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,