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  • Alnwick, Northumberland UK (map)


Northumberland is home to rolling green fields filled with sheep, cows, horses, castles and places to lose yourself in history and time. It is also where artist Gillian Lee Smith calls home. We visited here two years ago and fell in love so we are heading back.

Once again, we will stay in delightful Alnwick at the charming 300-year-old coaching inn, The White Swan, just steps away from the Alnwick Castle and Gardens.

Alnwick Castle

Gillian is over the moon to be sharing her local area of Northumberland for another workshop. This time we dive deep into history and a sense of atmosphere and place – the castles and ruins that dominate this landscape and remind us of times long since passed.

We will be exploring iconic historical landmarks such as the gloriously decadent Alnwick Castle and Gardens – Ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland (and of course made famous by the story of a certain boy wizard, Harry Potter).

Holy Island is a very special place – separated from the mainland by a tidal causeway the Priory is the scene of the Viking invasion of Britain and the Lindisfarne Castle is an instantly recognisable silhouette on this tiny island.

Warkworth Castle is Gillian’s favourite castle in the area and is fascinating in its passageways, darkened, shadowed chambers and archways. Wonderful, mysterious and sure to be an inspiration for our creativity during this workshop.

The workshop

There are so many hidden and treasured locations to explore in Northumberland. It’s a challenge to pick only a few! Layers and layers of history, shape, texture, atmosphere and narrative are abundant, and we will be gathering lots of inspiration in order to create unique interpretations of our own personal response to all that is to be discovered here.

Doorways, arched windows, crumbling walls, ancient textures and text. Silhouettes and shadows. Heraldry and statues. Decadence and decay. The marks left by those long since departed. The colours in the landscape and ancient buildings. We will be gathering personal interpretations of all these things where we will use them to spark even deeper exploration back in the studio.

Gillian will be demonstrating various ways of working with mixed media whilst out in the landscape to gather sketches and studies that are full of texture and atmosphere. Shadowy, inky colour washes, flowing, gestural lines and wonderful mark-making and textural details.

We will then be using these explorations and studies, using mixed media techniques to create one of a kind handmade artist books that tell the story of this place in your own way. These will then inspire some larger mixed media interpretations and compositions that build history and atmosphere, lost and found structures and evocative details layer upon layer.

You will finish the workshop with a sketchbook full of inspiration, a more complete artist book of mixed media explorations, and one or more larger mixed media compositions inspired by your experiences.


Day 1. May 15 We will meet at the hotel bar for our first meet and greet.

Day 2. May 16 Breakfast will be served in the beautiful dining room at “our table.”

We will meet in the workshop room at 9:30. Gillian will share her sketchbooks and mixed media works and talks about her inspiration and development of her work inspired by the local area.

We will have lunch at the Fryery (fish & chips!) at Alnwick Castle and Gardens and have all afternoon to sketch.


Gillian will demo some sketchbook pages using simple drawing materials to create expressive drawings. You can then choose from the wealth of inspiration to draw from – the castle itself or the gardens, gathering imagery for our studio time later in the week. Dinner will be nearby this evening.

Day 3. May 17 This morning we will leave promptly at 8:45 a.m. for Holy Island where we will spend the day sketching. The many historical landmarks will be inspiration for our gathering today. Gillian will demonstrate expressive sketching using watercolours and mixed media – ancient buildings and ruins, the dramatic landscapes and the marks left by those long since departed. The tide will turn at 3:30 so we will leave just before to make sure we make the trek across the causeway. We will stop nearby for an early dinner.

Day 4. May 18 Breakfast at the hotel and then a studio day where we will be creating collage papers and a handmade sketchbook. We will spend the afternoon working into the sketchbook based on our previous days explorations. Extracting ideas and information to begin mixed media explorations across many pages.


We will break for lunch, stopping at 4:00. We will walk to Barter’s Bookstore for our dinner. Yeah!

Day 5. May 19 Time for another early breakfast before we leave at 9:00 for Warkworth Castle. You will love the passageways here that will inspire your work this week. More mixed media explorations in this inspirational setting.


