Painting Trips Abroad | Christopher Volpe
Oil Paintings

Painting Trips Abroad

I love visiting new places, alone or in groups. Painting in new places en plein air can open entirely new doors, even as it exercises and deepens your skills.

Why paint the landscape?

Though my paintings tend toward the “poetic” (in that I’m less interested in “accurate” realism than in chasing ineffable feelings and metaphors for states of being), I’ve always painted from life as well as from memory and imagination. No matter how abstract I go, so far I continue to be concerned with creating a shared visual space between painting and viewer.

The act of painting takes place at a point of contact between self, surface, and world.

The essence the painter seeks isn’t the essence of tree but the essence of the encounter between self and tree.



Mid to Late August 2018 – Limit 8 Students

Most of the time, discussions about plein air painting focus on things like direct observation, composition, tonal values, simplifying shapes, and accurately rendering perspective, color, light, space, and atmosphere. All of that’s important, but it leaves out the best reason to paint at all, which is the excitement of exploring the interaction of “objective” perception and personal truth. In my experience, far less technical expertise is necessary than most people realize in order to paint not just what it looks like, but what it feels like – not what you see, but what you think and feel about what you see. Approached in this way, painting becomes an irresistible call to visualize felt ideas, to fuse sensation, imagination, and abstract design in a compelling vision of life.

In this workshop, we will go beyond imitation of nature and use the objective world as a springboard to explore the expressive use of design, color, and paint. Our goal is to develop exercises, processes, and disciplines that will align your creative process with your subjective responses to nature and to life and ultimately, to infuse your work with poetry and feeling.

We’ll spend three days painting sketches outdoors and two days painting larger work either inside or outside, but in any case away from the motif.  Our “big” paintings (24” x 24”) will be inspired by memories and material gathered and refined over the previous days. This is a chance to try some bold, adventurous painting and open  new avenues for original work.

This class functions well for a wide variety of skill levels, but some previous plein air painting experience may be helpful.

We’ll station ourselves on the rocky, picturesque coast of Nova Scotia, near Lunenberg and culturally rich Halifax.

We’ll take the CAT high-speed ferry from Portland, ME to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, so we’ll have our cars and all our gear at the ready.



Scotland 2017

This workshop already ran:


Castle Inveraray, Argyllshire, Scotland

October 8 – 13, 2017



(c) Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


The rolling mountains and lakes of the Scottish Highlands have captivated artists for hundreds of years – high Romantics Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Mendelssohn, and J.W.M. Turner all found inspiration here. We’ll spend five days exploring and painting the breathtaking hills, lakes, and coast of southwestern Scotland, with headquarters at and around the Duke of Argyll’s estate, near the small town of Inveraray, “the gateway to the highlands,” perched beside Loch Fyne, the largest lake in the country.

The workshop fee of $1,650 includes accommodations at in a beautiful waterfront cottage, four full days of painting instruction and an optional sketching trek, and daily tea at Castle Inveraray (we’ll wrap up each day at the easel by taking tea with the Duke and Duchess).

The final day, reserved  for exploring, painting solo, or joining the planned sketching trip to Fingal’s Cave, will also include stops at Oban and Islay, about three hours to the west.

We’ll be painting and staying near Inveraray Castle, which was featured in an episode of “Downton Abbey.” Accommodations have been reserved at several lovely cottages on the shore of nearby Loch Fyne and in a two-to-a-room arrangement at a guest house on the castle grounds. As for painting locations, in addition to the castle grounds and the impressive loch, locals we’re in touch with are ready to show us the best, easy hiking trails through ancient woods, over hills dotted with ruins, opening out on amazing views.

Optional “day off” activity: Sketching trip to Fingal’s Cave Imagine a windswept island sacred in pre-history to the pre-Gaelic Celts and visited since then by artists, musicians, and seekers of all kinds. This outcropping of the Hebrides, called Staffa, features a strange, multi-colored basalt cavern known as Fingal’s Caveso named after Fionneor Finne, a mythical giant said to have built it as the opening to a subterranean causeway between Ireland and Scotland. At over 200 feet deep, the acoustics in the cave are said to be exceptional and at times even ghostly – in stormy tides the cacophonous sounds of the waves inside it rumble out for miles. Felix Mendelssohn began composing his magnificent tone poem, the “Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave)” just hours after visiting. Turner painted it, as did Thomas Moran (his depiction is reproduced above). We’ll follow in their footsteps on a sketching expedition to gather material for future paintings of our own. 

If there’s time, we’ll stop along the way at legendary Scotch distilleries at Oban and Islay.


Workshop dates: Monday, Oct. 8 – Friday, Oct. 13th, 2017

Plein Air Painting Workshop

+ lodging + high tea at the castle daily


The cottages reserved for us on Loch Fyne, about four miles away from the castle, have four-to-eight rooms, most of them doubles, though a limited number of singles are available for an additional fee. Sharing a room without taking the workshop (thinking of spouses and partners here) is $1,250.

Workshop dates are Monday – Thursday, with an optional fifth-day sketching expedition to Fingal’s cave, about three hours to the west, including stops at a few of the legendary Scotch distilleries at Oban and Islay. Alternatively, cultural mecca Edinburgh, with the Scottish National Gallery and many other museums, are two hours to the east.

Meals and travel to and from Inveraray, Scotland are the student’s responsibility.

Renting a car to get around in the Scottish hills is essential and fairly inexpensive; information for picking up a car upon arrival will be provided in advance. Flights on Air Lingus to Glasgow, Scotland, leave from Boston regularly.

Information regarding painting supplies and how to travel with them will be provided as well.

Scottish Highlands

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