After my delightful trip on the sleeper train from the Scottish Highlands I just had enough time to repack and grab another, slightly less glamorous train to Devon for the painting course at Coombe Farm Studios.
The gentle, green hills and estuary around Dartmouth in the sunshine were calling out to take a stroll with pencil and sketch book. After getting to know each other over a delicious meal we all felt ready and eager to unleash our talents the next day. However the first day was approached tentatively, looking out for subjects around Coombe farm gardens and courtyard: the sun filled terrace with various flower pots, the little archway leading to the stream or the sunflowers behind the garden gate. Even the old coal shed framed by bushes and flowers made a good starter.
Our first outing was to the fantastic gardens of the sculptor Jilly Sutton and her family. The views from there across the waters to the small village of Stoke Gabriel are truly inspiring and we were also able to snatch a glance of some of Jilli's amazing wooden sculptures. Staying with the watery theme, we ventured to the small harbour village of Dittisham the next day. It was teaming with boats and the old cottage by the shoreline was just coming into view for painting after the tide went out when we arrived. After lunch some of our group enjoyed taking the little ferry and visited the famous house of Agatha Christie on the headland opposite.
Our last painting excursion to a near pub with gorgeous riverside views and tasty ice creams was a new location and prooved very popular with everybody and not just of the lunch time champagne! We spent our final day at Coombe Farm finishing paintings and getting ready for a little show in the evening, rounding off wonderful week's painting with scrumptious meal and more wine.
It will be a pleasure to return to Devon and the warm welcome of Coombe Farm in August.
With the best wishes for the summer, Bettina
After the hot weather in Tuscany I was rather looking forward to a more moderate climate in the Scottish Highlands. What a surprise when I arrived at Inverness airport to find the area engulfed in a heat wave! But it soon cooled off to a manageable temperature.
I am always very excited to come back to the Highlands. The dramatic mountain scape just across the water from Brynaport and the rocky shorelines in the distance call out to be painted the moment you arrive. So on the first day it's good to stay closer to home and get going with painting the stunning views from the house and garden. We moved a little further down the road to Achintraid village the next day, where Loch Kishorn opens up a great view, surrounded by interesting buildings from rusty red sheds to whitewashed cottages and usually a boat or so just in the right place.
One of our painting excursions to the small fishing village of Shildaig, where we normally paint the village cottages along the seashore or the bay with fishing boats bopping on the water, disclosed another painting subject: a bench on a strip of juicy green grass, overlooking the expanse of water and island opposite. Initially we were attracted to the little café nearby for those cappuccino breaks, and unexpectedly found the bench made a great foreground motive. So for a change we did not sit on it with our lunch picnic, since we were too busy painting it. Some of us had a delicious sea food lunch instead in the local pub and still did a day’s good work.
During our stay we explored the way 'Atmosphere' can be captured in painting. Watercolour lends itself particularly well to expressing gentle tones in light effects and their reflections on water. Naturally the 'Wet Into Wet' technique came in very handy. After a few attempts everybody was able to lay down those exiting washes, watch the colours explode and doing all the work for you; well almost. A little bit of gentle teasing to assist the flow of paints was successfully administered, followed by some more controlled and decisive brush strokes to bring it all together. The mountain tops were a bit reluctant to show at times. We managed to capture them nevertheless, especially since they have to be painted quite sketchily and lightly to give them the necessary distance, so essential in landscape painting.
Near the end of our wonderful time painting together, I had to rush off prematurely to my next course in Devon and missed out the last evenings feast and last night's show. But not before a little private view of all the paintings produced during the week. It was an impressive sight and I was sad not too be able to celebrate with everybody afterwards. However, my train journey home on the overnight sleeper train from Inverness to London made somewhat up for it. Wonderful sights from my little cabin, great service and a good night’s sleep to the rhythm of the train. I arrived rested and fresh, ready to repack for my trip to Devon.
With thanks to all at Brynaport and everybody on the course for making it such a memorable week, Bettina