Well, it's debateable. I guess everybody's perspective will vary on this one - and I invite you to contribute to that debate. I do know that there are more than a couple of people delivering painting workshops/painting holidays who'd also like to know the answer to this question - so do make sure you also let them know what you think!
The drawings and paintings in this post are of fellow artists. I drew and painted all the people while on painting holidays in Spain, Greece, Prague and Bali. You can see more in my Drawing Artists gallery but you can only "admire" my simply awful watercolour technique in this post!
I'm going to suggest what I think are some possible gaps in the market before coming to what I consider is the biggest gap of all but first........
How have I arrived at my conclusions?
Like a lot of other artists I now tend to combine painting with trips to places I want to see plus I still do occasional workshops and painting holidays with tutors - generally with a view to learning something very specific.
However, I've spent over 20 years reading the advertisements for painting holidays and workshops in the back pages of magazines for artists (both UK, USA and international) and searching on the web. I've then sent off for and waited eagerly for lots and lots of literature.
Unfortunately, all too often I've been disappointed. Over the years I've seen absolutely masses of the 'same old, same old' tired, unfocused, unstructured, undemanding offerings - with lots of emphasis on the sunshine, the swimming pool and the wonderful food cooked by the wife - and not a lot of emphasis on the art!
I really don't understand why this happens - except to wonder whether providers think everybody buying painting holidays puts the holiday bit first and the art bit second! As I suggested on Tuesday, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the facilities and logistics very much need to be up to scratch but the delivery of the art instruction is also of crucial importance.
Every now and again I see and am tempted by offerings from artists with talent and an apparent gift for communication and teaching judging by their books (which is not the same as all artists who have ever written a book!) and/or articles. Which reminds me - I forgot to say on Tuesday that one of the ways of choosing a holiday is by reading art magazines and art instruction books and looking at how people present themselves and their work - I must go and add that back into the guide!
Every now and again I'm tempted by holidays with artists with terrific reputations who don't communicate about their art - but I don't tend to follow these up.
Some gaps in the market
Here are some of the gaps in the market which I've noticed over the years and as I've started to research topics for this blog.
- painting holidays in very specific places - which seem to vary over time. At one point there was, believe it or not, a complete dearth of painting holidays in Venice and Tuscany!
- painting holidays with a specific outcome in mind (ie developing a skill set for an artist working at a specific level -beginner/intermediate/advanced) based on working from life rather than a photograph. One of the ways you can tell if people have delivered customer-focused painting holidays for some time is if they differentiate skill levels required or suitable for a specific course/holiday and can define skills which are achievable within the available timescale.
- painting holidays for people wanting to work purely on composition and design. I guess this one goes with the dearth of books about the same subject! Which is really odd given the response I got to that particular project. I guess all tutors would say they teach about this it - I'd argue very few seem to do it well enough for a painting holiday to be described as focused on composition and design.
- painting holidays for people wanting to develop miniature art. I've never ever seen one and yet I know it's a very popular and collectible form of art
- painting holidays for people wanting to develop animal art. This time it's a hugely popular art form with artists. One sees one and two day workshops - which tend to be about technique in a specific media - but very little for people who want to learn more about capturing animals from life.
- there are very few painting holidays dedicated to figure painting and/or portraiture. Of course models cost money! However if you are trying to produce paintings with figures in you don't always need models - you need to learn a process for creating and designing a painting. Portraiture for some reason only seems to be offered as workshops of relatively short duration - and yet it's painting people day in and day out which often sees people achieve improvements.
- painting holidays for people wanting to market/sell their art. I think I've only ever seen one which had a strong art business component - and I'm not sure it ran in the end. Which is odd considering the number of artists who want to sell their art. Maybe this is a topic which is a useful addition to other sorts of painting holidays?
It's very simple. It's the peer group painting holiday.
What I would very much like to be able to do is go away with other artists and work in an area and have like-minded people to sit and eat meals with and review the art done during the day.
However artists who want to paint together and who don't want or need a tutor have very real difficulties in finding information about places to go which offer studio facilities alongside suitable accommodation in desirable locations. I know - I've tried it! This isn't about art colonies - which are groups of people doing art in one place who don't know one another. This is about people who do know one another and who want to take some time out to paint together - as part of a holiday or extended break. If you like it's similar to a very extended version of the Art Society plein air day trip.
What I've been very struck by since coming online as an artist is the fact that we all have so much to teach to one another. In fact, I now find I'm often reading articles in art magazines about subjects which were topical in online discussions in the last year or so. In other words we're being creative, generating the topics of interest, researching them, sharing the information and doing it all online.
So why don't we apply the same approach to painting holidays? How can we all help groups of artists who want to work together in a holiday context and also support and help one another's learning?
Paying for accommodation and studio access only would tend to greatly reduce the cost of any painting holiday - but we need to know where suitable accommodation/studios are.
On the other hand, artists who can deliver the 'host' role by providing studio, accommodation and meals, detailed knowledge of the area from an artist's perspective and maps of good plein air painting locations have a very useful role to play which can be factored into the price of any accommodation.
I've noticed that some artists who have their own accommodation set-ups have started to offer this as an option. What I'm suggesting in this post is that maybe what needs to happen now is to raise the profile of the peer group painting holiday and provide support for people wanting to try and organise one.
I'm happy to use this blog post as a way of people sharing information if that helps.
What do YOU THINK is the big gap in the painting holiday market?
So - have I got it right or not? Over to you:
- what do you think is the big gap in the painting holiday market?
- do you have another opinion about how the marketplace works at present?
- what do you think about my notion that we need more information about places where artists can paint in small groups?
- do we need to think about how best to organise group trips?