Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Malaga by Amanda Hamilton


Pop up Pompidou Centre in Malaga

I'm thrilled to be invited by The Authentic Adventures team to paint with you in Malaga. It's one of my favourite cities having lived just up the road in Iznajar for five years. All those glorious tightly knitted streets, huddled together to keep the cold out in winter and the sun away in the summer - Malaga is a breathtaking city missed by so many who view it only from the airport.

My love of Spain, the sounds of flamenco and the Spanish guitar goes back as long as I can remember. I'm the daughter of a military family on all sides so the nomadic nature of modern day Spain sits very comfortably with me. It reflects in my painting style as I'm not especially fixed on precision or form, where the overall aim to delight and bewitch for me is paramount - as is the gorgeous AndalucĂ­a scenery.

Your painting tutor in Malaga, Amanda Hamilton
I'm a synesthetic - it means I hera music when I sketch or draw, so the chords are discordant until the lines are "right" at which point the sounds I hear become pleasing. Perhaps that's why I wasn't noted as an especially talented artist at school! I don't remember ever creating anything o import, but having been featured in Vogue, worked with the National Trust and most recently having had my version of the Moulin Rouge in World of Interiors I'm not overly upset about my lack of early prowess. Sometimes we have to trust a little and take the next step, not knowing what might be round the corner.

I love teaching painting. I cover everything from '10 Shades of Grey' to creating a specific colour wheel for a painting and thinking about composition ideas right through to gentle moments of reflection and a few yoga type stretches to keep us loose and flowing in our endeavours. I find we all benefit from a moment away from the canvas or paper - just as in life - those "up periscope" moments often generate the next step when we come back and look with fresh eyes.

Old and new sit side by side in Malaga

I truly do believe that first and foremost painting needs to be fun for you - and to that end I am an enthusiastic teacher with a playful sense of humour to match! My own journey has taught me many times that skill comes with practice (an da willingness to get it spectacularly wrong) but the pure love of painting is something that

never goes away - and I thin you can see that love and passion in a painting too.

Malaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso
For more information about our Painting Holiday in Malaga, click here:

Friday, 30 September 2016

An authentic painting adventure in Umbria - by tutor Amanda Hamilton

What makes Umbria a special place to paint?  A personal authentic adventure

Speaking personally, as a professional watercolourist and as a complete newcomer to painting outdoors in a foreign country, I’m not afraid to say it was terrifying! 

I couldn’t see anything special, all I could see initially was a VAST expanse of sky and farmed land with muted buildings barely visible all in hues my palette has never had to capture.  I realised in about 5 seconds I was starting from scratch, surrounded by other far more accomplished artists, and needed to hold my head up at the end of the week!

I watched Christine our tutor in abject horror as she painted wet into wet, a technique I rarely use in my studio as I can’t control it.  I like sharp edges, strong colours, well defined outlines and suddenly with damp air and occasional unexpected drizzle I was being put out of my comfort zone by a country mile.

The temptation was to hide behind Christine and just watch other people paint … but I knew that wouldn’t help me grow and develop as a painter, so I took the plunge.

My first painting took a while to bubble up to the surface and then come out…. 

I found it hard to accept the randomness of the watercolours with no hairdryer or studio space to allow drying to happen.  I had to completely let go of every painting technique that has ever worked for me before.  I realised this wasn’t even watercolour as I knew it – this was a whole new world! 

But I love a challenge, and I know well enough that a week’s painting holiday is a therapeutic process as much as anything, so I went for it willing to risk it being a mess.  Actually I love the finished result :

Interestingly the vista scared well over half of the students.  The sheer enormity of it, and the distance away from the eye made us feel intimidated and overwhelmed.  How ironic!  Were walkers or just regular holidaymakers we would have all been ooh-ing and ah-ing at the scale of the view and taking multiple panoramic spectacular photos!

I learned a lot about composition in those first view hours.  I realised the importance of giving the artist’s eye and the finished painting a focal point – something to latch onto – to give the artist something to hone in on and develop.  I chose the large monastery in the right foreground and minimised the village around it to give it more gravitas.  I found the whole process to be a bit of a baptism of fire but it was just so helpful in showing me in one afternoon what composition is all about.

Listening to the other students’ struggle with the landscape I decided to break the view down a little for myself to help me see the component parts a little more easily.  I created window boxes with masking tape on some hot pressed paper and painted little “doodles” in each box.


