Thursday, May 29, 2008

The big gap in the painting holiday market

What's the big gap in the painting holiday market?

Well, it's debateable. I guess everybody's perspective will vary on this one - and I invite you to contribute to that debate. I do know that there are more than a couple of people delivering painting workshops/painting holidays who'd also like to know the answer to this question - so do make sure you also let them know what you think!

The drawings and paintings in this post are of fellow artists. I drew and painted all the people while on painting holidays in Spain, Greece, Prague and Bali. You can see more in my Drawing Artists gallery but you can only "admire" my simply awful watercolour technique in this post!

I'm going to suggest what I think are some possible gaps in the market before coming to what I consider is the biggest gap of all but first........

How have I arrived at my conclusions?

Like a lot of other artists I now tend to combine painting with trips to places I want to see plus I still do occasional workshops and painting holidays with tutors - generally with a view to learning something very specific.

However, I've spent over 20 years reading the advertisements for painting holidays and workshops in the back pages of magazines for artists (both UK, USA and international) and searching on the web. I've then sent off for and waited eagerly for lots and lots of literature.

Unfortunately, all too often I've been disappointed. Over the years I've seen absolutely masses of the 'same old, same old' tired, unfocused, unstructured, undemanding offerings - with lots of emphasis on the sunshine, the swimming pool and the wonderful food cooked by the wife - and not a lot of emphasis on the art!

I really don't understand why this happens - except to wonder whether providers think everybody buying painting holidays puts the holiday bit first and the art bit second! As I suggested on Tuesday, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the facilities and logistics very much need to be up to scratch but the delivery of the art instruction is also of crucial importance.

Every now and again I see and am tempted by offerings from artists with talent and an apparent gift for communication and teaching judging by their books (which is not the same as all artists who have ever written a book!) and/or articles. Which reminds me - I forgot to say on Tuesday that one of the ways of choosing a holiday is by reading art magazines and art instruction books and looking at how people present themselves and their work - I must go and add that back into the guide!

Every now and again I'm tempted by holidays with artists with terrific reputations who don't communicate about their art - but I don't tend to follow these up.

Some gaps in the market

Here are some of the gaps in the market which I've noticed over the years and as I've started to research topics for this blog.
  • painting holidays in very specific places - which seem to vary over time. At one point there was, believe it or not, a complete dearth of painting holidays in Venice and Tuscany!
  • painting holidays with a specific outcome in mind (ie developing a skill set for an artist working at a specific level -beginner/intermediate/advanced) based on working from life rather than a photograph. One of the ways you can tell if people have delivered customer-focused painting holidays for some time is if they differentiate skill levels required or suitable for a specific course/holiday and can define skills which are achievable within the available timescale.
  • painting holidays for people wanting to work purely on composition and design. I guess this one goes with the dearth of books about the same subject! Which is really odd given the response I got to that particular project. I guess all tutors would say they teach about this it - I'd argue very few seem to do it well enough for a painting holiday to be described as focused on composition and design.
  • painting holidays for people wanting to develop miniature art. I've never ever seen one and yet I know it's a very popular and collectible form of art
  • painting holidays for people wanting to develop animal art. This time it's a hugely popular art form with artists. One sees one and two day workshops - which tend to be about technique in a specific media - but very little for people who want to learn more about capturing animals from life.
  • there are very few painting holidays dedicated to figure painting and/or portraiture. Of course models cost money! However if you are trying to produce paintings with figures in you don't always need models - you need to learn a process for creating and designing a painting. Portraiture for some reason only seems to be offered as workshops of relatively short duration - and yet it's painting people day in and day out which often sees people achieve improvements.
  • painting holidays for people wanting to market/sell their art. I think I've only ever seen one which had a strong art business component - and I'm not sure it ran in the end. Which is odd considering the number of artists who want to sell their art. Maybe this is a topic which is a useful addition to other sorts of painting holidays?
So - what's the BIG GAP in the painting holiday market?

It's very simple. It's the peer group painting holiday.

What I would very much like to be able to do is go away with other artists and work in an area and have like-minded people to sit and eat meals with and review the art done during the day.

However artists who want to paint together and who don't want or need a tutor have very real difficulties in finding information about places to go which offer studio facilities alongside suitable accommodation in desirable locations. I know - I've tried it! This isn't about art colonies - which are groups of people doing art in one place who don't know one another. This is about people who do know one another and who want to take some time out to paint together - as part of a holiday or extended break. If you like it's similar to a very extended version of the Art Society plein air day trip.

