olhao. As planned we spent the day at the art school correcting some minor mistakes, or finishing off paintings from previous days, and in some cases also painting just one last watercolour. Staying in and around the studio - close to the two little pools for a dip if needed - gave me the chance to demonstrate more specific issues, like the ‘painting’ of masts with a edge of a piece of paper dipped in colour, or the use of masking tape to achieve straight lines with ease. After a seafood lunch we were ready for a concluding outburst of painting, before choosing the watercolours each of us was going to exhibit in the informal showing of our works that evening. There was a lovely surprise waiting for us, since one of our group had made excellent use of the concertina artist’s sketchbook and filled the entire book, several metres long when unfolded, with panoramic scenes from the old town. Above this display, all the other paintings were hung along the walls in the studio. It was with proud pleasure that we all viewed our week’s achievement, glass of wine in hand, and celebrated an exciting week filled with creativity, friendship and fun.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank both Margarida and Joanna (our breakfast chef), for looking after us so well, and also big thanks to Camilla for all the work she does behind the scenes. We had a great mixture of delicious meals, partly enjoyed in bars and restaurants with local cuisine, or cooked by Margarida at home, frequently finished off at the ice-cream parlour around the corner, with harbour views for atmosphere. And the biggest thanks of all to everybody on the course who made it such a memorable time.
Who would want to go home after such a week?
All the best with your painting throughout the summer,
“Thank you so much for another memorable week of art and friendship. Thank you too for your wonderful effort, in so many ways, to give the group such great tuition and inspiration - but also incorporating time for fun!”
What a pleasure to arrive at Catania airport and be greeted by Mount Etna, snow-capped and glittering in the mid-day sun. I soon made my way to the Fattoria Mosé, and spent happy hours sketching before all the other painters joined me the following day. We were blessed with glorious sunshine and pleasant summer’s day temperatures for our entire painting week.
A merry band of fourteen painters set off the next day to explore the house and gardens, olive and orange groves at the Fattoria Mosé, to whet the appetite for our painting adventures. It always takes a while to find your way through the different entrances, arches, and courtyards, but it never takes too long to find something interesting to paint.
As usual most painters had brought watercolours, so I started each day with a painting demonstration using my tried and trusted watercolour palette. Most of us settled for one of the wonderful old clay oil vessels dotted around the main terrace. A splash of Burnt Sienna and Brown Madder captured the tones of the terracotta colours very well. To finish off, a shade of Cobalt Blue for the shadow side, and a few different mixes of Winsor Green (blue shade) for the surrounding plants and palm trees did very nicely for the first day.
Awakening to a vivid blue sky the next day, we were whisked off by our friendly taxi drivers down to the seaside at St. Leone, where a rocky shoreline with sandy beaches and headland views awaited us. A great opportunity to practice watercolour washes. Cobalt Blue or French Ultramarine mixed with Winsor Green makes for vibrant translucent skies and the turquoise sea. A brilliant white house with a palm tree nearby made a great foreground motif to lead the eye into the painting. We even had a handsome young man sunbathing on a not too distant rock, which some of us could not resist including in the picture!
On Tuesday we turned our gaze to the town of Agrigento for a spot of sightseeing in the old town centre, some light shopping, and the justifiably popular ice cream in a brioche. In the early afternoon we retuned to join the students who had stayed behind at the Fattoria Mosé to paint…
And suddenly it was Wednesday, time to tackle one of the many fascinating views from the Fattoria’s gardens. Framed by huge prickly pear cacti growing out of bed of yellow wildflowers, a vista opens up towards Agrigento stretched out on the steep, rocky side of a mountainous hill. Our previous practice of laying on the soft watercolour washes for the distant parts of the landscape came in handy here. An additional demonstration emphasising the different colour strengths for the foreground and background helped those who were unfamiliar with views ‘en plein air.’
