Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

Artistic escape: 8 retreats to help spark your creative side

Whether you’re a budding writer, established artist or pottery aficionado, here are eight retreats that will help you get creative

Make Mashiko pottery in Japan. 
Make Mashiko pottery in Japan. 

Essayist Anais Nin once said: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” Perhaps this is why the popularity of the creative retreat is on the rise among travellers looking to serve their inner desire for exploration, creativity and artistic expression.

Like the now ubiquitous wellness retreat, a flurry of new creative holidays combine a beautiful spot to stay with delicious food, exploration of a new place and the opportunity to meet like-minded people. The point of difference is that these getaways focus on developing a new skill, honing a hobby or dedicating time to unleashing creativity often abandoned in childhood.

When was the last time you picked up a pencil to draw the scene before you – or an imagined one, for that matter? Has a haiku made it out of your mind and into your journal of late? If the answer is no, then some of the following arty retreats might be for you.

Mould clay in France

Slovenian artist Ana Kerin – the woman behind the Kana ceramics label – is extending her summer series of clay workshops beyond her usual London studio. Taking up residence at ­Maison Salvadore, a picturesque six-bedroom farmhouse in rural France, Kerin will lead a week-long retreat with daily guided sculpting sessions, mentoring and explorative techniques, as well as glazing skills, life drawing and watercolour classes. Guests will also fire up their creations in the kiln, making for the perfect souvenir.

This is all against the backdrop of L’isle Jourdain, a sleepy, provincial French village located on the river Vienne. While the clay is firing, guests can take a dip in the river or seek out inspiration at the local market at Vide Grenier. Another option is to indulge in the serenity of Maison Salvadore, with a good book on the pretty courtyard, accompanied by a French cheese board, of course.

£1,100 (Dh5,037) single occupancy; £910 per person, double, www.kanalondon.com/retreat

Make pots in Japan

If ceramics aren’t quite niche enough for you, Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture has a creative retreat that may well pique your interest. Mashiko is the town in which the country’s famed Mashiko-yaki pottery is made, and the Mashiko Togei Club offers retreats. Using clay sourced directly from Mashiko, the items you will learn to make will be typical of the region, with delicate shapes and illustration-infused glazes.

From 3,700 yen (Dh125), course only, www.facebook.com/mashikotogeiclub

Paint a masterpiece in Italy

Relayed with smooth green brushstrokes across an ivory watercolour pad, the rolling hills of Tuscany feature heavily in the artwork of anyone visiting the Arniano Painting School. Dropped into a verdant scape of cypress trees, this Italian villa hosts seven-day residential programmes.

If you can tear yourself away from the luxe guest bedrooms, furnished with vintage Italian finds and bohemian tapestries, artist William Roper leads daily classes while his best friend, Amber Guinness, heads up activities in the kitchen, rolling out a locally sourced menu that might well distract from the painting tutorials.

A typical day will start and end with Guinness’s delicious meals, with two classes in between. Only a maximum of 10 participants can attend the retreat at any one time, offering an intimate break for those really wanting to improve their painting abilities.

From £1,800 per person (shared room), www.arnianopaintingschool.com

Restore calm in Crete

The Bleverde Estate – with its original Cretan limestone house and luxury villa overlooking a turquoise swimming pool – is not the only good reason to attend this six-night art therapy immersion retreat. Designed for guests leading busy, overworked and stressful lives, this break is all about creating space for yourself and restoring a sense of inner calm through the medium of art.

As well as getting hands-on and creating art, guests are also invited to visit local Cretan artists in their studios, including a Greek ceramicist in his restored 14th-century space. The ­emphasis is on expression, opening up and discovering a new way to relieve gnawing anxieties and tensions. Plus, you can explore neighbouring sandy beaches, sleepy fishing villages and the lush “Tuscany of Crete”, Apokoronas, for watercolour inspiration.

€1,260 (Dh5,203), www.queenofretreats.com/retreat/artful-retreats

Write and discover various locations around the world

Marrying the art of writing with an insatiable appetite for travel, Writing on Water organises regular retreats for those wanting to combine their two passions. For writers of all levels, these breaks allow for the development of your own style – be it in prose or poetry.

Far-flung destinations are typical of the retreats – so-called “sojourns” take place across the globe, allowing participants to experience a different and exciting part of the world. Upcoming getaways include finding your story on the ­Pacific coastline beaches of Hawaii, as well as in the deserts, ­waterways and grasslands of Mongolian China, and in the vast, ragged icescape of Antarctica.

For prices and bookings visit www.writingonwater.net/upcomingsojourns

The Novelry, England

Set in Dorset’s picturesque countryside on the 95-mile stretch of the ­Jurassic Coast, The Novelry retreats are for writers (beginners and seasoned) who simply want the creative space to put pen to paper. Traditional British cottages, elegantly furnished with all the comforts of a boutique hotel, host writers for a week of activities and exercises designed to help with writer’s block.

Successful authors Sophie Hannah and Kit de Waal offer daily lessons, in between hearty home-cooked meals using local, organic produce and coastal walks across toothy cliffs, providing just the ingredients you might need for your next (or first) novel.

£695 (private room in shared cottage), www.thenovelry.com/retreats

Hone your artistry in Tuscany

One for seasoned artists, this exclusive retreat is by application only. On an expanse of land three times the size of London’s Hyde Park, the collection of villas and apartments at Villa Lena (some dating back to the 1700s, others to the Art Nouveau period) meld into the Tuscan countryside. A palette of peach, terracotta and rose is reflected in the works donated by contemporary artists that have visited in the six years since the retreat first opened.

Artists are invited to apply for a stay at Villa Lena, which includes their own studio space, combined practice and collaboration with other artists from all over the world and weekly aperitivos with other hotel guests to present their creations.

For prices and bookings visit www.villa-lena.org

Brush up on your skills in Dordogne

Adam Cope is an art tutor and experienced tour guide rolled into one. Having called Dordogne home for 20 years, Cope heads the Artists ­Atelier retreats, offering guests unique insight into the surrounding area, as well as his expert knowledge of painting in watercolour and oils.

The Artists Atelier retreat offers eight to 10-day sojourns in charming French farmhouse accommodation, for those wanting to fully immerse themselves in the majestic light of their setting in the south of France and in their mission to improving their brushwork.

From €980 per person (shared room), www.artists-atelier.com

Updated: July 16, 2019 07:11 PM