Sketch Ireland with Avis Fleming

The town of Roundstone, watercolor by Avis Fleming.

Roundstone, County Galway, on the Western Irish coast. From Avis Fleming’s sketchbook.

This May, artists can pack their sketchbooks and join the latest Art League travel workshop for a tour of the Irish coastline, painting and drawing their way through the countryside’s natural and man-made sights with veteran instructor Avis Fleming. (Click to view her website, with a biography and images of work from Ireland and other travel workshops.)

Avis, an Art League teacher for 25 years, has taught travel workshops to Louisiana and the Czech Republic, and this will be her third Ireland workshop. When we first asked her to arrange a trip for us, she and her husband, Paul Hodge, went on a scouting trip to scope out the best drawing spots in Western Ireland. It was a natural fit — the couple owns Connemara ponies, an Irish breed, and love the country’s literature and music.

Musicians in an Irish pub. From Avis Fleming's sketchbook.

Musicians in an Irish pub. From Avis Fleming’s sketchbook.

On this year’s trip, May 24–June 3, a private bus will take artists to small coastal towns, castles and abbeys, bays and harbors, natural wonders, prehistoric monuments, and picturesque locales rural and urban. Destinations include:

  • Westport, an English-style town, with accommodations at the three-star Clew Bay Hotel
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen (c. 2500 B.C.) on the Burren limestone formation in County Clare
  • Clifden, with accommodations in the award-winning Quay House overlooking the harbor
  • Two days in Roundstone, a painter’s dream location

… and many other stops. The group will spend a couple of days in each location, taking day trips to select sites and staying in charming small hotels like the two linked above. (There’s a link to the full itinerary below.)

The workshop will stop at the Cliffs of Moher after leaving Shannon Airport on their first day in Ireland. Image by

The workshop will stop at the Cliffs of Moher after leaving Shannon Airport on their first day in Ireland. Photograph by Chris Murphy.

A typical day begins with breakfast, followed by a morning meeting to discuss the day ahead and strategies for capturing the sights. On the first days, Avis will give demonstrations to start things off. The bus will take everyone to the morning’s drawing destination — like the Burren limestone plateau or the town of Cong — followed by another drawing session at a different location, after lunch (lots of seafood, lamb, stews, potatoes, and pub fare). The trip’s timing in late May means there will be plenty of daylight for the artists. Evenings are free for people to enjoy music, sightseeing, pubs, or just talking and relaxing.

The workshop focuses on drawing techniques, and Avis says artists can bring watercolors, pens, pencils, and colored pencils along with their sketchbooks and recommends bringing some high-quality paper in a small size, too. Avis also suggested a Winsor & Newton traveler’s box of watercolors and the Tombow dual brush pens, which have a pen tip and a brush tip — both of which are sold at The Art League Store.

"View from the Sky Road, County Galway, Ireland," watercolor, by Avis Fleming.

“View from the Sky Road, County Galway, Ireland,” watercolor, by Avis Fleming.

Travelers should also bring warm clothes, jeans and sneakers, and a waterproof jacket, since the weather in Ireland can be unpredictable. The average high temperatures for the city of Galway in May and June are in the low 60s.

If you want to see the kinds of restaurants and shops you’ll be able to visit, you can check out Discover Ireland and What’s On Connemara. And if you want to bring along your significant other who isn’t an artist, spouses who won’t be bringing sketchbooks can join Avis’s husband Paul for a golfing tour along the way.

Interested in the trip? You can find all the information and download the full itinerary on our website, and stay tuned for an information night for potential travelers! Also, you can read our travel workshop FAQ here. See below for more photos and sketches of Western Ireland:

The ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal tomb on the Burren limestone formation in County Clare. From Avis Fleming’s sketchbook.

View from a Kenmore golf course. Non-artist spouses can go on a golfing tour with Avis's husband, Paul Hodge.

View from a Kenmore golf course. Non-artist spouses can go on a golfing tour with Avis’s husband, Paul Hodge. Watercolor from Avis Fleming’s sketchbook.

The town of Kinvara, where the group will visit the first two days.

The town of Kinvara, which the group will visit on their first day in Ireland. Photograph by Eoin Gardiner.

One of many fishing ports and harbors on the coast. From Avis Fleming's sketchbook.

One of many fishing ports and harbors on the coast. From Avis Fleming’s sketchbook.

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  1. Deborah Ellis

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