Having stretched our eye muscles over hills and olive groves the day before, on Thursday we headed for the world famous Valley of the Temples, where the ancient Greek ruins find proud columns and arches standing amongst tumbled honey coloured stones. Once pencil-sketched onto watercolour paper, the actual painting was quite straightforward. Tones and shades of Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, and a sash of green and/or turquoise for some of the plants and the sky, was all that was needed. I also took the opportunity to demonstrate how to introduce figures into the painting, which gave the whole composition a splash of extra colour and life.
So arrived our final day. We had planned an informal show of our work in the evening, therefore we were all very busy making use of what remained of our time to finish our paintings. Following on from our day painting at the Temples, it was a good moment to explain some of the rules of perspective when painting figures in a landscape, or people in town. It was great for capturing the folk around us, and putting those essential guidelines into practice.
The end of the week came all too soon, and none of us wanted to leave. Stopping painting once properly warmed up and establishing a daily painting routine is always hard, but when it is such an enthusiastic and fun-loving group, that makes it double difficult to part. Not least because of the splendid hospitality and warm welcome by Chiara Agnello, who shared her wonderful home and delicious Sicilian cooking with us for the week.
With a big thank you to all who joined me and made it such an enjoyable time, and special thanks to Chiara and all who looked after us so well at the Fattoria Mosé
p.s. I shall return in 2019!
Dear Painters and friends,
You are cordially invited to the exhibition opening of...
Märchenprinz - Prince Charming
BIGGI SLONGO GASTRICH and BETTINA SCHROEDER
Exhibition of site-specific installations and photo installations at...
ANNA GÖLDI MUSEUM Glarus, Fabrikstrasse 9, Hängiturm, 8755 Ennenda, Switzerland
OPENING: Friday, 4th May 2018 at 18.30
with musical contributions by Schroeder/Smith, video projection of film ‘Less Than Half’ and talk by Andrea Trummer.
The exhibition deals with the subject of women's rights. Much has changed in the post-war years, but the old dream of the fairy tale prince and the beautiful princess still hovers in the air. Installations and photo installation - partly in joint works - visualize the different treatment of men and women in the world of law and everyday life.
Bettina will also be showing a 4.50 meter long knitted wall carpet ‘Less than half – Weniger als die Hälfte’. The narrower, coloured area knitted from printed and painted canvas by Biggi, shows the representation of women in Swiss law and society - from the 16th century to the present day - alongside the larger, blue area, representing men.
Dear Painters and Friends,
I am off to Bonn this weekend for the opening of the exhibition I am taking part in. After that it’s closer to home. There will be an opening for the show in the '100 Year Gallery’ in London, where two of my videos will be shown as part of the evenings event. All details are below and I hope you can join me to one or even both shows. I wish you all the best with your painting,
FRAUENMUSEUM BONN, Germany
FREUNDINNEN – vom romantischen Salon zu Netzwerken heute
(Women’s friendships – from Romanticist Salons to modern networking)
Private View: Sunday, 18th February 2018 at 12:00
Address: Frauenmuseum, Im Krausfeld 10, 53111 Bonn, Germany
Exhibition open: 18th February – 16th September 2018
Tue – Sat 14:00 – 18:00, Sun 11:00 – 18:00
Portrait Der Künstlerinnen Schroeder und Slongo, 2017, detail
by Bettina Schroeder and Biggi Slongo, 114 x 76 cm, treated and knitted watercolour paper
HUNDRED YEARS GALLERY
Exhibition: THE PLINTH PROJECT presented by the Groyne Gallery
Date: Saturday 24th February 2018
Times: 16:30, 18:00 & 19:30
Address: HUNDRED YEARS GALLERY
13 Pearson Street, London, E2 8JD
entry: £5 tel: +44 (0)20 3602 7973
More details: http://hundredyearsgallery.co.uk/the-groyne-gallery/
What a joy to be able to return to Devon for another painting week, and to see our hosts, Lara and Martin Lloyd, with their little daughters Sash and Rosa, again. There is always a warm welcome at the Coombe that makes settling in easy for me and my painting companions, especially when everyone has a glass of wine in their hand.
