Gail Sibley, "Abandoned for Lunch," Unison Colour pastels on UART 400 paper, approx 5 x 7 in.

Inspired By My Students At Tasmania Art Retreat

I wanted to share something about my recent teaching adventure in Tasmania but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without it being just an inconsequential travelogue! I had a few ideas but what I kept coming back to (my heart was speaking up loud and clear!) was how much I was inspired by my students. This is true of every workshop and class I teach, but this one seemed extra special. 

As an instructor, my greatest reward is hearing my students exclaim their ahas out loud – some of their artistic transformations in the workshop are downright amazing.

Another reward is the inspiration I get from seeing the work participants create in these experiences. Yes, I’m there to teach and inspire my students but truth be told, half the time, it’s them inspiring me. Their work and attitude towards their work make me want to be a better instructor every time. And, they excite me to get back to my easel!

So let’s get to the Art Retreat and how I was inspired by my students while there.

Daily reviews
Three of our daily reviews of work!

Tasmania. It sounds like an exotic far-off land. And, well, it is! For me, it conjured up imaginings of history past, of a culture separate from the mainland, of sheep and farms. It also speaks of flora and fauna different from what I’m used to. And the reality isn’t too far from these imaginings! 

The 10-day art retreat in Tasmania – organized by Gillian, the gregarious and organised founder of Artable – was based in the small town (village?) of Winnaleah. Nine students gathered at Enclave, the hotel owned and run by Gillian and her husband Steve. We spent part of our time in the studio at the hotel and then out on location in the northwest part of this Australian island. 

Welcome to Winnaleah!

The weather was inconsistent – some days rainy, some cold (down to 4 degrees celsius one night!), some windy, some sunny and perfect – which meant making decisions on the next day’s activities the night before over dinner. The great thing was, we had a studio which we could use on inclement days. We were comfortable in the warmth thrown by the fireplace and a table full of snacks galore! 

Inspired by my students! - the studio

Winnaleah is a delight, hardly there at all, which meant fabulous painting opportunities close by (and extremely quiet nights conducive to sleeping!). The pastel below that I painted before the arrival of students is a view from the front verandah of the hotel across the road and gives some clue as to the size of the town! 

Gail Sibley, "One Pump," Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 9 x 12 in. Available
Gail Sibley, “One Pump,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 9 x 12 in.

Just down the road from the hotel is an amazing valley with vistas of rolling hills, of rows of corn, and of towering trees –  all soooo paintable. Seeing what students chose to paint inspired me and had me looking for different possibilities beyond what I might have chosen (a zoomed in view of house and trees and cows on a distant hill!). I loved seeing the various scenes that enamoured my students.

Here’s some of what we saw.

Valley near Winnaleah
Valley down the road from the hotel

Other stunning locations we visited were Little Blue Lake (that colour!!) and Binalong Bay with its red-lined rocks washed by the ocean waves. (We were almost blown away at Binalong Bay – that sounds like a song doesn’t it – Blown Away at Binalong Bay) 

Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake
Binalong Bay
Binalong Bay
Gail battling the wind at Binalong Bay!
Battling the wind at Binalong Bay! This is why I’m working on my lap instead of an easel, so I can hold everything down!

Teaching in the studio, I gave students instructions a task to do, eg. digging deep into thumbnails or restricting their colours. I was inspired by the commitment, persistence, and determination of my Tasmania students as they followed through. I was equally delighted by the outcome from the exercises and studies I set. Yes, there’s always a reason behind my madness but I’m sure there were a few under-the-breath moans and rolled eyes at times! Even so, I was inspired by the way my students accepted my ideas and got on with the work! 

Being inspired by my students enhances my teaching because I see more of what I can push students to do. I’m less afraid of doing this because I know what can happen! I’ve seen what’s possible. 

Then there were the results of their efforts – yet more inspiration! What I enjoyed was their amazement at what they’d created, paintings that regularly took them away from their usual way of working (and thinking!). So often their work inspired me because they gave me a different way of looking at a subject, a different way of applying pastel, a different combination of colours. Seriously, I was blown away by the fabulous work they produced in response to their learnings and the beauty of this place.

I’d like to share a workshop piece from each of my students. When I photographed the pieces, I wasn’t really thinking about a blog so I don’t necessarily have the best photographs or their best work from the class, but I think these will give you an idea of the range of expression that I so enjoyed.

