If getting in touch with your inner Van Gogh is among your New Year’s resolutions, you may want to kick-start the year with a residential painting retreat. Here’s our pick of the most luxurious trips to hone your technique, inspire your vision and develop your skills.
Set in the gorgeous Tuscan farmhouse of interior designer Camilla Guinness, the Arniano Painting School is run by her beautiful daughter Amber, a chef. Just 30 minutes from Siena, the house is set in the rolling green hills of southern Tuscany, and full of individual touches with English and Italian antiques and curiosities vying for space. Artist William Roper-Curzon does the teaching, guiding even the most inexperienced hand to confidence with oils. There are a maximum of ten guests, so everyone gets personalized coaching and encouragement. In between painting sessions, guests can relax on the vine-covered pergola while tucking into fresh local fare such as burrata, figs and pappa al pomodoro.
Art Safari, India
Art Safari specializes in luxury art holidays to far-flung retreats such as Mongolia, Cambodia and The Galapagos. First up in 2020, however, is a trip to ‘The Silver Ring’ of southern India. Guests will visit Tamil Nadu, one of the planet’s least-touched civilisations, seeing little-explored villages and temples. The tour then moves to the lush forests and waterways of Kerala, full of wildlife. Royal West of England Academician Maxine Relton guides the tour, inspiring others with her vibrant sense of colour and local know-how. Extra flavour is provided with a private cooking lesson and visit to a pomegranate farm.
Scott Travel, Ortygia
Visit the land where lemons grow with Celebrity Painting Challenge judge Lachlan Goudie for a six-day painting retreat just off the coast of Sicily. Staying in a waterfront boutique hotel converted sensitively from two fishermen’s cottages, guests will have the chance to explore the ancient Greek Temple of Apollo and amphitheatre in the mild Easter sun. Host Lachlan Goudie gives informal group tutorials and one-to-one guidance while himself painting in gouache and watercolour.
Artists Atelier, Provence
In the bright light of Provence, which has inspired artists from Matisse to Cezanne, this course takes place in a luxury farmhouse which has hosted Elizabeth Taylor and Leonard Cohen. Mauve lavender fields, ochre-stoned villages and blue-green cypress trees provide a feast for the eyes, while tutor Adam Cope has over 25 years of experience. A particular highlight is a visit to the Conservatoire des Couleurs, a palace of pigments where students can see how paints are made and pick up some unusual colours for themselves.
Ella Clocksin, Peak District
Former psychotherapist Ella Clocksin offers a deeply personal take on expressing yourself through art at her Derbyshire retreats. You won’t just be dabbling in watercolours here: Clocksin works over several medias, with an interest in textiles and visual language. Guests stay in a sumptuous Georgian country house, which formerly belonged to Sir Joseph Paxton who was chief gardener at Chatsworth – the garden is still full of his plants and landscaping, offering oodles of inspiration. Food comes courtesy of Luke Webster, of the Executive Chef Company, while in the evenings you can thrash out a game of ping-pong in the games room, read up on art history in front of the wood burner, or simply curl up in your four-poster bed and sleep off the day’s creative exercise.
Alison C Board, Somerset
For the first time in 2020, artist Alison C Board will be leading a painting retreat in the Jane Austen-perfect Regency manor Hurds Hill, once the home of Walter Bagehot who wrote The English Constitution. With a particular interest in local flora and fauna and the West Country landscape, this early summer retreat will take advantage of the best of British flowers, all blooming in the formal gardens and the local Somerset levels. Board will guide sessions with en plein air painting and a mini-exhibition for guests at the end of the retreat.