The far Northwest – further than most people have ever heard of, let alone visited – is one of the last true wilderness regions in Europe. Now with global ‘Geopark’ status, these rocks are believed to be the oldest in the world and looking at the landscape, it is easy to imagine the scene unchanged since the dawn of time. Yet this ancient, primeval land, where golden eagles soar above heather-clad mountains, has seen human habitation since Man first colonised these isles. The remains of their cottages, byres and much earlier “brochs” can be seen in the remotest corners, firing the imagination with images of a simple, yet harsh life living off the land which at first glance appears so empty, although it has a rich and diverse ecology.
In pockets of original Caledonian forest, rare mammals such as the Scottish wildcat and pine marten maintain their final stronghold, while the shoreline is home to families of seals, often seen clumsily hoisting themselves onto rocks for a spot of sunbathing or fixing their big, brown eyes on the fishing boats in Lochinver harbour. The elusive otter, now on the increase, is notoriously difficult to spot although the locals will tell you you’re almost sure of a sighting on a summer evening as they frolic playfully amongst the rocks of the river Inver.
While the area is steeped in history and the proud locals guard their culture and traditions, a painting holiday to this region is mostly about the incredible landscape: seeing it, smelling it, feeling it.
All my painting programmes run from Lochinver, a small fishing village 36 miles north of Ullapool in Britain’s least populous county, Sutherland. To attend any of these holidays or courses you should base yourself there or in the immediate vicinity; I do not include accommodation so you may decide to tie in a sketching week with time exploring further afield, or to bring along a non-painting partner. The area is a magnet to those keen on hill walking, climbing and fishing as well as simply relaxing in a peaceful environment with a few good books!
Many people have told me that they had never really ‘seen’ the landscape so completely as when they started to paint it, and that it has changed their whole way of looking. See the Northwest Highlands in a new light, in all its windswept, majestic, breathtaking glory, where the city seems a million miles away and Nature always has the final say.
- Months: First Sunday in June
- Duration: 7 days from Lochinver
- Medium: Watercolour and drawing materials
- Min/max number of participants: 3/7
- Price: £400
This small corner of Scotland is home to an almost endless array of stunning natural sights and is the perfect destination for anyone who loves raw nature in all its moods, and enjoys remore isolation.
Although we are not moving from place to place for where we sleep, I have classed this as a ‘Journey’ rather than a ‘Break’ due to the full and active nature of the itinerary. Thus it will suit people with an adventurous spirit keen to see and experience everything that is unique, surprising and beautiful in this incredible area, and capture it in a sketchbook.
With an impossibly beautiful sight around every corner, choosing becomes very difficult. I have tried to give as comprehensive an overview as possible for the short time we have, taking in the best of the iconic views as well as some hidden gems well off the beaten track. In this vast landscape with its ever-changing light, the same mountain will look different each day. Understanding this, the itinerary is busy, visiting specially selected viewpoints each day as well as including some classic short walks , with the option of further exploration.
Immersion in this landscape no matter what the weather, with nothing but the sound of birds overhead and the smell of bog myrtle under your feet, is simply soul-cleansing
Up close and personal with the most indescribable landscapes you’ve ever seen; exhilarating wilderness walks; learn to sketch quickly in fast-changing light; wide white sands and impressive sea stacks at Balnakeil; unsurpassed island scenery of the Coigach Peninsular, and the mighty Suilven from all angles.
(The following itinerary is subject to ‘shuffle’, and is weather-dependent. Wet weather contingencies will be made) Please ask for a more detailed itinerary!
- Day 1: Walking and sketching at ‘Boat Bay’ within the Inverpolly Nature Reserve; beach combing at the pretty hamlet of Inverkirkaig and the exciting ‘Wee Mad Road’
- Day 2: Three perfect beaches; one waterfall; the incredible’Split Rock and the matchless lineup of the Assynt and Coigach peaks. Sketching and strolling along the beaches.
- Day 3: Sweeping sands and sea stacks at Balnakeil as we venture north towards Cape Wrath
- Day 4: River and woodland scenes closer to home; a pretty circular walk and the definitive view of Lochinver village.
- Day 5: Walk to the Kirkaig Falls and beyond with a superb view of Suilven.
- Day 6: The romantic Summer Isles and pink sands of Achnahaird. With so many views and walking opportunities, this will be a long day!
