Having studied art herself and with books on our shelves about Monet and Van Gogh, Joanne was delighted to have a painting retreat using the studio at St Marks Stays. A big thank you to Ruth Clayton and Stuart Gray of Wickerfish Arts Studio for bringing us our first art retreat to take place here. It confirmed our initial thoughts, in that the house, with the studio space, is perfect for all kinds of residential retreats and it was a pleasure to have such creative activities taking place over a weekend in March.


Wickerwalk is the name Stuart and Ruth gave to their painting retreat with the aim being that they would combine some local area walking with one of their painting technique courses. Well, Mother Nature was having a bit of play with us, in that they had to swap around the days of the outdoor activities during the weekend. With high flowing rivers, heavy rainfall, a bit of hail and snow and finally some beautiful sunshine and blue skies, there was no shortage of different scenery to view across the weekend, but thankfully it did not affect the retreat and the artwork output.

After arrival on Friday and a home-cooked dinner from Ruth & Stuart, the group were given a demonstration of how to create a quick acrylic sketch on grey board. I think the word ‘Sketch’ is underselling the gorgeous piece of art that we were gifted. Yes we are very happy to have a signed Stuart Gray piece of art hanging in our office now.

Saturday saw our studio in full use as all ten artists to be, sat down to create their very own watercolour painting from a photo of our local Cautley Spout waterfall. Ruth’s step by step tuition is perfect and I now understand how people on all of their painting courses come away with such highly impressive paintings. Everybody gets tips and tricks and guidance along the way and the watercolour paintings are even framed by Ruth at the end of the weekend to take home. Just gorgeous.

On Saturday afternoon, in the cosy comfort of our local Temperance Inn, with coffee and cake, Stuart gave a demonstration in creating a picture using a continuous pen line. I still can’t figure out how people do this and I keep staring at the photo of it. The guests also got to taste the delicious food at this Inn, The Cross Keys, for their evening dinner.

On Sunday, a few of us headed out with Stuart to the valley where Cautley Spout is. This landscape never fails to inspire us, so it was perfect for Stuart to demonstrate how he creates his sketches and acrylic studies on the move, with the painters getting the chance to try for themselves. With the sheep watching us and being surrounded by the sound of flowing water, I found the great outdoors is a great place to stop and be creative, as opposed to just walking, cycling, or running through it.

Every artist went home with some beautiful pieces of art and even though we didn’t paint ourselves, Damian and I can both say hand on heart, how wonderful their retreat was, as we observed it.

Wickerfish are running another retreat here in October and there are still places for day students on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October 2019. We can provide a list of other local accommodation if required.

Stuart & Ruth have their art studio at our local Farfield Mill centre and we can highly recommend a visit to this heritage centre for artists. As well as residential retreats, Wickerfish run day courses at Farfield, so do take a look at the following being held there:

Saturday 28th April 2019 – Boats in acrylic with Stuart
Sunday 19th May 2019 – Rough sea with Ruth
Saturday 9th November 2019 – Rough sea (repeat) with Ruth 

If you can get to Farfield Mill, Ruth and Stuart are both having small individual exhibitions there.
‘A Brush with Cumbria’ by Stuart. Wednesday 11th September to Wednesday 30th October 2019
‘Hidden Hedgerows’ by Ruth. Saturday 2nd November 2019 to Wednesday 1st January 2020.

Artists also need to look out for the ‘Big Art Contest’ that Wickerfish are running from Farfield Mill on Sunday 28th July. Details will be coming soon and anyone can enter, which will entail people painting, or drawing a piece of art during that day in, or around the mill. The judge is the successful artist, Sheryl Roberts.

So much to see and take part in from this creative, funny, heart-warming and inspiring couple, who are a pleasure to spend time with, so keep an eye out on their social media and Farfield Mill for everything coming up. You can also see their video of the weekend retreat.

To Shauna, Susan, Anne, Sheila, Pat, Jen, Keith, Dilys, Stuart and Anna – we loved having you all here at St Marks Stays and were so impressed with your creative talents. We feel you have mastered the problem in the wonderful quote from Pablo Picasso …

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

(Well you just call in Wickerfish Arts Studio to be honest.)

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