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Summertime and the living is easy

Countryside Bullclough Art School
The inspirational landscape seen from Bullclough Art School

I've just returned from a wonderful painting course at Bullclough Art School in the Peak District National Park. Now you may have noticed that my previous blog post was about an art course in Yorkshire so I have indulged myself somewhat this summer! But the experience was so, so good that I feel fully justified in investing in my own personal creative development. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a way to shake up and refresh your artistic practice. We all need a fresh injection of creativity every now and then.

Studio at Bullclough Art School
The deck infront of the Bullclough studio where course participants could work

The course was called Contemporary Summer Landscape and was led by artist Rachel Cronin. Bullclough is a renovated farmhouse owned by Fenella and Andy with a large purpose-built studio and outdoor workspace in their garden. It's deep in the White Peak countryside with a wonderful view of rolling hills and fields. The hospitality on the course was out of this world with a very generous supply of food, drink and art materials!

Bullclough Art School hospitality
Course participants gathering together for lunch in the sunshine

We worked on wood panels in acrylic using the lovely view from the studio as a starting point but this course was about interpreting the landscape in a personal way rather than making a representational image. None of my paintings are finished so I hope to do more work on them. Rachel gave a number of useful demonstrations about the technical and formal aspects of painting as well as selecting what interests you about the landscape and creating a mood or atmosphere.

Painting at Bullclough Art School
Two stages of my first painting on wood panel.

This three-day course was during our recent heatwave which posed some challenges. The paint was drying extremely fast despite working on stay-wet palettes and incorporating slow-dri medium. This does have advantages for working in layers of paint as you can move on swiftly to the next layer. I enjoyed sanding and scraping back paint to reveal underlying layers of "history". We worked with a limited palette of 5 colours so we really got to know the pigments and all the different possibilities for colour mixing. Lemon yellow and ochre were very important for giving the fresh greens of the grass and the more parched look of stubble. The sky was a bright blue without a single cloud the whole time - thank goodness for artistic licence! I used cerulean, white and ochre mixes to give a range of colours.

Painting at Bullclough Art School Peak District
Two stages of my second square painting on panel

I like meeting people on art courses as they are always such interesting, creative people and you feel fine about attending on your own. Some were beginners and I was probably the most experienced. I'm still a relative beginner when it comes to paint so I learned a lot and got some ideas about how to move forward creatively. I can't wait to get back into my own studio and put it all into action.

I stayed in a most wonderful AirB&B farmhouse hosted by a very warm-hearted and generous couple who went above and beyond to ensure my comfort. We enjoyed lovely home-cooked meals in the evening sun on their terrace overlooking the fields. The place was filled with animals who added a great deal of life and comedy to the experience. The art school also had quite a range of pets so I've put together a little video of my experiences to give you a flavour or the place, the people and the animal friends I made!

I found it all immensely enjoyable and lamented that it passed by so quickly. I think this experience will really feed into my own practice. When I came home, I sat drawing in the garden and suddenly found I was drawing in a new way - and I loved it!




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