It is so difficult to summarise what is actually a week out of my life that holds such meaning in so many different ways. Only a few short weeks ago I travelled up to Gardenstown once again to teach at the creative retreat for the second time. There is such an intense build up to this workshop (organising bookings, travel, all the day to day essentials of pulling together a group of folks from far away, making sure everyone is fed and watered not to mention putting myself, heart and soul into the teaching). The busyness of all of that is instantly put aside though when I drive down that steep hill and see the view of the harbour and the village that awaits.

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(My first evening in Gardenstown before the students arrived)

This time I arrived a day early making sure I had some relaxation and preparation time ahead of the students arriving in all their flurry and excitement. It was so worth it. After unloading the car I had a whole evening to myself to wander the village, walk along the beach in the shadow of the dominating cliffs as I looked over the bay and even a little time to sit and sketch (actually more than a little time, I was out there for hours : )

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(Perfect peace in the shadow of the cliffs)

Each time I go there (this was my third time visiting Gardenstown, my second time running the retreat) I feel more and more at home, more in tune with the history and atmosphere of the place. I am able to switch off from my day to day life and immerse myself in just taking those moments, to sit, to gaze, to wonder and to imagine. I do love it so.

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(The view from the studio – no filter!)

But of course my being there is about far more than my own enjoyment of the place. I get to share that with others too and this week was very special for so many reasons. All the students travelled from far and wide – 7 from the USA, one from Australia and an American now living in Edinburgh – as the only Scot I was very much outnumbered! I think I can say with confidence that everyone who came, truly immersed themselves in the special atmosphere of this place that almost seems caught in a time long since passed. The weather was unusually warm and as you can see from the photos we had wall to wall blue skies and calm seas. I always like to wish for at least one stormy day (the views of the storm last October from the cliff top studio were spectacular) but it was not to be. But I cannot be disappointed with the weather.

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(Setting up my work in the studio in preparation for the week)

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(Students work covering every available space on the studio walls)

Every day the walls of the studio grew busy with all the incredible work that was being created. The studio was a hive of activity and there was intense focus on making the most of every moment – even as tempting as it was to spend as much time outside in the glorious sunshine. Each student working so hard to capture something of their own feelings about the place whether it was portraits based on the past communities of the village or landscapes that captured the beauty and essence of the place.

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(Kijsa and Beverly hard at work)

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(More and more work covering the walls – there was not an inch of space left by the end of the week)

We ate wonderful food in the local pub, enjoyed tea and lunches at the recently opened tea shop, laughed till our sides hurt, shared our stories and enjoyed every moment – friendships are born and nurtured on creative workshops and this one was no different.

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I say this often but I am so grateful to be doing what I have always dreamed of, I think it was in me even before I knew it was a possibility.

If you would like to read more about the workshop from a few of the student’s perspectives then you can read more here and here by Judy, here with Jeanne and here with Julie. It makes me so incredibly happy to know that they were able to enjoy the whole experience as much as I did and really, I am in awe of all the work that was created during this week by every single person. Not to mention all the memories of our time together that will stay with me.

(I am running this retreat again next Spring 2016 – that particular course is now sold out but I will be announcing dates for an early Autumn 2016 retreat very, very soon).

Thanks for sharing this with me. There will be a part two very soon!

(I have a horrible feeling that for some reason that I can fathom, readers are not able to leave comments on my blog at the moment. I shall try to remedy this as soon as I can figure out what the problem is.)

x x x