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“Watercolors in Florence”
Review of The Retreat

The Retreat
Ranked #1 of 2 things to do in Force
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Retreat is an open artist studio offering relaxing and creative residential painting holidays in Italy's finest region of Le Marche. Courses include workshops and visits to scenic location with tuition on water-colour, oil, pastel and acrylic techniques, etc. The program is designed to suit all levels from beginner to advanced. Accommodation and full board, travel to locations is included in the price.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities
Reviewed April 21, 2017 via mobile

I loved my week of study with John. It was an amazing experience. I enjoyed the stay at the Convent and the restaurant where we had our meals. He added in a Evening walking tour and a visit to the Uffiz Museum. He is a great teacher and a very nice person who worked very hard to help me improve my skills. I look forward to studying with him in LeMarche.

2  Thank my1018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"painting holiday"
in 13 reviews
"le marche"
in 7 reviews
"plein air"
in 6 reviews
"an excellent teacher"
in 3 reviews
"painting class"
in 2 reviews
"evening activities"
in 2 reviews
"great guide"
in 2 reviews
"nice person"
in 2 reviews
"local restaurants"
in 2 reviews
"loved every moment"
in 2 reviews
"once in a lifetime"
in 2 reviews
"john"
in 53 reviews
"retreat"
in 47 reviews
"jana"
in 40 reviews
"week"
in 22 reviews
"art"
in 16 reviews
"skills"
in 12 reviews
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Reviewed April 21, 2017 via mobile

I came on Easter week. There were just two of us: me from London, and Myrna from Houston. We had the best time! The Oblate convent was a great, simple central location.
The watercolour course was inspiring. I had painted before, but John Skelcher was an excellent teacher of perspective and colour theory. He was also a great guide to Florence - showing where the best Gelateria is! He also knew that there was a special Easter ceremony at the cathedral, and made sure we didn't miss it.
I would love to come next year to one of his oil painting courses in LeMarche.

1  Thank DMOliver
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 15, 2016

I have just returned from a fabulous week at The Retreat !!
Apart from John being the perfect host and exceptionally talented, his method of teaching and organisation of our week was excellent. Nothing was too much trouble and I was amazed at how much we covered and how much we all progressed in such a short time. Stunning scenery, fabulous food cooked by Jana and wonderful company made this a truly memorable experience for all. Cannot recommend highly enough !!!

1  Thank Jesvar2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 11, 2016

I stayed at the Retreat for a week in late July for one of their plein air painting holidays. The Retreat is nestled in a beautiful countryside landscape of Italy. It is not a very touristy area which adds to its charm. You look around you and think, "Are you kidding me? Am I in a painting?" Breathtaking views and scenery. You've got mountains, hills, valleys, vineyards, and endless sunflower fields. It was a treat in itself to have a home base in this serene beauty. You could live there a lifetime and not run out of things to paint. Visiting the nearby hilltop towns in the evenings for some watercolor painting was a really cool experience as well. The towns are nearly abandoned or they have a pretty small population so we'd show up, John would do a demonstration and then we got to go off on our own to pick a spot to sketch and paint. I thought this was really neat and you could feel like a local artist in an Italian village on a hill. No matter which way you went, there were quaint little cobblestone alley ways with arched doorways and historic architecture.

John and Jana could not have been better hosts! I had the most amazing week staying with them. Jana is an amazing cook who made us amazing, unique local and organic meals that were unbelievably delicious. As a foodie myself, there were plenty of opportunities to try out local cuisine and wines.

John is an outstanding artist and teacher and just all around genuine guy! He will always keep you smiling and laughing. He gives great one on one critiques and help when you need it and took us around to some wonderful painting locations and hilltop towns. Whether you're more advanced or more of a beginner in the arts, this trip will suit you. You really learn to appreciate what goes into plein air painting.

I had a wonderful week and would love to come back! :)

2  Thank Ashley H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 5, 2016

I've recently returned from my first ever painting holiday. I chose The Retreat because I was drawn to the style and scenic views portrayed in John's paintings. I also liked the fact that he was an experienced Art teacher (Head of Department) / professional artist from England prior to this. As a teacher myself, I knew what kind of skills/ expectations for supporting different levels of students this requires.

John is prepared to pick up and drive you to the venue within a certain time frame so it's advised to arrange your flight/ bus or train journeys to coincide with this. He expected my bus to be a little later than timetabled, as this is Italy, and is relaxed with this.

The Retreat is set high up in a mountain valley overlooking a stunning panoramic view near Force. The colours and shadows are breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring which continued to impress as they transformed throughout the day. When I arrived, I knew I'd chosen well. Recharge your camera/ phone as often as possible as these can often make dramatic photographs.

If you are hoping to spend time immersed in the local rural Italian lifestyle, you will not be disappointed. It's not a holiday for 'pampered princes/ princesses' but one that welcomes a communal ethos. My en-suite bedroom at the Retreat was clean with a comical, comfortable, squeaky hand-crafted double bed. It didn't disturb mine or my neighbours' sleep but added to the charm of being somewhere different. With the mosquito screen down and window open all night, the cockerel alarm woke me up each morning to a glorious sunrise each morning. (earplugs or close the double glazed window if not for you.)

Janna prepared a variety of delicious, healthy food which is locally sourced. With advanced warning to dietary needs or food preferences (I'm not keen on seafood) she willingly prepared a tasty alternative to what others were eating.

Although the above points are important, the unique selling point of this painting holiday for me was John. He prepares and plans the activities with aesthetic teaching points and art history knowledge/ skills in mind. He gave my group and I the opportunity to explore oil, watercolour painting (en plein air) in a well paced step by step manner. A sketch book is provided for you to record drawings, if you want to, when sessions end. John allows for flexibility if you prefer to use other materials/ techniques you bring along too.

At the beginning of each session, he clearly explains the aim and demonstrates his knowledge and skills at regular intervals alongside the group. John's kind and sensitive nature enables you to ask him for individual support which allows your confidence to grow each day. John encourages and guides each painter to undertake individual challenges that he can see will improve your painting. It's up to you to decide whether to rise to the challenge he sets.

Although I have painted and sold artwork before coming on this course, I feel that I have learnt so much more, from him, that I will continue to use in my work. There were a diverse range of painting abilities in my group from a complete beginner to an exhibiting artist. You learn a lot about yourself and others on this trip as well as painting. I feel I had the fortune of being amongst a friendly, influential and non- threatening group which came from John's management and subtle teambuilding experience.

John is a passionate artist with a big heart and sense of humour. He is currently continuing to improve his artwork further under the guidance of a leading Italian maestro at the Flemish Academy. Which is a cool thing to tell your friends and family before you go or when you return.

I loved every moment, including the extra events, trips and stories shared in this area. The local Italians that I met briefly as I sketched/ painted are curious about art and friendly to tourists. It was fun-packed artistic, cultural experience ... well worth it!

4  Thank berniemill220
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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