Leaving London on a very hot August day for the course in Devon, I was glad when I arrived just in time for a refreshing drink with our hosts for the week, Lara and Martin Lloyd at the sun filled terrace. Coombe Farm Studios is now run by Lara with her husband Martin. Lara grew up at Coombe – it was started by her parents Paul & Tina Riley- and after her arts career at Dartington Hall Trust amongst others she took over the day-to-day running of Coombe Farm Studios in 2012.
The wether stayed sunny and warm for a couple of days, allowing us to investigate (with the help of our paint brushes) the lush, colourful country side around Coombe Farm Studios. But I am getting ahead of myself. Our first day was spent painting the intimate 'nooks and crannies' in the gardens and the courtyard at Coombe. There is all a little group of attractively glazed pots and urns in the shadow of an old cheery tree - a wonderful subject for beginners to learn how to lay in those lovely, translucent washes. Lunch time was very special that day, since we were able to eat outside in the sunshine to enjoy the first of many delicious meals to come, prepared by the very talented Lauren. We all felt we really were on holiday!
After a hearty breakfast the next morning we popped over to my colleague and friend Jilly Sutton's fantastic house and studio at the banks of the River Dart. She is a very talented and well known Sculptor and kindly invited us to paint the breathtaking views from her home. It was a good opportunity to practice some of the techniques we learned the day before, adding a few tricks for painting boats and distant buildings. Another lunch 'plein air' went down a treat.
The following two days, when the weather looked unpromising, we decided to paint in the studio. Coombe Farm always has a wonderful array of cottage garden flowers. A great riot of colours and shapes, the flowers were arranged in a variety of attractive vases and vessels and everybody could choose one or several vases or objects to achieve just the right composition. After my demonstration dealing with the delicate tones and shapes of petals and leaves, it was time to cut loose. The second demonstration was very different, an almost abstract way of depicting flowers, introduce strong vibrant colours sometimes straight out of the tube. We had great fun and at the end of the two days there was a huge variety of paintings, reflecting the different approaches and
Our last day approached and the weather improved, so we could venture out to nearby Dittisham village, where we painted the harbour view. As the day progressed the mist kept rolling in, transforming the little harbour into a dramatic scenery, just the thing for creating a special atmosphere in our paintings. However, we settled for lunch at home, and Lauren added a delicious soup to our sandwiches, when we arrived back at Coombe Farm Studios at midday. The last evening was very special with a fantastic showing of everybody's work in the studio. It was also lovely for all of us to meet Paul and Tina Riley, the founders of Coombe Farm Studios and have a glass of wine together. A suitable end to a very productive, fun week that should never have ended. Fortunately, I was able to return to Devon a fortnight later, making the big good-by a somewhat easier affair.
The painting weekend in September was a great success. We had mostly sunshine and on Sunday the blue sky reminded me of the Mediterranean. White doves where sharply silhouetted against the skyline at the very paintable dovecote at Coombe Farm. The previous day we had an exotic looking gaggle of geese settling close to us as we painted the distant green hills across the estuary, making it a perfect view. This time my husband had come to Devon with me, and on Saturday night we had a musical evening, when he played guitar and sang while I accompanied him on my Ukulele. We all agreed, it was a most enjoyable weekend, the only thing laking was more time. Therefore I decided to teach a full week's course in September next year.
With best wishes for a sunny and many-hued September,
"Thank you again for your help and encouragement and your sense of humour during the week in Devon."
"The course, as always, was most enjoyable and the venue was excellent - you seem to have a real flair for picking great places for painting, also offering really friendly hospitality."
"You are a wonderfull teacher, inspiring and understanding."
"Lara and her team were most welcoming and friendly. Lara's organising and driving were impressive, and Lauren's cooking was really creative and delicious! The Dartmouth area is also a fantastic area for painting, particularly the visit to Jilly Sutton's house."
"I did enjoy it so much, despite the weather, because that meant I could do my flowers and writing! I have put all my photos of the week into a lovely album ... such nice memories of all that lovely food, and the place and the people."
