Many amateurs start painting in their teens and keep diligently working until the pressures of a career closes off their free time. But in their forties, with the children off their hands, there is the chance to again pick up these earlier interests and take them in new directions. And in retirement, many more learn oil painting, finding artists to be a friendly lot, keen to give newcomers a helping hand. Most towns have a painting club, often with special deals at local art-stores, annual exhibitions, tuition nights, and libraries where members may borrow books and videos.
Particularly looked forward to is the annual painting holiday. For two weeks members may concentrate entirely on their hobby, confident of finding the board and lodging taken care of, a resident art expert to advise, and an infectious enthusiasm from fellow guests.
Some go regularly with their club, every year to the same place. Others are more adventurous and take a few friends or simply themselves to new locations. What should they look out for, those tempted by brochures, magazine advertisements and Internet sites?
The advice is twofold. Choose a good operator, and find a course that meets your requirements.
As regards the operator, the best advice often comes by word of mouth. Painters who've had an excellent time tell their friends, and that provided that recommendation is to the right painting holiday with respect to location, cost range and genres catered for is often the safest course. But when artists want to go somewhere else, or the painting tuition on offer is not to their level or interests, what then?
They should do some research. How reputable is the company offering the painting holiday? How long have they been in business? How many guests do they take? Are there facilities for non-painting spouses: games rooms, walking trips, coach tours to places of interest? Does the center have testimonials, and can you contact previous guests independently? It's not an arduous matter to canvas opinion by email these days.
If at all possible, go with a big tour company. They have delegated to individual operators, of course, but those operators are inspected regularly to maintain standards and reputations. The big tour operators also have standard complaints and compensation procedures, and their financial standing means that they can afford to meet their obligations should something unforeseen happen or the holiday not come up to expectations.
You must also look closely at the courses on offer.
Who is running them, and what are their qualifications? If a beginner you may be very happy with a resident teacher who's been running such things for years, but that may not suit the more experienced artist. Watercolor painting is the most popular medium among older folk, and it's clearly watercolor techniques that will be demonstrated most often to a mixed class. Larger centers will have experts on particular media or styles of painting, and these may be more suitable. Or there will be visiting experts. Check.
Now the qualifications of the tutor, which is a difficult matter to advise on. Some tutors get on with everyone, while others seem only to appeal to a favored few. The most celebrated painters do not necessarily make the best teachers, but the larger centers have usually vetted their staff from both points of view. Just be a little careful of one-man shows where the artist, though needing the money, has no real teaching experience. You may find the individual attention is just what you need, but you may also be disappointed and have little redress beyond leaving early. Ask around, inquire of local clubs, look at the tutor's own work: painting is an extended family and someone somewhere has the information you are looking for.
1. Shaw Guide. Over 6,000 art & craft workshops listed.
2. Art Courses UK. Over 80 classes, workshops and painting holidays.
3. Search Europe. A few courses in this extensive listing of arts & entertainment.
4. Painting Workshops. Workshops run under the aegis of 'International Artist' in Europe and Australia.
5. 'Painting holidays'. GoLearnTo. Courses in France, Italy and Spain.
6. What makes a good painting workshop tutor? Brochure information on 'Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais'.
Please note that these listings have been compiled from public sources, and do not necessarily represent a recommendation on our part. Consult our disclaimer, therefore, and follow the advice above.
'The Bridge at Villeneuve' by Alfred Sisley. 1872. Courtauld Institute Galleries. London. A triadic scheme of tertiaries, but quite fresh in its depiction of summery weather.