September, often a ‘second summer’ was cooler than expected, but we had a fair amount of sunshine for our painting excursions. However, our fist day was spent in and around the Coombe Farm Studios, our home from home for the week. The Provencal-style courtyard has two largish trees, whose still lush canopies threw intricate patterns of light over the stone walls of the old buildings, and the large turquoise urn and pots tucked into the corner opposite the entrance. The scene was a good subject to start with, especially for our beginners in the group, who were eager to learn how to create a three dimensional object on a flat piece of paper. The next step was selecting colours, and practicing the various ways of applying the chosen colour mixes by brush. By the end of the day everybody had made good progress, and we were looking forward to winding down with a cup of tea after the day’s ‘hard’ work.
An exciting sky with billowing clouds awaited us at Dittisham Harbour on Monday. The tide was just turning, and the boats on the Dart Estuary were swirling and bobbing about more than we had bargained for. Fortunately they soon positioned themselves all in one direction, making it easier for us to capture them on paper. This location – apart from being a lovely spot – was perfect for my demonstration of the ‘wet-in-wet’ technique, ideal to depict the expanse of water stretching away from us towards Dartmouth. The real challenge however, turned out to be the wooded hills on the opposite shore, rather than the water, so I took the opportunity to talk more about different greens, how best to apply them, and which ones to avoid! By lunchtime we were all ready to head back to Coombe Farm, where lovely Tanya, the new cook at Coombe, had prepared a most delicious lunch for us. After a restorative cup of coffee, we spent the afternoon in the Studio finishing our harbour paintings, and discussing plans for the days ahead.
We decided to alternate days on location with days in the studio. Therefore Wednesday was studio-based, with a complete change of subject. We arranged a dozen vases filled with a variety of flowers, and dotted them about on the three large tables in the Studio. Each of us chose a favourite arrangement, and set to work sketching. To give the rather traditional painting subject a bit of a twist, I demonstrated the use of masking tape, facilitating interesting divisions of space around the flowers. Unlike pure flower studies, a painting of flowers in a vase usually throws up the question of background. What colour, which accompanying objects, and so forth. I was impressed by the results achieved even by the beginners after playing with the various ideas.
After a whole day in the Studio, we were keen to visit the wonderful gardens and home at nearby Whitestone Farm, where the well-known sculptress Jilly Sutton lives with her family. Every year, she generously invite us to share the views from their garden, across the estuary - a spectacular vista. On this occasion the tide had just gone out, revealing ‘glorious mud,’ interspersed with little rivulets glistening in the sunshine. Across the estuary nestled the picturesque village of Stoke Gabriel and the foreground conveniently offered old wooden boats moored to a jetty. The boats on the distant shoreline rounded off the view to perfection. Despite the threat of heavy rainclouds, we mainly had sunshine and swiftly got started. We were able to build on the knowledge and practices from our day at Dittisham Harbour, and the hills were not quite as challenging this time round.
Friday, our last day had come round all too quickly. This was a last opportunity to polish our flower painting skills and to experiment with a looser style of painting. We went ‘wild,’ and had amazing fun with wonderfully colourful and lively paintings at the end. A great reason to celebrate, and to gather for an informal show in the evening. It was impressive to see the selection of everybody’s work on the studio walls. With a nibble and a drink served by little Sasha and Rosa in their finest attire, we finished off a fabulous week, where – apart from creating wonderful paintings – old friendships were renewed, and new friendships were formed.
With many thanks to all at Coombe Farm Studios, and to all the painters for their dedication,
The weather forecast for the Devon area was not looking too good, but we need not have worried, because it all worked out fine. The sun came out and I was able to do some drawing around Coombe Farm even before my group of painters arrived. It was lovely to see the old courtyard and the flower filled garden once more, and walk along the little stream at the bottom of the hill. There were chickens again by the grass-roofed hen house – they could come in handy as a foreground motif later on, I thought to myself. For the time being I contented myself with a sketch of the white bench conveniently positioned in the corner of the courtyard near the ivy-clad stone arch that leads to a small path down to the stream again. Nicely warmed up now, I was ready for my first painting demonstration the next day.
