Dear Painters and Friends,
August and September are usually the two months when I am teaching in wonderful Devon at Coombe Farm Studios. But as you might be aware, this season the pandemic has sadly made all my painting courses impossible. The focus is now on 2021, when we should be able to meet again, enjoy traveling and paint together. The website has been updated with all the new course dates, so feel free to wander through the pages and get inspired for next year.
Prevented from travelling this year, my mind however has travelled with the aid of paintbrush, camera and ukulele to the far away corners of the rainforest. RAINFOREST LITANY, a ‘song’ I made in August, was part of a compilation album to raise money for an indigenous-led human rights organisation to assist child refugees in Wamena, West Papua. Have a listen here: https://tinybandintherainforest.bandcamp.com/track/rainforest-litany
I have also been contributing music to another charity project earlier on. The ‘song’ BABY DOLL has again been created with poetry and sound instead of my usual medium watercolour. Click on track No. 43 on the album: https://womencomposerscollective.bandcamp.com/album/her-indoors. All proceeds went to a charity against domestic violence.
At the moment, painting is still taking a bit of a back seat because I am currently working on a project with my friend and colleague Jude Cowan Montague involving sound and poetry and - very exciting - also videos. Sound and video have the advantage that we can easily exchange and post information and materials to each other via the internet and personal meetings are not necessarily needed. In the absence of teaching it’s fun to work with other people this way and to stay in touch with everybody.
I very much hope that you are also able to be creative, meet friends in person or via Zoom and will continue to enjoy painting.
With the best wishes and keep well,
My thoughts all too frequently travel to the wonderful painting locations where I have been painting with many of you in the past, and will soon again, hopefully beginning this November in Portugal.
Though it feels strange at the moment not to open a suitcase, pack my brushes or check if my sunglasses are still serviceable, next year seems not such a long way off. If time continues to pass as quickly as the last couple of months, April will soon be here, and with it the Spring painting course in Sicily.
Of course painting is never far from my mind, even though I have not had the chance to work in the studio until very recently. As always when I have been away from the studio for a long while - and it was longer than ever this time round - it takes ages to get back into the swing of things. So far this spring and summer I have been busy sorting out future painting courses, learning how to use Zoom, and how to get a Twitch account. All this in order to communicate with friends and family and collaborate with colleagues online. At last I have had a little time for drawing, and making musical contributions to several new albums. It has been fun to play my electric Ukulele and to write lyrics for the tracks, and to be involved in the recording process. The watercolour show with my colleague Dorothee Schabert’s musical compositions scheduled for early autumn in Germany had to be temporarily put on hold, but I plan to start working on those watercolours again in the coming weeks!
My paint brushes are as eager as I am to be unleashed from our confinement, and I’m sure that the miracle of watercolour will restore the spirit, as it always does!
With my best wishes for your well-being and have fun with your painting,
I hope this finds you well and safe and that you can be creative despite these uneasy times. A surprisingly sunny spring – normally ideal for painting – has unfortunately also brought a crisis which has affected us all. Quite soon it became clear that travel was impossible and my heart sank, partly because of what it means to all of you to lose your painting holidays, and partly because of the dire implications for all 2020 courses.
To ensure everybody’s safety I had to take the difficult decision and postpone this year’s courses, but I am very pleased that most of you are able to join me in 2021, or possibly Portugal this November. I would like to thank all of you for your understanding and patience during this difficult time.
I hope and believe that in the coming months much will be resolved, and that we should be able to travel and paint together again in 2021 at the latest. The new course details are now on my website. I can already picture us, paint brushes in hand, ready to let the colours flow.
With my best wishes for you, your family and last but not least for your painting.
Dear Painters and Friends,
I'd like to invite you to an exhibition at GEDOK, Karlsruhe, Germany, in which I will take part. My video 'Desert Waves' (with sound from composer Dorothee Schabert, video edited by James A Smith) will be shown as part of the exhibition running from 7 February until 8 March 2020.
I will be there for the closing event on Sunday 8 March 2020, 11:00 - 15:00 and would be delighted to see you there - distance permitting!
