• Amsterdam
  • Netherlands


The work of Rembrandt van Rijn brings Gillian Lee Smith to tears. To stand before one of his paintings is an experience she wishes to repeat as often as she can in her lifetime. His use of dark and light and the surface of the paint that is built up in many layers - tone, color and texture, but so much more than that. She loves his unflinching self-portraits in particular – a man full of passion and curiosity – all the joys and struggles of life etched on his face. He was not interested in perfection but in representing the spirit of humanity she feels.

During this week, we will be inspired by Rembrandt by working on self-portraits as well as from reference imagery and from a live model. Creating portraits in drawing and painting mediums that explore great contrasts of dark and light, atmosphere, expression and surface. We will also be thinking about portraying emotion and the human spirit in our work to create atmospheric and expressive representations of ourselves and others. Acrylic paints will be mixed with mediums to give the feel and surface of oil paints.

Our studio this week will help evoke the feeling and emotion of painting in Europe. It's a beautiful studio. 

Our atelier for the week

Our atelier for the week

Imagine walking the canals and cobblestone streets of Amsterdam as you pass by long, narrow Canal Houses, bikes whizzing by and everyone walking along beside you to go to work, school or like us, to explore this beautiful city. There are cafes, restaurants and beautiful bakeries along every street. Shopping will be hard to avoid with so many offerings along the way - new fashion, household wares, paper stores and antiques. 


Prerequisite: Have taken or will have taken one of Gillian's online workshops before the workshop.

This Escape includes

  • 8 nights at Hotel View

  • All but three meals

  • Lessons with Gillian throughout the week

  • Live Model/Lessons 

  • Tickets to the Rembrandt, Rijks and Stedelijk Museums

  • Farewell dinner at a very special restaurant

  • Time to explore Amsterdam on your own

  • New art tribe

This trip starts and ends in Amsterdam. 

The trip costs $3,600 and is limited to 12.
Price does not include airfare.

Price is based on double occupancy. Single rooms are limited for an additional $600

A $1,000 non refundable deposit is due upon registration and final payment is due Feb. 1, 2017. .

Airport - Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, located twenty minutes from Amsterdam City and approximately nine miles south west of the center of Amsterdam. Taxi will cost $43 euros,

Hotel View

Hotel View is located in an authentic canal house on the quiet Leidsekade. It is a short walk to the center of town and museum quarter. A small boutique hotel, it offers wifi, 24-hour front desk and security. Please note that as a former canal house, the stairs are steep (there is no elevator) and as in many establishments in Europe, there are two resident cats. There are a limited number of single rooms. 



Day One - May 20

6:00 pm We will meet for our introductions in the lobby of our hotel and then walk to dinner. 

Day Two - May 21



After breakfast, we will meet in the lobby at 9:00 and leave for the Rijks museum and head right up to the second floor where the Rembrandt's are located. We will stay there for a few hours, then break for lunch and then head out to Rembrandt's house for a guided tour of his seventeenth-century home and studio. Gillian will discuss the techniques of Rembrandt and how we can be inspired by him in our own work – not to replicate (for how can we?) but to bring new experiences, emphasis and a new richness to our own portraits and self-portraits. We may be able to observe demonstrations on how paint and etchings were made in Rembrandt's time.

Upon our return, we will take a canal ride before having a quick dinner.  

Day Three - May 22

After breakfast, we will meet in the lobby to walk to the studio. Using the simplest of drawing materials we will begin working from reference imagery and ourselves in order to explore ways of building up dramatic portraits and self-portraits on large sheets of paper. We will further explore portraits using drawing materials and to discover ways of replicating the mark making techniques and surface that are present in the etchings of Rembrandt – deep contrasts in tone and building of atmosphere, character and expression. Lunch will be nearby and then we continue our work in the studio until 4:30 pm. Free time before heading out to dinner around 7:00 pm.

Day Four - May 23

Breakfast and then to the studio at 9:30 to continue working. Today we will be drawing using live models, with Gillian and with Daniella whose studio we are borrowing. There will be free time in the late afternoon before gathering for dinner around 7:00 pm. 

Lunch will be provided. and dinner will be at a nearby restaurant. 



Day Five - May 24

Pigments in Rembrandt's studio

Pigments in Rembrandt's studio

Breakfast at the hotel, then we will walk to and spend the morning at the wonderful Stedelijk Museum. We will have lunch there, too. There will be free time this afternoon and dinner on your own this evening.

Day Six - May 25

Breakfast, then to the studio at 9:30 to continue working. Using acrylic paints and mediums we will spend the following days working from our drawings, reference images and ourselves to create beautifully rich paintings.

We will also be thinking about placing the figure in space, the use of clothing and objects to indicate narrative and glazing techniques to build up a rich surface in our work.  Lunch and dinner will be provided.

Day Seven - May 26

Breakfast, then off to the studio at 9:30 to finish our drawings and paintings. We'll break for lunch, then clean up the studio and have a review and discussion of our work from this week. Dinner is on your own tonight. 

Day Eight - May 27

It's a free day to explore Amsterdam before we have our very special farewell meal together this evening at the Restaurant de Kas. Set in a former greenhouse, the food is grown locally and organically. We will meet in the lobby at 6:00 p.m.

Day Nine - May 28 Everyone leaves or stays on 


Student Supply List

  • Charcoal sticks and pencils, condensed charcoal, white pastel, graphite pencils and sticks, erasers,

  • Conte sticks and pencils (your favorite colors plus black and sepia colours)

  • Acrylic paints 

  • Acrylic mediums

  • Embossing tool (found in card making supplies stores – just something with a fine metal rounded point)

  • Paint brushes in any sizes

  • A hardback sketchbook measuring at least 21 x 30 cms

We will Supply

  •  Large sheets of drawing paper and watercolor paper

  • Carbon paper, tracing paper, gesso

This itinerary may change due to weather, new opportunities or the whim of the group. 

Gillian Lee Smith is a Scottish artist living in the beautiful, historic North-East coast of England. Inspiration and connection comes from individuals and communities and the marks they make on the landscape in which they reside. Coastal villages that cling to the space between land and sea. Communities of people that are forever between that place of hope and loss. And the way our own personal narratives in turn become etched on our faces and in our character.

As a teacher, Gillian is inspired to bring her love of people and place to each workshop using a wealth of techniques to make new discoveries along with her students. The author of two highly successful online courses - Unearth Gather Create and Drawn to Expression which explore the fundamentals of art while encouraging exploration and progression.