Kathy O’Connor, who runs the glorious Sherkin Northshore with husband Mike, had been quietly and persistently asking me to consider organising some ‘art workshops’ for a couple of years now.

Having spent the weekend working closely with Kathy, I now realise that her ceaseless cheer, charm and calm mask a steely determination and indomitable force, so I really don’t know why I prevaricated – “resistance is futile” was never so true. The dates were decided and word went out and lastweekend was filled with the first of these residential workshops.

 I felt strongly that the group needed to be small – very partly due to the work space available (I like to be able to spread out and hate feeling cramped) but mainly because the dynamic of a smaller group of like-minded folk is so much stronger and it is also possible to give each person more attention, should they so desire.

 
 

Our first group included a retired art lecturer; an art teacher and a mature art student, but there was also a complete beginner and every level of experience between. Folk had travelled from the UK, USA and all parts of Ireland. An amazing, eclectic group who shared an interest in making art, exploring their own practice and looking to share their thoughts and ideas – and all in the beautiful setting of Sherkin, which I saw afresh through their eyes.

The weekends are structured so that everyone meets on Friday evening at Northshore for a shared meal prepared by Kathy, Mike and their team, and so have an opportunity to get to know one another. By the time we meet on Saturday morning there is no nervous sense of it being the ‘first day at school’. I also provide all materials (although people are very welcome to bring favourite brushes to painting workshops) as this saves everyone from lugging unwieldy bags of kit from home.

The courses themselves are slightly dictated by our third partner – the weather – so we grab the sunny moments to be outside and save time in the workroom for more directed activities and reflection time.

 

On this occasion, the weather worked well with us and everybody was able to explore the delights of Sherkin and its shoreline.

My abiding memory of the weekend is interested chatter and laughter, interspersed with periods of intense quiet as individuals became engrossed in their work.

The only complaint from each of us was that it was not long enough and the same group, who became good friends by Sunday afternoon, are planning a week in 2017.

But no rest for the wicked – our next weekend is on September 9th – 11th. ‘Sea painting’ this time. Yay!