Last week, I hosted my first 'in person' art workshop since 2020 and it was SO nice to be able to connect with and support other creative souls as we wandered about the Cotswold countryside. Of course, after a week of reasonably nice weather, it was a rather damp and drizzly sort of day but we hardly noticed because of the cake and nice chats!
The day began with everyone arriving from their various destinations. Some had had a long drive, a few lived not too far away and others had chosen to stay in the area and have a lovely Cotswold mini break over the weekend! With a welcoming cup of tea/coffee, I introduced the day speaking a bit about different ways to walk creatively. Not Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, dear reader, but more like walking with a creative brain and creative eyes...it makes a little hike MUCH more interesting when you've got special things to collect and spot.
After bombarded these lovely ladies with an overwhelming amount of information about the local area, priming their eyes to look differently, a queue for the loo, much discussion about what to wear for the inclement weather..........we set off!
Wandering down the hill from house, we turned left along Monarch's Way, which then took us onto The Cotswold Way, the paths of which, were flanked with fading blooms of bluebells and wild garlic. We walked onward and upward through tunnels of acid green hazel, gazed upon fresh elderflowers and passed through lots of wonky wooden gates. Along the path, small treasures were collected with eyes, cameras and in little pots and bags for further study and sketching.
We had walked up to the top of the valley now and enjoyed the views looking back from where we had come from. The ancient folds and creases of the landscape here are just beautiful and are softened by billowing mounds of hedges and trees in full, new leaf. I particularly like how old houses and converted mills sit in the landscape so that you can only see bits of them. We passed grazing fields full of ewes and lambs, horses, cattle and as the tree lined path opened up there were banks of interesting grasses and wild flowers housing all manner of resident insects including little spiders who had made their homes in the clover. I loved hearing snippets of conversation as we walked mostly about what things were and getting to know each other. chatting a walking was nice. I realised what a nice way it is to break the ice and get to know everyone individually, what were they inspired by and what they wanted from the day.
This path took us up past a folly mounted high on a hill, some beautiful wonky Cotswold cottages and into the village of Alderley where we stopped a while at the little church. It's lovely here and every time I visit I think how an old churchyard is the perfect sketching location with so much to look at. We visited the grave of Marianne North, peeped inside the church and collected contrasting patterns and textures with the curious, arty eyes that we had been training to look a bit harder... which wasn't that difficult at all really.
Quietly 'seeing' and taking longer, being more present means our busy, tech-tired brains could rest a while and do what they do best which is to consciously notice and wonder about things. I loved looking and thinking about the tangles of Ivy which had clambered over the ancient headstones and around rusted railings.
The final part of our walk took us on along the looping Cotswold Way, through a wildflower meadow, over bridges, past beautiful houses and we athletically hurdled our way over a few very dodgy stiles*
(*not really...it was was the opposite and I could sense these girls trying to recall where the words 'assault course' had appeared in the workshop description!)
When we arrived back in the village it was lunch time (hooray!) and, after another queue for the loo, it was time for a good lunch, tea, coffee, a wander around our garden/ little wood (for those who weren't exhausted from the walk) and well earned cake for pud in a bid to fuel our creative souls for an afternoon of hard graft!
** insert sound of a whip cracking here**
Not only does a walk provide you with a wealth of interesting things to add to your sketchbook, but it also resets your brain, effortlessly urging it to be more considered and quiet which is a nice way to enter into an afternoon of looking, sketching and recording the objects, thoughts and observations we had collected. We all agreed that it is something we could/should all do in our own time but never carve out the space in our lives to actually do it. I walk a lot around this area and always want to draw things afterwards. Throw in a bag of crisps, a constant stream of tea and a Cadbury's Fruit and Nut and I can't really think of a more perfect day, really!
There was such lovely work produced as we aimed at creating a 'snack' sketchbook page which is page of little bits and bobs added across the spread to create a collection of interesting objects (...not a page of illustrated biscuits...although that would also be good!) All together it looks like a bit like a school nature table. I refer to it as snack sketching because you don't have to create a page all in one go but just in little bits which makes it a friendly approach to sketching for the time poor amongst us or those who are daunting by a full page spread. Think bit size pieces!
At the end of the day, I was delighted to give a little tour of my new garden studio where we were then trapped by the heaviest rain of the day...not a bad place to spend time though with lots of books and art equipment to look at! As the rain eased off and, as if on cue, a rainbow appeared fleetingly and the class dispersed too with long drives ahead for many, I think all will have slept well after such a busy but lovely day!