Workshops and Retreats

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The Shadows Between Now and Then


with Gillian Lee Smith

May 15 – May 23, 2020

Northumberland is home to rolling green fields filled with sheep, cows, horses, castles and places to lose yourself in history and time.

Alnwick is the base for this art workshop, staying at the charming 300-year-old coaching inn, The White Swan, just steps away from the Alnwick Castle and Gardens.

I am over the moon to be sharing my local area of Northumberland for another workshop, once again working with Kathie Vezzani of Bellissima Art Escapes. This time we dive deep into history and a sense of atmosphere and place – the castles and ruins that dominate this landscape and remind us of times long since passed.

We will be exploring iconic historical landmarks such as the gloriously decadent Alnwick Castle and Gardens – Ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland (and of course made famous by the story of a certain boy wizard, Harry Potter).

Holy Island is a very special place – separated from the mainland by a tidal causeway the Priory is the scene of the Viking invasion of Britain and the Lindisfarne Castle is an instantly recognisable silhouette on this tiny island.
Warkworth Castle is my favourite castle in the area and is fascinating in its passageways, darkened, shadowed chambers and archways. Wonderful, mysterious and sure to be an inspiration for our creativity during this workshop.

There are so many hidden and treasured locations to explore in Northumberland. It’s a challenge to pick only a few! Layers and layers of history, shape, texture, atmosphere and narrative are abundant, and we will be gathering lots of inspiration in order to create unique interpretations of our own personal response to all that is to be discovered here.

Doorways, arched windows, crumbling walls, ancient textures and text. Silhouettes and shadows. Heraldry and statues. Decadence and decay. The marks left by those long since departed. The colours in the landscape and ancient buildings. We will be gathering personal interpretations of all these things where we will use them to spark even deeper exploration back in the studio.

I will be demonstrating various ways of working with mixed media whilst out in the landscape to gather sketches and studies that are full of texture and atmosphere. Shadowy, inky colour washes, flowing, gestural lines and wonderful mark-making and textural details.

We will then be using these explorations and studies, using mixed media techniques to create one of a kind handmade artist books that tell the story of this place in your own way. These will then inspire some larger mixed media interpretations and compositions that build history and atmosphere, lost and found structures and evocative details layer upon layer.

You will finish the workshop with a sketchbook full of inspiration, a more complete artist book of mixed media explorations, and one or more larger mixed media compositions inspired by your experiences.

There are only a couple of places remaining on this workshop so please contact Kathie Vezzani if you would like to attend! More information on Bellissima Art Escapes –

This workshop is nearly sold out!

Tracing the Landscape


with Gillian Lee Smith

May 23 – May 31, 2020

Shetland has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember so I am extremely excited to be working with Kathie Vezzani of Bellissima Art Escapes once again to teach this workshop in this most spectacular of locations. Taking a 12 hour ferry trip, we will arrive in Scalloway and so begins our journey into ancient history, incredible landscapes and mythology.

Our sketches this week will respond to all that we see and experience. We will create a sketchbook to take with us into the field and with this information, we will design an imaginative, beautiful, refined art book.

It is this unique landscape of Shetland that will inspire us in the exploration of sculptural artist books.

Using mixed media and paper and card to create forms that lie flat in closed book form but can be shaped to reflect the landscape in ways that reflect the shapes of the landscape and our inspiration.

We will be working from a starting point of a basic book project but experimenting with different ways of taking this so much further into 3-dimensional form.

Creating inspiration in the form of sketches we will be exploring the landscape in mixed media – gestural studies that are a response to the time and place, environment and atmosphere in inks and watercolour.

Using these studies, we will be creating experiments to begin to explore ways of interpreting the landscape in book and page form. Techniques will include monoprint, collage, ink explorations, experimenting with paper textures, text and form. The artist book is a fascinating way of creating objects that fold flat (brilliant for an away from home workshop) but that can be made three dimensional for display.

I will have examples of the possibilities, and will share the process, and students will be encouraged to take this development further and make their own discoveries along the way.

We will finish the week with a sketchbook and pages of studies and sketches and practice book samples as well as completed several unique artist books.

There are only a very few places remaining on this workshop – if you would like to join us then please go to Bellissima Art Escapes for more information, itinerary and to register:

This workshop is nearly sold out. Register now to secure your space!

Ladders and Lines

Harbour Life in Mixed Media

Northumberland, United Kingdom

with Gillian Lee Smith

September 20 – September 24, 2020

Space is limited. Register today!

I am very much inspired by the spaces between land and sea – these coastal communities, the heritage of the area and the way humans have made their marks on the landscape. Harbour walls with the line of the tide crossed with ropes and ladders. The jumble of the fishing boats, machinery and lobster pots. It is a visual and sensory treat. There are big shapes and small details that we can draw from to create wonderful imagery that represents our own response to these inspiring scenes.

