I planned and orchestrated the workshop a good year in advance of the departure date. On September 19, artists from California, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, and Wisconsin gathered in the charming little village of Coldingham, 60 miles south of Edinburgh and 70 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne.
The participants stayed in mobile homes, called “caravans” by the Scots, in a vacation park a short walk from the ocean and the fishing village of St. Abbs. Each mobile home had two or three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bath. Each student received a generous supply of Unison and Yarka pastels, Wallis and La Carte paper, a French easel, and a stool.
After a hearty breakfast each morning, we boarded a bus and headed for a preselected painting site. Along the way, our bus driver, Bill Patterson, told us of Scotland’s rich history and identified local landmarks. I began the daily instruction with a demonstration of how to work with a limited palette of colors on location, how to make notations about color and atmosphere when one intends to later work from photographs, and how to capture the unique colors of the Scottish landscape. The students would then fan out from a central location and spend the balance of the day working on location and taking photographs. At the end of each day, we shared our experiences and critiqued the works in progress.
The greatest challenge we faced was the weather of a typical autumn day in Scotland. The strong winds demanded our attention as we kept track of painting gear and maintained our balance, and the cool temperatures taught us how to work while bundled up with layers of clothing.
“I particularly enjoyed painting on Holy Island,” says California artist Kay Ownes, referring to the island that can only be approached during low tide. “The castle on the very edge of the sea was spectacular, and the surrounding harbor, full of boats and activity, was glorious in the full sunlight.”
Rebecca C. Cullen of Petaluma, California, especially enjoyed painting the moors growing from the side of the road deep in the mountains. “The values were so pronounced, and the colors inspired my soul,” she says.
Joan Daykin of Bishop, California, was amazed at the variety of colors in the rock walls that lined the roads. “They could be nearly white, light tan, gray, yellow, brown, almost black, pink, and even red. And growing between the rocks were lacelike ferns and clinging plants,” she says.
Anne McClure of Yosemite, California, says, “This is the land of my ancestors, and it holds magic and beauty as far as the eye can see; every turn of the head is a new and exciting painting.” Lucille M. Allred and Wanda D. Johnson were so motivated by the experience that they created enough paintings for an exhibition in the gallery in which they are partners, the Cass Gallery in Roseburg, Oregon.
Another highlight was our personal tour of the Unison factory, located in the rectory of an old church in Northumberland, England. The road leading up to the factory was so narrow that our bus had to stop a mile away, and we were then shuttled the last bit by car. John and Kate Hersey, founders and owners of the company, took us through the small buildings arranged on 20 acres, and gave us the rare privilege of visiting John’s studio, where he paints and formulates pastels.
Michelle Richeson summarized her experience by saying, “When you leave a workshop you may only have a couple of near-finished paintings, but you will also have a sketchbook loaded with observations. You’ll probably also have rolls of photographic film packed with potential images and a head full of new ideas. That was certainly the case with this workshop, and I’m sure all of us are looking forward to another one.”