One thing led to another - including the acquisition of more of his books and DVD's - and I started my Charles Reid journey. In 2006 I heard that his next UK workshop would be at Burford in Oxfordshire close to where my sister lives. Although the workshop was residential I asked if I could exclude the hotel costs as I could stay with my sister. Jane Duke, who by this time was organizing the workshops, agreed but suggested that I would miss an important element by doing so. I was persuaded and she was absolutely right in that meeting and being with the other students outside the working part was very beneficial. These workshops are restricted to less than 20 and, while expensive, demand is very high. If you don't apply as soon as announced you may well miss out.
The hotel in Burford was very nice - it had originally been the Lord of the Manor's residence in distant times - situated just off the high street. Burford is a typically Cotswold village, quite small but a major tourist attraction. We arrived on the Sunday evening and met Charles and Judy at dinner. The students, who included some professional artists, came from far and wide, including France, America and New Zealand.
On Monday morning the workshop began. Charles basic approach when indoors is to do a demonstration utilising models if a portrait, and still lifes with flowers. Actually he painted the portrait in the garden of the hotel having persuaded a young member of staff to be the model. This was my first Charles Reid demonstration of the roughly 30 I have subsequently seen.
First Burford Demo - this young man worked at the hotel.
This first workshop was a tough experience. Charles commented at one stage about the high quality of the students work, as good if not better than on any previous ones. I don't think he was just saying this as none of my subsequent workshops have been quite such high quality. Many painted quite large, the half sheet being the norm. Here I first met Gilles Durand a top French artist. Frankly I was out of my depth and struggled to hang on in there. I was certainly in the bottom two or three. Nevertheless I made it and came away determined to improve.
A typical Charles Reid figure painting.
At that time I had no plans to do more - very expensive as I've mentioned - but later learned he was going to Catalonia in 2008 for Angel Barbi's EPC Art Courses. I immediately suggested to my wife she go as a non painting partner and contacted Angela Barbi - a delightful lady with perfect English - who was very helpful. We had to arrange our own flights which was our first and only experience of the controversial Ryanair. You have to obey their rules but punctuality of the flights was better than most other airlines.
This was the first demo at Roses.
On arriving at Verona we were picked up by a private hire minibus with one other student - if I remember correctly she came from Canada. This transported us to our hotel in Roses, right on the beach, where accommodation and facilities were good. In particular meals were a substantial and varied buffet.
Charles does quite a few boat paintings but usually adds figures.
To my surprise and pleasure I discovered Judi Whitton was at the workshop, accompanied by her husband Pete. As Judi doesn't like to fly they had travelled leisurely by car, with stops on the way. I had previously and subsequently been on several of Judi's workshops. Also met for the first time was Don Glynn, another British professional artist and great character, who had been involved in organizing Angela's workshops in previous years. EPC have since expanded and run annual courses with many high profile artists. There were several Spanish artists on the workshop, some whose English was not so good so we had one of the others interpreting all the time!
This is an unusual one depicting American troops in the Korean war.
This workshop was a 10 day experience, four days, then a day off then four more days. More or less two workshops in one. At the end I told both Charles and Angela how good this format was but I don't believe it has been repeated.
On this occasion we began with an outside demo, a beach scene incorporating a man selling tickets for something or other. There was an indoor session for portraits and visits to various places where Charles demonstrated then we painted.
Overall I didn't think the demos were the best I have seen from Charles but it was an excellent experience in that it worked as a holiday as well as a painting workshop. Overall the standard of students varied from very good - Judi did several superb paintings - to average and I considered I was somewhere in the middle this time.
My next workshop was at Urchfont in Wiltshire comparatively close to where I live but residential. I had heard about previous workshops Charles held at Urchfont and it is certainly a favourite of his. He had previously got to know several of the locals and is fascinated by the history and stories they tell. What to say? He was certainly on form that week with several excellent demos. The first one was superb and I said to him that he was on form repeating this to Judy Reid. His demos do vary as the mood takes him and he doesn't paint to a fixed pattern. Unfortunately I cannot find photos of the demos he did.
Urchfont itself? Here I met the irrepressible Mick Carney and once again Gilles Durand. There were others there like Genevieve Buchanan and a few more from Burford. It is amazing how many workshops some have attended. Frequently they go on to the second week. Urchfont itself was a mixed bag. The house and grounds are owned by the council - it is not a hotel. Accommodation was spartan to say the least but the food was good and plentiful and also the studio facilities. By the end of the week my painting was showing signs of improvement and the last still life painting, now hanging in my `studio', was reasonable. Gilles Durand commented on it.
Three years ahead and it was Crantock Bay in Cornwall. As it happened Crantock closed at the end of the year so we were probably the last workshop held there. Judi Whitton was there the previous week and had been going for twenty years. My wife, as non-painting partner, and I had been to five of Judi's Crantock workshops previously and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When I heard Charles would be at Crantock that was it. Once again the wife accompanied me and it was somewhat poignant when we heard it was closing. See report October 2011.
We had a good week at Crantock, Mick Carney and some others I knew were there, but not everyone liked the location 'it was too quiet' and the hotel not grand enough. The location on top of the cliffs, overlooking the sea and large bay to the right, is fantastic. Mick absolutely loved it and said he would return. I have reported in great detail on this workshop in October 2011 so won't say any more.
Joseph Wolfskin - painted several times by Charles on American workshops.
And so 2 years on in 2013 my last and possibly final Charles Reid workshop. He may well come in 2015 when he will by 78 - my Australian friend Ray Maclachlan thinks he might be cutting out overseas trips next year - as on the last three he has filmed a DVD immediately afterwards. I haven't ruled out going entirely (should he come) but I'm unsure. I think mentally I've probably absorbed as much as my capabilities allow and while the social side is good - meeting interesting people from previous workshops - this isn't the main purpose of attending.
This last workshop was at Stow-on-the Wold in the Cotswolds, a renowned beauty spot and major tourist area. This one wasn't residential so you had to make your own arrangements for accommodation, a list of places being given to each participant. I don't know the full ins and outs of the situation but Jane Duke, who was again the organizer, did indicate that she had suffered considerable problems with insurance and other matters causing her sleepless nights, and I wondered if she might well want to opt out of further involvement.
In many ways this was my most disappointing workshop. I stayed at my sisters home, only 20 miles away, so it was less expensive. Many of the previous regulars were missing and some of the newcomers were of a mixed standard, one lady never having before painted in watercolour. I had gone hoping to really show my progress but was in the middle of a planned house move, which showed every sign of going wrong, and what with this involving calls to the estate agent I was thoroughly off key. The last day partly restored things but overall a mixed week. I have written a detailed report on this workshop in May 2013 so will say no more.
A few more paintings to finish things off.
Famous artists that Charles admires.
Joseph Wolfskin again.
To sum up a great experience with one of my favourite artists, meeting numerous interesting and nice people and I think I learned a lot. Naturally I can't paint like Charles but then who can? The workshops I've reported on contain far more detailed information, plus much else so if you are interested look them up. Apart from the detailed workshop reports on Crantock and Stow there are various other pieces concerning Charles Reid, reviews of books and DVD's primarily. I plan an Index of sorts soon so it is easier to navigate and find older posts.