Each of the doodles was a vignette from the landscape and surrounds, giving me a feel of the area without trying to create a huge expanse on one page.  Quite a few of the other artists took my lead on this and as the week went on a few more birthday card images arrived!

Day 2 took us outside Monte Castillo to a stunning view back up to the village.  Again many students were fazed by the breadth of the vista but I found that the first day had eased my fear of being unable to paint and I was ready to get splashing!  My chosen colours taken to Umbria were woefully inadequate which was great – it encouraged me to get creative with my mixing.  How I love Naples Yellow!

I began by splashing soft washes and banging the paper on the floor to create a random background – again to loosen up my need to control and to allow a softness to come through in the finished piece.

Once that was drying and while I was beginning to create another story board of doodles I wandered about while observing the artists.  I kept hearing the same things over and over again …. How do I mix this colour?  I’m no good at mixing colours, I wish I could just let go and loosen up a bit …

So after I created a page of doodles I set about creating another sketch of Monte Castillo with the single intention of NOT representing any of the colours accurately, simply as an exercise to see what would happen.  This is what happened :


It was liberating and joyful to be so free in expression, to make the pleasure of painting and playing the goal of painting instead of making the goal a perfect representation of the colours of the view.  The joy and giggles in the group began to build as a German car pulled up in the olive groves and a large gentleman stepped out, marched up to my painting and began taking photographs of it with the view behind!

The view was spectacular and thanks to Cristiano our wonderful Back Up we were all very well looked after.  Just at the last moment the heavens opened and we were ferried back to base camp for “Show and Tell” – where we all got to share our work and hear our tutor’s expert suggestions on how to take the painting from where it is to where it could be called finished. 

Day 3 was a lovely day out in Cecanibbi, a small hamlet on top of a hill not so far from Todi with stunning views out over the Umbrian countryside – or at least it was on the day of our recce!  On day 3 we were driving through evocative mists and restricted cloudy views bringing the silvery greens of the olive groves into our close vision.  It was pretty chilly in the village so a few of us decamped for a coffee with Cristiano the intention of beginning to paint a little later.

Sure enough it warmed up perfectly and we were back and ready to go by 11am.

Being in the villages is a privilege.  The inhabitants welcome us and try their best to chat with us but with not even rudimentary Italian it was a chuckling gesticulating adventure.  Thank goodness for our Italian back up as he was able to praise the locals on all our behalves bringingsome fabulous toothy smiles out.

I took advantage of a shady corner to experiment with treating gouache rather disrespectfully – painting only with the stick of my brush rather than the bristles and incorporating dirt from the street and my fingers to move and combine colours rather than mix them.

We all loved the final effect, although as it’s not an oil it will crack and perish in time.


Day 4 was our day off and I took advantage of the opportunity to disappear into the top alleyways of Assisi with my sketchbook.  I adored Assisi, especially wandering off away from the crowds to really immerse myself in some doodles.  I added the colours when I got back – just simple watercolours without too much mixing from my travel watercolour kit rather than the gouaches.  I was able to use the guest house hair dryer too which meant for a quicker process.

Day 5 was probably my highlight as an architectural painter – the view of Todi.  A delicious cornucopia of roof tops and angles, cypress trees and hubbub.

There was once again something for everyone – from a study of people to vistas or weather veins, from chimney tops to chihuahas.

My first 3 paintings were inspired from the two views above :


Each time stripping back a little more detail and looking into the tones and colours, feeling into the stories that may be told by the houses.  I was getting braver in my painting style, more splashing and flicking, more sketching with colour and pen rather than pencil, really beginning to let go and allow the paint to do all the work.  Compared to that first painting of the view from Monte Castillo, the promised magic Christine had talked about was in full flow.

At lunchtime the view was spectacular so I spent an hour sketching in ink a bit of an ode to chimney pots – of which there are many and which remind us that Italy gets very cold in the winter!


And from incredible detail, but in my slightly quirky style still honouring perspective but with a twist, I went completely the other way into an abstract of the gorgeous monastery from the viewing platform..

Allowing writing and stripes, shapes and words to speak through the painting, the sadness that our amazing journey was coming to an end with our last full day of painting being over was palpable for all of us, our journeys together had been so wonderful.  Every one of us had developed and blossomed both as people and more importantly as artists, individually and collectively – and not one of us was looking forward to having to pack up and go home.

Day 6 – a half day in an Agritourismo chalet before an afternoon of packing up – and a wish for sunflowers was granted.  I used a lot of artist’s licence in this stunningly spectacular venue where we had dined on our evening out.  Truly the best food ever – and as a vegetarian in Italy that’s really saying something!