Everybody was as eager to get started as I was, and we all settled in the courtyard choosing the wonderfully assorted shapes and colours of the old stone buildings as our background, and some attractive over-sized clay pots as the focus for the first day’s paintings. The pots alone are a great subject fort he beginner to learn how to represent a three-dimensional image on a flat sheet of paper. It was a happy start, despite the disappearance of the sunshine after lunch, so we withdrew to the studio to finish things off. The studio of Coombe Farm is particularly well-appointed, spacious, light and full of character. It also functions as a gallery, with many fascinating art works on display.
The next day we had the full go-ahead from the Met office – sunshine all day! So we ventured out to Whitestone Farm, with wonderful gardens, and the most spectacular wide-angle view across the Dart Estuary. Whitestone Farm is the family home of renowned sculptress Gilli Sutton, who generously invited us to share her garden for the day. The open landscape and expanses of water were an ideal setting for demonstrating those exciting watercolour washes, to talk more about the wet-into-wet technique, and how to take advantage of seemingly random watercolour effects.
The practice from our day at Whitestone Farm paid off the following day when we visited the village green – ‘The Ham’ - at Dittisham, looking towards the harbour, with its long jetty visible across another ‘leg’ of the river Dart. From there you can get a glimpse across the water towards Agatha Christie’s house, and the Dimbleby’s riverside residence. Having mastered clean and fresh washes covering larger areas of paper as a first step and foundation for our paintings , it was time to learn how to best capture those green, wooded hills rising from the water’s edge. I have a very simple way to deal with different greens, and happily shared my little trick with everybody. We were further challenged by the distant boats merrily dancing at anchor, and it was back to thinking about perspective in landscape, and how to apply some of the ground rules.
After having spent two days outdoors, on Wednesday we were happy to stay in the comfort of the studio. We tackled a variety of issues, from light and shade on indoor objects, composition in painting, to the layering of colours. A steep learning curve for the two absolute beginners in the group, but I was astonished how well they were able to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice. There was also a very exciting development forming throughout the week. I had demonstrated mostly ways to paint in a more or less realistic, though loose style, while I always try to set a little time aside fort hose painters who are more interested in an abstract approach. As the week progressed, we had great fun experimenting with colours, ideas and ways of expressing personal feelings in painting. This more experimental approach to handling colour is of course also a great route towards understanding how to handle those delicate tones in flowers or skin tones,
By Friday we had some impressive flower paintings alongside explosive and expressive abstracts as well as atmospheric landscapes. I felt very much that everybody had found their ‘voice’, and were looking forward to our informal last night’s show. It was indeed a joyous sight, seeing a week’s work on the studio wall, and with a glass of wine in hand we were able to admire our achievements as well as discussing tricky techniques and creative problem solving. At eight o’clock it was time to gather for another of Lauren’s outstanding dinners, the culmination of a week’s delicious meals.
I’d like to say a big thank you to all at Coombe Farm, especially Lara Lloyd, who together with her husband Martin welcomed us warmly into their home. It was sad to have to say goodbye, but of course I am l lucky to be able to return for another week’s painting in September! And finally, huge thanks to everybody who joined me in August and made the week such a pleasure.
With best wishes for a colourful summer,
“I had a fabulous week and now feel confident with watercolours.”
“The course was wonderful – creative and fun."
On arriving at Brynaport, our guests were warmly greeted by Fiona and Sophie Fontes, daughter and granddaughter of our hosts, Mark and Gillian Pattinson. Soon everyone was comfortably installed and ready to enjoy the first of many superb meals provided by the excellent cook, Alison.