- Day 7: Pine-studded Loch Assynt, Ardvreck castle and a prefect hidden picnic spot. Early evening drink at a lovely local hotel with imagnificent view over Lochinver, for a fitting end to a fun week.
The price for this trip includes:
Escorted travel to exceptionally scenic, sometimes hidden sketching spots and short walks; expert guidance with your sketching as and when required and regular progress reviews; 6 packed lunches and a visit to the renowned Pie Shop for lunch on Day 4; a chocolate blow-out at Cocoa Mountain on Day 3; Coffee and cakes on day 5; final review with complimentary drink on final evening; Art Pack containing the sketching materials you will need for the trip and beyond.
The price does NOT include:
Accommodation; transport to Lochinver, or while on trip except by your own vehicles as arranged; food except lunches as stated in itinerary; optional/extra drinks or snacks.
As this is a remote area with little or no public transport to the less accessible locations we’ll be visiting, cars are ESSENTIAL. We will be using one or two cars every day, and the trip can not run without this. In wet weather we might also be painting from the car. You will need to bring yours (or hire one, if flying to Inverness) and be happy to take passengers! We’ll operate a car-sharing rotation scheme and all chip in for petrol so hopefully no-one will be lumbered with all the driving, however pleasurable it is on these quiet, scenic roads!
If a non-driver would like to join the trip this is fine… as long as there are enough cars to take us all to our sketching destinations (based on 4 people in each car).This will be advised on booking.
Please budget for £5 per person each day for the driver of the car/s to cover petrol costs. (We will be on foot on day 4)
- Months: Late August (Please enquire for exact dates. The course will run Monday to friday)
- Duration: 5 days, 10am – 4.30pm. Lochinver
- Mediums: Sketching materials and watercolours
- Min/max number of participants: 4/8
- Price: £300
Heather time on the hills:
Dark, brooding mountains and indigo blue water. Golden grasses and dramatic, intense light. Late summer on the West Coast, the perfect time and place to discover the pleasures of sketching and painting from life.
If you’re inspired by the landscape but don’t know where to start; if you’ve done some drawing long ago but never painted outside before; even if you’ve never so much as lifted a pencil, this intensive course will start you at the beginning and finish with a completed watercolour painting you can be proud of.
Spending some time in the idylically-situated studio and time outside amidst this incomparable scenery you’ll learn everything you need to get you out and about sketching the landscape.
Please contact me for a detailed, day by day itinerary for this course and with any questions.
- Day 1: In the studio. How to really ‘see’. Concentrating on shape and form, light and tone
- Day 2: Learning about composition, outside in the landscape. Practise colour mixing.
- Day 3: Watercolour painting outside after a demonstration. Analysis and advice in the studio
- Day 4: Practice sketching quickly outside, considering shape and form, composition, light, tone and colour.
- Day 5: In the studio: Developing a sketch into a finished painting , bringing together all you’ve learned. Possibly time for more paintings outside.
The price for the course includes:
All the art materials you will need during the course; expert tuition with small numbers to ensure maximum attention at all times; tea/coffee and biscuits while in the studio
The price does NOT include:
Any accommodation or food (packed lunches can be provided at a small extra cost); any transport to/from or during the course.
Trips to scenic locations on outside days will be in your own vehicle/s. Although we don’t need to go too far, you should also note that the studio is situated a good 30 minutes’ walk from the centre of the village, so your own transport is advised.
- Months: Course begins on the last Sunday of May
- Duration: 6 days (or daily), 10am – 4.30pm. Lochinver
- Medium: Various (see itinerary)
- Min/max number participants: 3/8 per day
- Price: For the full 6 day course: £400
Individual days are priced separately according to the cost of materials. (See itinerary)
This course is held in the idyllically-situated, peaceful art studio at Glencanisp Lodge, an old restored hunting lodge on the edge of an island-studded loch, within a garden bursting with rhodedendrons. Watched over by the mighty Suilven and Canisp we are in the perfect location for inspiration and learning.
Designed to get you started on your creative journey, this course will provide a thorough grounding in a variety of media and techniques, while small class sizes allow you to progress quickly in a relaxed and fun environment.
Taken as a whole, the course is specially designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to sketching and painting from the very first, basic steps right through to producing a finished artwork in your chosen medium.
The course is suitable for those who have never before held a pencil, but the days can also be taken individually by those who would like to learn about a specific medium. Each workshop will start you at the very beginning for the particular medium or subject, and by the end of each day you will have a piece of artwork to be proud of.
