2019 Courses

This page lists longer residential courses or ‘painting holidays’.  For 1 and 2-day Workshops please see separate tab on Welcome/tuition page.

NEW – ‘Coastal Scenes & Scottish skies’, 3th – 7th June, 2019
FSC Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland.
Please scroll down for full information.



2019 List of course locations & dates – now booking!


Flatford Mill, Suffolk – April 8th – 12th

Exmoor & North Devon coast – May 14th – 17th

Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland – June 3rd – 7th

North Norfolk – Sept 1st – 5th


Booking information and full details of courses are available via the relevant websites, links to which are below. 
 don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help with any enquiry you may have.


Flatford Mill:

Exmoor & North Devon coast:

Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland: http://www.field-studies-council.org/centres/scotland/millport.aspx

North Norfolk:  https://www.bigskyartcourses.com/


I hope you’ll agree that these locations, together and individually, offer an inspiring range of painting opportunities and I’d be delighted if you choose to join me at one.  Each course includes as much plein air painting as possible, weather-permitting of course, and I will work hard to help each painter from whatever their current level.

Now, as it’s brand new, here are full details of my Scotland course:-


View from near FSC Millport at sunset. Photo courtesy Chris Smith, copyright.

‘Coastal Scenes & Scottish Skies’

June 3rd – 7th, 2019.  Only £510 or £482 shared occupancy


Forgive me if I sound rather excited as I tell you about this.
I’ve been wanting to teach and paint in Scotland for ages, so I’m delighted to have found the perfect spot and hatched a new painting course with one of my favourite nature organisations The Field Studies Council, based on the beautiful little island of Great Cumbrae.
Here is what you need to know first of all:-

Fabulous location with inspiring painting opportunities. 
(You know I put this above all else if I have any say in the matter…)
It’s right outside our door!  Within a short walk we have very characterful craggy coastal rocks, sandy beaches, views towards the mountains on the Isle of Arran, slipways, boats, a harbour with interesting buildings (either a 25 minute walk or 4 minute drive, in the island’s only town, Millport).  And of course a lot of Scottish sky and sea.

Scotland’s ‘easiest to get to island’.
Very regular car ferry takes 8 minutes from Largs (rail connection from Glasgow – or a 45 minute drive), and close to Glasgow’s 2 airports.
All our painting locations are also much closer than on most painting holidays, and we may not even need to drive at all.  The Isle of Cumbrae is very small. You can cycle around it in 1 hour!

Excellent hospitality and modern facilities.
Please follow the relevant links lower down the page to read all about this.

4 days of tuition, all at an extremely competitive price, and low number of 12 painters max.
This is surely unmatched!  But it’s not too good to be true.  It is true.
As always, I will work hard to help you develop your painting throughout the course, which begins with an evening session (course introduction) after your first evening meal on the day of arrival.  The course then runs each day from 9.30am – 4.30pm, with an additional session in the evening, which might be a demonstration or a ‘paintalong’ (optional, if you’re tired out by then!).  The course finishes at 4pm on the final day.

I could go on about the wildlife on and around the island, but before anything else, please watch this short video showing our base, and location on Cumbrae.  Filmed by drone, the video gives an excellent overview of the landscape:

Also (particularly for the beaches and harbour shots) take a look at the Gallery page of the island’s tourism website, here:


Course Description

Based here on the Isle of Great Cumbrae, we have a range of inspiring coastal landscape subjects, including both rocky and sandy shorelines, with views across water to other islands including the mountains on the Isle of Arran.  Also boats and some harbour scenery with interesting surrounding buildings. And above it all of course, the ever-changing, often dramatic Scottish skies.

It is intended that outdoor painting (often known as ‘plein air’) will be a major part of the course, and we will head out with our gear to paint at least part of each day, thereby taking inspiration from direct contact with our subject.  
Therefore, please ensure you come well prepared for some potentially less-than-perfect weather, and uneven, potentially damp under-foot terrain, including beaches.  Walking boots would probably be good.  There will be a bit of walking and carrying equipment, though we are blessed with some excellent subjects very close by.  Please ensure also you don’t forget to bring an easel, or a portable seat/stool depending whether you wish to work seated or standing, as well as a board for your paper (please read carefully the separate ‘What to Bring’/Materials list.)