The sunflowers were either hanging their heads awaiting harvest or were already long gone, so I found a lone solitary flower and photographed her, and then extrapolated a glorious view into this :

And then to prove that I could paint more than just loose and styalised, I decided to actually paint the sunflower.  I was a little plagued by a family of flies but I managed to create something I love before their buzzing got the better of me and I left the field!

From here it was back to the hotel and to a final finishing up afternoon ready for our “Art Exhibition” in the evening.   It was absolutely beautiful to see all the efforts by 14 painters, some beginners and some very accomplished, spread out in the huge conference room on the first floor.  Even the most bashful artists were able to see how far they had come and how much they had learned.  It was lovely.

Would I go again?

Definitely.  There is so much to help develop your style in this part of the world.  The muted colours of the Umbrian architecture allow you to explore your palettes of Umbers and Siennas and, if you like Daniel Smith’s colours, it’s a total feast for exploring his range.  Ultramarines and Brown Madder make delicious shadows and the changing light really helps you develop your eye into seeing what’s there and not chasing the shadows but perhaps taking a photograph at your favourite moment and using an ipad or camera to remind you where the lines were.

What makes Umbria special?

Teetering hilltop villages, stretches of sunflowers, deep purple hues in the fields and smokey silvery olive groves.  Gorgeous red chimneypots and hand made clay tiles, narrow streets, sharp shadow angles and, of course, pasta – including Gluten Free!


Cecanibbi, Assisi, Todi, Sunflowers, Chimneys – just gorgeous painting subjects.

Colour Palette

I decided to pack Zen style but I wished I’d had a better range especially of yellows.  I went with Lemon and Windsor Yellow but they are simply too green and so make your greens garish and loud.  I borrowed some Nickel Azo (Daniel Smith) and some Green Gold and would have died for some Gamboge along the way.  I loved playing with Quinacrodine Sienna which creates a fantastic black with Ultramarine.  Reds were also tricky – I couldn’t get hold of Brown Madder before I left and so was struggling a little with the Vermillions and Light Reds.  Happily all the guests are so thrilled to share their colours you do get an amazing opportunity to experiment with colours you might never have played with before!

What to bring?

Definitely needed a light weight waterproof and a warm sweater for the cooler days.  Early September is potentially very warm (high 20s) but if it’s a cool day then the evenings are chilly.

My ipad was invaluable as it’s got a big enough screen to work from in the evenings.  Water pots are really useful – concertina style or floppy pots. 

Also I think most of us had brushes that were too small and dried too quickly so a squirrel mop or two (expensive but so worth it as they hold a huge amount of water and have a fine point).

Cultural aspects

Umbria is oozing with culture – whether you are a keen historian or are interested in local economies or behaviours there’s something for everyone.  Our day out to Assisi was magical and a cornucopia of delights for everyone.  The tour operators are very hot on ensuring that wherever we end up there is accessibility for everyone as of course not everyone is as mobile as the leaders!  Stunningly beautiful especially when the sun is shining in September.

Tour Guide

Cristiano our back up knows everything.  He was completely dependable to come up with the goods at every step of the way.  Where the hotel could put things right, Cristiano ensured that they did.  He looked after every single person on the trip like his own mother or father.

Christine our painting tutor was a total delight.  Keen to ensure that every artist progresses a little every day it was wonderful to watch her gentle but utterly honest style of criticism and encouragement.  By the end of the week you could clearly see how every single guest had moved mountains from when they arrived to the end of the holiday.

For more information about our forthcoming ten day painting holiday in Umbria, click here:

Ten days Painting Holiday in Umbria
6th June 2017

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Singing in Sri Lanka ~ one of the best holidays we've ever run!

Singing Holiday in Sri Lanka ~ January 2016

We've been overwhelmed with the incredible feedback from our guests who joined our latest singing adventure on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. It's the first time that we've run a singing holiday in this location, and it was a huge success.
The combination of very high quality hotels, our fantastic singing tutor, FaithWatson, wonderful local Tour Manager, Dileep, a huge array of activities on offer, joining a local choir, the magic of a group coming together in harmony......well, just read these amazing testimonials to see for yourself:
I liked swimming at 7am in the outdoor pool at Aliya Resort with a view of the famous Sigiriya Rock ~ the sun was shining!
Singing sessions with Faith were a joy as always, she makes teaching and learning songs seem so easy. To be singing three and four part harmonies within an hour or two, as part of a group who’ve never sung together before, is a very special experience,” Bronwen Hunter

