Monday, May 26, 2008

Why choose a painting holiday?

A painting holiday can teach you new skills and reinvigorate your art. At the same time it can also provide you with a complete break from daily life and your normal live/work balance and enable you to meet interesting people and make some great friends.

However, it's also possible for a painting holiday to cause some people anxiety and/or grief. I've been on a lot which did the former and experienced a little of the latter.

Salute from the Accademia Bridge
11.75 x 16.5", Watercolour and Coloured Pencil

Copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been thinking for a long time that it would be good to share some of what I've learned over the years with those who are now in the same position I was in nearly 20 years ago - thinking about going on a painting holiday.............

So - for those thinking of going on a painting holiday - this week I'm going to be providing some overviews from my perspective. The current plan is as follows:
  • Monday - why choose a painting holiday
  • Tuesday - how to choose a painting holiday
  • Wednesday - how to make the most of a painting holiday
  • Thursday - the big gap in the painting holiday market
If you're planning a holiday and have got any queries or things you'd appreciate hearing more about just leave a comment below and I'll try to answer it in the posts which follow or by way of a 'comment' response.

Why choose a painting holiday?

Everybody is different and we all have our individual reasons for choosing to go on a painting holiday. Here are some of the reasons why I've chosen to go on painting holidays in the past - and I think a lot of people will identify with one or more of these.

In my experience, painting holidays have represented an opportunity for me to:
  • get back to doing art again after a long break
  • learn how to get better at some aspect of art
  • take a big break from work - exercising the right brain rather than the left!
  • take a 'time out' from the current work/life balance
  • visit and paint in a particular location
  • go on a painting holiday on my own
  • go on a painting holiday on my own - but with like-minded people
  • go on a painting holiday with friends I've made on previous painting holidays!
  • have fun and relax
Below you'll find a few comments expanding on each of the above.

Get back to art

This was my primary reason for seeking my very first painting holiday. I'd pursued studies in art through to an advanced level at school but had subsequently occupied myself over the next 15 years with lots of other non-art related studies for two degrees and two professional qualifications - half of which were done while also holding down a full time job! By the time I'd finished that lot I needed a big break - and of course, I wasn't needing my annual leave for studying and could actually go on holiday!

It seemed to me if I was ever going to get myself back into doing art again that I needed to immerse myself in art for a while - so I promptly booked myself a two week painting holiday in Provence. Which turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made - as I met a very helpful professional painter/tutor who have me great advice about what to do when I got back home again - and everything took off from there.

If you want to get back into art, it's maybe best to find a nurturing environment. However if you're somebody with art experience who's trying to get going again, you might also feel the need for a bit of a challenge - rather than spoon-feeding. I have to say I liked the fact that I was treated as somebody who was 'rusty' rather than somebody who didn't know anything. I think I might have ended up having the screaming ab-dabs if I'd had to do a complete beginners course.

Learn how to get better at some aspect of art

This is a very common reason why a lot of people take a painting holiday. Sometimes however it's a good idea to go with a general aim of advancing your art.

I started with a very clear aim of getting back into doing art and a very vague 'learn how to paint in watercolour' as my objectives. I then found I was being taught by a tutor who only worked in oils, refused to teach watercolour - and interestingly I probably learned more on that holiday than any other!

While you will undoubtedly learn new things on a painting holiday, it should be noted that unless it is geared to teach a specific set of techniques to a set of people at a specific skill level then it's very likely that most painting holidays will tend towards the generalist and will be taught in a way which can accommodate all skill levels.

If you particularly want to learn something very specific you may find a short workshop dedicated to this to be more useful.

Visit a particular location to paint

Location does make a difference - and some are more popular than others.

I've been to a number of locations to paint which I don't think I would have travelled to on my own - for the first time. There's a lot of comfort to be derived from the fact that somebody has been there before you and knows something about the place and where there are good places to paint plein air. It also tends to save time and effort and enables you to have more time for drawing and painting.

If travelling abroad I'd always advise trying to do a workshop with the tutor concerned before you go away as painting holidays in another country tend to be longer and cost more money than those in your own locality. It's good to know that you get on with and can relate to a particular tutor's approach before spending a lot of money on them! (This is, of course, where blogs can be very helpful to the process of getting to know a person and their approach to teaching).

Take a big break from work - exercising the right brain rather than the left!

If you have a job which means you exercise your left brain an awful lot, then taking a holiday which reinvigorates and exercises your right brain can be a very refreshing break. I used to stop managing finances so I could go away and manage colour harmonies instead!