Best wishes, Bettina
GEDOK Karlsruhe, Germany
Kunstwochen für Klimaschutz
(Artweeks for Climate Protection)
Female Artists for the Future
Exhibition | Video projections in the GEDOK forum | Installation in urban space | Concert | Reading | Lectures | Sustainability Walk | Movie night
Still from the film Desert Waves
About the film: Desert Waves
Filmed by Bettina Schroeder with Sound Composition by Dorothee Schabert
With how many voices water speaks: it rushes, it flows, it meanders, it sizzles, it trickles, it gushes, it drips or pours out of buckets and threatens to spill out.
Water: an increasingly valuable, even endangered, raw material in times of climate catastrophe. A far too large part of the world's population already lacks access to clean water for washing and even drinking. And unscrupulous corporations are already securing exclusive access to water resources as private property.
Water to glass: crystal clear like the bright mountain stream or dirty, poisoned, unusable.
Water to sand: the wind forms waves in the desert sand. Diverse shapes. Sometimes a sea of sand, sometimes jagged, a stony wasteland. Dumped plastic bottles remind us that we humans cannot survive without water. Garbage stains, broken glass. As repulsive as it can be aesthetically attractive. Water shapes in the desert, water gushing that frightens us with splintering glass.
We combine these supposed opposites via picture and sound into a video that vividly demonstrates the valuable beauty of both water and sand.
All details about the exhibition can be found in the programme (see pages 7 & 13).
Desert Waves, photo 2019
A glance back to the events of this year...
This year has been exceptionally busy with courses and opportunities to show my artwork at home and internationally. It started off at home in London, with a fantastic show alongside 100 artists in Soho, celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Then it was off to the Moroccan desert. This was going to be my last painting course in Morocco as I needed more time for my own artwork, music projects and new courses. It’s been a fantastic 15 years working with Ali Mouni at the Nomad Palace. It was hard to say goodbye to everybody, especially to Ali's family and friends. However, I'm sure I will be meeting Ali and his lovely wife for a get together before long, perhaps in Marrakesh...
From one hot country to another, Sicily was my next painting destination. As usual, we had a wonderful time painting at the Valley of the Temples, the seaside at Agrigento and the gardens at the Fattoria Mose. After the course, there was just enough time to prepare for the next show in Germany, "Rationale 4 Bauhaus", at the FRAUENMUSEUM, Bonn in May.
In June, I returned to Portugal where our group of eager painters enjoyed not only the sunshine but all the fantastic painting locations, including a trip by boat to the nearby island of Armona.
A total change of scenery, and I was suddenly on a plane to Scotland for my next painting course in the Highlands at Brynaport. The mountain landscape looked fantastic in the sunshine and we spent most of our time on location painting the dramatic coastline, white washed cottages at the waters edge of Loch Kishorn and the views towards the Isle of Skye from the nearby estuary.
It was back to London for a summer show in August at the A&D Gallery, where I exhibited four of my watercolours. The exhibition was closely followed by a show in Switzerland I took part in called ”ARTBOX.PROJECT ZÜRICH 1.0 at Swiss Art Expo".
This summer I had to take a break from teaching in Devon, but I can't wait to paint there again next August and to catch up with everybody at Coombe Farm Studios. Later in August, I flew to Germany to visit my parents. We enjoyed a trip to the Baltic Sea and I had the pleasure of watching my 94-year-old mother dip her toes in the lapping waves. The change in my usual schedule was partly due to needing extra time for my visit to Spain. My new colleagues, Anne and Nancy at Casa Ana, welcomed me for the first time and together we planned the final details for my new painting course in Andalusia, June 2020.
The Autumn brought more artistic opportunities: the showing of one of my watercolours at “ARTBOX.PROJECT MIAMI 2.0 at Miami Artweek”, USA this December, and an exciting new collaboration with a German sound engineer and composer, Dorothee Schabert. Whilst in Morocco I filmed a video to accompany her sound recordings/composition for a show at GEDOCK in Karlsruhe, Germany in February 2020. I'm also currently working on smaller watercolours for a limited edition of boxes containing Dorthee's upcoming CD release.