We will have lunch at a nearby tea house, returning back to the castle for further sketching, or we will work our way to the fishing village of Amble. Or we may stop at one of the galleries that shows Gillian’s work, walk along the shoreline and eat dinner at her gallery. So many choices!

Gillian Lee Smith
Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle

This Escape includes

  • Seven days of instruction from Gillian

  • 8 nights accommodation (based on double occupancy)

  • All meals except for one dinner

  • Some art supplies

  • Opportunity to immerse yourself in history

  • Delicious final meal at the beautiful Tree House at Alnwick Castle and Gardens

  • Art Tribe

The price for this workshop is $3,700 

A $1,000 non-refundable deposit is due at registration. The final deposit is due November 15, 2019.   

Price does not include airfare to/from Alnwick. Price is based on shared accommodations. Limited single rooms are available for an additional price of $300

The White Swan , Alnwick Northumberland


Transportation: You can take the train from London’s Kings Cross to Alnmouth which will take about 4.5 hours. Almouth is 4 miles from Alnwick. There is a bus that leaves every 11 minutes or you can take a taxi.

Airport: Newcastle International Airport is an international airport located on the outskirts of Newcastle upon Tyne. Address: Woolsington, Newcastle upon Tyne NE13 8BZ, United Kingdom. The flight from Heathrow is about 1 hour and 10 minutes. It is 33.5 miles to Alnwick and you can catch a taxi or uber.

Code: NCL

Holy Island

Holy Island

Supply List

We will provide

  • Carbo paper

  • Gesso

  • Paper (drawing and watercolor)

  • Gel Matte Medium

  • Fluid Matte Medium

  • Wax caryon

  • Water containers for studio setting 

Student Supply List

  • Camera or phone camera

  • Clips for holding pages while out sketching

  • Hardback sketchbook - at least 12 x 8 inches when closed (smooth paper not textured and at least 120 gsm paper weight)

  • Embossing tools

  • Nib pens

  • Paint brushes - a couple of 1-inch brushes, a few brushes for acrylics (various sizes)

  • Palette knives

  • Compressed charcoal and Carbon pencils, charcoal pencils

  • Putty eraser, white eraser and stick/pencil eraser

  • Art Graf tailors chalk - black (you can bring other colours if you wish)

  • Four tubes or small tubs of heavy body acrylic paint - titanium white, quin nickel azo gold, indigo or paynes gray, burnt umber

  • Three tubes or pans of watercolour paint - indigo, paynes grey, sepia or burn umber and yellow ochre or quinacridone gold (for out sketching)

  • A portable mixing palette for watercolours

  • Paper palette for studio

  • A water container (foldable water container or yogurt pot, etc.)

  • Water bottle

  • Blue or green painters tape

  • Backback or bag to carry your sketching supplies in the field

  • Glassine paper or non stick parchment paper to put between your pages as they dry

Day 6. May 20 Breakfast at the hotel, then a full day of class with Gillian. Based in the studio we will be continuing to work into our sketchbooks – adding elements and using our memories of place and atmosphere to build up richly detailed and textural pages that will become a treasured collection of imagery based on our own unique experiences.Lunch will be at the hotel and dinner this evening will be at one of the local pubs.


Day 7. May 21 Breakfast at the hotel with another full day of class building on our mixed media sketchbooks. We will also use them to today and tomorrow to inspire one or more larger mixed media compositions on paper. Lunch will be at the hotel with some free time to wander back to the Castle and Gardens. Dinner will be on your own tonight.

The gardens will be filled with blooms

The gardens will be filled with blooms

Day 8. May 22 Breakfast at the hotel and our last full day with Gillian. Lunch will be at the hotel. We will wrap up our paintings in the afternoon, clean up and share our work from this week. Tonight will be our farewell celebration at the fabulous Castle Treehouse.

Day 9. May 23 This morning you will check out of the hotel and make your way back to Newcastle, or to the train station. For those continuing on to Shetland, the train leaves at 9:45 a.m. so we will leave the hotel by 8:15 a.m.

The Treehouse

The Treehouse


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


Gillian Lee Smith is a Scottish artist living in the beautiful, historic North-East coast of England that daily influences her work. 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. She has several very successful online courses and a mentoring program.