Most of all we’ll have fun getting creative within a likeminded group and enjoy the tranquility of this special location.
Sunday LEARN TO DRAW £60
Starting from the beginning this day course is suitable for anyone who has never held a pencil or who has never been formally taught the basic principles of drawing from observation. Working in the studio we’ll cover looking & seeing; proportion & scale; creating shape & form using tones; light direction & shadows and the use of negative space. Demonstrations and small group size ensure you’ll gain the confidence for putting pencil to paper.
Monday STARTING WITH PASTELS £85
Always been fascinated by pastels but not known where to start? It can be a tricky medium, but it’s easy to have a go with and a fun introduction to working with colour. This course will include an overview of different pastels and supports and a demonstration before tackling composition and colour.
The price of this workshop includes a box of pastels for you to take home.
Tuesday FIRST STEPS IN WATERCOLOUR £65
Watercolour often foxes beginners and it can terrify those who have never tried it. It’s an intriguing and versatile medium as well as being very beautiful; it’s not possible to discover all its secrets in one day so in this workshop we’ll be learning about colour mixing, colour graduations and sketching quickly outside using a wet-in-wet technique. Demonstrations will be given and you will complete a loose painting, guaranteeing you will never be nervous about watercolours again!
Today’s workshop introduces something different. Focusing primarily on light and tone we will have to learn to work in ‘negative’ as our marks on the black board reveal the white underneath. Scraperboard is lots of fun (you might remember it from school!) and with care you can produce some very effective images. You’ll be using a special sharp, pointed tool for scraping the black ink off the board….very addictive!
Bring lots of patience for this one. All abilities welcome.
Thursday THE ART OF ZEN £70
The concept of ‘Zen drawing’ – looking and creating a drawing using the right (less ‘logical’) side of the brain, is great for freeing up a style that has become too tight and is a wonderful tool for relaxation, creating surprising and usually very pleasing results.
Get in touch with your subconcious and really ‘feel’ your subject! This day will be lots of fun and suitable for all abilities. Starting in the studio and possibly moving outside if the weather is good.
Friday FROM SKETCH TO PAINTING £70
The final day will show you how to create a ‘finished’ watercolour painting in the studio from a sketch executed outside, with the use of colour notes. We’ll spend the morning working on your sketches (using the gorgeous scenery near to the studio for inspiration) then come back inside and produce our final work, having carefully selected the most suitable composition, size and medium.
Watercolour will be suggested for this exercise but if you prefer to use an alternative medium that’s fine too (All the materials taught so far on the course will be available for you to use today)
For those who have taken the full course, today will bring together everything we’ve learned so far: proportion and scale; light and tone; composition, mark-making and colour. You are sure to produce an image that exceeds your expectations.
Price for the course includes:
Use of all the art materials you will need during the day (or week); All the paper you will use during the course; drawing materials to keep on days 1, 2 and 4; Expert tuition with plenty of individual attention including demonstrations where needed. Morning coffee, afternoon tea and biscuits
Price for the course does NOT include:
Transport to and from Glencanisp Lodge. Lunch (which you should bring with you, or I can provide a packed lunch by arrangement). Art materials to take home (except on days 1, 2, 4).
On the ‘Windswept Wilderness ‘journey’, we’ll try to set off quite early most days as there is much to see. We’ll take a packed lunch to maximise our time in the location and sometimes we’ll be far from a settlement. Each day there will be at least two exceptional viewpoints and we’ll be sketching quite quickly, aiming to capture and experience as much of the region as possible. In addition there will be a short but spectacular walk, sometimes with the option of a longer one in place of some sketching, especially if we have a wet or windy day.
We don’t need to drive too far in this area to see spectacular sights. Yet we do need transport. Each morning we’ll decide on the driver/s for the day; if it’s cold or damp we might do some sketching from the car and the itinerary is built around this possibility. There are no special ‘tasks’ on this trip as there are on the other ‘Journeys’ as we have less time in each place. However I’ll be on hand at all times to give personal advice when needed.
We’ll aim to arrive back in Lochinver by late afternoon, with a couple of longer days. Timings and stops will be ultimately determined by the interests and needs of the group. Leaving your evenings free to do as you please and perhaps spend time with a non-painting partner, we’ll aim to have a group appraisal every couple of afternoons where we can see how we’re getting on.
