What a way to kick off 2024. I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to teach at an art retreat. It was something I've never done before and was super excited by the prospect of working closely with students over 5 days. Not to mention be surrounded by exquisite landscapes!
I have taught workshops with Artable Studios all over Australia including the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Newcastle. The team behind Artable also run art retreats all over the world and recently bought and renovated a 100 year old hotel in Winnaleah, in the north east corner of Lutruwita / Tasmania. Enter: Enclave Tasmania.
I arrived a few hours before the students did which allowed me explore and indulge in this amazing space. The venue couldn't be more perfect for a retreat. Each person gets their own super comfortable room, with ensuite! It's almost unheard of for this kind of event. The pub's original dining room has been split in two, with one area becoming a dedicated studio space and the other our dining room. There was also the group lounge, a separate room to kick back and relax by the fire in. Everything we needed, all in one place.
The backyard and garden is a work in progress, however on arrival is was abundant with dahlias, roses, fruit and vegetables, a chook and comically large bumble bees (that really took the students fancy!)
On our first day, we leapt at the opportunity for our first excursion. It was to a nearby lake. Rain was threatening, but for me, the process of getting a little uncomfortable and sketching outdoors far outweighs studio time.
We were excited to go and get out to this lake as it has near perfect mirror reflections and is also home to a lot of platypus. We grabbed our sketch books, pens and pencils and rain jackets. We got a good 40 minutes in before the rain snuck up on us, but it was such an amazing way to start the trip. There's always a bit of nervous energy at the beginning of these things and a group activity can help quell those nerves.
The rest of the day was spent in the studio while the rain pitter-pattered outside. We wrapped up our sketches and talked more of this sketching outdoors process before moving onto some fundamental watercolour techniques. Capping off the day with some florals before an epic dinner.
Our second day, rain and wind was forecast (the weather really dictated our program - but not in a bad way!) So we spent most of the day in the studio with our paints and using the back garden for inspiration.
One of the outcomes I was really keen to get everyone to do was to create an artist book, a concertina style one to take home with the at the end of the trip. A collation of their inspiration and memories from the trip. It was something we were going to gradually chip away at when the moment strikes. First of all each student had to come up with their concept. Some wanted to encapsulate the whole experience, the adventures, the local scenery, the back garden. Others focused on one scene. I was holding out for our day at the Bay of Fires to create mine. I've created a blog post for the artist books themselves, as they came together so well! Check it out here.
We did a switcheroo thanks to the weather forecast on the third day and decided to head to the Bay of Fires a day earlier than planned. We could not have got a more picturesque and perfect day. 25 degrees, blazing sun and barely any wind. This is very unusual for this corner of the world! We spent the whole day there where I walked everyone through my plein air process and encouraged everyone to give it a go. We explored marks and capturing the landscape with pens/pencils through to working in colours with crayons, pastels and paints.
Anyone that hasn't painted en plein air before, it can be quite a nerve wracking experience. Especially if you are shy or self-conscious like me. People are naturally curious and ask questions and sticky beak. You feel quite conspicuous too! Having a group around you really helps with the comfort levels and you do truly need to be quite relaxed to get stuck in and paint. The quality of work that came out of this day was just awesome. I was so very impressed. Each student really took it in their stride and came up with their own unique visions.
All sun-kissed and blissed out we went out for pizza and drinks at The Hub in close-by Derby for dinner. It was a fantastic day.
Day 4 was our final full day of painting, so we spent the entire day in the studio working on our artist books. I was quite the taskmaster! I had a few students approach me who were quite concerned about the time frame. I knew it was achievable though, and you know what - everyone got it done! A hard deadline can really help sometimes hehe, especially if you are a procrastinator. It was really important to me that each student go home with not just a head full of ideas and inspiration but one complete project too, one they are really proud of. We completed the painted parts of our books by lunch, then after lunch began assembly.
We did one final excursion, just for leisure this time, to the Little Blue Lake. It was such a nice way to end the trip.
The evening of our last day we had a little exhibition in the group lounge where we displayed select sketches and works as well as our artist books. We popped some champas and cheers-ed ourselves! The greater community were invited too and the turn out was amazing! I was truly humbled by the reception of us in their community, we felt so welcome.
A profound thank you to Gillian and Steve of Enclave, they took care of us in so many ways. We ate like kings, traveled in comfort, slept like champions and couldn't ask for another thing. Congratulations on your huge and transformative renovation, an asset to Winnaleah and the wider region.
And of course, I couldn't go another moment without acknowledging my 10 wonderful students. You'd traveled from as close as around the corner to as far as Canada. You made the whole event so special by your happy faces, willingness to give it a go, positive attitude, commitment and hard work... I could go on! It was one for the memory books.
For those of you interested in this kind of learning experience. Enclave and I are planning to make it an annual thing, so keep an eye out for 2025!