What I've been very struck by since coming online as an artist is the fact that we all have so much to teach to one another. In fact, I now find I'm often reading articles in art magazines about subjects which were topical in online discussions in the last year or so. In other words we're being creative, generating the topics of interest, researching them, sharing the information and doing it all online.

So why don't we apply the same approach to painting holidays? How can we all help groups of artists who want to work together in a holiday context and also support and help one another's learning?

Paying for accommodation and studio access only would tend to greatly reduce the cost of any painting holiday - but we need to know where suitable accommodation/studios are.

On the other hand, artists who can deliver the 'host' role by providing studio, accommodation and meals, detailed knowledge of the area from an artist's perspective and maps of good plein air painting locations have a very useful role to play which can be factored into the price of any accommodation.

I've noticed that some artists who have their own accommodation set-ups have started to offer this as an option. What I'm suggesting in this post is that maybe what needs to happen now is to raise the profile of the peer group painting holiday and provide support for people wanting to try and organise one.

I'm happy to use this blog post as a way of people sharing information if that helps.

What do YOU THINK is the big gap in the painting holiday market?

So - have I got it right or not? Over to you:
  • what do you think is the big gap in the painting holiday market?
  • do you have another opinion about how the marketplace works at present?
  • what do you think about my notion that we need more information about places where artists can paint in small groups?
  • do we need to think about how best to organise group trips?


Bob Ebdon said...

You raise several interesting points Katherine - the one that concerns me most is that like you I have been to many other artists on courses (I can't afford holidays!) and have been disappointed. Why? Because many great artists cannot teach. Some people I respect enormously as artists have sat there in classes and expected their talent to transfer by osmosis to the students. I taught for 22 years and understand about lesson preparation - many artists have never prepared a lesson in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great post Katherine.

I think the peer artist holiday is a great idea. There are people who read your blog from all over the world. Surely between them/us we can come up with a bunch of destinations that would meet these criteria?

I'm particularly interested in the focus on drawing/painting animals and try and squeeze that in when I travel, but I'd love to have it be a focus.

Robert Dvorak is an excellent teacher based in Monterey and he leads some great trips -- I've taken travel sketching, marketing, and a zoo class with him -- but they've all been one-day things. I bet he'd be open tho to what you're proposing. See but in particular his "business of selling art" is a fantastic course!

Clive said...

Nice paintings and drawings, I visit every few weeks. Interesting item, too.

Papierflieger said...

I have followed your posts with interest.
The combination of holiday and art workshop has always the potential of conflict in my opinion. I have met people who were perfectly satisfied with a week of leasure and moving the brushes a bit for fun.

As to the gap: I started something that probably will find imitators. It´s a holistic and therefore new concept which is not covered at least in Germany yet. The concept has evolved from my own experience over the last 4 years working with sketchbooks. Due to the holistic approach the aspects of recreation and art are integrated and inseparable connected. I run a separate blog on this,but as usual in German language.

vivien said...

a good post and it is a gap in the market for many people.

I'm lucky that I have fellow painters I usually go away with for a painting break - it's great to crit the work of the day in the evening over a glass of wine. Seeing the different ways we all use materials and tackle the same subject matter (landscape/seascapes usually) is great.

For people who have taken up painting and don't have this peer group, this isn't the case and a holiday like this would be a fantastic learning curve - and fun :>).

I was going to suggest more advanced holidays with more challenging content would appeal to more experienced painters who fancied an intensive period painting with like minded people.

Tina Mammoser said...

Funny, just seeing your title I knew what *I* was going to suggest. Which is precisely what you found.

Holidays for experienced artists. Or rather, places that simply welcome artists. Welcoming pets, hikers, cyclists, and surfers has become something facilities advertise - how about artists?

I do go away on holiday and paint but it would be great to know places that had a studio, or simply welcomed artists. Meaning we can wash our brushes in the sink, maybe there's a room with tiled floor and a table to work on without worry of wrecking something with a bit of paint, perhaps a closet or room to dry work in. It doesn't have to specifically be a studio, just places where the owners are relaxed and welcoming. For groups of artists it could be these things on a slightly larger scale - a nice big room with table to share, utility sink, etc. Perhaps standard amenities could include rags. :)

Sarah said...

Great posts Katherine, peer holidays are a great idea, I am putting my thinking cap on with regards to venue etc... and the business side of it all is another splendid one, blogging and selling your art on line, I have lost count of the number of fellow artists that I have helped to set up a blog. Come and stay (when I have a house!) with Viv and we can plot, plan and paint!!

Robyn Sinclair said...