“I had a marvellous holiday in a lovely country, and am extremely pleased to have experienced so many diverse activities….elephant rides, white water rafting, whale watching, local train ride through the tea plantations and so much more,” Linda Baldwin
“As many times before, Faith cannot be bettered, in my opinion,” Monica Richmond
“All in all, a dream holiday,” Monica Richmond
“Faith, as ever, gave us some wonderful singing! We rounded it off by doing a Flashmob in the departure lounge of the airport when leaving. It was well received!” Pushka Dalewood

“I have sung with several tutors, but Faith was exceptional. You have a treasure there, hang on to her!” Stella Hurley

“I can hardly believe how many stunning experiences we fitted into two weeks,” Stella Hurley

“It was a brilliant holiday – my head is full of memorable experiences and constant tunes! Many thanks for being such a lovely and ethical company to travel with,” Gill Ruffles

“Just clone her to cheer up the world!” Bronwen Hunter shares her love for tutor Faith Watson!

“It is the best holiday I have ever had!” Bronwen Hunter
"Wonderful, smiling, adaptable Dileep - nothing was too much trouble for our local guide - not to mention his "song of the day" !" Stella Hurley
"Faith has huge ability when it comes to teaching singing. She makes it super fun! Faith, as ever, gave us some wonderful singing! We rounded it off by doing a Flashmob in the departure lounge of the airport when leaving - it was well received!" Pushka Dalewood

Singing tutor, Faith Watson

Singing with a local choir of school girls!

Faith teaches the whole group!

A singing session.
Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel

We are very proud to say that our Singing Holidays are some of the best in the UK

We welcome everyone who loves to sing!

Our singing holidays are uplifting, rejuvenating, joyful and sociable.

We are one of the most experienced singing holiday operators in the UK, organising acapella group holidays since 2003. We believe that everyone, no matter what their level of skill, can enjoy the thrill of singing in harmony.
All the songs are taught by ear, so there is no need to be able to read music. We pride ourselves on providing a friendly and supportive environment where every voice is heard. Our maximum group size is 25, but holidays often run on smaller numbers. We are one of the few singing holiday companies who are ATOL protected – travel with us in confidence.
You can find more information about our singing holidays on our website:
and you can always call us in the office ~ we would be more than happy to welcome you on a singing adventure ~ 01453 823328.
Sign up to our regular newsletters to be the first to hear about brand new holidays.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Our Tour Manager in Ischia, Marianna Polverino, gives us her favourite local recipe!


Coniglio all'Ischitana


Recipe for the traditional dish of Ischia, Coniglio all'Ischitana a type of rabbit casserole or stew.

Coniglio all'Ischitana (Ischian Rabbit) is the typical dish of Ischia and has been for centuries due to the abundance of wild rabbits on the island.

Nowadays many farmers breed rabbits in cages but the ancient and traditional way to breed rabbits in Ischia was to let them live freely in narrow tunnels of 3 or 4 metres long underneath the ground, tunnels that the rabbits dug themselves. In this way the rabbits lived in their natural environments, making their meat firmer and healthier as they were not constricted to live in tight cages. 

Rabbits bred with this method are called “Conigli di fossa” (“fossa” meaning “hole”) and lately many associations are trying to restore the ancient traditions to save the old “fosse” in order to encourage this more humane method of breeding.

Coniglio all’Ischitana (Nonna Rubina’s style)


A skinned rabbit of about 1 kg, cut into pieces

A terracotta pan

White wine, half a litre

A bunch of herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme or marjoram, tied with a string

Extra virgin olive oil


Half an onion

Chili pepper

Salt and pepper

5 or 6  Cherry tomatoes


Rinse  the pieces of the rabbit in water, bathe them slightly in white wine and then dry with a cloth.

Put the terracotta pan on the hob with a generous amount olive oil, 2 whole cloves of garlic and chili pepper.

When the garlic turns golden, put the pieces of rabbit into the pot, stir slightly and leave cooking on a slow heat (do not cover).

When the meat starts to turn gold, add half a litre of white wine and half a chopped onion.  Let the wine evaporate (do not cover).

Add the cherry tomatoes cut in large pieces, the bunch of herbs, salt and pepper and then cover the pot. Let the rabbit cook on a slow heat, turning the pieces in the pan once in a while. Add more wine if too dry.