The magnificent views of mountains and lochs mingled with the sweet scent of foxgloves greeted me as we drove up the drive to Brynaport, our base for the weeks painting course in the Scottish Highlands. The warm welcome by Gillian and Mark Pattinson made made us feel at home straight away. This time however it was not as usual Gilian herself, but her charming daughter Fiona who run the course with me. After a first of many super delicious meals prepared by our splendid cook Alice on the night of our arrival, we were well prepared to ‘inspect’ the painting territory on Sunday morning. And what a fine view it was, down to the little village of Achintraid and across the Loch towards the Torridon Hills with Applecross on the other side of the 2053 ft high 'Bealach na Ba' pass. To begin with we settled our chairs and easels nearer to the house, where a row of old cottages made for a good foreground subject to our paintings of the mountains in the far distance. The day’s work almost done, we gathered in the studio at teatime to finish details and round of the day with a slice of home-baked cake.
Warming up to our surroundings, we were itching to go a bit further down the lane to the waters edge of Loch Kishorn. Whitewashed fishermen's cottages punctuate the shore of the loch on one side, and the bay on the opposite offers a wonderful view towards the mountains. Luckily there was an almost hidden old building behind a prominent fire tree and some picturesquely rusty sheds to give a nearside object to our composition - simplifying the grand scene and making it more intimate. We kept close to the water the following day and drove the short distance to the eastern side of the loch. The skyline of hills and mountains (including the Isle of Skye) at the far end are breathtaking. Some of us felt inspired to tackle the panoramic view, while others were fascinated by the receding tide, exposing more and more beach and rocks, beneath a group of houses on the shore. I gave a special demonstration including rocks, as the foreground often proves the most tricky area, rather than the landscape itself.
One fine evening the high mountains were clear and a small expedition of painters took the winding road over the pass to Applecross to admire the rocks, steep gulleys and views from the top down into the valley. I had opted for another cup of tea and a sketch at Brynaport, since it stays very light until dinner time. Because of the wonderful light we were able to watch impressive sunsets and cloud formations through the conservatory windows where we enjoyed our dinners every night.
Not rocks but boats came into view when we visited Lochcarron. The village stretches for almost 2 miles, meandering along the shore of the loch. At the entrance, a little cove with boats made the perfect composition complete with beach, a wooden post and bright red buoys on ropes slung over board. The first impression of a boat scene can be a bit daunting, but it is surprising how quickly everybody, including the less experienced painters and beginners, got to grips with those shapes. At the end of the day we all agreed that it had been great fun and we had something to show for it, as well.
Inevitably the last day approached much too fast, but we were determined not to let the parting pains get to us prematurely, and ventured out to the nearby lake surrounded by the most stunning hills and mountains. The sun came out as we arrived, and lit up ridges and slopes making the water-lillies on the lake sparkle like snow flakes. Again there was a difficult choice: should we gaze towards the distant landscape with the wooden bridge and stream in the foreground, face the hill with the old shed and foxgloves in the meadow or throw ourselves into the wild rocky landscape head on? As it turned out, we all found our special subject including a couple of more abstract paintings inspired by the Highlands.
Later that day and after yet another piece of delicious cake we prepared for the informal showing of our paintings. It's always such a pleasure for everybody to see the the many different paintings of the week. We painted similar subjects, however the personal ways in which scenes were captured was very impressive. Everybody had been able to take advice from my daily demonstrations and teaching, but had also managed to retain their individual style. And I feel that is what painting is all about - to create a personal vision of the landscape encountered.
We said good by to friends and colleagues with a heavy heart and the promise of meeting again soon. With a big thank you to all at Brynaport, who made truly made us feel at home and looked after us so well and all the best for this summer's painting,
"Wonderful locations to paint and such enjoyable company."
"Your painting demonstrations were really helpful and I feel I have moved forward with my watercolours."
"Fun, great food and inspiring tuition. It was the best."
When I arrived at Olhao in the Algarve, our base for the course in Portugal, a day before the course, I was greeted by fresh sea air, glimpses of the distant islands on the horizon, and the skyline of the town. I popped into the art school in the historic centre of town, our home for the week, and admired the recent changes to the well-appointed rooms (all en-suite) enhanced by the two swimming pools.