Take a 'time out' from the current work/life balance

Some people use a painting holiday to take a big break or 'time out' from their current work/life balance at home. For many years I had jobs which were incredibly demanding of both my time and energy and the only way I could really focus on art for any length of time was to go on a painting holiday.

I worked very hard on the holidays too - but the complete break meant that I went back to my normal routine feeling completely refreshed.

It's interesting to hear about people's backgrounds and jobs while on holiday - and I regularly used to meet people who were doing the same thing as me in terms of taking a 'time out'.

Lots of people taking painting holidays are those who are recently retired and are now trying out various potential hobbies or can find at time at last to pursue an existing hobby in more depth.

I've also lost count of the number of times I've met ladies who are contemplating divorce in the near future or have just got divorced! Painting for some reason seems to be associated with freedom to be who you are or who you want to be! :)

Go on a painting holiday on my own

Going on a painting holiday is something I wanted to do but it meant going on holiday on my own. I've always felt confident about driving on my own - but being away painting on my own took me out of my confort zone - and painting with a group was an ideal solution.

Bottom line - I felt a lot safer the first time by going on a painting holiday as part of a group - even if I did negotiate a channel crossing, took the car on the railway and then drove right the way across France on my own on the way back!

I'd now go painting on my own quite happily - but it takes a bit of time to develop the confidence to do this.

Go on holiday on my own - but with like-minded people

This is a really excellent reason to go on a painting holiday and has been the main reason I continued to go on group painting holidays organised by other people after I got to the stage where I used to skip the demo and the tuition.

You cannot underestimate the value you get from being on holiday with like-minded people. It's so nice to be able to talk art on a face to face basis. It provides the equivalent to working in a studio set-up with other artists - or being part part of an art blogging community or art forum. Except it's even better because you get to see what people choose to do and how people work.

One of the big bonuses I also got from painting holidays was to mix with people from different age groups and backgrounds outside either a family or work context. For a long time I always used to be the youngest person on painting holidays. Those who have been on painting holidays may disagree with me but in my experience the age range usually tends to start at 40+ and any group very often has a lot of people at or near retirement age. In addition, a lot of painting holidays have lots of women (often widows and divorcees) and very few men.

Having said that, I found out from painting holidays that very many older people can be a complete hoot and some are positively intrepid!

Go on holiday with friends I've made on previous painting holidays!

This is the added bonus of going back to the same organisation for a painting holiday. I've been on a few holidays where I was on holiday with people I'd previously been on holiday with but who I didn't see at any other time because of where we lived. It's great fun - because you instantly eliminate the 'getting to know you' phase and jump straight to the 'what have you been doing since last we met'!

Have fun and relax

Naturally! I've always taken it as read that an underlying theme of any painting holiday would be that I would have fun and relax. If it's a holiday rather than a set of lessons or an instruction workshop, then you need to be able to relax as well as work at your painting - and the pace of any painting holiday which is longer than a couple of days needs to be designed to allow people to do this.

On the whole, if you want to learn a very specific technique you may be better off doing a two-day workshop which allows you to concentrate on this.

What's your perspective?

As always, I welcome comments and contributions from people - and I'll incorporate the best into articles I'll be writing as a result of this series of posts.

In order to try and achieve a well-balanced view, I'm particularly interested in any different perspectives from mine relating to:
  • the focus of today's post - why you choose to go on a painting holiday
  • tomorrow - what you think about when choosing a holiday
  • Wednesday - what you think are the most important factors influencing your decision
  • Thursday - what you would like to see painting holidays do more of - and less of....
Please note this is not an opportunity for free advertising for holiday providers, however if you've previously written about a painting holiday that you've been on and thought that it was very good you're also invited to provide a link to your blog post.

[Update: A copy of this article is now available as a FREE pdf document to download from my website - Pastels and Pencils: Making A Mark Publications]

All the images for this series of posts are going to be ones associated with painting holidays - either completed on the holiday or worked up from studies when I got back home.

This first one was produced at home based on a study from a visit to Venice in 2000. The base is watercolour worked over with coloured pencil. It's one of those ones that we all produce from time to time where I can never make my mind up whether I like it or not!

  • You can see images of sketches done on painting holidays past and present in the Travels with a Sketchbook Gallery on my website.
  • More developed work can be seen in the galleries relating to different Places.
  • This article is available to download - free - from A Making A Mark Guide - Painting Holidays


Jeanette Jobson said...

Its good information that you're building here Katherine. Lots of people feel a little intimidated by painting/drawing holiday,b ut hopefully this series of posts will take away soem of the mystique.