December will of course be the time to meet up with friends and my British family in Hampshire, which is always a great highlight at the end of the year.
I wish you all a creative new painting year,
There is nothing quite like the Scottish landscape when sunshine reveals the outlines of mountains against a clear blue sky – an instant inspiration for any artist
So we were blessed to spend our first day painting from Brynaport – our home from home for the duration of the painting course. The views from the house are stunning with the high pass road, just visible, winding up the mountains to Applecross and Loch Kishorn nestling in the foreground. A row of whitewashed cottages seen from the elevation of Brynaport made the perfect foreground motif in an otherwise more distant landscape. It also meant we could adjust our eyes to the vast, open landscapes which at first seems overwhelming in its beauty. But we soon got the measure of it and with the sun still shining on our second day, made our way to an old stone bridge at the head of the nearby estuary. From there we could overlook a fast expanse of flat grassland and water stretching to the far horizon fringed by the Corries mountain range. The lovely cafe just down the road was unexpectedly closed, the only disappointment of the day. However, we were compensated by home made cakes for tea, baked by our talented chef, Charlotte, who also produced delicious meals in the evenings and got everybody set up for the day's painting with a variety of hearty Highland breakfasts.
After an initially doubtful weather forecast, we were treated to another pleasant day and thus ventured out down the village road to the shores of Loch Kishorn. With so many views to choose from, it always takes a while to decide what to paint. Should it be the rocky out-crop by the water's edge, the row of old fisherman's cottages or the rust red sheds lined up along the pebbly beach? In the end, I decided to demonstrate how to capture the large expanse of water and mountains beyond the loch featuring a large fir tree on the rocky shore as a focal point. This was also a good opportunity to discuss composition and the various colours used for reflections on water. The next day appeared more overcast so we stayed close by and took the path to a secluded, very picturesque cove below Brynaport. Here exciting cliffs reach down to the water's edge, with large rocks in the foreground, shiny black and partly covered with glistening, yellow ochre seaweed.
These rock faces and their differently shaped boulders and crevices are deceptive. It took careful observation and drawing before we could start painting. My painting demonstration focused mainly on the three dimensional nature and the subtle colour changes within the folds of those rock formations. By then equipped with a deeper understanding of composition, colour perspective and the depiction of water surfaces we were ready to tackle the most delicate subject of all: clouds descending over the mountains. To get a good view of the dramatic mountain slopes and tops, partly obscured by rolling clouds fringed with mauves and yellows, we nipped around to the other side of Loch Kishorn with an open, seaward view towards the Isle of Sky.
The sudden sunburst through the clouds made this, our last day, a most rewarding experience and given the choice we all would have stayed in the Highlands for another week or two. But invariably all good things must come to an end and our last evening was approaching. We intended to make the most of it and displayed our week's painting for an informal showing with delicious canapés and champagne to “wash” it all down. After all, we had practiced water colour washes all week!
To round up the course in creative fashion we also had the pleasure of a poem being written and recited by one of our group, followed by a performance of Highland dancing and bagpipe music by two of the talented local teenagers - the most enjoyable way to finish a fantastic painting week, to say goodbye to the splendor of the Highlands and to thank everybody at Brynaport for their generous hospitality.
With best wishes for your summer painting,
The poem by Catherine Whiteside:
To the beautiful Highlands we came,
in groups and alone, by car and by train
and even from far flung corners, by ‘plane.
With eyes eager and open, our pencils aloft,
on beaches, in the studio and down by the loch.
With Bettina we’ve drawn trees and mountains, and rocks!
But Bettina! Oh help us! What colours to use??
Some Burnt Sienna perhaps, or some Cobalt Blue?
Apple Green, Windsor Yellow, Windsor Violet ... what a view!
Such fun times we have had, it’s all over too soon,
here’s our work on the walls, and a glass raised too.
Goodbye we must say, and huge THANK YOU, to you
Twenty six degrees Celsius and a light breeze greeted me on arrival at Faro airport in Portugal – perfect weather to start the painting week at Art In The Algarve painting school.