I could hardly wait to make my way to the harbour, just two minutes away from the Art school. As I strolled along the old cobbled streets, it was difficult to choose from the many painting subjects. However, by the end of the day and secure in the knowledge there was plenty for beginners and advanced painters alike, I had noted the good spots, in readiness for the painters arriving the following day.
On our first day it was great fun to sketch and paint street scenes and the houses with their decorated facades, many still covered in the traditional tiles, and featuring faded and crumbling paints on old doors (the 'shabby chic' of the town). While we painted around the two big churches in the middle of town, the storks were not letting us down, and had settled in their nests on towers and pediments. Naturally the many cafes in the vicinity were very welcome for 'elevenses' and to discreetly sketch people at the same time.
The following day, we painted by the harbour. Olhao is a historic fishing port, and the seafront complete with promenade is a wonderful painting subject, offering shade under palm trees. The Marina mixes pleasure boats with commercial fishing craft bobbing on the water, and an impressive replica of the ship which was involved in the revolt against the French occupiers in the 19th century is moored at the waterfront - and is very paintable too. Also located by the seafront, the red brick towers of Olhao's large fish and vegetable market is the place to be on market day. A riot of colours and shapes with plenty of atmosphere! Most of us painted at the outdoor market, where vendors under colourful umbrellas offered an exotic range of fruit and vegetables which were fun to paint. The inside of the fish market was also worth a visit and sketch, where there was the most unusual range of fish on display. We had several meals at the local restaurants, when we were able to taste some of the better known freshly caught fish washed down by glasses of Portuguese wine.
Now it was time to take to the waters! Our host and the owner of the art school, the Hon. David Clark ? had kindly arranged a private water taxi to take us to the beautiful island of Armona. The driver, Nuno, is a marine biologist and was able to tell us about the wild life and the surrounding nature reserves before we set off. The island was as beautiful as I remembered from last year's visit; small white-washed houses fronted by lush gardens filled with flowering shrubs and trees, and long sandy beaches with Sunday bathers. The lunch on the roof terrace of the seaside cafe was outstanding, though I rely on reports from everybody else for this, since I had grabbed a sandwich from the breakfast table and stayed to continue my painting of the lifeguards on the beach, who conveniently sat still the whole time! However the painting did not turn out as well as I would have liked (you can't win them all!), and I returned to paint on the island after the course, this time with more success.
The next mode of transport was more mundane - a short taxi ride to the charming fishing town of Fuzeta. This small town is one of the Algarve’s least 'discovered' places and it has retained its unique character as a working fishing port. Indeed, its daily routine revolves around the fishermen, whose colourful boats line up alongside the river in town. A line of lively kiosk-cafés spreading towards the river beach are very welcome for that extra coffee and a Portuguese custard tart halfway through the morning. The harbour here is small, and features one of the most paintable old boats I've ever seen, kitted out with a prominent cabin more closely resembling an exuberantly painted shed, than maritime structure. It made a brilliant subject for all painters in the group regardless of experience.
The last day inevitably approached, and some of us spent the day in the studio completing unfinished work. Others painted from the roof terraces or discussed last minute tips for future paintings, and prepared for an informal showing of our paintings in the evening. When we gathered, glass of wine in hand, we were able to admire the fruits of our labours from the week. It was a splendid, varied display, showing the many personal styles in which each painter had captured the scenes encountered throughout our stay in Olhao. Happy and satisfied we tucked into our last, delicious dinner, this time prepared by the lovely Margarida, who looked after our culinary needs when not dining out.
On my return to London I sat down immediately and planned the course for 2016, a good thing to look forward to...
"It was great to paint in the town and so close by the sea. The excursion to the island was sheer bliss and so was the food."
"We had a lovely time and we are now planning where to go next with you."
"It was a joy to be with you in Portugal and I loved every minute of the painting!"
