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."