In this workshop we will be first creating an accordion sketchbook which will allow us to capture scenes in the landscape without worrying about ‘making pictures’. We will use mixed media to capture the textures, colours and layers of details that are to be seen in these harbour environments. Building up exciting imagery that we can then use to inspire works back in the studio space.

Whether you are new to landscapes or a seasoned painter, drawn to abstraction or inspired to create more representational works, you are sure to find something to spark a personal and expressive response to the landscape.

Class Schedule – The workshop

  • Day 1 – We will begin in the workshop space going through some of my sketchbooks and images, going through the possibilities for gathering information and inspiration. We will then create our own accordion sketchbook pages which will be used in an afternoon sketching at one of the local harbours using simple techniques and media to begin to build up layers of imagery.
  • Day 2 – We will begin the day in the studio with demonstrations of more ideas for working in mixed media out in the landscape before venturing out for a morning of sketching at another local harbour. The day will be finished by creating a cover for our accordion sketchbook to finish it off.
  • Days 3 and 4 – On our two remaining full workshop days we will be working in mixed media using our sketchbooks for inspiration. Layers of shape, line, texture, colour will be built up to create exciting imagery. Each student will be encouraged to find their own visual language to create works based on a personal response to the places we have experienced.

This workshop includes

  • Watercolour paper to create our sketchbook pages
  • Tape to attach pages together
  • Indian ink
  • PVA glue
  • Scissors
  • A selection of acrylic paints
  • Carbon paper
  • Gesso
  • Water containers
  • Grey board for sketchbook cover
  • Brown paper if you wish to use this to cover your book.
  • Paper for mixed media paintings
  • Gel medium

Student Supply List:

  • Weather appropriate clothing and footwear!
  • Camera or phone camera
  • 2 or 3 boards for mixed media paintings – these can be cradled boards or linen or cotton covered boards. Please prime before the workshop. I would suggest a maximum size of around 20 inches. Square or rectangle – it is up to you!
  • Paper of your choice to cover your book covers with. Handmade paper for example. One piece of paper measuring around 20 x 28 inches or 2 sheets around 10 x 14 inches.
  • 12 inch metal ruler
  • A small watercolour set with attached palette. Either pans or tubes. I like Windsor and Newton or Daniel Smith.
  • Water brush pens (you can find these in many art stores – a brush pen with an attached container of water)
  • Graphite/lead pencils in various densities eg. 4b, 6b, 8b
  • Black fine liner pens like Faber Castel Pitt pen
  • Acrylic inks in burnt umber and red oxide
  • Dip pen with nib
  • A few oil pastels in a small range of colours (colours like greens, blues, browns, grey, yellows)
  • Palette knife
  • Small spray bottle for water
  • Embossing tool – you can find these on Amazon or card making supplies
  • A couple of 1+ inch paint brushes
  • A selection of paint brushes for acrylics
  • Palette papers
  • A couple of cloth rags
  • Backpack for your sketching supplies

We will finish the week with a sketchbook and pages of studies and sketches and practice book samples as well as completed several unique artist books.

There are a limited number of spaces in this workshop. If you would like to join us then please go to Springhill Farm’s website for more information and registration:

Register now to secure your space!

What Students are Saying

I just want to thank you for all the time and hard work you put into this course. You are a very gifted teacher and I am grateful that you are so willing and open to sharing your techniques and insights with your students. Because of you, I am not only becoming a better artist, I am becoming a HAPPIER, more expressive artist and that is more important than anything. Thank you!”

Louise Duhamel

I can’t say enough about this course. I think it was the most fulfilling course I’ve ever taken.

Alyse Sanders

I feel this course is helping me to achieve full circle in my quest to find my true style. I am still working my way through all the insightful lessons and find myself re-visiting the videos, because every time I do I find something I did not grasp before. It has most definitely met my expectations and so much more…It does not spoon feed but rather encourages one to experiment and explore.

Tania Bain

“As a beginner, I’ve wondered how do you mix paints?…use pastels?…what papers? surfaces? pencils or charcoal? And how DOES one use the colour wheel? So many materials, methods, and all so confusing. Can’t someone please explain it all? Well, Gillian has. It’s all here, beautifully demonstrated in excellent video. Gillian is the most talented, generous, inspiring teacher. I’ve gone back over the lessons again and again, each time deriving more benefit and seeing improvement in my work. I’m so grateful for this extraordinary course.”

Arlene Lombardo

“Thank you so much for such an amazing course! When I try to describe it to friends I say that it is like an entire bachelor of fine arts curriculum in 6 weeks! That is what it seems like because it is so packed with information and exercises. I will be working on these lessons for many months to come. Thank you for your insights, generosity and gorgeous work.”