After my trip to Sicily in April, I was itching to return to Italy. So much so, that I flew out a week before the next painting course in Tuscany and spent a few days painting and exploring Lunigiana, the beautiful less known region just north of Tuscany. A long awaited visit to Equi Terme village and Spa set in the most dramatic mountain landscape surpassed all my expectations, even though I have had brief glimpses from the train on previous excursions. However, the week whistled past and it was time to get ready for the painting course. The painting group arrived under a clear blue sky and we gathered after arrival to get know each other and our charming host, Karsten Mueller. After a refreshing cup of tea he made sure that everybody was comfortably ensconced at the apartments in 'La Vecchia Canonica'. It was too late for a dip in the pool – that had to wait for another day- but it was a perfect first evening for a glass of wine on the little terrace overlooking Cotto village and the stunning mountain peaks beyond.
This certainly put us in the mood, and next morning we set to work with paper and brush. Taking it easy on the first day, I suggested to paint the old wine caskets in their attractive whicker baskets dotted around the front entrance to the villa – some of them are holding up to 54 liters of precious fluids.
My demonstration helped everybody to make a good start and by day two we were in the swing of things. We ventured out to the impressive castle of Veruccola, dating back to the thirteenth century. At its base nestles a delightful jumble of stone houses, a splendid river and bridge, and luckily for us also a restaurant, ideal for lunch. Painting in Cotto the next day, the weather had turned and I used the opportunity to demonstrate an easy way to paint people/portraits by using only three colours: Yellow, Red and Blue. I had written an article in the Leisure Painter Magazine about this method the year before, so it was nice to demonstrate the technique first hand. The initial difficulties in capturing the human shape were soon overcome and everybody enjoyed learning a new skill, an experience which would come in handy later on in the week.
Thursday was our excursion day to the fascinating medieval town of Lucca. This time a 'foursome' from our painting group even rented a Quattrocycle for an exciting ride around the top of the double-sided city walls. Lucca has so much to offer: Duomos and Churches, Museums, pleasant shops set in old narrow streets and a great variety of tempting restaurants, cafes and gelaterias. Of course there is no shortage of painting subject there either and the cafes around the old amphitheater are a great place to paint from and watch the world go by. We finished the day by taking the train to the mountain village of Monzone, where we had a delicious meal in the local restaurant. Our enthusiasm was not dented, when grey clouds appeared on the sky the next day. Our friendly driver for the week, Paolo, took us to Fivizzano, the nearby old town featuring a cobbled square complete with Medici fountain. Several hours were pleasantly spent sketching and painting the regular visitors in the local 'Sports Bars' and cafes. Popping in and out for a quick expresso in passing or a longer chat over a mid-morning snack, we had ample subjects despite the fact that some people disappeared unexpectantly fast. Our practise from two days earlier paid off and the wonderful array of local people about their daily business captured on paper was our just reward.
The final day in Cotto presented us with a last chance to paint the stunning mountain panorama of the Apuan Alps from La Vecchio Canonica's terraces above the swimming pool. But is was also a day to finish off details from previous paintings or indulge in a quick still life of the knobbly local lemons and bulbous spring onions on the kitchen table. Soon it was time for a sip of Champagne in Fivizzano's gorgeous hotel and restaurant, the Il Giardinetto. In a private corner surrounded by fabulous portraits of former famous guests we had an informal showing of our paintings - a very suitable setting. We celebrated the week with a delicious ‘last supper’ and a happy glow was on all face as I looked around the table.
The pangs of saying goodbye to everybody on Sunday morning were somewhat softened for me, because I had been invited by my friend, and Cotto resident, Georgina to visit the famous marble mountains above Cararra - the artist Michael Angelo’s favourite Quarry for selecting marble for his sculpture. Cut into the mountains and high above the town of Carrara, the snow white marble ‘fields’ reach up to 1,500m (approx. 4,900ft) and are truly breath-taking. Carrara was featuring open days that weekend for their many artist studios and I was able to observe sculptors at work, cutting stones and polishing marble sculptures. Seeing the variety of art on display was a splendid way to finish my stay in Tuscany.
"Thanks for the fantastic week in Cotto. There was so much to paint in the village and I loved all the other places we visited too - would have loved another week there."
"Great locations and outstanding tuition!"
"It was a truly wonderful holiday and I loved spending time with you and the group and painting so much."