Inspired by my students! Painting by Judi Moncur
Painting by Judi Moncur
Inspired by my students! Painting by Pam Shipman
Painting by Pam Shipman
Inspired by my students! Painting by Jane Ellis
Painting by Jane Ellis
Inspired by my students! Painting by Grant Eyre
Painting by Grant Eyre
Inspired by my students! Painting by Lea Symonds
Lea Symonds painting. (So mad I didn’t get a photo of this piece finished!)
Inspired by my students! Painting by Susan Vazey
Painting by Susan Vazey
Inspired by my students! Painting by Meredith Mayr
Painting by Meredith Mayr
Inspired by my students! Painting by Rachel Howell
Painting by Rachel Howell
Inspired by my students! Painting by Christine Leaming
Painting by Christine Leaming

These feelings of inspiration are true of all the work done by students in my workshops. I taught three 5-day workshops before my Tasmania art retreat – one in New Zealand’s North Island, one in Gold Coast, Australia, and one in Melbourne, Australia – and all filled me with pleasure and inspiration. However, spending 10 days and evenings with these students in Tasmania gave a whole other opportunity to dig into the possibilities of art-making. Students also took advantage of the opportunity to continue working on their art beyond the hours of the class. These are the particular joys of a painting holiday (destination) workshop!

Being inspired by my students is one of the great pleasures of teaching. Seeing their ahas and breakthroughs and their amazement at what they can do as well as seeing the results of their efforts stimulates and rewards me. It certainly stirs my need to get to the easel!

So a BIG thank you to my students! 

Tasmania Art Retreat group
Tasmania Art Retreat group (at a Thai restaurant!)
Gail, sketch
Here’s a small pencil sketch of many of them sketching on a misty morning at “Mirror” Lake.

Now I’d love to hear from YOU! Have you been to Tasmania? Have you been on a destination art workshop? What are your thoughts about going on an art retreat with me (a few are coming up!)? Were you inspired by this post? I’d love to hear everything and anything!

Until next time, 

~ Gail

PS. I was thrilled to read the positive feedback about the retreat from students! Here are a few nuggets: 

“Lovely mix of theory and practical at a pace that was not intimidating.” ~ Rachel Howell

“Well organized, planned detail notes, opportunities to learn a new process, and the importance of values in art practice. Balance practice time in both the studio and plein air situation in magical surroundings.” Meredith Mayr

“Gail is delightful. You will be hard pressed to find a more passionate tutor of values.” Christine Leaming

“Gail is an excellent teacher. Well paced, inclusive. Good balance between topics and practice. Interesting exercises to extend my practice. Really learnt a lot and enjoyed her inclusive style.” Lea Symmonds

“The workshop was a great learning experience in colour theory and application, applied in a practical way.” Grant Eyre

“Back to basics. Practical. Encouraging.” Sue Vazey

I’ve been impressed by Gail’s inspired approach to colour since I discovered HowtoPastel a few years ago. While I’ve been a member of her online IGNITE! group since the beginning, I joined the Tasmania 10 day Artable workshop to enhance my understanding and learn more in the intensive workshop environment. Gail’s classes were engaging and fun. She explains her unique approach to value, colour theory, limited palettes, and layering (among other things) in a concise and engaging way that enables students to bring all these together. Quite a few of us had a several ‘aha’ moments as we put these concepts into practice. She is an encouraging and responsive teacher, and I found the workshop to be of great value in my painting journey.” Judi Moncur 

PPS. I forgot to mention how yummy the food was!


And here are a few more photos!

Me in Winnaleah’s main street at sunset
Rainy Day at Enclave Hotel, Winnaleah, Tasmania!
Rainy Day at Enclave Hotel, Winnaleah, Tasmania!
Tree fern forest!
Tree fern forest! WOW!

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6 thoughts on “Inspired By My Students At Tasmania Art Retreat”

  1. What a fun and immersive experience it was, Gail! Thank you so much for being such an engaging and inspiring teacher! Your photos bring it all back to me. And I’m working on all those learning experiences (of course).

    1. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it Judi!! And thank you for your very kind and appreciative words.
      It was terrific to meet you, a longtime member of my IGNITE! Community, in person!!
      Look forward to seeing what emerges 😄

  2. We are so grateful you made the time to visit our remote corner of the world in all its beauty. It was a privilege to watch you in action and to watch the students transform over 10 days

  3. I had a great time reading this article. What a gorgeous location. And the artworks of you and your students, including our own Judi! , shows the beauty and colourfulness of Tasmania.

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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