Our first day, and we were blessed with sunny intervals and atmospheric clouds hovering over the spectacular Torridon mountain silhouette. Fortified by a hearty Highland breakfast, we met at the well-appointed studio to gather our painting materials, and top up with essential items. Then the great outdoors beckoned!
The views near Bynaport – our home from home for the week – are inspirational; whitewashed cottages line up above the shores of Loch Kishorn, providing a perfect foreground motif for our first painting day. The view is also ideal to get the feel of the some of the special aspects of landscape painting. Keeping this in mind, my demonstration focussed on some of the basic guidelines of colour choices for distant mountains, skies, and foreground trees. By teatime, most of us were back in the studio, ready to indulge in a cuppa and a slice of cook delicious homemade cake.
The next day we ventured just a bit further down the village road and onto the shingled beach of the Loch. The tide was still out, and exposed colourful ochre lines of seaweed, leading the eye along the water’s edge towards some rust-red sheds nearby. Combined with the majestic mountains dropping down to the opposite side of the Loch, this makes a perfect painting subject. For beginners, there is a good chance to learn some basic perspective on buildings, and for advanced painters, I was able to demonstrate the more complex wet-into-wet technique. As is often the case, I was impressed how well the less experienced in our group captured the scene.
Now well primed, we were prepared to tackle the exciting wild and open mountain-scape a couple of miles away. We were particularly lucky on day three, as the sun blazed down upon us from a Mediterranean blue sky. We had been invited to paint from the grounds of Rebecca Pattinson’s house (Rebecca is another of Mark and Gillian daughters). This not only offered us amazing landscape views from the terrace and gardens, but also abundant creature comforts. It was certainly very enjoyable and by the end of the day, we had our paintings to prove it!
Then came the ‘Saga of the Stones,’ as we made our way down to the nearest bay, with conveniently placed rocky outcrops just above the tide-line, and tall, weather-bleached fishing-net drying poles punctuating the sky. This was the perfect opportunity to work on our rock painting skills. I hope those of you less familiar with this kind of subject profited from my demonstration.
These classic formations so captured our imagination, that some of us carried on with our rocks the following day. Others used the final day to complete unfinished paintings, receive last minute technical advice, and select the best of our work for the informal viewing in the evening. Many of the Pattinson family, with Fiona Sophie at the helm, and some friendly locals awaited us with sparkling wine and delicious canapés, while two teenage girls played airs and reels on the bagpipes. To round off a perfect week filled with creativity and camaraderie, we sat down to another of Alison’s gourmet meals, all washed won with wine and happy laughter.
Until next year all the best with your painting,
The change from London to Portugal on Tuesday afternoon could not have been more pleasant. Rain and grey skies at Gatwick, brilliant sunshine the moment I set foot outside Faro’s new Arrivals hall. And it stayed that way all week!
A short taxi-ride with Nuno, and I dropped my bags off at the Art School, unpacking my painting equipment first, to be ready for the week’s painting adventures. It was a joy to be back in Olhao, the attractive old harbour town, and to explore once more the narrow streets and traditional buildings with wrought iron balconies, where many of the houses are still tiled in the old-fashioned way.
On Wednesday everyone in our painting group arrived safely, and we got to know each other over a glass of wine and our first meal together. To spur us on we were all given a lovely sketchbook to take home with us.
The next day it was time to get our paints and brushes out. The sun was already high in the sky, so we choses a shady alley in the old town centre, where we had a good view of the church, complete with stork’s nest on top! Cafes with outside tables were also nearby, and after my first watercolour demonstration we took it in turns to have refreshing drinks. Soon it was lunchtime and we briefly withdrew to the cool of the Schoolhouse. We resumed painting later on, and most of us were able to finish the first painting of the week.