It was a warm night with a lazy sunset over the sea as I was waiting for the painting group on the viewing terrace at Palermo airport. Sicily was in full spring mood already and the colours of wild flowers mingled with the oranges and yellows of citrus fruits. Next day at the Fattoria Mose, the mist from the night before had cleared and given way to brilliant sunshine and a marvellously blue sky, a great beginning to our Sicilian adventure.
After a leisurely breakfast involving a variety of home made jams and marmalades everybody was ready and eager to face the first painting day. We enjoyed an exploratory stroll around the various gardens, buildings, olive and orange groves and settled happily onto our new surroundings. There was no shortage of subjects to choose from: Archways, ancient olive trees (some 500-700 years old!) old pottery, wild flowers, landscapes prickly pears and Acacia trees heavy with yellow blossoms.
For my first demonstration of the week I focused on a nearside object, the huge, old olive vessels grouped around the trunk of a magnificent Palm tree. A perfect motive to get started. We got more adventures the following day and set off to the nearby Lido, a long stretch of beach below the historic town of Agrigento. The sea-shore, sparkling ever brighter as the day progressed, was only rivalled by the blue striped blinds in the building that made our foreground motif. The setting had the mood of an Edward Hopper painting: the modern house fronted by two palm trees with endless blue sea beyond. The local bars and Gelaterias were very welcome for a snack and refreshing drink, or a delicious Sicilian ice-cream.
Tuesday, our third day, was wonderfully sunny again, and we spent another day painting at the Fattoria Mose. This time I chose for my morning demonstration the half open terrace gate with views through to the farmyard and distant landscape. Framed by ochre coloured walls and flower pots, this is also the gateway frequently used by the numerous puppy dogs and cats - painting subjects in themselves, though somewhat unreliable. After the day's work it's lovely to relax on one of the terraces or gardens with a cup of tea or an early glass of wine. A just reward, as one watches the sun slowly disappear behind the hills. Soon to be followed by another delicious home-cooked meal. The food at the Fattoria is rather special; home-grown produce when in season and following traditional recipes of the Agnello family who have lived for several generations at the Fattoria Mose. Chiara Agnello and her sister Simonetta Hornby even featured recently in their own Sicilian television series (not Montalbano!) dedicated to their uniquely local way of cooking.
Midweek, painting took a bit of a back seat, when most of us went on an exciting tour to see the world famous mosaics at the Piazza a Marina, a complex of Roman Villas. The mosaics are highly detailed, and well-preserved. One wall even depicts a group of young women in bikinis exercising in the gym – an astonishingly modern scene. Thus inspired we followed the historic motif, and went to paint another famous sight. The ancient golden Greek temples in the beautiful Vallee di Templi. At the foot of the stone steps leading to he temple of Juno we found shade under pine and olive trees. The tricky bits were not as one would imagine, the magnificent temple columns, but some of the trees and cacti adoring the scene. Plant-life seems to be one of the greatest challenges in outdoor painting. It was however a good opportunity to talk about ways of how to tackle 'greens' the easy way.
We had a chance to practice mixing greens on our last day at the Fattoria, with time to spare for unfinished paintings. There was excitement in the air as we were getting ready for the last night's showing of the best of the week's paintings. It was a delight to see everybody's work, exchange experiences, and marvel at the diversity of the styles and subjects. We celebrated the end of the course with home grown artichokes, wine and song, until it was time to throw a few things into the suitcase for our departure the next day.
The Sicilian sun, Chiara's warm hospitality, and the many subjects to paint combined with the enthusiasm and friendship of our group made this a very enjoyable painting week indeed, and I cannot wait to go back in 2016.
"Such A great group in Sicily, loved the week."
"The best painting holiday I had for a long time. Learned so much from you and loved being with the other painters."
"I wanted the holiday to go on forever... thanks so much for your inspired teaching."
"The Fattoria Mose is a wonderful location."
