I'm into my fifth week of tutoring six Tuesday evening sketching workshops in at Alston Hall in Lancashire. It's a rambling Victorian Gothic house and we look out of the studio, through arched windows and across fields dotted with sheep and lambs, to the tree-line of the River Ribble.
This loveliest of settings makes me look forward to my week at Chateau L'Age Baston, another grand house with lovely views from an elevated position. Here, though, I'll be looking towards the Dordogne, over countryside punctuated by terracotta-roofed houses and rimmed by blue distant hills.
I've drawn the ironing board and the washing line, but there's the dovecote and the courtyard with its bright umbrellas, worn stone steps, pretty gates and doorways, drystone walls and deep dark woods studded with wild cyclamen.
If that isn't enough, pet donkeys and sheep roam within the shake of a paintbrush and the breeze ripples, Hockneyesque, the swimming pool's sunlit surface.
In nearby towns, there are markets, bars and riverside chateaux.
Piegut-Pluviers, the Market and the Bar
Fellow guests, too, are often happy to sit for a portrait, well, once at least!
Don, drawing in the Studio
I'll be encouraging students to get lively and loose and to respond to different subject matter in different ways, with different materials. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from a week in such an idyllic retreat!
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