Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to find a painting holiday website

For those new to painting holidays here are a few websites to try and find your way round the range of options on offer. I've made more detailed comments on sites which I know personally.

Please note
  • I'm not endorsing any of the websites - unless specifically indicated.
  • Lots of informative and helpful websites are not included in the sort of directories listed below. You should try plugging a lot of different combinations of key words into your browser's search facility for the sort of holiday you want and see what comes up.
  • Look carefully at what the website says - not what the domain name says. You'll see why as you begin to review sites! ;)
  • When I term a holiday expensive, it doesn't mean this is good or bad it's just a comment on what I have found over the years. 'Expensive' only means that the holiday typically costs more relative to other painting holidays. That expense could be associated with, for example - tutors of repute and a lot more support than you might find on other holidays. It might also provide the sort of financial return for the organiser which means you are dealing with a long established operation. In this context one could associate 'expensive' with 'quality' and 'reliable' - but read the literature and judge for yourself.
My general recommendation would be to read lots of literature before making a decision. You may want to consult previous posts in this series to help you make that decision.

Monterchi, Valtiberina
27cm x 35m, Coloured pencil
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

General listings

These sites provide directories of painting holidays, workshops and classes. They are not the only ones. So far as I am aware there is no quality control operating in relation to listing a website other than (I hope) exclusion of what look like very obvious scam operations.

As always, when reviewing what's on offer, please heed my recommendation to read thoroughly and carefully. Look for what is not stated as well as what is.

Directory sites include:
  • Artshow - workshops and classes - this site very helpfully organises its large database by:
    • medium,
    • theme (everything from animal art to the business side of being an artist) Note that in some categories, providers list individual workshops while others list their website. Some are properly 'on topic' while others have a looser connection.
    • location (international) - by country or USA state. Most of the offerings are based in the USA.
  • Painting Holiday Directory - this is now in its sixteenth year and is run in the UK by Anne Hedley. The service provided is a Directory delivered as a paper publication and a website - which has got better over time. It provides short descriptions, links and contact details but doesn't assess or evaluate in any way that I can see. As with Artshow, the main benefit for people who are browsing for holidays is that it organises listing according to categories (see below). One of the more useful features is that you can perform a search by continent and country which produces a map with locations identified on a map and links provided to the listed providers in that country. Note that it is overwhelming oriented towards Europe. I find the current version to be easier to use in relation to provider and tutor. I found the indexing in relation to media and subject matter to be generally weak - mainly because it seems to generate a generalised listing rather than one which is specific to the index item search. To access all the available information you have to buy the book and get a password.
Painting holiday organisers

