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."