A move to scenic Argyll not only brought artist Karen Beauchamp closer to her daughter, but also led to her forming close ties with fellow creatives – thanks to a new career hosting ‘art holidays’ inspired by her new home and location. 
By Beverley Brown.

SCOTLAND’S diverse landscape has forever inspired artists, musicians and those motivated by a desire to interpret the light, moods, textures, and colours of the natural world in their medium of choice – which in the case of artist Karen Beauchamp, could be paint, pastel, or linocuts. Moreover, at a time in life when many professional artists might consider retirement, Karen discovered a new passion and vigour for teaching, opening her Arts and Crafts home in Argyll to inspire budding artists of all levels.

Having lived and worked in London most of her life, Karen’s decision to move to Argyll in 2010 was partly driven by the desire to pursue her own artistic interests, but also to be closer to her daughter Katie, in Ardfern.

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“It was a life-changing decision, particularly as I didn’t have a firm plan in mind other than to find and buy a house somewhere in Argyll and paint,” says Karen.

“Glenreasdale House was the second property I viewed. Overlooking West Loch Tarbert at Whitehouse, a secluded but not remote part of Kintyre close to the picturesque fishing village of Tarbert, I knew instantly it was the one – an Arts and Crafts mansion built in 1907 as a hunting lodge for Peter Mackie, founder of White Horse Whisky.”

The house had been converted into four properties and this was the middle section, which had the tower, walled garden, bow windows and a massive castle-like front door. Inside, the light had a magical quality and although the house needed work, Karen was not afraid of tackling big houses, having trained as an architect before diversifying into design and establishing her own wallpaper, print and design company, eventually joining Cole & Son Wallpapers where she spent ten years as creative director and specialist in historic wallpapers.

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Shortlisted in March this year for the British Art Prize, Karen’s recent work has been the subject of solo and mixed exhibitions throughout Scotland.

Karen set about upgrading the house in keeping with its original features while reflecting her passion for design and architecture. In between, she set up her easel and started to paint, “albeit driven by necessity with so many huge wall spaces to fill,” she quips.

“It was at this point I suddenly realised the house and location could be an ideal basis for art holidays, whereby guests could stay in the house, I could do the catering, and invite guest artists to undertake the teaching.”

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The debut event for Whitehouse Studio Painting Holidays was held over a long weekend, and led by local artist Margaret Ker, a fellow member of Artmap Argyll, a network of artists who live and work on the west coast and collaborate for the annual Artmap Open Studios event in August.

“It was a huge success and from then on I gradually took on more of a tutoring role and to my surprise, discovered I love teaching.

“Since then, professionally guided five-day art experiences designed for all levels of ability, including complete beginners, have become a permanent Spring and Autumn fixture to take advantage of the light and colours and make it possible to work outside, visit inspirational locations, and use the studio space for tutorials or to finish off work from sketchbook drawings.”

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In fact, testimonials reveal Karen to be an inspirational teacher across many different mediums, from painting to design and printmaking. Professionally, since moving to Argyll, she has designed wallpaper for the Miller Harris perfume brand, a bejewelled wallpaper collection for Swarovski, and more recently has been working with Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, Isidore Leroy in Paris, and Lincrusta.

The pandemic ruled out all but one event in 2020 and this year, as hosting courses in her home was going to be too problematic, Karen has moved it to the four-star Loch Melfort Country House Hotel in Arduaine, midway between Oban and Lochgilphead and only a two-hour drive from Glasgow (lochmelfort.co.uk).

The hotel is set in 17 acres including magnificent gardens and beaches on the coast overlooking the Sound of Jura and the Inner Hebrides.

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“The hotel is informal, relaxed, and for each of the courses we have been allocated six en-suite bedrooms, all with sea views, which can be used as single, twin or double rooms for up to 12 people on a full board basis,” says Karen. “We will be taking full advantage of the hotel’s gardens and beaches, but there will also be short journeys to inspiring locations as well as studio space for use when not painting outdoors.”

Art equipment – easels, drawing boards, cleaning products, paper towels and a varied selection of art materials – will be provided.

Prices for the Autumn 2021 five-day courses start at £1,750 per person based on two people sharing (single supplement £225, while a non-painter partner costs £925) and includes full board accommodation and art tuition for six hours a day. Courses start on a Sunday afternoon and finish on Saturday morning after breakfast.

Can’t draw or paint but would like to find your inner Picasso? Get in touch.