You sound like me, gadding off into the wilds on your own. Great fun, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic Katherine. I'd be interested to hear how much 'tuition' people actually get, or whether it's more a case of students getting on with it with the tutor giving individual guidance. And does it differ by media? In my (classroom-based) classes my oil/acrylic teacher gives a demonstration at the start of each lesson and we did our own colour-wheel exercise, but in my watercolour classes the teachers rarely demonstrate how to do anything (not even colour mixing - and I'm talking about beginners' classes!). Is it down to individual teaching style or is lack of tuition normal for watercolour classes?

Laura Frankstone said...

Katherine, your Italian watercolor and colored pencil piece is... glorious. I can't think of the words to say how much I like it. Such color, such light. Wow.
I took a painting holiday (as you know) for a slightly different reason than those you mentioned. I wanted to learn about the techniques used by a painter whose work I had long admired, whose style I felt resonated a bit with my own. I enjoyed my week in Provence very much, but I really don't think I learned a great deal. Maybe I learned that I had less in common stylistically with the tutor than I'd thought. I still love him and his work, though! This is a great topic for discussion and you've written about it so well. T

Making A Mark said...

Thanks Jeanette - I've always thought there was far too little objective and independent writing about painting holidays given how much money is spent on them. Most of the comments seem to be linked to selling advertising or painting directories! ;)

Making A Mark said...

Hi 'Another Katherine' I've picked up on the points you make in today's post about how to choose a painting holiday

Needless to say you've picked up on one of the big imponderables of the painting class/workshop/holiday world - about which I comment further!

Making A Mark said...

So often painting holidays don't quite live up to our expectations - although we may still enjoy them for entirely different reasons

I'm hoping that my checklists might help people to appraise what's on offer in future.

Sarah said...

Great posts Katherine, I am looking forward to Thursdays post. As a tutor I love running painting holidays, (not doing it right now as you know, but who knows maybe in the future.) I find that talking to people about how they paint/draw and why, makes me much more aware of my own work and it has nothing to do with the level of artist you are working with either. So for me it becomes a mutually benificial thing...hope it does for the people that I am helping! Anyway, like I said, looking forward to Thursdays post.

Robyn Sinclair said...

This lively post is almost as good as a painting holiday, Katherine. I conjures up images of painting in a group (which I love), meeting lots of entertaining, like-minded people and bursting to get out there and do it.

I agree with Laura, your Venice painting is glorious and, while it doesn't look like your current work, it suggests you still have a lot more to say in watercolour.

Making A Mark said...

Thank you Robyn - you've captured the essence of the perfect painting holiday!

I think my watercolour is looking infinitely better for the addition of coloured pencils! I've been thinking for a while that maybe I ought to spend more time on mixed media work.

Anonymous said...

I first have to say how much I love your Venice painting, I've been there on holdya, but was so overwhelemed with seeing it the first time, I couldn't get anything down on paper!
Every year I plan a painting holiday with a group and then I chicken out end do one on my own. I find that I work best when I'm only with my own company. I get distracted easily and when I'm with others I can't concentrate....always afraid I'm painting too slow, or even too fast, while everybody else is still working hard, or afraid I'm not doing good enough work, or afraid someone would be talking and I would be rude by not listening..all very stupid reasons actually.
So, it is good reading this excellent checklist you've provided us with. I do want to learn and grow and it asks for painting along with others every now and then.

Making A Mark said...

Thanks - I know EXACTLY what you mean by Venice - visual overload sets in about 10 minutes after arriving for the first time! I managed to get a more work done on my second visit.

I also like working on my own - but more towards the edge of a group. I've grown to think of painting holidays as being really good ways of being able to talk with people at the end of the day when you've done all you can do on the painting. If taken anywhere in a group, I'm usually the one sat the other end of the market square from everybody else!

IMO, the best painting holidays organised by other people are those which encourage people to find their own perspective rather than to do 'groupthink'!

Cathy Gatland said...

Your painting holiday series is great, Katherine. I posted a comment on this post to tell you I had linked to it, but got an 'error' notice from Blogger, which then said my comment had been saved - I wasn't sure if it had got lost, or if you thought my post was too much of a 'plug' for the holiday I went on... anyway, I don't know if I'll ever go on another one , as it entails very expensive overseas travel, but I am so glad I can experience them through other eyes on the blogs. I love your Italian paintings!

Making A Mark said...

Cathy - there was something funny happening on Blogger last week - I found comments in the moderation page only this morning which hadn't previously popped up in my inbox. Weird!

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