Sketching and Painting Holidays

Sri Lanka
Canary Islands

Sketching & Painting Holidays In Exotic Locations

Welcome to Vistas and your gateway to a new world, where hidden landscapes lie waiting to be admired and captured; a world of artistic exploration and immersion in the sights, sounds and smells of some of the most beautiful corners of the world. 'Vistas' offers you something completely different.

The unique 'Sketchbook Journeys' or Painting Holidays take you deep into the culture, history and landscape of lesser-visited regions, while relaxing Sketching/Painting Holidays and intensive Courses ensure there's a perfect painting holiday experience to suit everyone.

Professional artist and teacher Mary King leads you to unforgettable destinations in small, friendly groups for learning, developing or simply enjoying the wonderful experience of sketching in an inspiring new environment.


'Views from the Sella pass'

Just a short flight from the UK can bring you into an unforgettable world, a million dream-miles away. In the north of Italy, rubbing shoulders with Austria and with characteristics of both, lies the glorious mountain region known as the Dolomites. Nestled in the midst of all this splendour is Alta Badia, a collection of valleys and soaring rocky peaks which maintains its own unique culture and language. The Ladin people proudly inhabit this much fought-over area and the peaceful serenity which now reigns does much to conceal its turbulent past; the region is scattered with world war 1 trenches, tunnels and memorials, drawing visitors interested in its history.

Most of the Dolomites area is a UNESCO world heritage site and with good reason. Apart from the native wildlife (which includes ibex, chamoix and moufflon - even brown bear - along with the endearing, iconic marmot) and profusion of flower meadows protecting many rare species, the landscape is like nowhere else on Earth. Geographically forming the southern end of the Alps, the mountains here are quite different both gelogically and in appearance; although somewhat lower in height their shapes are at once more striking and unique.

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This 'other-worldly' landscape lies somewhere between 'The Sound of Music' and a fantasy 70's album cover and when you first feast your eyes on these incredible peaks you will pinch yourself to check you're not dreaming. Yet it is very real, as thousands of visitors from all over the world can testify, and for all its mind-blowing grandeur and apparent remoteness, the area is actually quite accessible, with connections from major airports and an excellent tourist infrastructure within the valleys.

I offer two Painting Holidays to Alta Badia, which can be taken together as a satisfyingly extensive introduction to the area's delights, or individually to suit your personal needs. The Dolomites are a virtually infinite source of creative stimulation for the lanscape artist, thus the two itineraries are distinctly different, yet equally inspiring. Suitable for total beginners or professional artists alike, non-painting partners with an interest in photography, walking or flowers will find plenty to amuse them.

If you have any questions about which of the two itineraries is best for you, on combining the itineraries together or extending your time here, then please ask. There are many glorious walking routes and exhilarating via ferratas in the Alta Badia area so you could combine a week of painting with an active week.

Trip 1 - Heads in the Clouds
Trip 2 - Fields of Gold
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Join an entrancing journey through astonishing landscapes and experience the sights, sounds and smells of this unique land. Travel by comfortable 4×4 to places as yet little-known to tourists; experience the heat of the desert, the warmth of the welcome!

Stimulate your senses and develop your artistic skills in an atmospheric, authentic location. Morocco has been inspiring artists and writers for centuries, and it continues to do so. A timeless land of wide horizons where Africa meets Europe, it is now the destination of choice for those tired of Tuscany, bored of Provence.

Sir Winston Churchill was captivated by Marrakesh and visited many times to paint the light, and relax from the stresses he encountered in Britain. He stated: "Morocco to me was a revelation… reading the newspapers gives not the slightest impression of the charm and value of this splendid territory."

Once perceived as difficult to access, budget airlines are now serving Marrakesh Fez and other cities and although it can seem like a different world, it's only a 3 hour flight from the UK. Now within reach of everyone, there's something for artists of every level and interest, as well as those looking for a different type of holiday. There has never been a better time to visit Morocco!

In this land of contrasts you will discover towering, snow-capped mountains (including the highest in North Africa); sandy desert pistes; deep river gorges bursting with almond blossom in the spring; lush palm groves hanging heavy with dates in the autumn, and quiet oases resonant with the sound of frogs. In the countryside you will see old men riding donkeys laden with firewood, shy nomad women dressed in traditional clothing and big-eyed children herding floppy-eared goats. The picturesque old Kasbahs, dark, mysterious souks and the bustling street scenes of the world-heritage cities are some of the images that will stay with you long after your holiday has ended. This combination of brilliant, hot colours, bright clear light and the complete sensual overload is sure to revive the most jaded palette and you can't fail to return with a sketchpad full of colour, shoes full of sand, and a head full of wonderful memories!

Trip 1 - Discover Morocco
Trip 2 - Painted Desert
Trip 3 - Far Horizons
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Voted 'world's smiliest country' in a recent poll, this sun-drenched, verdant land, steeped in natural beauty, culture and history yet with less of the 'hassle' often associated with parts of Asia, delivers to the discerning traveller on all levels. Consistently in the top 10 travellers' favourite islands and recovering well, with boundless energy and optimism, from the recent civil war and less recent but equally devastating tsunami of 2004, the people will melt your heart with their resilience in the face of adversity and their matchless welcome on your painting/sketching holidays in Sri Lanka.