These are corporate organisations which organise more than one painting holiday a year involving different tutors and/or provide listings of art and painting holidays or workshops. Their name is on the booking details.
  • The Artist and Leisure Painter Magazines - painting holidays.
    • Their Painters Online website for The Artist and Leisure Painter - two popular UK art magazines has a couple of sections devoted to holidays and workshops. Note these are always organised by the magazine and are not the same as the listings taken in the classified ads section of their magazines. It's slightly odd that they don't provide a direct link to the Spencer Scott website (see below) which has all the details of all current holidays on offer.
    • Independent providers of painting holidays and workshops can be found in their marketplace section. Some seem to get a premium listing while others are just listed by name and telephone number - even people who have been advertising in their pages for years and years. I'm not entirely sure why they adopt this approach - other than that their website in this format has only been running for 6 months - and this may be an area for development for them.
  • Spencer Scott Travel Services - This is a well established company with a range of operations associated with organising travel services for other organisations.
    • This is the company which has run the painting holidays sponsored by The Artist and Leisure Painter Magazines in the UK for a very long time (15+ years?). I've no idea who initiates them and I'm guessing it may be a collaboration as to which artist and which destination.
    • The Painting Abroad page lists the holidays available. The holidays are expensive - but you are getting 'name' tutors with a good reputation as artists, a guide accompanying the holiday and decent accommodation - within what is available in the location. The level of 'hands on' instruction can vary quite a bit - but this always seems to be made clear in the details advertised. I recall they have had a few holidays listed in the past for experienced painters.
    • They go to some really interesting places - these are the people I went with to Bali in 1992 - when nobody else was offering Bali as a destination for a painting holiday. The current offering is Havana in November. Based on holidays I've been on with them I'd say 'The Artist' ones tend to attract the serious amateur and a few professionals.
  • International Artist - Painting Workshop Vacations. These are the painting holidays associated with the artist's magazine International Artist.
    • I've looked long and hard at their advertisements in the past - but their holidays are expensive. Some of their tutors, like Charles Reid and Robert Wade, are artists I've wanted to take a painting holiday with some time - mainly because I see them as helpful but challenging. Shame I stopped doing watercolour!
    • This is their International Artist Painting Holiday 2008 schedule
    • Plus point - galleries of work by some of the artists. Others have websites.
    • I've always found this site to be informative - both in terms of detailed descriptions of what happens on the holidays and the statements about terms and conditions and what's included. Links to the websites of hotels used would be a nice addition. I came across some defective links which hadn't been updated.
  • The situation in the USA in relation to art magazines is odd. They generally have a lot more classified advertising - but this does not transfer to the website. I can only assume this is because they haven't yet remodelled their business model for web-based advertising and this may change in due course.
    • The Artist's Marketplace is a products and services directory associated with The Artist's magazine, Pastel Journal etc in the USA equivalent. Unlike the UK art magazines it doesn't sponsor painting holidays and it has only four independent entries on the workshops page.
    • The American Artist website has a few more workshop entries but still not very many.
  • Field Studies Council: A UK based organisation which is mainly concerned with environmental education for all age groups - which includes painting holidays and workshops. This is the link to the painting and drawing courses for adults. Accommodation can be provided in an FSC centre. The FSC gets a big tick from me for being good about saying whether a holiday is for beginners improvers or more experienced artists - and setting up differentiated courses in the first place!
Art Schools providing Summer Schools and art courses/vacations

Most Art Schools now have an imperative to make sure that their accommodation and staff can generate income streams for them out of term time. Few offer accommodation unless delivering the course overseas. The main advantage is that they offer tutors or visiting lecturers who usually teach art to foundation course students and sometimes undergraduates or postgraduates.

Here are some links to just some of the options available in London
Plus there are obviously opportunities in colleges and universities in other areas. For example
Individual companies providing painting holidays

These are people I've taken painting holidays with - and would recommend to others and have. However, please note that I'm not up to date with current arrangements. Also note that these are operations which have generated repeat business from me - and from others - they're still going after many years of operation.
  • Arts in Provence - this set-up has been delivering courses since 1990. The location in the Luberon area of Provence is brilliant for those who like being in tiny hamlets with no facilities! I'd characterise this operation as being business-like, helpful and friendly. I now only know one of the artists they use.
  • Coombe Farm Studios - This set-up celebrates 25 years of operation this year and I've known them since 1992. Courses listed are a combination of those organised by Coombe Farm Studios - which use professional practising artists - and those of artists who use the facilities and organise their own courses. Paul Riley, author of some popular books about watercolour painting is the main artist and is usually involved in overseas holidays. Tina Riley is a very amiable and friendly host - and a good cook! Between them they've generated a lot of repeat business - and a very long-running operation.
Independent accommodation
The following are mostly rental accommodations suitable for artists or writers. They have either been used by myself or recommended by trusted colleagues.
Robert Genn
I think I'm going to keep this as an open post and if people find a website which looks helpful then I'll review it and add it in under a category of reader's recommendations. (However I may have this as a separate post - depending on what I receive). You'll need to be very specific as to why you are recommending the course. Ideally you'll provide me with a link to a blog post where you have already extolled its virtues.

I hope people find this post helpful. Remember to read all the details carefully, don't make assumptions and do ask questions of your potential host about anything you feel is not clear.

I'd love to hear back from anybody if they think this series has helped them.



  1. Hi there
    Well this is very helpful.
    Can I just tell you about my website that offers stunning painting in South Africa.
    Please take a peep at the itinerary. Maybe someday I'll have the privilege of showing you and your friends the sites. My site is

  2. I am an experienced professional artist and art teacher. Together with my Thai wife Waree we run a small guesthouse in remote NE Thailand on the banks of the Mekong River.

    I provide painting/photography tuition, and my wife takes our guests to local villages/landmarks to experience the Thai lifestyle. She also introduces local foods and how to prepare them.

    Details on our website

    Jeremy Holton


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