Mark Waller is above all a lover of water, and in Fiji he found endless excitement and inspiration in the waters of the island – the shapes and shadows of the coral reefs below the surface of the ocean, the abundant fish life and towering coral heads that he saw when snorkeling, the sweeping views across the bay. He would return from a trip brimming with enthusiasm and inspiration and immediately set to work to capture what he had seen on the canvas. He took his students with him on an exhilarating adventure of exploring this environment, encouraging them to spend as much time as they wanted up in the studio overlooking the bay.

Mark’s painting of the coral reefs near Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

The studio was transformed from being a yoga platform into the painters’ home territory for the week.  With tarpaulins on the floor, a back wall for pinning up large canvases, and plenty of room to spread out paints and brushes on tables beside each easel, it was a place to absorb the new ideas and colours and techniques that Mark was bringing to class.

Mark gives a class demonstration

Mark’s teaching approach combines class demonstrations with individual attention to each student. He breaks into the morning to call people round his easel as he shows how to achieve a certain effect, and then walks around to everyone in turn with comments, suggestions, interventions and perhaps a few brush strokes to point in the right direction. And his constant mantra is to “get that paint moving about!”….he wants people to be generous with their efforts, trying out new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Mark and Bronwyn discuss the balance of her painting

Mark’s style is realistic, although it was intriguing to watch him create the illusion of a cloud of fish on the coral head simply by flicking his brush at the canvas – and there was an instant shoal of tiny golden damsel fish. The class watched spell bound as he painted the surf, adding white lines in a strange pattern that suddenly resolved itself into breaking edge of a wave and the surging foam of the sea on the beach.

Kate works on her canvas

This particular group of painters all had previous painting experience, although ne day a beginner joined the class for the morning and was soon learning the magic of art. Mark welcomes all abilities and is confident that he can show anyone the basics – and then push on from there to ever more daring intricacies.

Mark returns to Daku from 9 – 16  August 2014.

Kate’s final canvas