Since my life is now one big painting holiday, it would be hard for me to justify a painting holiday ;)

When I do look at websites and advertisements for holidays, I'm attracted to the ones run by someone whose art inspires me. Someone who will teach me something.

What I dislike about any type of group holiday is the amount of expensive time that can be wasted on visiting commercial enterprises such as wine cellars, cheese shops, glass factories - you name it. These are marketing exercises and in my opinion have no place in a painting holiday.

I have no experience of peer group panting holidays but it sounds like a wonderful idea. I have been on Writers' Holiday workshops and they have been fantastic for sharing experiences and skills.

Robyn Sinclair said...

Love the 'artists' pen sketches, Katherine and I don't think you have any reason to be humble about your watercolour technique.

Unknown said...

You are right on about the peer group holidays. I have done a couple with some of my calligraphy, book arts friends. One gal rented a condo every winter near Myrtle Beach, SC and she would invite 4 of us down for a week and every day we did art and each of us took a turn teaching something to the others. We all learned so much and came home with several art projects.

So there is always the option of a group of artists renting a cabin, cottage or condo for a week and you will then have access to the sink for washing brushes and such besides being in an area with views to paint.

Casey Klahn said...

First of all, the group of art in this post is refreshing. Thanks for posting them.

Very thought provoking series of posts, here. I was at the art store in Spokane the other day, for the first time in months, and was very taken at the large number of artists offering classes. It seems to me that the teaching track is becoming almost unavoidable for many working artists!

Adam Cope is doing a project on the subject of sketches of artists painting on site.

Making A Mark said...

Bob - I do know and understand how to teach but I've certainly not got your track record in teaching!

It seems to me that people can be good at teaching because
- they have innate ability
- or because they've been trained to teach
or because they've learned through application and feedback.

However, it's my belief that there are many fewer people with innate ability than some would have us believe. Ditto I don't think enough teachers outside the education systems get enough feedback and evaluation of how well they are doing.

Some painting courses and holidays could be so much better if the 'teacher' accepted that teaching does have a knowledge base and a set of skills and made sure they knew a bit more about how to teach before they accept money from people.

The great thing about peer holidays is that we accept that our peers are not trained teachers - but value what they can share - for free.

Making A Mark said...

Pica - thanks for the suggestions. I'm certainly keen to help improve the available choice for people who want to learn

Making A Mark said...

Thanks Clive - what nice watercolours you do!

Making A Mark said...

Martin - I've got absolutely no problem with painting holidays being about fun and having a relaxing time as well as doing a spot of painting.

I object to organisers who try to mix the committed painter who wants to cram as much as they can into the time available in with the part-time hobbyists who just want to chill out!

I'm a huge supporter of all those who differentiate their classes and spell out who they are suitable for.

Making A Mark said...

Vivien - I absolutely agree with you - and we have still got to apply ourselves to the Cornwall expedition, especially now that Sarah knows where she is going to be living in future!

Making A Mark said...

It seems like the peer group painting holiday has got some solid support and I was right about where the major gap is! I'm going to be giving some more thought to how to develop this in ways which are mutually beneficial.

Casey - I hope all those artists who are hoping to generate income from teaching also realise that being able to paint doesn't automatically qualify them to be able to teach - or even have well organised workshops / painting holidays. Read Jana's comment on the next post in this series to hear about an experience which is maybe more common than people realise. At least people are now making these comments out loud - even if we are still being very polite and not naming names.

It occurs to me that some artists might do better generating income by offering B&B and use of a studio to all those painters who want to get away to paint with their friends!

Julie Douglas said...

Hi Kathrine

I'll do one in Ireland!! I already offer Art for Art Teachers as a two day course, to give art teachers a little battery recharging and nuture.
I've booked myself in to courses now and then just to work quietly in the corner and have the discipline and lack of distraction that I sometimes have at home. If anyone is interested in visiting Ireland for a painting & drawing break, either in County Clare, on the West, or maybe Kilkenny, which is a very arty, buzzy place, they might like to contact me and we'll see what I can arrange.

julie Douglas - note my new email address -

David said...

Great post Katherine. It strikes a chord because I've just come back from a splendid peer group 'plein air' painting trip down in Sennen, Cornwall (Land's End). I decided to book something early in the year and thought it would be nice to invite along fellow plein air enthusiasts to share the experience.

We all had a superb time and the accommodation was ideal (kitted out to cater for surfers and other large groups). I came back with 38 paintings but it's the memories of the shared experiences that I'll cherish the most. I'm hoping to set up some more.....there's certainly a shortage of this kind of thing and the demand is there. A great way to get inspired, meet up with creative people and produce new work! You can see a few action shots at

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