Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to make the most of a painting holiday

Yesterday I wrote about How to choose a painting holiday. Today I'm focusing on how to make the most of a painting holiday once you get there. An EXPANDED version of this blog post, together with the others in this mini-series, is available as an article from Making A Mark - Painting Holidays.

First off, you're not seeing things. This is the same view - but I decided to continue to develop the drawing!

I'm trying to decide whether to finish tweaking - but this is a favourite view and I'll probably do it again in the future. If you want to see the location check out this link to Google Maps Italy.

Monterchi from the Via Madonna del Parto
8" x 10", coloured pencil on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Back to the subject - how to make the most of your painting holiday.

Once you’ve booked, how can you get the most out of your painting holiday? This post provides an overview about:
  • Art materials
  • Timing
  • The best way to enjoy yourself
  • The best source of advice about future painting holidays
Art Materials

Art materials are important because:
  • If learning new techniques, you’ll want to make sure you have all you need
  • You don’t want to run out of 'stuff' you need when you’re nowhere near your favourite art shop
  • Art materials can contribute significant weight to your luggage
  • The colours you’ll use will vary with the places you visit
  • You’ll come across new materials and might want to try them out!
My tips in brief are:
  • Make sure you know what art materials are required by the tutor, which of these are absolutely essential and where the nearest art shop is.
  • Check how you can get hold of art materials which are not allowed on planes eg inflammable items like turps and fixative.
  • Get advice about colours to take if the locality is very different to your home and the colours you are used to using.
  • Weigh the art materials you're taking - and then decide what must go and what can be left behind. I personally favour art materials over clothes!
  • Do a trial pack well in advance of leaving - you'll be surprised at how many compromises are required to get everything in - and you might want some time to reflect........
  • Take all precious art materials/equipment in your hand luggage. Seriously - what are you going to do if the suitcase goes AWOL?
  • Leave room in your suitcase for all the new art materials you may want to buy (or leave an order and arrange for them to be shipped)

I always sleep really well on a painting holiday. I'm usually tired out from all the hard work and lots of socialising - plus all that concentration associated with drawing and painting.

Here are some tips about timing - some of which are aimed at the plein air painter:
  • if travelling far, don't try too much until you're over the bad jet lag day. Look around, get used to new sights and sketch.
  • Try travelling out a couple of days earlier so you can get used to a place.
  • Try getting up very early and drawing/painting before breakfast
  • Resist all attempts to remove you too soon from early evening light which can be very beautiful. Find places close to where you stay where you can paint prior to dinner.
  • Inveterate sketchers also take a sketchbook to dinner! (Well I do!)
  • Stay out late and try night painting!
  • Do remember to get enough sleep
  • Remember you can always arrange to tack some days on at the end of a holiday if travelling independently. By then you'll know all the best places to go for painting!
The best way to enjoy yourself

Unless you arrive in need of a good rest I advocate a work hard and play hard routine - with power naps at well timed intervals!

My personal opinion is that the people who get the most out of a painting holiday are those who work hard. It's enjoyable rather than hard work although it might also be a challenge. Some people work better if they have an aim in mind.

Having worked hard you deserve time off. Have a good break at both lunchtime and dinner and give yourself a well earned respite from the rigours of learning new things, trying new techniques and an awful lot of drawing and painting. Plus of course this is when you get to learn about all sorts of other things which are art-related!

The best source of advice about future painting painting holidays or tutors

If you enjoy a painting holiday, you'll doubtless want want to go on another - but where can you go to get the best information and advice?

Without a doubt, the best advice I've ever had about painting holidays and tutors has come from people who have personal experience of a particular holiday, painting holiday company or artist/tutor. You cannot beat a face to face discussion for an honest assessment. It's not so difficult to find strong recommendations about very good tutors on the internet (eg The best ever workshop - pastel painting with Sally Strand) but it's not so easy to check out those who don't enjoy the same profile.

Now that's not to suggest that you take everything people say as the literal truth. You will always need to filter information anybody provides by considering:
  • personal preferences: Some people love demos while others want good crits from their tutors. I've found personal preferences count for a lot when students assess tutors.
  • level of experience and awareness:
    • I've found that people who are new to painting and being taught are quite likely to be impressed by anybody who is more skilled than them. Their advice tends to be more helpful to other people who are new to painting.
    • People who have made progress with their painting tend to offer more valuable advice than those who continue to do what they’ve always done no matter how many tutors they’ve met!
    • More experienced artists can become quite critical about the level of competence of some tutors - in some cases, with justification. However they also tend to be better judges of what an artist/tutor is actually good at - from a more experienced artist's perspective.
Interestingly, individuals' level of experience and individual preferences are much less important when it comes to assessments made about standards of accommodation, meals and refreshments and the host's handling of the overall logistics.

Keep an eye out for blog posts and forum threads about workshops and painting holidays. The main difficulty about getting recommendations from online forums and blog posts is it doesn't enable you to filter the information provided UNLESS you know that individual very well indeed.

An expanded version of this is available as a free download from A Making A Mark Guide - Painting Holidays.



Felicity Grace said...

Katherine, these are very interesting articles! I've always wondered what painting holidays are like and I often do a bit of digging around for info if I see an interesting ad. The one thing I would like to see more of is examples of the tutors work, which is not always easy. For me that would be the first consideration, to get some idea of their approach and whether they teach something I want to learn.

Making A Mark said...

It's such an obvious point isn't it!

I actually covered this in the Making A Mark Guide associated with yesterday's post. This is the link to Making A Mark Guide - How to choose a painting holiday

I can never quite understand why people would think we want to fork out what is rather a lot of money without very much evidence about the individual who is going to be providing instruction. Traditional CVs are a start - but they are nowhere near enough.

What I like about instructors/tutors having blogs - if these are used properly - is that they can provide a really good sense of what the person is actually like.

'A Tuscan view.....from Umbria' said...

Hi Katherine, I was very kindly given a link to your blog by Robyn and I have really enjoyed having snoop around. Your last 3 posts are especially interesting to me as we have recently put our new website on-line for painting holidays in Italy. You can access the site via our blog and I would be extremely grateful if you would have a look and give me some feedback. Any constructive criticism is more than welcome as we are still tweaking the site. Many thanks Amanda

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