Shortly before Christmas 2013, I was surprised to see there were three letters addressed to me amongst the Christmas cards. The first letter was a nice surprise, the tax man had sorted out my records and a small refund was due! The second a small win on the premium bonds £25, I thought this is my lucky day. The third letter was from Alpha Painting Holidays, saying “we are pleased to let me know you are the lucky winner of our fully inclusive painting holiday for 2014” and enclosed was the programme for 2014.
I thought how exciting I've won a painting holiday. It's a scam my daughter said, nobody ever gives you a free holiday! But I remembered collecting some leaflets and filling in a questionnaire at the stand in the NEC Art and Craft exhibition so I phoned Alpha Painting Holidays and spoke to Gill, who assured me that I really had won a holiday.
I browsed the brochure and chose to go on the Paint Cottages, Water, Boats and Coastal Scenes in “Little Switzerland” tutored by Terry Harrison, at The Rock House Hotel in Lynmouth.
Finally June came around and a friend and I set off on a beautiful sunny day for our first painting holiday. Being fairly new to painting and never having painted outside we were slightly nervous. We needn’t have worried though, after a pleasant journey from North Wales we were warmly welcomed by Matt and Gill and after settling in we met the other guests and Terry Harrison and his wife Fiona Peart in the dining room/studio where we received full details of the painting itinerary. We were encouraged to ask as many questions as we wanted and made to feel very welcome. Our group was made up of a mixture of abilities, some who had been on many painting holidays and others who like us their first painting holiday and never painted in the open air.
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we set off for our first day painting. The hotel was set in a beautiful location bordering both the sea and the river, and whichever way we turned it was a beautiful view. A landscape one way, and quaint cottages and thatched pub the other way. Terry had a good look around and decided to demonstrate a landscape showing the coastal path, the cliffs and the shore line.
Terry was very helpful and supportive and gave me lots of useful tips and I eventually had a painting. I realised my bag contained too many items and resolved to try to be more organised in the afternoon! After lunch we painted the quaint cottages surrounded by trees on the very steep hillside and although not finished I felt better about this painting and took lots of photos to help me finish this off at home.
Tuesday was another sunny day and we drove a short distance from the hotel to Watersmeet, a beautiful water course, lots of rocks, swirling water and small pools. We all found a good vantage point on the rocks and settled down to watch another demonstration by Terry. It was cooler by the river and lots of light and shaded areas, another aspect of painting to take in. Gill was always on hand for refreshments. Later we each enjoyed a packed lunch.
In the afternoon we returned to the harbour jetty as the group had expressed an interest in painting the boats in the harbour. The tide was coming in and Terry gave us advice on which boats would be easier to sketch and paint. We sketched and painted for the rest of the afternoon joined by the inquisitive tourists visiting Lynmouth for the day.
Dinner was always lively and welcoming and I learnt a lot from the interesting stories and discussions that took place over the evening meal. It was a lovely happy atmosphere.
Wednesday was another opportunity to paint outdoors, at Malmsmead, Lorna Doone Valley. The location was idyllic and it was difficult to choose what to paint, quaint houses, rustic barns, a stone bridge, a weir and riverbanks. We all decided on the bridge and weir. This was a completely different challenge to the previous days paintings and Terry gave us a demonstration. We settled down on the bank of the river that divides Devon and Somerset and spent the rest of the day painting. We all agreed it would be nice if some horses would walk across the weir, and our luck was in as two beautiful horses started to cross, the riders were delighted and stopped for us to take photographs. A nice addition to future paintings. A variety of birds flew along the riverbanks, swallows, swifts and a glimpse of a kingfisher, and the appearance of the sun all made for a great day.
Before our evening meal Terry's wife Fiona offered to demonstrate how to paint an evening harbour scene using only three colours, it was very interesting and the finished picture (done in about 30mins) was stunning.
Thursday we travelled to Porlock Weir, the weather was dull and rain was forecast. It was very windy in Porlock and we all looked for a sheltered spot. I didn't chose very well, if I stood up my chair blew over but I decided to persevere as I liked the scene with the little old boat in. Terry checked how each of us were and helped us in lots of ways. It was a case of hang on to everything, but I was pleased with my sketch and took lots of pictures.
We had a lovely long lunch in the Ship Inn and during this time it rained heavily and did not look like stopping. As some people where not far from home, they decided to travel straight home, we were staying another night so we returned to the hotel.
Although I did not completely finish any of my paintings, I really enjoyed this holiday and have plenty of photographs to enable me to complete my paintings back home. Each day provided a different subject in spectacular locations, lots of tips and support from Terry and Fiona. There was lots of interaction each day amongst the members of the group. It was good to meet such interesting people from different walks of life and also from different countries, to have lively discussions and lots of stories shared. Matt and Gill were great hosts, very approachable and nothing was too much trouble for them. The accommodation and food were excellent, lunches, refreshments, chairs and easels always available, in fact everything ran extremely smoothly. The only thing we had to think about was the view we wished to paint and what colours should we mix.
It was certainly a fantastic holiday. I have learnt a lot and would highly recommend a holiday with Alpha Painting Holidays to any new or experienced artist.