The ‘Rocks and Heather’ course is based partly in the studio, with some sketching outside. The hours are from 10am to 4.30pm, thus giving you some time each day to walk or relax at the beach after a fairly intensive day’s learning. On this course we’ll have a short 30 minute break for lunch, which you’ll bring with you (or which I can provide, by arrangement)
Each itinerary bears in mind the possibility of bad weather and alternatives will be offered. Never forgetting that this is YOUR holiday, no day’s attendance is compulsory. The trips have been designed to maximise your enjoyment of the area within the short timespan but if you feel like a day ‘off’, or if the group as a whole would like a change to the itinerary, it is flexible enough to allow for this.
The Scottish Highlands, and the West Coast in particular, is for anyone who loves wild, dramatic, spectacular scenery and the feeling of being miles from anywhere in a remote and isolated community. It is not for those who need to be near fancy shops, cinemas and clubs, although we do have bars and restaurants! You also need a somewhat flexible approach to the weather and an understanding of the saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.
If you don’t mind the odd wet day and can see beauty in a howling gale; if you are comfortable with miles of twisting single-track roads where there are likely to be more sheep than cars, and if you are eager to leave the stresses and pretentions of a city lifestyle behind, then it is certainly the place for you! It might even be life-changing.
Experienced sketchers who want to discover the best views and spend time with a like-minded group; those new to sketching quickly outside who like the idea of practising the skill by visiting lots of stunning locations; those who would like a fairly active holiday in this area and to see as much as possible, yet fancy a bit of sketching as well, rather than climbing the mountains; those new to rough walking and to sketching who would like to try both in one of the most beautiful yet little-known parts of Britain.
It is possibly less suitable for complete beginners requiring a lot of intensive tuition due to the short amount of time we’ll be spending in some of the locations. It is also unsuitable for those with an aversion to walking; the walks are not strenuous but are on uneven terrain and up to 4 hours in length.
‘Rocks & Heather’ introduction to sketching course will suit:
Complete beginners with no experience of painting or drawing who like the idea of sketching the landscape outside; those who have painted before but who are rusty, needing a refresher course; those unused to landscape subjects or beginners with watercolour.
Those who sketch or paint regularly in any medium will probably not need to take this course.
The ‘Week of Workshops’ is ideal for anyone who:
Is a beginner or novice and would like a comprehensive, week-long course covering a variety of different media; those who would like to pick and choose individual workshops while they are on holiday in the area rather than committing to a full week; those who are experienced in other media but would like to try something which is new to them, within a beautiful setting.
If you have any doubts at all about which programme suits your needs, or any questions about travel to the Highlands in general, do not hesitate to ask, and don’t forget to request your Useful Information fact-sheet along with a detailed daily itinerary for your chosen holiday or course.
You may reserve a place on any trip with payment of a 10% deposit All the trips will run subject to the minimum number of participants being reached 6 weeks prior to departure. In the event of insufficient or excess bookings, you will be offered an alternative holiday or a later departure. If this is not suitable your deposit will be refunded. Anyone wishing to join a scheduled trip departing within 6 weeks may do so, subject to availability.
- Firstly, please use the contact form to send an e-mail to me, and let me know which trip you are interested in. If you are unsure which will suit you best, I will contact you so that we can go through the options.
- When you are ready to make your booking, send me an e-mail. I will confirm exact joining dates, advise on recommended flights (if relevant) and give you payment details so that you can pay your deposit.
- I will confirm your booking and your place on your chosen programme, on receipt of:
The full name, address and phone number of all members of your party
A 10% non-refundable deposit made by direct bank-to-bank transfer, or (cleared) cheque paid into my UK bank account (NOT posted as I may not be in the country)
It would also be helpful to include a short summary of your painting experience to date.
- I will send you essential information about how to join the group if you are not being met at the airport; advice on choosing flights (if applicable) and what you need to bring with you on your holiday, as well as a more detailed daily itinerary and your Useful Information fact-sheet for the country you will be visiting, if you have not already requested these.
- The balance of your payment is due in British pounds, 2 weeks before the commencement of your Sketching Holiday. You may make a bank transfer (recommended), or if you prefer to pay by cheque (in pounds sterling), this must be presented and cleared in my account well before the commencement of the holiday.
Non-UK residents may choose to pay in cash on arrival at the destination but please speak to me about this first.
By making your booking you are agreeing to our ‘Terms and Conditions’, which can be found below.
Phone: 00 44 (0)798 281 2842 (active only when I am in the UK).
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