Morocco was everything that it promised, with blue skies, brilliant sunshine and dazzling views. Our old friend and host Ali Mouni greeted us upon arrival at the Hotel La Vallee in Ouarzazate. Early the next day, we embarked for the desert, enjoying many scenic delights along the way. Heavy rains in February had given us an unusually spectacular array of desert flowers, more than I have ever previously seen. A delicious lunch in the sleepy town of Tinjedad fortified us for the remainder of our journey. A couple of hours later, after a cup of Moroccan tea, we settled into our charming rooms at Ali's Nomad Palace, a family owned and run hotel at the edge of the dunes.
Before we started painting, I showed everybody around the delightful shade dappled courtyard, the new roof terrace, and the elegant arches that lead to the swimming pool. Amongst all the visual treats, everyone found a suitable subject, and I started my first demonstration, utilizing a handy pillar and a Moroccan clay pot. More advanced painters took on the challenge of more complex views through the grand gateway to the desert dunes. Satisfied (hopefully) by the day's efforts, the evening was filled with happy banter, exchanging experiences of the day over a glass of wine, before indulging in the plentiful quantities of delicious food coming from the kitchens.
Day two found us at the Merzouga Palmerie, an area on the edge of the nearby village where vegetables and crops are tended under the shade of date palms. One can add to the scene with the image of traditionally dressed locals about their business, giving our paintings a splash of colour from a different palette.
The following morning we received quite a surprise to find that a huge lake had recently appeared for the first time in six years, right in front of my usual view of the Great Dunes! The reflections of the desert buildings in the still water of the lake were stunning. We painted in the clear light, soothed by the mellifluous tones of my husband James, singing and playing guitar quietly in the background, and incidentally providing an extra life-model! Later in the afternoon we left our hilltop, and drove around the rest of the vast expanse of sand known as the Erg Chebbi, pausing along the way for a glass of tea with some Nomad friends of Ali's.
On the non-tuition day, some students chose to remain at the Nomad Palace and paint, while most of the group came with me on a tour which included a visit to a fascinating fossil museum, and a shopping trip at the local Nomad Depot, where we haggled over carpets jewellery and crockery. We ended the day at another seasonal lake, far larger than usual this year, where a wide variety of desert birds could be spotted by the keen watcher, including distantly seen flamingos!
Camels are notoriously difficult to paint, so we kept ours for the whole day as we attempted to catch their superior expressions, liquid eyes, and gangling limbs. Their attendants, dressed in traditional Berber garb, also made excellent subjects, and were preferred by some to the noble dromedaries! The reward, for those of the group who wanted it, was to ride our sweet tempered four legged models into the dunes, from the top of which we watched a beautiful desert sunset.
Before we knew it, the last desert day had dawned. Another scorcher, where shade at our location, a deserted village near the Nomad Palace, was provided by Ali's men erecting an open sided Berber tent. Our picnic lunch was consumed in an artistically converted ruin overlooking the scene. We celebrated the end of our wonderful week in the desert with the appearance before dinner of Groupe Zaid, local musicians with an international reputation.
Departure from the desert was sweetened by our arrival at the outstandingly beautiful Dades Gorge the next day, where we got down to work straightaway, eager to capture the curves of the mountains and colours of the lush green valley below, viewed from the Panorama Hotel terrace. Lunch and dinner were lovingly prepared by our hosts and fellow painters Mustafa and Ibrahim.
All of which meant that we had reached the last day, and a short journey back to Ouarzazate, where many of this group showed their mettle by painting until the last rays of the sun were fading from the distant snow-peaked Atlas Mountains.
"Thank you, once again, for organising it all - it was, I think for everyone, a huge success."
"You were brilliant in every way and your sense of humour added cream on the cake."
"I would like to thank you for arranging such a wonderful holiday. It was really a unique experience and a great painting time."
"I do hope to join you again sometime.I have learnt a lot and made progress."
"Had a really enjoyable time in Morocco. You were most helpful and your organization was was excellent in every way."
"I enjoyed so tremendously going back to Morocco that I immediately want to do it all over again. I felt I had improved on my work from last time."
