Updated: Sep 15, 2018
On the last Friday in April four intrepid adventurers arrived at Hacienda La Bonita to take part in our 'An Andalusian Sketchbook' art retreat. With artist Julie Sajous (who some of you may remember by the name of Julie Smith) at the helm as tutor and mentor, and myself as guide and host, we embarked on what turned out to be a fantastic and animated long weekend. It was such fun! Everyone got on really well and without a doubt, Julie and I had a great time getting to know our guests.
The days' activities over the long weekend varied depending on the art exercises Julie had devised. We had breakfast outside every morning with bread from the village, home-made jam, our honey, lemon curd (made by Julie from our lemons!), tomatoes, avocados, La Bonita olive oil and lots of fresh orange juice. Tuition then took place in the open air and Julie's friendly and encouraging style had even me having a go. Lunch outside was followed by a gentle walk through the avo grove or time down by the pool and a swim. One day we even managed to make it to the local market and then to the village where guests were encouraged to wander the narrow alleyways looking at perspective, colours, and silhouettes.
In the late afternoons, another art session with Julie was followed by cocktails which flowed generously thanks to one of the budding artists who was a fountain of knowledge on all things Bacardi, Tequila or Gin. As the evenings drew to a close, we moved from the verandah (rancho) to the farm-house kitchen for a home-cooked supper and vino. I know it sounds as if all we did was eat and drink, but actually, the major part of the day was spent under the watchful eye of Julie whose personalized teaching style was gentle, encouraging and inspiring. She was able to give one-to-one advice and tutoring precisely because the group was so small. On the last evening, she had the ingenious idea of getting everyone to participate in a collaborative painting, something which I, certainly, had never done.
All four guests were invited to share my passion for avocados and citrus fruits by joining me on walks or simply through conversations about farming. They also planted a lemon tree each, my gift to anyone who visits La Bonita for the first time. For me, as host of the party, it was a privilege to be able to share my love for this magical place with others.
At the end of the retreat, each visitor had a sketchbook to take home with them -- a lasting memento of their stay -- filled with memories from the hours spent sketching. They had soaked in the beauty of the area and seen it through an artist's eyes. What was especially beautiful about Julie's teaching was that even those who had NEVER painted (or at least, not since their school days) were able to come away with incredible drawings. So, whether you are an absolute beginner, or you wish to improve your artistic skills, this is most definitely the retreat for you if you like the idea of stepping into the La Bonita lifestyle for a few days.
Julie and I are planning another Sketchbook Retreat sometime in the autumn, so stay tuned. I must admit, I'm already looking forward to it. It was wonderful to see how everyone relaxed and felt at home -- as if time had slowed right down and then, finally, stood still. When you're up on a hill overlooking a valley in Andalusia, the outside world really does feel as if it's far, far away.