On Friday we were in for a treat. Nuno, not the taxi Nuno, but a young marine biologist, picked us up with his boat from the harbour down the road for a painting excursion to the picturesque island of Armona. The small whitewashed houses with their lush front gardens looked just the thing to paint. We settled down under some shady trees where we had a wonderful view across the lagoon, and a little house surrounded by Palms and Jacaranda trees, and a few upturned boats by the beach. After the morning’s work we had a delicious lunch of grilled fresh caught fish in one of the island’s restaurants.
My painting demonstration in the morning focussed on the contrast between foreground objects, such as the trees and house, and the seascape and headland in the distance. The little fishing boats were not too difficult to capture this time round, but the excursion to the little harbour town of Fuzeta, later on in the week, put us in closer contact with some larger fishing boats. These make a magnificent painting subject because of their varied colours, and partly because they have a small cabin resembling a little house on top. Combine that with all the rust coloured winches, ropes, and bright red buoys, and even people who normally don’t ‘do’ boats cannot help but get inspired!
But I am jumping ahead of myself. Before the Fuzeta trip was market day in Olhoa. The eye-catching market halls are right by the waterfront, and feature several towers and an open market with a riot of colourful sun umbrellas shading the fresh fruit, vegetables and other goods. Inside the halls is the amazing fresh fish market, presenting the shopper with the most astonishing sea creatures apart from the more familiar varieties like octopus, mackerel, sea bream etc. etc. Some of those no doubt made it to the restaurant tables where we dined and had a great fun choosing fish to eat with the help of the charming waiters and waitresses practicing their English.
The market is of course a great place to sketch and paint people. At first it seemed impossible to draw the constantly moving figures. However, after a short watercolour demonstration, I was able to point out typical representative movements and postures that make it easier to ‘catch’ people on paper or canvas. We ended the day with a range of great sketches and finished paintings depicting the hustle and bustle of the outdoor market by the harbour.
After all the hard work of the first couple of days, Sunday made a welcome break, where everybody was at leisure to do what they wanted; further explore the town, or paint in the cool of the studio, or take a dip on the roof-top swimming pool, and check out the new ice-cream parlour later. Shopping in the town is always fun too, since there is the largest number of shoe shops with summer sandals I have ever come across in any of my travels! I chose to take the ferry to another island a little further away, facing the Atlantic to see if it was suitable for a painting excursion with my students. I had a lovely tome there, but the lack of trees meant there was no shade for us to paint under, so I kept it on my list of places for a good swim.
Our last day together was inevitable approaching, and a lot of things learned during the week came to fruition, making the final session very productive and great fun. In the evening we enjoyed looking at our achievements. Oil and acrylic paintings were placed on easels, and watercolour paintings were pinned to the walls in the spacious studio. This enabled us to admire each other’s work, discuss technical aspects , and pass on tips in a congenial and inspiring atmosphere. Margarida’s little daughter and her friend, both aged five, joined us. They were given the honour of picking out their favourite painting from the show, a view of the market scene, and handed the lucky winner a Fuchsia pink Art School apron.
The aprons were the late David Clark’s idea. He was the inspirational founder of the Art School who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. His daughter Camilla is carrying on with organising the courses from the UK, while the wonderful Margarida, manager ‘on the ground, cook, and mother of two, looks after everything in the Art School wonderfully. Not to forget Joanna, the ever-present and helpful breakfast chef, who completes the team, making our stay in Olhoa such a success.
For me it was a particular pleasure to return, and help to fulfil David’s dream of filling the Art School with students, creating art and enjoying life in Olhao. I will be back next year – same place, same time! With big thanks to all who came to Algarve and who made it such an enjoyable week.
With all the best for the paint summer,
Tuscany welcomed us with open arms and blue skies. The old village of Cotto, nestling on the slopes of the Apuan Alps gave us all instant inspiration. There is so much choice, that it takes always a bit of time to adjust the painters eye. A short and leisurely stroll did the trick and we chose to make a start just outside the Vecchia Canonica - our home for the painting week.