The return to Coombe Farm Studios in August signalled the end of my summer painting season. After the hot July, the August course felt indeed more like the beginning of autumn with sunny, but somewhat cooler temperatures, very unusual for this time of year. The mainly sunny weather meant we were enjoying painting outdoors around the various buildings, walled gardens and views of the old dovecote. The doves, perched on their little slate ledges in diverse poses – heads tucked in, wings wide spread or proudly raised beaks- were made to be painted.
Staying with the subjects of our feathery friends, we ventured out one day to the River Dart, where we found a flock of wild geese grazing on the glistening estuary. From our vantage point at Jilly Sutton's ( the sculptress mentioned in July news) amazing garden we could observe the geese with leisure, while painting the view across the water towards the distant hills.
Boats, not birds greeted us half way through the week at the edge of Dittisham with its harbour scenes and long jetty seemingly reaching out to the headland opposite. We hurried home after a lovely mornings painting and picknick lunch, as some rather dark looking clouds appeared suddenly. So we had an extra afternoon painting in the spacious studio at Coombe Farm. But we needn't have worried, it never rained.
The following day was also spent in the studio this time to paint flowers. It is always inspiring to capture the delicate colours of flowers, loosely arranged in various vases and rustic pots and surrounded with other still life objects for extra interest. This time the bright yellow sun flowers captured our imagination, but the little bunch of sweet peas made as good a painting as any bouquet of roses.
So came our last day with another fantastic display of our paintings in the evening and our last sumptuous meal lovingly prepared by the fabulous Lauren. Lauren is not only a great cook but she also is a wonderful yoga teacher and the class she gave earlier on was good fun. Despite feeling very sad to have to leave the next morning, we all enjoyed the last night. My husband James was able to join us with his guitar and I accompanied him on my Ukulele to the delight of everyone.
Thanks again to all of you for showing such dedication and for producing your very best,
Non stop Mediterranean sunshine for a whole week in Devon – what a treat! Lunches under dappled light in the Provençal-style courtyard at Coombe Farm made us all feel as if we were sitting in the South of France. The nearby garden just above the stream provided fresh veg. for our excellent cook Lauren, who produced outstanding meals throughout the whole week.
Viewed through the wooden gate, the flowers in full bloom and various colourful vegetables were irresistible to the paintbrush. The courtyard itself with its stone walled buildings, archways and lush trees also made a wonderful subject to paint on the first day.
The warm welcome from the now extended Riley and Lloyd family was another pleasure. To my surprise there was a delightful baby, Rosa, who had arrived only a couple of months earlier. Her sister Sasha, at 4 years of age already proves to be a great painter and eagerly drew a delightful poster for my bedroom door.
After exploring the area around Coombe Farm we were invited to paint at Jilly and Pedro Sutton's fantastic garden by the Dart Estuary. Jilly, a wonderful sculptor, was just getting ready for a show, and despite her schedule found the time to get things ready for us. Her comment after thanking her for her generosity: "always lovely to have straw hats and easels around the garden - beautiful !
The little harbour of Dittisham was our next port of call, and luckily the tide was out most of the day for us to paint by the beach. Dittisham is a charming village, not only featuring scenery and boats bobbing on the water, but also plenty of live models and a café with delicious ice creams and Devon teas. For non-painters it is also the spot from where to take a ride on the ferry to Dartmouth or just across the water to Agatha Christie's house and gardens.
Then it was high time for a painting trip to the seaside. BlackPool Sands is a secluded private beach near the coastal area of the Slapton Ley nature reserve. It has a big Pine tree for shade, dramatic cliffs and excellent facilities including a café and colourful beach huts. Needless to say it was a most enjoyable day painting the scenery and enjoying the fresh sea breeze.
The painting week was rounded off by another day at Coombe Farm and finished with a show of all our paintings produced during the course. With a glow of achievement and the happy feeling of newly formed friendships we settled down to the last of Lauren's delicious dinners afterwards. Luckily I will return to another course in August and hardly wait to return.
