Art experiences during Covid-19

Bech in Argyll

Artist Karen Beauchamp led a week-long residential art retreat at her studio on the Kintyre Peninsula in September. It was the first event since before the Covid crisis. So, with all the precautions that needed to be in place to keep everyone safe – was it as enjoyable as these art weeks usually are? I asked host Karen and two of her guests how it felt to them.

Karen on hosting the retreat

“Well – the group were delightful and quite varied in their needs, but as we specialise in individual teaching that was not the challenge as much as remembering to be socially distant! We managed very well as the studio is large and airy and each person had their own table and set of equipment.

We had cleaning materials and hand sanitiser at various points around the house for general use. Also, each of the guests had their own bathroom.

I changed the eating arrangements so we all sat at the really large dining table in the entrance hall, and consequently socially distant. Food was either served individually ready plated up or on a trolly for self service. Each person was responsible for placing their dishes on the trolly for taking to the dishwasher.

There were a few juggling acts but on the whole it worked well.

Working outside of course was not a problem especially as the weather was quite breezy. We managed a picnic and food was in individual portions and we had colour coded cups, all very jolly !

Enough about Covid – the art course went very well and I hope I gave guests another insight into their particular media. They all managed a number of pieces and exploratory sketches together with colour samples and gathered pebbles, driftwood and dried seaweed for reference.

I really enjoyed the week and was stimulated by the results!”

What guests said

No safety concerns before attending 

“I follow a fairly strict safety regime and was confident prior to attending the week that the correct safety measures would be in place. These included having a room and bathroom to myself, eating and socialising arrangements, and art demonstrations/ work in the studio and outside.

How it felt for me

I was comfortable with all the arrangements in place. The appropriate measures were adhered to throughout the week and I did not consider my safety was compromised.

Impact on enjoyment of the week

I enjoyed the week greatly and consider it worked well in the format dictated by Covid.That meant that there were only three guests and that social distancing was necessary at all times. I have little doubt the enjoyment of the holiday would have been even greater if the group had been larger and relaxation easier. So saying I was delighted to have attended this course in person.”

What I got out of it

It provided an opportunity to attend an art course in the home and studio of a talented design artist in a lovely rural setting, to meet fellow painters, to enjoy the delights of the location and excellent food with a local bias. I personally benefited from the guidance given on how to approach drawing and painting out of doors. The course certainly broadened my understanding of styles , technique and materials.

Creative enjoyment wins

The last 9 months have taught us all these new and different ways of behaving in each others’ company – keeping the distance, being suspicious of every surface that has, or might have, been touched by someone else etc. Who would have thought a year ago that this would become the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future! So, running a week-long, fully catered residential retreat was a somewhat brave undertaking that required a lot more detailed planning in terms of practicalities than usual.

However, the feedback showed it was very much worth the effort and it’s difficult to beat the creative spirit in us that wants to connect, create and enjoy. Having to cut group sizes down to very small numbers wouldn’t be financially viable for hosts in the longer run, but both the host and guests greatly valued the time spent together in Argyll’s spectacular landscapes, in the studio and of course at the dining table.

The current tightened restrictions obviously have put leisure travel temporarily on hold again. But we WILL be able to travel and gather again, and chances are you’ll be in need of some creative inspiration in Scotland once things start to ease.

Karen also offers private art retreats at her studio on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll – find out more.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.