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Why I Paint & Sketch On Holiday

sails art at sea

Why I Paint & Sketch On Holiday

Blog by skipper Debbie Purser

You may have noticed that Classic Sailing has voyages with an artist on board in some great locations - Iceland and the Scillies. If you don’t consider that you can draw, then this might seem a distraction from the sailing adventure. I would argue that it is not, and these voyages are great for keen artists and anyone up for trying new things on holiday.

Learning to Draw is 'hot' right now

Life drawing classes in cities are currently all the rage. Painting as a well being therapy is becoming more mainstream. I think there are sound reasons why being creative outdoors is the best holiday you can have for stress relief and memorable moments. No nudes need be involved.

In the golden age of exploration there was always a need for an artist on board because it was the only way to explain the amazing new discoveries to folk back home. We have cameras on every device and I take hundreds of images whilst sailing …..but I still like to draw.


This article explains why the process of drawing is so good for travellers. I aim to convince you to pack a small sketchbook on all our sailing adventures. If representing 3 dimensions with a pencil,or translating colour and shade onto paper is a total mystery then we have some great voyages with an art teacher on board to give you some simple techniques. If you are already an artist then any of our sailing journeys are worth taking a sketch book or even a small set of paints with you.

Reasons to Paint & Sketch on Holiday

You Really Look at a Scene

I talk too much. I listen rarely…..but I am quite good at looking. An artists eye, a navigators eye, an engineers eye, a bosun’s eye. We all look at our surroundings in different ways, but if you know you are about to paint something, you really observe the detail. It’s a good skill to cultivate for many reasons. It makes you a better photographer, prevents you from getting lost in a strange port, and can even help you find the correct rope on a tall ship. Once you have locked a scene into your consciousness by sketching it, you will never forget it.


Life in Moving Technicolour

If you look at things in ‘black and white’ then a rain cloud is just something approaching that will get you wet. If you see it though artists eyes then you can watch the sky play its little dance. Shafts of light piercing dark cloud, a hillside ashore highlighted, or wet rock accentuated, white horses on the sea even brighter. Mixing watercolours or representing light and shade with charcoal is not easy, but it is absorbing.


Selfies are all about You

If you sketch tall ship Tecla at anchor in Iceland, you will remember that scene for ever. If you take a selfie on your camera its all about you and not the scenery. If you photograph the scene without the humans, that’s pretty good as a holiday memory, but not as unique as your little watercolour sketch. How many times do you actually look at your digital images afterwards anyway?


Mindfullness & Stress Relief

Drawing is the ultimate mindfulness exercise. It doesn’t have to be a tranquil scene. It could be moving boats, sketching people or sailing action. You have to focus on the task. Your eyes and co-ordination with your hands has to capture a scene quickly as everything moves. You empty your mind of everything else – the chatter and anxieties about past and future. I was so engrossed in painting in Antarctica I was 2 hours without gloves before I realised that my hands nearly had frost bite and the penguins were pinching my paints.


It’s Not About being a Good Artist 

Its easy for me to say that as I painted a lot as a kid and it comes fairly easily. I have organised art voyages with my friend Claudia Myatt and she breaks down the techniques into easy stages that anyone can do.

For example – Look at the horizon. Is the sky lighter than the sea or the other way around? You  could paint a good watercolour from just that one decision.
You don’t have to display your results on social media. What goes in your travel journal, stays in your journal. It’s just private memories, a process of observation.


A Cheap Way of Loitering without looking Lazy

Amazing how long a pint of beer can last if you sit on the harbour wall and paint. Just beware you don’t put your brush in the wrong glass or drink your paint coloured water jar. If you are painting, no one asks you to haul on the throat halliard. Never interrupt an artists work.

Painting as an Icebreaker

No stranger is going to peer over your shoulder and ask about your latest Instagram filter, but sitting down with a sketchbook and you soon have a crowd. Great for getting to know children, penguins or shy locals who wouldn’t normally talk to a tourist. (If you are pacing about with a big camera they soon all disappear or scowl at you. Papparazzi they mutter).


Sketching As a Communicator

If you can’t communicate in a foreign land, draw what you mean. It’s a communication technique that crosses language barriers and has been used for centuries by artisans, bank robbers and army officers, pyramid builders and map makers.


Best Voyages with An Art Teacher on Board


Tecla in Iceland’s NW Fjords - 18-25th June 2019


Combine sailing and art on this 8 day wilderness Iceland voyage to Hornstrandir Nature Park and beautiful fjords, cliffs and coast. The intense Arctic light often turns golden late evening when the sun is low in the sky, lighting up all the flowers in meadows that were abandoned by man years ago. Arctic foxes are changing into their summer suit, Whales come right into the wide and deep fjords and thousands of  birds nest in the sea cliffs. Walk to glaciers and waterfalls and enjoy the solitude of empty anchorages.


With Art Teacher Linda Moerland


During the voyage Dutch artist Linda Moerland will be onboard offering expert advice and tuition to those who wish to participate within the inspiring Icelandic landscapes. Tecla is owned by Janette Sliuk and family and she met Linda at one of her art classes. This voyage is a result of their friendship. Janette is coming on the trip too and can't wait to sketch the stunning Icelandic scenery in this remote National Nature Reserve. Linda has spent a life time studying and teaching art and painting whilst travelling. She is looking forward to this new and exciting collaboration allowing her to explore and capture Iceland onboard Tecla.


Tecla has plenty of space for keen artists to tuck themselves away on the coach house roof whilst the sailing action continues on the side decks. You don't have to be an artist to come. Without exploration and travelling through the Western Fjords by boat and on foot, there would story to tell in the art. If you are tempted to try sketching or painting then don't be shy. Linda is an art teacher and good at encouraging beginners.

  • artist and teacher Linda Moerland on board to encourage you
  • Excellent whale spotting potential
  • Combine painting and sailing. 
  • Mountain Trekking
  • Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
  • Experienced operators with local knowledge and guiding expertise
  • Sailing North West Iceland
  • All food, sailing instruction, safety equipment and accommodation onboard is included.
  • Comfortable and heated 2 berth cabins complete with en-suite facilities. 

Full voyage details


Explore the Isles of Scilly on Pilot Cutter Agnes 15-21st August 2019


Agnes has been visiting the Isles of Scilly every summer since she was launched. Her historical roots are here but instead of pilots she is carrying guest crew like you. Help hoist the sails, navigate around the reefs and sand bars and drop the anchor in another beautiful natural haven.

Sail with resident artist Claudia Myatt

Claudia Myatt, well known maritime illustrator and artist will be onboard to offer advice and help to those looking to develop their artistic skills while onboard the boat. What better way to try and appreciate the beauty of the Isles of Scilly then to try and capture it on paper. There will be a perfect balance between sailing and time ashore and at anchor to soak up the scenery and get creative. No experience is necessary for either the sailing or your artistic endeavour as expert tuition will be offered for both. From Falmouth it is a fairly intrepid 65 miles to these low lying islands, with landmarks like the Lizard, Land’s End and Wolf Rock to pass.


Claudia is also a musician, illustrates for Classic Boat Magazine and composes and sings bawdy sea shanties. She has sailed with Debbie many times as the mate or art teacher and has a wicked sense of fun. On the East Coast she runs ‘Drawing for the Terrified’ and other beginner classes.

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