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The magic of a learning retreat

learningA holiday doesn’t just have to be about sun and sangria or cafe culture and museum trawling. More and more of us are using the precious time we can secure away from work and the daily grind to explore our alternative sides. Whether it be the budding novelist within, Greek mythology geek or 24/7 rock climber, learning retreats promote a sense of real accomplishment and deep relaxation as we unlock our potential.

Art holidays are becoming a well recognised as a kind of widely accessible learning retreat. Be it Cornwall or Alaska, the destination possibilities are endless and the practice blends relaxation with creative therapy. Whether you’ve been scribbling away on your lunch breaks or staring at your in-tray for inspiration, a change of scenery that brings new light and colour, new faces and paces of life is the first step to stirring your artistic side.

The Lonely Planet have an excellent guide to art-based trips that take you away from the paintings hung in galleries and outside to the landscapes that inspired them. However, if its tuition you’re seeking and a chance to work and learn within a group environment then heading to some of these picturesque hotspots is sure to get your creative juices flowing.

With the stunning Atlas mountains as a backdrop, enchanting Moorish architecture and bustling souks, Marrakech is a treasure trove of vibrant, intoxicating landscapes and subjects. A course with a painter and experienced tutor will help artists both new and old to interpret the challenging surroundings and work with new areas of colour that are typical to the region.

Day trips out to the Atlas mountains are easy from here, or explore the Jma el Fna Square and antique Jewish quarter. With the Sahara Desert close by and the rich, terracotta and jewel tones abounding, get ready to try out some unusual colourways – click on the link to to find the whole range of limited edition desert colour paint by Windsor and Newton, a perfect accompaniment to Morocco.

Italy is an incredibly popular destination for painting retreats, where the warm Mediterranean light drenches both ancient, romantic cities and expanses of olive groves in parched earth. Tuscany is particularly rich in both beauty and great hospitality, so a trip out here is sure to involve both passionate tuition, endless subject opportunities such as the 17th century mill ruins of Posara and heartwarming Italian food.

Tuscany has drawn some excellent modern painters over the years with the likes of Chester Kasnowski (whose works hang in the Guggenheim NY and Tate Modern) and watercolourist Milind Mulik both tutoring in the region.

For a touch of the east, head over to China where both oriental calligraphy and painting provides a unique way to access the culture and history of the region. Learning ancient techniques often sheds light on the roots of the styles and mediums being used today and can greatly improve your own practice. A decent course should provide all the art materials you need, especially when specialist tools such as Chinese brushes are needed to create typical ink and wash pictures.

You don’t have to go too ‘far-flung’ though to experience inspiring landscapes. Britain has it’s fair share of wild and characterful countryside such as Dartmoor or the Scottish borders and Highlands. The lochs, glens and rolling hills of this very beautiful part of the world may not have the the most reliable weather, but it does have a landscape steeped in myth and legend. It’s also famous for stunning, expansive golf courses, fishing lakes and trekking so there’s lots to do in between classes.


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