Wishing you all an enjoyable, creative summer,
Dear Painters and Friends,
What a joy it was to return to the Scottish Highlands in July. Big skies, mountains and whitewashed houses along Loch Kishorn greeted us on a sunny Saturday. The sun went a bit moody for a while, but then made an increasing presence, transforming the landscape once more. The views from Brynaport, our base in the small village of Achintraid, are absolutely stunning, so we painted the first day in and around the village. On location, the mornings began as usual with a brief discussion on how to choose a subject, always tricky on the first day and different for beginners and more advanced painters. To begin with we sketched the scenes outside, followed by work in the spacious studio, a well received change from working in the open air for those who were complete novices to painting 'pleine air'. My daily painting demonstrations - designed to help everybody with their composition, drawings and to get started - proved especially beneficial in the face of the great, yet unfamiliar outdoors.
The next day, the rust-red sheds by the waters edge were again a favourite. Views inland with gleaming white cottages silhouetted against the mountains and green meadows were a wonderful subject too. The buildings in the foreground made a handy device to gently introduce us to the dramatic mountainscape beyond. One painting excursion took us to Loch Carron. The large loch has a little inlet, which featured a small group of boats huddled together, ideal for first time 'boat painters'. Consequently everybody sketched the boats successfully and speedily and we were able to finish painting in the comfort of the studio. Our third excursion was to a remote lake, partly covered with waterlilies and surrounded by the majestic Torridon hills and a few buildings in the distance - a truly Scottish Highland scene. Sadly, the day we had planned to drive over the famous pass to Applecross had to be dropped since the upper regions of the pass were in cloud. But perhaps next year, when I return we will have better luck.
The last day arrived with a brilliant blue sky, creating sparkles on the water and lighting up the mountains in spectacular fashion, giving us a wonderful final view to paint. The painting week finished not without a fun evening of Highland dancing, local music and a very tasty, fresh seafood food dinner. Alison, our cook for the week did us proud, with delicious three course meals every night and a hearty Highland breakfast. However, before we sat down we gathered in the studio for a last night display of our work. It was impressive to see everybody's paintings, which included not only watercolours but also oils and acrylics.
It was hard to say Goodbye to the Pattinson family, who had invited us to share their home for the week and whose generous hospitality we all enjoyed. Of course I am in the lucky position to paint in Scotland in 2015 and do hope you can join me again at Brynaport or on one of my other painting locations abroad.
All the best for your painting in the summer,
We all agreed, the painting week in Portugal was great fun and very creative. On arrival at Faro airport we were greeted by sunshine, which put us straight into holiday mood and made everybody eager to get painting. So we set off the next day exploring the old town and harbour of Olhão, and settled down in the shade of an old church adorned with several storks nesting on the towers and roofs, a 'must' to paint.
The following day we took the local train to the charming fishing village of Fuseta. The little harbour was ablaze with the kaleidoscopic colours of fishing boats, flags,and buoys gaily bobbing on the water. More colours and scents captured our imagination on Saturday, market day in Olhão. The large market by the harbour, buzzing with people, huge sun umbrellas, goods and sea views supplied us with ample motifs. The indoor fish hall had the most fascinating range of fish I have ever encountered, which were worth a couple of sketches, or even a painting. Naturally we were able to taste some of the better known varieties during our visits to local restaurants and bars, or at the art school, were Margarida cooked many deliciousmeals for us.
Then it was time to venture across the estuary by water taxi(!) to the picturesque island of Armora. A profusion of flowers clinging to little whitewashed houses, boats, long beaches, and people came into view as soon as we landed. We had planned to have a dip, but found that we were much too excited about our paintings and the sumptuous lunch to strip off and swim.
We also took the opportunity to paint from attractive roof terraces, overlooking blossom-bedecked rooftops, with winding staircases, decorative balconies and glimpses of the sea beyond. The final day we spent painting just outside the art school, capturing some of the old houses decorated with patterned tiles, featuring ornate windows and doorways. This gave us plenty of time to start a last masterpiece or polish off unfinished work, ready for the little show we had under the vaulted ceilings of the studio on the last night. The work on show looked fantastic and there were happy smiles on everyone’s faces.
A big thanks to all of you who dared to come on a new course, venturing out into the unknown. Special thanks also to the Honourable David Clark, who invited me to come to his art school and who organised everything so splendidly, making it a memorable week.
All the best and a wonderful summer, wherever you are,