The picturesque harbour front in Olhao is always my first port of call for a coffee with one or two of the classic Portuguese tarts “pastel de nata”. Thus fortified I unpacked and sorted my painting utensils to be ready for our first day's painting. We did not have to venture far the next day to find the perfect spot. For beginners we found a large old wooden door. Sunlight was streaming through the gaps in the wood panels throwing an attractive pattern on the ground while the door itself hinted at the history of the old town. A small side street with receding buildings for the more advanced among us seemed just right and offered additional life models in the shape of leisurely moving pedestrians.
A few rules about the perspective of buildings under our belt and we set off via water taxi across the lagoon to the idyllic island of Armona. The island is mostly nature reserve, car-free with a village of small white washed houses smothered in Bourgainvilla and Jasmine stretching away from the jetty and beautiful sandy beaches all round. Though no time for us to sunbathe. We took one of the narrow walkways and settled by the sea with view to one of those typical white cottages fringed by jacaranda trees and two impressive palm trees. A few boats lay turned upside down off to the right to make it an ideal scene to paint. At lunchtime, Nuno, a young enthusiastic marine biologist and also our water-taxi driver, took everybody to the restaurant for a delicious fresh fish feast.
More fresh fish and not just to eat, was in abundance on view at the huge market halls at Olhao harbour the following day. Saturday is market day and the indoor market spills out over the large pavements, with stalls selling every vegetable and fruit known to mankind. Since the market is teaming with vendors and visitors it was an excellent opportunity for me to demonstrate how to quickly and simply capture the human form. Fortunately some customers spend a bit more time to negotiate the price of their purchases, giving us extra time to study their movements and postures.
Sunday was our free day where everybody could venture out on their own and explore the old town and its surrounds further. A visit to the nearby Ria Formosa, a nature reserve with an amazing old salt mill, was on offer or an excursion to one of the other islands. I opted for Culatra Island where I sketched an almost 360 degree view in one of the concertina sketch books which we were given by the art school after our first delicious dinner as a welcome present.
Up to then we had not spent time painting boats and so we set off to the small fishing village of Fuseta. The village has a smaller, more intimate harbour with traditional fishing boats and fishermen going about their business. These boats with their shed-like cabins and large, unusually shaped fishing tackle are surprisingly easier to paint than their northern European brothers due to their special character, their colourful décor and unique shape.
Tuesday, our last day, arrived much too soon. Time to nip back into town where storks sat in several nests on top of the various church roofs and bell towers, rhythmically clacking their beaks. Beneath them town life with its hustle and bustle carried on as normal, and we had a last opportunity to paint street scenes, grabbing a chair under a sun umbrella in a cafe or sitting in the cool shade of an old building to paint. The afternoon was reserved for finishing off paintings and for the preparations of our informal show in the evening. It was exciting to see what we had achieved during our painting week in Olhao. A reason to celebrate with a glass of wine or two.
As ever I cannot thank everybody enough for being so enthusiastic and dedicated to their painting, experimenting with new techniques and for being such a fun crowd to “hang out” with. Many thanks also goes to Camilla who organises operations from the UK and to the lovely Margarita, who runs the show at the art school with such joie de vivre.
With best wishes for the summer,
Unexpectedly hot and sunny after a cold weather warning, I happily set foot on Sicilian soil. The pool at the Fattoria Mose looked very inviting, so I dropped my bags immediately and delayed the offered cup of coffee in favor of a dip. Then it was time for a proper catch up with my friend Chiara Agnello, who so generously offers her home to me and my fellow painters every year to run the paining course. Two days later all the painters had arrived from Palermo airport and the painting fun could begin. As usual on our first day we sorted out paints, pots, boards etc. and then strolled around our new home for the week. The Fattoria Mose consists of an old 19th century main house with green window shutters and Moorish crenelations at either end, and various buildings and courtyards. It is surrounded by ancient olive trees (some over 700 years old), lemon and orange groves as well as almond and pistachio trees, terraces and gardens. So there was plenty to paint and we were spoiled for choice.