Some sessions will be based in the studio even if weather is glorious, where technique and problems encountered may more easily be addressed as a group.  Tuition will be a mix of demonstration, some exercises and step-by-step painting, and plenty of individual guidance as students work on their own paintings.

Fundamentals such as subject selection & composition, tonal contrast, colour use, brush control and ‘interpretation’ will be regularly discussed along with the core watercolour techniques.  Observation, simplification and achieving correct tonal values are of particular importance, and the use of soft and hard edges will be demonstrated and practised in a variety of contexts, including skies.

A fairly direct, ‘loose’ or ‘impressionistic’ approach to handling the medium will be demonstrated, and some boldness encouraged.  Watercolour can sometimes create fear in the student, but many of the best results involve a bit of ‘risktaking’.  Jem believes that there is nothing to lose and much to be gained by treating everything as ‘just practise’, and the will to experiment and take chances usually leads to quicker progression.
Throughout the demonstrations and overall guidance reference will be made to the underlying principles and considerations that are applicable however differing a painter’s ‘style’.  Negative painting, tonal contrast,  soft and hard edges, mark making, and a personal choice of colour are just some of the aspects of interpreting a subject (even a still life or portrait) that tend to apply regardless of style, and the latter evolves over time through practise.
It is usually the case that students will learn from each other as well as from the tutor, and we may lay out work to share and discuss it at points during the course, or for a final review of our achievements at the end.

Upon arrival at an outdoor location Jem will guide students each time in how to assess the scene for potential subjects, how they may best use their equipment, and provide much advice based on his extensive experience as an outdoor and studio painter.

He will give a full outdoor demonstration early in the course and will repeat this as is appropriate to the group.  He will then offer guidance and support to each student equally as they work on their own paintings.  

The course includes a session each evening, of approximately one hour, following the evening meal.  This may be just a demonstration by Jem or alternatively a ‘paintalong’.  
As it is your painting break/course, you are always at liberty to finish early or opt out of an activity if you wish, to simply relax.  It can be surprising how tiring painting outdoors can be!

Please carefully consider the outdoor aspect of the course.  It isn’t suitable for absolute beginners to watercolour, and hence knowledge of the very basics is assumed.  Students should therefore already have their own watercolour materials and at least a fair grasp of the most common techniques.  This is because working outdoors does bring some additional challenges (as well as additional pleasures) to painting in this wonderful medium.  
Please don’t hesitate to contact Jem, the tutor if you have any query about the course in relation to your experience, or anything else:
jembowdenwatercolour@gmail.com  Tel. 0117 9711735.

What To Bring

You need to be self-sufficient and provide your own materials.  
Note, the Centre does not hold spare easels or portable seats/stools.  Please read the following very carefully. Jem recommends you bring all the watercolour materials you usually use and are familiar with, but hopefully these would include the following:


At least one large (or very large!) wash brush, such as a squirrel or other natural hair, ideally a Round although if you don’t have one a Flat will do.

A medium/large Round synthetic brush, or natural hair with a good point.  Descriptions of ‘medium’ vary, as do numbered sizes between brands, but this may be about 6 – 8 mm across at the ferrule, depending on the scale at which you wish to work.

Synthetic (generally less soft) brushes have their advantages, such as when you want to pick up less water and more pigment in your mix, and this will be useful during the course.

In general, larger brushes will be much more useful than small ones.  If it is easy, just bring all you have.


Again, bring your usual preferred colours and brand.  For information in case you wish to use the same (though he stresses that it is not at all necessary!) Jem will probably be using mainly the Winsor & Newton Professional range in the following colours:  French Ultramarine, Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Light Red, Indian Red, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Winsor Lemon (or any bright yellow), Cobalt Turquoise.

Jem strongly recommends tube paints rather than pans if at all possible, for ease of mixing large washes and to obtain strong darks.


Your own choice of brand and size.  At least 140lb (300g) and Not (Cold-pressed) or Rough surface.  Hot-pressed is usually less appropriate for landscape painting.  For information again, Jem currently often (but not always) uses Bockingford 200lb Not, which is affordable yet good quality.
See also MISC below, re. method of affixing paper.

