Easy Escapes: Learning to sketch in St Lucia

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  • Lisa Potter sharpens her pencils for some art lessons in the sunny Caribbean

    Lisa Potter sharpens her pencils for some art lessons in the sunny Caribbean

    Why go? When was the last time you got your creative juices flowing? If the premise of a good holiday is that it should in some way change us a little, then for anyone looking to soak up some sunshine while sharpening the mind (with a rum cocktail in hand, naturally), a sketching holiday in the Caribbean could well be the answer.

    The Pitons in St Lucia: beautiful – but could you sketch them?

    When? St Lucia is a popular winter escape but if you can hang on the price of flights and hotels drops at the end of April with the best deals generally available for travel outside the school holidays. Key party moments this year are the St Lucia Jazz Festival (30 April-11 May, stluciajazz.org) and the St Lucia Carnival (28 June-22 July, luciancarnival.com).

    Stay at: In the northwest of the island, St James’s Club Morgan Bay (morganbayresort.com) is a 345-room all-inclusive resort set beside a wonderful stretch of beach with swaying palms and piercing blue waters. There are eight categories of room including beachfront and hillside locations, and the hotel is popular with British couples and families. With four pools, tennis courts, watersports and a spa you can take it as hard or slow as you want.

    The big draw: Brighton-based artist and illustrator Adam Stower (worldofadam.com) leads a five day Sketch Club at the resort that is free to guests as part of its all-inclusive programme. Whether you’re a complete beginner or the next Quentin Blake, he’ll have you producing masterpieces that are personal to you in no time. In this digital age where everything is captured, viewed and edited on screen, sketching is a brilliant way to unwind while also appreciating the lush landscapes of St Lucia with its classic beaches, intensely green rainforest and the majestic Piton mountains.

    Art class: is this continuous line exercise any easier when done on a gorgeous beach? © Adam Stower

    On my week there are five budding artists ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, but by the end other hotel guests have joined us, intrigued by that interesting-looking bunch of people passionately soaking up the scene through their sketchbooks. Every morning after breakfast we meet in the hotel lobby then either decamp to various breathtaking spots across the resort or go off on artistic adventures around the island that see us perched on the rocks of Pigeon Island and seated beside the famous sugar-loaf Pitons.

    What can you learn? Lots! Here’s my three tips to reach sketching heaven… 1) Dare to not move so fast. Click goes the camera – you’ve snapped a quick shot and moved on. Sketching forces you to stop and really take in the world around you – and it changes the way you see things. 2) Be free with your sketching. Art classes seem daunting but one of the easiest ways to get into it is by starting your session with quick, 30 second observations. You’ll be surprised with the results! 3) Remember, everyone can sketch. And practice makes perfect…

    Star pupil: Lisa’s sketch of the beach at St James’s Club Morgan Bay

    Dine at: The resort has six restaurants and six bars that offer a charming take on Caribbean food and drink, from a leisurely lunch in the tropical garden to a special dinner on its private pier. For a taste of everyday St Lucia check out the loud and colourful market in Castries, the island capital. It’s a fun place to drink in the culture, and local Piton beer, as you sit on wobbly plastic chairs at the food court watching the bustling crowds of locals and tourists barter for spices and handmade crafts. With a plate of macaroni pie from Alemphia’s stall and your sketchbook in hand, there’s no richer way to savour the Caribbean scene.

    While you’re there: Time to put down your pencil? There’s plenty to do here, from zip-lining through the rainforest in Babonneau (£35, adventuretoursstlucia.com) to walking the lofty Tet Paul nature trail near the Pitons (£42, stluciasguidedtours.com). For something truly memorable, try a guided St Lucian-style Segway tour (£51, lucianstyle.com) where you get to sample island fruits while having a hysterical time with the local guides.

    This is how you do it: the beach at St James’s Club Morgan Bay by Adam Stower © Adam Stower

    Bring home: A love for sketching and some great new friends – my sketchbook is a wonderful and unique souvenir of my Caribbean holiday. And some rum − if you’re touring the island call into St Lucia Distillers (saintluciarums.com) in Roseau Valley (near Marigot) and buy from source. The prices are extremely good − go for the Chairman’s Reserve. Other popular buys are spices, hot sauces (and they are hot!), and cocoa sticks (best used grated when you’re making a chocolate cake).

    Book now: The next Sketch Club at St James’s Club Morgan Bay runs 6-10 May 2014. A seven-night package with Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk), departing 5 May 2014 and staying in a deluxe oceanview room on an all-inclusive basis, costs from £1,428 per person based on two sharing, including flights from London Gatwick and transfers. Book by 28 February 2014, for details see here.

    Info: Insight Compact Guide St Lucia (£6.99; Insight Guides) covers the island and has suggested tours, for more information see stlucia.org.


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