At the beginning of the painting course I like to start with an easy painting demonstration to cover a few ‘ground rules’. The large terracotta olive oil vessel on the nearest terrace conveniently shaded by Jacaranda palms was just the thing. A bright blue sky lit up part of the urn and the colourful plants at its base, and I was able to discuss the basic light and dark contrasts essential in a good composition. The colour choices were relatively simple since it was a close-up object and everybody eagerly set to work. Afterwards we were rewarded with tea on the terrace under a brilliant, clear blue sky. For the evening we gathered in the splendid dining room for pre-dinner drinks and our first delicious meal prepared with produce from the Fattoria, based on original Sicilian recipes handed down to Chiara over several generations. Chiara and her sister, Simonetta Agnello Hornby, actually feature in an Italian TV series where they teach and cook on the very spot where we had our tea in the afternoon.
Thus fortified and after a hearty breakfast we set off to the seaside at St Leone to tackle the wide open bay beneath Agrigento town, below the famous "Valley of the Temples". A couple of years ago, I found a small park there with palm trees for shade and a wonderful view of the sea breaking gently on some rocks in the foreground. Ideal for my second painting demonstration involving the treatment of seascapes in watercolour. It was an enjoyable and successful painting experience, no doubt made even more pleasurable by the ice cream cafe around the corner. With more sunshine the following day, we were back painting at the Fattoria. By popular request I demonstrated a more abstract approach to landscape painting. The view was of the hills towards the outline of Agrigento on the far horizon. It was wonderful to share the excitement of laying on strong and dense watercolour washes and then splashing them liberally with water from a big brush to lift off some of the thicker layers. The exposed images and patterns - partly intended and partly accidental - are always a revelation. This very free way of working however is quite an advanced technique and takes a bit of practice. We then settled to paint from our chosen corners, peeping through foliage into the landscape past clumps of Iris with orange trees below, or framing the view with giant cactus plants and fresh, yellow spring flowers. Yellow stayed with us the next day when we visit the ancient Greek temples of Agrigento. The temple columns were glowing in a rich golden ochre under an azure sky - irresistible to paint! We spent the morning there drawing not just the temples but also took the opportunity to sketch people. After a late lunch back at the Fattoria, I was able to demonstrate ways of applying colour to our drawings. The contrast of the blue sky against the solid ochre shapes of the temple ruins were an inspiration to us all.
Towards the end of the week it was time to venture into the old town centre of Agrigento. Most of us opted for a leisurely stroll through the ancient narrow roads up to the cathedral, from which the view widens across the sea and to the hills inland. We had a singular challenge: to find the back entrance to the Monastery of Santo Spirito where the resident nuns bake especially tasty traditional almond biscuits. The door is hard to find, but we succeeded and obtained our objects of desire.
Unavoidably, our final day dawned, and with it beckoned another wonderful day of painting at the Fattoria grounds. Having admired the Baroque architecture in town the previous day, we were ready to focus on the various arches of the main housem, and private family chapel attached to it. Great subjects for the last day when we were all painted in. A lesson of perspective regarding buildings, alongside my watercolour demonstration, was well received. There was even some time left in the afternoon to do a quick demonstration of painting the people we had sketched at the temples. That evening we were gathering, not as most evenings on the upper terrace, but in the lounge area adjoining the dining room, where we enjoyed an informal showing of our paintings. It was impressive to see so many inspirational paintings, and a pleasure for me as a teacher to observe how everybody had expressed their personal vision of the scenery we experienced together. A toast was in order and a big ‘thank you’ to our charming hostess Chiara, to Corrina who cooked so many of the tasty meals with Chiara, and to Marcello who never tired of looking after us. Friendship, inspired painting, sunshine every day and Chiara's warm welcome made this a perfect painting week. Needless to say I am already planning the next one!
With thanks to everybody on the course, and at the Fattoria Mose,
"I so enjoyed my week at Fattorio Mose and my painting with you. The group was lovely and we met some very talented artists and charming people."
"Thank you again for making our holiday so special. Our trip to Sicily was simply a delight from start to finish."
After the rather cold spell in London, I am now looking back fondly to the painting course in Morocco in March where we had the perfect painting weather. A whole fortnight of sunshine under an azure sky!