Although visibly bustling and vibrant in an Asian way, many parts of the country remain extremely unspoilt and tranquil, breathtakingly beautiful and surprisingly accessible. While undisputedly a long flight from Europe, most who make the journey are enchanted from the minute they step off the plane. Exotic with a capital E, Sri Lanka, when known as Ceylon, was a former British colony and as such can feel strangely familiar to a visitor from the UK. The country is very well-used to welcoming tourists and delights in seeing the Brits returning, now as their guests. In general they also appreciate art and have a long history of painting in their culture, much of it intertwined with religion while modern landscape painters sometimes display their canvasses on the beach.

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Closing your eyes and imagining this country will probably conjure up images of docile elephants, elaborately decorated with gold and brightly coloured fabrics; swaying palms, crashing surf and warm seas; pretty tea plantations and hot, fiery curries. Sri Lanka is all this, and so much more….. and much of it eminently sketchable. Within this small island lies much variety in terms of scenery and climate as well as cultural and religious diversity. Ancient and modern Buddhist, Hindu and even Christian monuments can be found, along with world-class national parks which are home to populations of wild elephant, leopards, crocodiles and various monkeys along with a striking number of birds. While we are unlikely to find an opportunity to sketch these desirable yet elusive subjects, the knowledge of their presence helps complete the vivid pictorial atmosphere and we will not be short of inspiration during our time here.

From the hot, sultry south where mile after mile of deserted, coconut-fringed, golden sands demand to be strolled upon to the cooler, misty green highlands complete with tumbling waterfalls; from colourful fishing boats to fascinating temples, the only dilemma is how to squeeze it all into one visit. Be warned… Sri Lanka's charms are addictive and your first visit may well not be your last!

Trip 1 - Land of Smiles
Trip 2 - Ocean Breezes
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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.

My West Coast programmes run from Lochinver in Sutherland and Ullapool, Ross-shire. These small villages are 94 miles and 58 miles from Inverness. 36 miles apart, public transport is scant in this area so even if you bring a car (strongly recommended) you should base yourself in the appropriate village to join the holiday.

Far less remote, Inverness is the Highland Capital and is easily accessible, while representing the gateway to an extraordinary variety of painting subjects in all directions, as highlighted in the 'Around the Blooming Heather' itinerary.

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You may decide to tie in a sketching week with time exploring further afield, or to bring along a non-painting partner. These areas are 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! Inverness, of course, is the prefect base for anyone interested in Scottish history and culture.

The two West Coast itineraries can also be combined to form a thorough, 2 week exploration of this unique region and I am always happy to advise on accommodation options.

In addition to these itineraries, sketching day trips and painting workshops are often available. Please get in touch to enquire about this possibility.

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.

Trip 1 - The Bonnie Broom
Trip 2 - Windswept Wilderness
Trip 3 - Around the Blooming Heather
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Dubbed 'the island that time forgot' La Gomera, second smallest in the Canary Island chain, lies just 28 km from its nearest neighbour Tenerife. But if this conjures up visions of concrete jungle, beer-swilling youth and late night clubbing, think again: La Gomera, World Biosphere Reserve, differs in almost every conceivable way.

Although like the other islands it is volcanic in origin, its jagged rocks have been sleeping for 2 million years, while its rural lifestyle appears equally placid. The steep, verdant slopes are traditionally farmed using terraces while the whole island is criss-crossed with well-kept hiking trails leading from the highest peaks down vertiginous ravines to surf-sprayed beaches.

In the centre of the island (and a UNESCO world-heritage site), the Garajonay National Park swirls in mist, its ancient laurel cloud forest dripping with moss and lichen, the tangle of branches and vegetation distinctly primordial. Giant heathers and ferns line the way while natural lookouts allow unexpected glimpses of tumbling white villages and cobalt sea, while Mount Teide across the water creates a spectacular backdrop on clear days.

Culturally rich, La Gomera has an interesting history and its inhabitants are proud of their traditions which include a unique whistling language. This is now being taught in schools and is used to communicate from hillside to hillside across the 'barrancos'.

Strikingly different, off the mainstream tourist path yet an effortlessly easy and relaxing destination, it's easy to fall in love with La Gomera.

Trip 1 - Mists of Time
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Tailor-made Holidays

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Tailor-made trips

I believe the unique 'Sketchbook Journeys' that I offer along with the Sketching and Painting Breaks encompass some of the best scenery and cultural highlights in existence. But of course, there are thousands of other wonderful places begging to be explored and painted!

If you are a group of 3 or more people and would like to arrange a different Sketching or Painting Trip, get in touch.

Perhaps you've always fancied Sketching in Sardinia? Painting in Paphos?  Or maybe you have a special event coming up… what better way to spend a milestone birthday than by sketching the awesome scenery of Santorini, or how about an alternative hen party in rural Ibiza?

Bring your local Art Group for a fabulous adventure to Costa Rica or the Isles of Scilly......Why not?

Whatever your thoughts, share them with me and we can discuss possibilities, logistics and costs.

Similarly, if you would like to tweak or extend one of my existing adventures, this is possible too.

Contact me with your ideas and let's start creating!

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