Let it cook until the sauce becomes thick and of a brownish colour (around 45 minutes).

Enjoy and buon appetito!
Marianna Polverino
Our holidays in Ischia:
Painting in Ischia with Susanna Bailey and supported by our Tour Manager, Marianna:
6th May 2016 - 7 booked already, more places available.
7 nights
Walking in Ischia led by Tour Manager, Marianna Polverino:
17th September 2016
7 nights
For more information, please contact Zoe or Eva in the office on 01453 823328.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Introducing Sarah Gillard - our new painting tutor and ex-colourist at Liberty's.

'Island colours of Gozo'

Sarah Gillard

On a rainy day in May, we head off to meet Sarah Gillard in her home just beyond the pretty market town of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire.

The rain pelts down in monsoon sized droplets, gulleys and drainpipes gush with water. We peer through the windscreen wipers and slowly make our way up the winding lanes that lead upwards out of the town, past honey coloured stone cottages with views across the valley. We are surrounded by lush green fields and the faint smell of wet grass and wild garlic. Even so, on such a rainy, grey day we weren't expecting such a blast of colour....

Sarah has left clues for us - a trail to follow, leading us to the front door - a washed out canvas covered in bright colour, a porch filled with vivid red geraniums and a welcoming front door with a brightly coloured home made stained glass. We begin to understand Sarah's obsession with colour!

A warm welcome awaits, and we are soon cocooned inside her comfortable home, surrounded by confident, bright and warming paintings. We get straight to it with talk of the new painting holidays she will be leading for Authentic Adventures - 'Island colours of Gozo' on 3rd October 2015, and a completely different palette will be required for Morocco in Autumn 2016. She enthuses about her many painting trips abroad, in particular a visit to Greece in 2014, staying for six weeks in a simple stone dwelling, that led to a series of wonderful paintings. She says, "I've never felt so inspired, and leapt out of bed each morning to go and paint for hours and hours uninterrupted," there speaks a truly passionate painter.

Sarah's work and gouache colour palette

After graduating in 1983 with a Fashion Textiles degree (at her end of year show she presented a series of colourful rugs) she was commissioned to produce a rug for The Conran Shop in South Kensington. Some years later her dream was fulfilled when she joined The Liberty Design Studio. This was her first introduction to using gouache, a perfect medium for colourists. It was during her time at Liberty's that she began painting and experienced her first painting holiday in Italy. The Liberty Design Studio used gouache for colour mixing - an ideal medium in order to produce the flat colours for the colourways. Gouache is a water based paint, like watercolour, but whereas watercolour is transparent, gouache is opaque. It can therefore be applied in multiple layers of the same hue, reinforcing visual intensity.

From 1989 - 1994, Sarah worked in a team of seven colourists, which was responsible for producing the entire colourways for the fashion fabrics. This consisted of two collections a year - Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter for a variety of fabrics eg. Tana Lawn and Varuna Wool. The studio colourists would produce four colourways per design and occasionally produce colourways for Mulberry and Jean Muir.

Liberty has a strong collaborative history, notably commissioning William Morris as designer during the Arts & Crafts period. The company helped develop Art Nouveau through its encouragement of English designers and soon became associated with this new style.

Sarah recalls the thrill of seeing her design on a gentleman's tie whilst sitting opposite him on the tube, and proudly showed us a quilt that she has been sewing for years, which incorporates many of her colourways.

Liberty colourway

It was whilst working for Liberty that Sarah embarked on her first painting holiday to Tuscany. It opened her up to painting en plein air, and she's never looked back. It's where she feels happiest - in a field of wild flowers with her easel. We spend the morning looking through her sketchbooks full of eye popping colour, filled with notes - she's quick to offer anecdotes, "this painting was inspired by a dove that an artist borrowed from a local farmer in Italy...." or, "This sketchbook was based on a painting of a boat each day seen from my window in Devon" - intense colour sizzling off the page.

'A boat a day' on a painting holiday

Her painting has taken her all over the world in search for light and inspiration. She has used colour as the basis for all her work, and the vivid, happy colours are a reflection of her warm and positive personality. She has a plethora of palettes, ideas and techniques to ensure that all her pupils return home with crammed sketchbooks, full of energy for new projects.

Sarah in her 'happy place' - a field full of flowers


For more information about the painting holidays and workshops Sarah will be leading, please contact us in the office: 01453 823328 or send us an email:

Island Colours of Gozo
3rd October 2015
7 nights
£1,199 (including £100 off offer)
No single room supplement