The typical Tuscan front door and huge old wine flagons in their wicker baskets and palms in terracotta pots flanking the entrance to the villa made a perfect composition – and an ideal first demonstration. Beginners were able to learn a few simple rules about drawing for before applying water colours and also concentrate on suitable colours to use to represent the Mediterranean climate.
We were blessed again the next day as we made a painting excursion to the impressive medieval castle Verrucola, presently occupied by our friends, the family of the well-known Italian sculptor Pietro Cascella. The setting is particularly exciting because the big bridge over the river at the foot of the castle leads to the small village situated just under it, giving us a perfect foreground motif. This was a great opportunity for me to explain some basic rules for perspective, especially appreciated by the less advanced painters in our group. I was very impressed by the resulting paintings, since even the beginner painters had achieved a good representation of the jumbled roofs, towers and trees by the river. Another bonus point for this attractive location is the little restaurant by the bridge, where we had a delicious lunch.
The following day we painted around the village of Cotto with its many old stone farm houses, narrow roads leading up into the terraced hills at various angles. The stunning old church in the centre has almost Duomo like proportions, dwarfing the village and thus making it a irresistible to paint. Though the church has classical proportions and a lot of straight lines to deal with the old farmhouses offered easy subjects like old doors, stone arches leading into barnyards and ruined stone buildings with colourful roofs. These old stone buildings were the perfect subject with which to demonstrate how to create stone texture in watercolour painting. It was also time to practice further the 'wet into wet’ technique, which can make watercolour painting so exciting. This technique is particularly useful for covering large expanses in landscapes or on buildings on the outset of the paintings. Everybody had fun watching the colours 'explode' on the paper. But of course some more controlled brush-strokes were necessary as the watercolour progressed to capture the subject more precisely.
After painting for three days, we were ready for our free day in the beautiful city of Lucca. The train journey there through the National Park is wonderful with views towards mountain peaks, villages balancing precariously in hilltops or fringing lakes, while tunnels plunged us into darkness and back into bright sunshine. A day in Lucca is always great fun. Whether you are sketching , shopping or strolling under a canopy of trees along the stunning city walls that have protected the city since the middle ages. Naturally it's also a great place for visiting museums and to admire the white Duomo San Martino amongst other architectural gems. A local ice cream by the main town piazza in the shade of a sun umbrella was a must, since it was a lovely warm day again. On our way home we stopped of three quarters of the way in the village of Monzone, where our lovely bus driver Paulo and his son picked us up after a most enjoyable meal in the local restaurant.
Friday approached and we were eager to explore our nearest town, Fivizzano, a few kilometres down the hill. The bus delivered us promptly in the main square by the fountain and our lunchtime restaurant. But before lunch we had to get down to some 'serious' sketching, so we settled in one of the five cafes, or the gelateria. The aim was to sketch local people in a casual loose manner, not necessarily aiming straight away for a likeness, but to captures essential features and gestures. We had a lot of fun, sometimes making contact with people from the town over their coffee or ice ream. After another delicious lunch we went back to Cotto to add watercolour to some of our successful sketches. My demonstration of the simple three colour technique (see also my article in Leisure Painter magazine: link to add!), came in handy and I was able to explain how much can be achieved with just three colours!
Inevitably our last day approached and everybody was keen to finish unfinished paintings or get last minute painting tips before going home the next day. One of the 'tricks of the trade' I wanted to pass on was quickly demonstrated by the ancient public laundry troughs - still used by some of the al women of the village women to wash their clothes - where we focused on painting water. There was just enough time after lunch for a session with a very loose and watery panting of the big church with strong and dramatic colours. Later on we had an informal showing of our watercolours in the evening and we very much enjoyed seeing each others favourite paintings from the week. This is always a great pleasure for me, and judging by the happy expressions on everybody’s faces the pleasure was shared by us all. To celebrate a successful week’s painting we set off to a very special restaurant higher up in the mountains in the village of Pieve, where we enjoyed a last meal together, talked shop and laughed a lot. There only remained to give our thanks to our lovely host Karsten who looked after us so well, and to thank everybody on the course for being such enthusiastic painters and great company.
