Horses for Courses

In addition to leading all Vistas Sketching Holidays trips, I have been known to do other things in order to keep the wolf from the door. I’ve nearly always been lucky (and determined, sticking to my guns) in being able to follow my passions and earn a living from doing what I love. Most people spend a considerable proportion of their lives at work, so if you are doing something you don’t enjoy, you’d better be earning a lot of money, or that’s the way I’ve always looked at it. Unable, or perhaps just unwilling, to take a ‘normal’ job with a reasonable salary, I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants as far as money is concerned. But boy, what a flight it’s been! Apart from a few miserable episodes here and there I would change barely a minute of my working life which has been full of variety, learning and adventure.

Beautiful landscapes, sunshine, immersion in different cultures, creative expression, independence and autonomy are things I most crave in my life and I also gain enormous satisfaction from teaching. My mother was a teacher, following in the steps of her family before her, but as a shy person she hated it. She was only too happy to be able to give it up when she became a mother and she always talked about her teaching career with such horror that I never even considered it for myself.

While I was running a gallery I was often approached with the suggestion that I start teaching art and running painting holidays, but it wasn’t until I found myself living in Morocco with my comfortable life turned upside down that I re-examined the idea. Mostly as a means to an end but also out of slight curiosity and a lifelong love of words, I trained to be an English (as a second language) teacher, gaining my TEFL qualification. I loved re-learning everything I had forgotten about my native language and while I found teaching the classes incredibly stressful, it was also very exhilarating and rewarding when I realised the difference I was making in people’s lives. The structured nature of the school syllabus and being an official employee were the parts I found more difficult. I guess I was born to be self-employed. Perhaps because I’m an only child or maybe I’m just naturally bossy; either way, I feel complelled to do my own thing.

My contract was just for the summer and when the students’ course ended, I put aside my English teaching but I always meant to return to it. I missed the students, who had come from all corners of the world, and I missed the challenge of creating lessons which were meaningful as well as fun. I am not sure why it took me so long to make the obvious leap into teaching art. A lifelong painter, and now a qualified teacher, combining the two was as simple as it was inevitable. Add to that my passion for travel and Vistas holidays virtually gave birth to themselves.

In between departures, though, there have been periods where I’ve been grounded. As well as persuing my own painting; decorating ceramics in the local pottery (‘Highland Stoneware’) and doing the occasional bit of freelance gardening, I’ve designed and taught several courses for local adult learners at the Assynt leisure centre. Over the years I have attracted a faithful core of participants who eagerly attend every course I provide, be it pastels, watercolour, mixed media or outdoor sketching. During this last year, of course, we have not been able to meet, let alone undertake any indoor study but in October we were allowed to begin, in classes of six. The subject of the latest course has been ‘Life drawing, Figure drawing and Portraiture’ as previously requested by a few of the students.

While human subjects are not really my thing, I had great fun putting the course together and it was wonderful to catch up with dear, familiar faces after many months. Once they had overcome their joy at being out and about again, settled down and got back into concentration mode, they produced some remarkable work; none of them had ever done anything like this before and I am very proud of them.

I am very much missing the Sketching Holidays but in the meantime you can be assured I’m keeping my tutoring hand in and will be running two or maybe three more local courses in January, restrictions permitting.