Anne O’Connor

“I want to share my extremely wonderful experience of taking Gillian’s class Unearth Gather Create. As a returning painter with years of no active drawing or painting, this thorough, intense complete class of wonderful tutorials, content, tips and writing exercises revived my passion for art. I have done many drawings, paintings and sketches. I have redone a porch to use as a studio and I am working in my journals to ready myself for two new series of paintings. Please take this class and trust you will have a wonderful journey.”

Joan Tucker

“I have LOVED the class and will enjoy continuing my study as I slowly work my way through. You are not only a gifted artist, but a generous and kind person. I thank you for your giving spirit which shone through each and every video. I hope to someday take a class from you in person!”

Beth Cole

“I have been taking classes for the last year or so pretty regularly. Gillian’s class is totally different. I feel like I am in art school! The first week was more info then a lot of month long classes. Gillian comments on every piece shown on the page and is there daily encouraging and prompting us. I would recommend it to everyone.”

Sandy Belt

“I have adored Gillian Cox’s work for several years now. When I found out she was teaching an online workshop, there was no hesitation. I signed up. Now I have taken many classes and not always, but sometimes my expectations are much higher than what the class actually is. Not so with Gillian. I just wanted to watch her work because her work is so deep and thought provoking and unbelievably beautiful. She is an excellent teacher. She is talking as she is creating and able to really explain what she is doing in such exquisite detail.”

Kate Thompson

“She teaches the foundation of drawing the portrait which is so important to all levels, for beginners to learn and for more experienced artist to revisit. She then demonstrates expressively her creations which gives the students the ability to take from foundational work into a more expressive and personal direction. Absolutely the best class I have ever taken.”

Kate Thompson

“Gillian is an amazing artist and an equally amazing teacher. What a comprehensive, professional, creative, responsive, beautiful presentation with superb videos and art instruction, gorgeous images and written materials to enhance learning, and creative inspiration to enable students to unearth their own inner vision for their art. Every day I come to the online classroom with so much renewed passion for art. And proof that the best teachers are also always learning themselves, Gillian frequently asks if we have any feedback for her as an instructor. The environment she has created is supportive and welcoming of everyone at every stage in their own creative exploration. This is so much more than an online art course. It is art school with a group of friends that includes the brilliant, generous instructor.”

Joanne Rose

“Unearth Gather Create has been a revelation, delivering so much more than I’d hoped for (and my hopes were high to begin with)! Rich in content, it will provide food for thought and creativity for months (and probably years) to come. Gillian is a natural tutor – patient, generous, and always encouraging, her passion for art is infectious. I quickly forgot this was an e-course, as it feels like she’s explaining everything to me in the same room! Can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Magdalena Moon

 “So delighted I signed up for your course, Unearth Gather Create. I really did not know what to expect and have been so impressed with your approach as a tutor, the course content and your ability to connect with your ‘students’. Watching you model a technique, listening to the clarity of your explanations and receiving your constructive feedback is allowing me to develop important understanding and knowledge while inviting me to find my own voice. I am excited by the way in which you are allowing me to think, to see and to connect with Art. I would recommend your course without reservation and wish you every success in the future.”

Dalene Robertson

 “I would recommend your course without reservation and wish you every success in the future.”

Dalene Robertson

 “I was in art school as of last year and everything I learn from you is just as valuable if not more than art school. What you are teaching and how you teach is one of the greatest gifts to give someone who has never been to art school and/or can’t afford it. It’s my dream to create an online school teaching art to kids and adults because of those reasons I mentioned. So I admire you and you have been an inspiration.

Jennifer Perry

 “Wonderful content, superb teacher, fine art instruction without any the worry of my skill level, but thorough & comprehensive…Artfully & Thoughtfully Done!

Lynne O’Neal

Watching you paint and draw is immensely useful. I learn so much. And I love the way you write about artistic expression.

Sharyle Doherty

I love everything about her style – her teaching – just everything!!!!!

Suzanne O’Mullan

“I was highly impressed by the amount of content in the course, it was like a college semester worth of information!”

Amber Walker

“Drawn to Expression is great and strong in all strands! Structure, presentation, practical videos, inspirational quotes, incredible content and words from an Artist/Tutor who is passionate to share her knowledge and expertise with her students. For me, each strand enriches my own journey.”

Debbie Gould

“Your videos demonstrate a technique and how you use it, how to express with the mediums/technique. Then the assignments dovetail in such a way that everyone experiments and produces something different…different expressions. This is not a paint by numbers course.”

Mardi Driftmier

“Gillian, the class I took from you, Drawn to Expression, was absolutely incredible. My art has grown, deepened, and loosened in such positive ways, by what I have learned from you. A totally exceptional class!”

Suzy Norris

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