With the best wishes for a summer full of painting,
Bursting with wild flowers and bathed in sunshine, the Fattoria Mose in Sicily welcomed us with open arms on Sunday morning, our first painting day. After a late evening arrival, it’s always a wonderful surprise to find yourself transported into the lush gardens and courtyards, terraces and rambling olive groves that compose the estate. There were still some late ripening oranges and lemons clinging to the trees, a perfect splash of colour to lift our paintings.
A short stroll through the surroundings of the Fattoria helped us to select our painting subjects. Some of us settled for the massive, antique olive oil vessels adorned with flowers, while others chose smaller pot plants to begin with, or shady corners with views towards the old farm buildings. My first demonstration of the week focussed on colour choices, and how to apply watercolours in a free and easy way, while maintaining ‘control’ of the flowing pigments. Having made a good start, we were all ready for lunch on the main terrace.
The next day we awoke again to blazing sunshine, perfect weather for the seaside. Nearby views of rocky seashores and golden beaches at St Leone were an irresistible subject to paint. The azure sea was gently lapping and soon we set our paintbrushes to work. The intense colours of sea and sky gave me a chance to explain colour mixing and aspects of perspective in landscape.
We had another chance to practice some basic perspective rules on our outing to the famous World Heritage site, the ‘Valley of the Temples,’ near Agrigento. The ancient Greek Temple of Juno with its partly tumbled, rich ochre columns standing in symmetrical rows is a magnificent sight. It is surprisingly easy to capture on paper, because the shapes of the columns (Doric) are relatively simple and repetitive, and their colours are obvious variations of ochre and burnt sienna. Green colours were supplied by gigantic cactuses, and a range of shady trees at the foot of the temple, which was also a perfect place to paint from. Some of us took the opportunity to walk along the ancient road connecting the temples of Juno, Concordia, and Hercules, further along. An awe-inspiring sight with the sea glistening in the distance.
Wednesday was a non-tuition day, and we were able to admire the Temples from a higher vantage point. The town of Agrigento was built on a parallel hilltop, with the main road in the old centre and vistas towards the Temples and the sea. It’s a pleasure to explore the narrow old streets, and visit the famous churches with their Rococo architecture and chequered histories. Naturally we combined this with a bit of light shopping, sketching, and refreshments in the various cafes and ice cream parlours.
As the week went on and our paintings progressed, we were able to tackle more complex views back at the Fattoria Mose, like the private chapel attached to the Fattoria’s manor house. A challenging corner, not for the faint-hearted! But both, oil painters and water-colourists did it justice and achieved some fine results. Fortunately, there was a more user-friendly view from the track just above, with a riot of flowers and colourful trees. Here, the huge prickly pear cactuses made a perfect foreground to lead the eye into the composition.
Since we had non-stop sunshine for the entire week, the interplay between light and shade was particularly strong. This made our painting subjects the more exciting. The archway to the main courtyard, terra cotta urns by shady palm trees and surrounding fleshy succulents stood out in painterly contrasts. This variety gave me a wide choice for my daily painting demonstrations, tailoring them to the needs of beginners and advanced painters alike.
Inevitably, the week drew to its end, but not without an informal show of a selection for the work we had accomplished. We gathered with a glass of wine in hand, ready to have a look at each others’ paintings, and compare notes. It was impressive to see such fine paintings and the progress that everyone had made in such a short time. A lively discussion ensued, and the happy faces bore witness to a successful week.
We all would have loved to stay longer, but Saturday came, and we had to say our goodbyes to our charming and warm-hearted hostess Chiara Agnello, and her marvellous assistants Corrina and Marcello. With great thanks to Chiara for making us so very welcome in her beautiful home, and with thanks to all of you who joined me for the fun and who made the week such a great painting experience.
All the best for your painting summer,
PS: there are more pictures to bring back memories on my Facebook page.