We arrived as usual around mint tea time at the Nomad Palace, Merzouga, just in time to watch the sun set over the rose coloured sand dunes of the 'Erg Chebbi'- a suitable welcome to us eager painters.
The next morning we were greeted by our host and old friend Ali Mouni who with us during most of our time in Morocco. After a generous breakfast including Moroccan pancakes, diverse sponge cakes and freshly squeezed orange juice we were ready to go. So we gathered all our painting gear and looked around for suitable painting subjects. Most of us settled for a view of the nearby desert dunes, while others chose the typical Moroccan courtyards with classical doorways and nooks. My first watercolour demonstration depicting the landscape surrounding the Nomad Palace dealt with colour choices, basic perspective in landscape, and the placement of people in open spaces. After our day's labours, a cooling drink in the hotel courtyard before dinner became a nightly habit.
The following day we made our first painting excursion to the local Palmerie. It was delightful to sit under the shade of the date palms and paint the small fields, where people from the village in colourful attire were working, framed by large palm trees and adobe buildings in the distance. At lunch time Ali and his friends appeared with a delicious picnic lunch - hot Berber flat bread (called Madfona) stuffed with various tasty fillings, and fresh oranges for dessert
Then it was time to venture out further. We set off on a trip around the Erg Chebbi's massive island of sand dunes until we reached a hill with a small auberge, the 'Salama', right on top of it. From there we had a commanding view of desert dwellings nestling at the foot of the highest Dunes, fringed by Tamarisk trees, a fantastic painting subject! It had the added advantage that we were able to have mid-morning coffees and a very tasty lunch. Ali also set up a tent where some of us sheltered from the sun to paint. At the end of our painting day we completed our circuit of the dunes, and visited a Nomad family on the way for a refreshing glass of mint tea.
The next day was a 'free' day with no tuition, where most of us decided to visit the impressive fossil museum followed by late lunch at the Nomad Palace and a leisurely afternoon by the swimming pool.
Our paint brushes did not rest for long. On Saturday morning a group of camels arrived with young men in traditional Berber dress who were going to be our life models for the day, not the easiest of subjects but so much fun. To get everybody started I demonstrated how to sketch and capture in watercolour the lively scene in front of us. When we finished painting for the day, we added a number of camels to our little gathering and rode off into the sunset together
From camels to architecture was a large step into a totally different artistic direction. The deserted village that we visited the following day is now occupied by one sole family after the wells dried up many years ago. All that is left is a haphazard collection of picturesquely crumbled buildings, slowly melting back into the ground from which they came. A painters paradise, though we had to choose our painting spots according to the shade available. One of the ruins is partly occupied by a Nomad gentleman who has created a very artistic and shady den where he offered us lunch.
As the days passed we inevitably approached our departure from Merzouga. It was very hard to leave the desert and its lovely people behind, but the Dades Gorge was calling. So we packed our bags and set off the following day, and after a half day's drive arrived at the stunning Gorge. The views from the hotel terrace are spectacular, and after a hearty lunch we unpacked our painting gear once more for highly enjoyable painting session. In my painting demonstration I was able to illustrate how to capture the shape and colours of this unique mountain landscape. For the less experienced there were also close up subjects, so everybody had a wonderful time painting and relaxing.
Sadly our last day had dawned, and we had to drive back to Ouarzazate to fly home. But not without another lovely afternoon's painting by the pool at our final destination, the hotel 'Le Jardin.
Thus ended an exceptional painting holiday, made even more so by a delightfully convivial group with whom was a pleasure to share our Moroccan experience.
With best wishes for a colourful Painting spring,
March is approaching fast and preparations for the panting holiday in Morocco have started in earnest. A new batch of watercolour paper has been ordered, paint brushes are sorted and watercolours checked for missing colours which might still have to be purchased. It's best to do this in good time since there is always the chance of a colour not in stock at the art shop. Once that is done, the big suitcase in the shed will need a thorough dusting and the joyful task of packing can begin. And not too soon the day - 10th of March to be precise - will come for the departure to Ouarzazate, the journey to the desert beyond the Atlas mountains and a big welcome by our Moroccan host Ali Mouni and his friends. Can't wait!