Bring plenty of paper! – enough for potentially 2 or more finished paintings per day, plus some extra sheets for exercises and mishaps.  Also some small bits of scrap for testing on.


Palette ideally with several large mixing areas.  Very small palettes are generally a hindrance, not a help, and this includes when painting outdoors!

Soft pencil (Jem uses 8B) & soft or putty eraser.

A board, for affixing paper to, and tape to do this with (self-adhesive ‘Framer’s tape’ or masking tape, etc) or pre-stretched with gum tape onto individual boards if you prefer.  Alternatively a watercolour ‘block’ can be a good solution.  Working within a pad can be okay but only at quite a small scale.

Kitchen/toilet rolls/rag for drying brushes on (important!).  Jem uses an old pair of towelling socks.

Portable water container/pot, and bottle (plastic being the lightest to carry) for transportation of water.

Digital camera/smartphone camera or tablet.  A camera is very useful as a viewfinder, and for other reasons.  Alternatively a simple card viewfinder is a substitute, though generally less easy to use.  Please bring a viewfinder of some sort or other.

Peaked or wide-brimmed hat, for looking towards the light and sun protection.  Also the odd drop of rain!

Insect repellent, sun lotion etc.  (This is Scotland, so it’s possible there may be some midges.)

Bag (e.g. a rucksack) & light folder/portfolio or suitable alternative, for carrying all of the above.

Easel, unless you wish to work with paper/board on your lap (for info, Jem stands and paints at an easel when demonstrating and painting generally).
In case you are in the market for a new easel Jem thoroughly recommends the ‘Jakar Lightweight Adjustable Watercolour Eeasel’ which can be found for sale online.

Light, portable seat or stool, if you will work seated.
Note, you need to provide your own easel and/or seat, and board; the Centre does not hold spares.

Suitable clothing and footwear for you to be comfortable and safe outdoors in potentially a variety of weathers and underfoot conditions, including sandy beaches.  (Walking boots tend to cover all eventualities well.)

If you have any query relating to materials, equipment or course content please do contact Jem in advance of booking (jembowdenwatercolour@gmail.com, or 0117 9711735)


Useful links regarding travel to the island (very easy!), Accommodation, etc.


Hospitality & Accommodation:

General info about ‘FSC Millport’, our base on Cumbrae:

Some snippets about facilities.

Our studio space includes a very large digital screen which will be very useful for some of the indoor tuition.  I have worked with this facility before (at Flatford Mill) and found it to be a great bonus when it comes to teaching indoors.
FSC Millport recently installed super-fast fibre optic internet connection, which is accessible from common areas and all rooms. 
There is an on-site licensed bar with guest lounge and TV. We offer a small range of local beers, ales and wines, such as Isle of Arran blonde and Belhaven’s 80 Shillings.
The picturesque town of Millport, a favourite holiday resort for generations, is only a 10 minute walk away (less than 1 mile) from our centre. Millport has local shops and amenities, including five pubs, a small supermarket, bike hire shops, a laundrette and a bank with cash machine. Cycle around the island (it only takes one hour) or visit the Ritz Café for a 1950s throwback.

Airports & the ferry:

Glasgow has 2 international airports, as well as the rail and bus links of any major city.  Glasgow itself is only a 45 minute drive from Largs, where you catch the very regular car ferry to Cumbrae (which takes only 10 minutes).

Here’s a link to the ferry timetable:


More useful information is available here:



Getting there

From the town of Largs (which can be reached from Glasgow in 45 minutes, either by train or by car) make your way to the seafront where the ferry terminal is located. The ferry to Cumbrae (£3.20 on foot, return ticket) runs every 15 minutes in summer and every 30 minutes in winter, and it takes eight minutes to get you to the Island. Once the island a bus service (£3.30 return) meets every ferry and drops you off outside the centre, which is at the start of the Millport town 30mph zone.
Alternatively, take your car on the ferry (£12.20 return). Once on the Island turn left on the main coastal road. Keep on it for about 3 miles, until you get to the Millport 30mph speed limit area. FSC Millport is the set of buildings on your right hand side.


Booking information:-

Full Booking details:

Telephone: 01475 531420
Email: enquiries.mil@field-studies-council.org

Address: Millport Field Centre
Isle of Cumbrae
KA28 0EG