Kerrie Lester’s third painting retreat at Daku was her busiest to date. There was a difference this year in that much of the painting took place on the deck of the villa where Kerrie was staying, and it became a great meeting point for everyone and a useful storage for their work during the week. Something we’ll do our best to replicate next year.
Kerrie’s teaching style reflects her own exuberant, flamboyant embrace of painting – she has an overwhelmingly physical approach, almost wrestling the paint onto the canvas and mentally running alongside her ever-developing idea of what the picture will be. Christine Oxley, one of her students, described her as “quite out of the box in her teaching techniques. I woke up this morning already thinking about what she said – it was a challenge for me not to use water as a medium and explore other types.”
Her main objective is to get her students to choose a subject then re interpret it with their individual slant: “Each student paints in a totally different way and I guide them individually to achieve the results that they desire and teach them ways to do that.” To reproduce the scene to look like a photo is not encouraged! Christine Leaming talks of her constant push to excel: “Throughout the class she works with her students encouraging them to improve and push the boundaries, not paint the bathroom wall….which means don’t fill in, make every brush stroke count. She encourages us to use the paint with medium ( a liquid matt or gloss, thick or thin) which gives the paint more volume, keeps the lustre in acrylic paints whereas using water as a thinner results in a flat painting without any richness. So water is for washing brushes only!!”
The use of medium is a fundamental part of her teaching. She shows students how to use them to enhance the paint instead of using water. Mediums can help to give the painting the same effects as using oil paint: “so if you want to paint with very thick paint a la Ben Quilty, you use a medium to achieve that result; if you want a to paint with glazing techniques another medium is used, and so on”.
Workshops took place on her deck at Daku Resort, and also out on location. She led trips into town to paint by the harbor and to capture images of the small, colorful market, a captivating sight, described by one student as “an experience in every way – there was so much happening – the people especially the children were so curious with their big brown eyes. It is an atmosphere unique to Fiji.” Choice of subject in the market varied enormously from close ups of the fruit vendors to paintings of the vegetables on display.
And then there were also portrait sessions using the Daku staff as models – something they undertook with many giggles at first, but great decorum and solemnity during the session.
Throughout the week there were a variety of trips to see the surrounding area and participate in Fijian life, from the simplicity of a rural village trip to seeing the operations of the local black pearl farm, the picture-postcard beauty of a swim in the lagoon on a beautiful Fijian beach and a drink in the luxury Jean-Michel Cousteau resort down the road – a complete snapshot of Fiji.
Several of the group mentioned the value they placed on having the chance to be surrounded by other creative artists and the inspiration they drew from their company. And as any good retreat should, they said “it gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in what I really love and truly relax.”
Kerrie’s 2013 retreat takes place at the same time next year: 7- 14 September 2013