Friday, 28 October 2016

What I take from the art retreat in Scotland - and a whole lot of photos

At the beginning of this month, I had the great pleasure to spend a week at an art retreat in Scotland. What a fabulous experience it has been! A wonderful group of 8 eager students and an inspiring teacher, gathering together to share their stories and learn from each other.

My spot in the studio - wish I could have taken the light home with me - and the view...

Monday we spent visiting the Heritage Centre - listening to stories from the town's past, and taking lots of photos from the many vintage photos displayed there - and sketching outside around the harbour. On Tuesday to Friday, we got to work in the studio. And what a beautiful place it is! A spacious room with big windows on three sides, overlooking the beautiful bay. This was the view form my desk - it was hard sometimes not to get distracted by it, or rather inspired by the waves and deep colours of the sea, fluffy clouds in the sky and the chimneys on the buildings below.

That view certainly could be very distracting at times... Just look at the colour of the sea!

Gillian, our teacher, usually did drawing or painting demonstrations in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day working with each of us individually. We did portraits and landscapes in charcoal and acrylics, worked with pastels, oil bars, pencils, inks... whatever medium or subject you wanted to work in, try out, deepen your skills or challenge yourself with.

Our dedicated teacher helping one of the students - under  the watchful eyes of the studio manager...

We all had different goals, expectations, aims... I didn't really want to focus on a specific technique or subject, my aim, wish, goal was somewhat more general, less tangible. I have been writing a lot about my art making practice - or absence of it - and something that has come up again and again, was the concept of process. I had come to realise that somehow, I wasn't enjoying the process anymore, but instead was focusing too much on the result. Art making had become something to get over and done with, resulting in mostly quick sketches in my sketchbook while my paints lay untouched for ages. I somehow had ended up feeling that I always needed to produce something that I could show (to whom?), as if I needed some sort of justification for spending time creating art (again, to whom??). Few were the times that I sat down and spent a longer period of time on a drawing. Now of course there is nothing wrong with quick sketches. They are useful and valuable, and if you haven't got much time, always better than nothing. But I wanted to do more than that, but it seemed I just simply wasn't able to. Most of the weekends were spent avoiding going into the studio and ending in frustration about yet another weekend "wasted". That was what I wanted most out of this week - to learn to enjoy the process again. Process, not product.

Another view through one of the windows of the studio

Not filling the page... Leaving space... Letting go... Dare to leave it unfinished... Focusing on a specific area and leave the rest... Not focusing on creating a finished product... Being bold... Dare... Expressive, bold marks... Not too much blending... No expectations... Enjoying the process, the art materials in my hand... Creating for the joy of creating, for myself, most of all...

Here's some of the work I created during the week:

Cliffs, outdoor sketch in A4 sketchbook, pencil

Charcoal portrait on paper, ca. 40x60cm

Charcoal portrait on paper, ca. 40x60 cm

Charcoal and oilbars, drawing based on a drawing in my sketchbook done at the harbour earlier in the week, paper, ca. 40x60cm

Sea shell study in my A4 sketchbook, pencil

Portrait in pencil, in my A4 sketchbook, on a tea stained page

Acrylic monochrome portrait in my A4 sketchbook

It truly was an inspiring week. The quietness and peacefulness of the place, the friendliness of the people, the beautiful views and stunning surrounding, the company. The creativity, inspiration, art making and relaxed atmosphere in the studio.

St John's kirkyard with the remains of the church built in 1513, and the stunning view over the bay

I often went for a little walk in the morning, before class. Spending time on the beach collecting shells, watching a curlew looking for its breakfast in the shallow water, breathing in the cool, fresh air and the peacefulness of my surrounding. 

Early morning on the beach at lowtide - because of its location, it always took quite some time for the sun to reach the town
Early morning reflections
The early bird catches the fish

The nearby village of Crovie. The poles were once used to dry the fishing nets. Today, they are used for laundry.

I really enjoyed spending so much time focusing on just creating, and I worked hard on my goals for this week, trying to do many different things, feeling that whatever I would start there, I would be able to take home with me, and continue. Now I have to take it all into my little studio at home and work on establishing a regular studio routine, and simply just do the work.

So many charming and quirky corners in this little town

The end of October also marks the anniversary of my little blog. What started with learning to use my new DSLR camera and photo editing back in 2010 has led to finding and exploring a whole new, exciting world of techniques, art materials, online workshops and courses, so much different form the local painting class I had been going to for a few years, to practicing and deepening my skills, and continuing to explore and learn. Where will it lead to next? I don't know. But it's nice to have this little space, and to sometimes look back to what I did then, and how my creative journey has developed. And I guess I'll hang around here for a bit longer.


  1. Glad you enjoyed your time, must be great to be able to visit a place like that. Happy PPF, hugs, Valerie

  2. Thank you for sharing the marvelous photos and gorgeous drawings.
    Happy PPF ♥

  3. I think we all forget the process, especially when life is busy and time is limited. I think it paid off though-you made some gorgeous pieces. I don't know if I could have focused on process though in that beautiful location. I'd want to be out and about. :) Happy PPF and happy weekend too.

  4. oh what a stunning place to inspire creativity-just gorgeous surroundings!! I think I'd end up spending too much time looking out-and then capturing the scenery:) Your art projects are amazing!! Really wonderful details and shading. Happy PPF and happy blogivesary too!

  5. That is such a beautiful location to paint from. I loved the lovely artwork and also the scenic shots. Thanks for sharing a little of your adventure.

  6. Looks like a wonderful place to create.
    Happy anniversary on your blog. :)

  7. Amazing!!! Now I feel like I took a trip too!! :D Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow! what beautiful photography! You have really captured the light so wonderfully. Having a Scottish background I would love to take a trip like this someday. A dream for sure. Reading about your goal I feel so blessed and I appreciate your pointing it out to me that I enjoy the process of art so much. I am retired now and do art full time with no need to have to sell my work, feeling free to do any media or process for the pure joy of experimentation to see What If . . . :)

  9. Wow this is an experience of a lifetime. I know that you learned more than you thought you would and came away with a renewed focus on your art. You are so fortunate to be in such a beautiful place for this retreat. Your art is all so touching.

  10. Oh wow... sounds like an incredible week, and looks like an incredible place! I really like your charcoal sketches, first portrait!

  11. Gillian is a marvelous teacher. You are so lucky to work with her. Thank you for sharing your experience, your work and the beautiful photographs.
    ~~ Irene

  12. That pink bicycle has given me a great idea for an accent piece near my newly painted house!