Posts Tagged ‘art holidays’

Following our extensive refurbishment, I can now announce that our beautiful studio space is available for Artists and Students visiting the stunning Old Town Sozopol, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast.


Located right opposite the Naval College, and the Fishing Harbour, our air-conditioned and heated studio couldn’t be better located. It’s within a two minute walk of the cobbled streets of The Old Town.

The space is available either with or without Martin the studio manager, and our logistics assistant Sarah, who is also on hand offering Yoga and soothing Massages on site.

The studio, is light and spacious, with stunning views accross the busy harbour. It comes fully equipped with the following :-

  • Tables, chairs and easels enough for 12-20 students
  • Basic artist quality watercolour materials, including the full range of Tintoretto paints, in tubes and stock of Bockingford 300gsm Rough paper, all available to buy.
  • Projection equipment.
  • Demonstration equipment, including HD Video and Editing
  • Air conditioning and ample fans for the hot Summer Months. With heating for out of season breaks.
  • Outside space for painting or for lunches with tables, benches and shade.
  • Bathroom including shower, sink and toilet.
  • Fitted kitchenette with cooking facilities.
  • Fresh Coffee machine.
  • Water Chiller.
  • Wi-Fi
  • Large screen TV and DVD player
  • Hi-Fi Sound system
  • Car Park right opposite
  • Free nearby self catering studio apartment for the tutor.

It is surrounded with some of the best Restaurants in the area, where not surprisingly locally caught fish is high on the menu.


For those that have not been to Sozopol before, for many years the Town was one of the best kept secrets, and was a haven for wealthy Russian and boasts a thriving Art scene culminating in the Apollonia Festival at the end of August/ beginning of September. This Art and Music festival is a fantastic time of year to visit.

The Town is also home to a plethora of Art and Craft Galleries, including the Municipal Art Gallery, and also the many Museums, boasting the rich history of this former Greek fishing port, formerly known as Apollonia.


One of the best (and more surprising things) about Bulgaria is that it is incredibly cheap, from accommodation to food and drink, you’ll find the place offers excellent value for money, being half the price of more, let’s say ‘fashionable’ painting locations.

The area around Sozopol is part of the tree covered Strandja mountains, and is home to stunning scenery be it craggy coastline, forests, ancient standing stones and of course not forgetting the charm of the the cobbled streets and old wooden framed houses, Sozopol has everything an artist could hope for. It has always been a mecca for artists through the ages, not without good reason.

A Corner of Sozopol

Whilst Sozopol has it’s traditions and is still a working fishing port, The Town still boasts all the trappings of other holiday destinations including many stunning sandy beaches, 300 Sunny Days a year and food that tastes like it used to. If it’s partying you want they have that too with many bars, music venues and clubs mainly situated in the New Town area, a 10 minute walk away through the Old Town.

In short Sozopol is a fantastic holiday destination, whether you are on a painting holiday, or an artist wanting to take your students somewhere more unusual. The Town has it all and so does our studio, which is available to rent, at very reasonable rates, by the day or week, with or without staff, the choice is yours.

So when you have exhausted the more fashionable places, why not give Sozopol a try. As the BBC said recently ‘Bulgaria offers the best value holiday destination in Europe’.

For further information please message me or e-mail

You can also read about other artists experiences in Sozopol here What the customers say about my e-book and teaching methods

Hope to see you soon.

Sarah Astbury and Martin Stephenson

Sarah & Martin

Sarah ( Logistics, Yoga and Massages) and Martin (Artist, Teacher and Studio Manager)

Why indeed ?

Here is a little idea for all budding artists out there.


Here ‘s how your envelope may look, when you get it back

It’s an idea I got from fellow Malay artist Chang Fee Ming, check his work out.


So the idea is that you paint on an envelope, mine as you can see was a printed envelope. You can either put yours or the recipient’s address on the front over the painted envelope, or as I did on the back of the envelope.

It was funny trying to explain to the Hotel receptionist in Malaysia, that I wanted my letter posted back to myself, back to the resort, she clearly thought I was an eccentric Englisman. But she duly obliged. Hey presto when it comes back to you, it’s franked with the date and location, and covered in lovely foreign stamps.

A lovely reminder of your trip, or a nice present for someone back home when you are on your travels.

As Chang pointed out though some do go missing in the post, or like mine the postal service didn’t arrived before we left the Country, and it had to be forwarded by the Resort.

Here are a few more examples, why not give it a try ?

envelope-6 envelope-8 envelopes-1 envelopes-2


I was asked this question the other day during one of my lessons, so thought that I would share this on here.

Call to prayer in Istanbul

The washes on this painting were done very wet and you can see slight buckling of the paper.

Q. What paper do you use and why ?

A. I use 140lb (300gsm) Bockingford rough paper Why ?


Well a few factors really I like how the rough texture, suits my subject matter, and my quite wet painting method.

When I first started I used to stretch my paper, using gummed tape, but now find that I can use masking tape which leaves a nice white edge around the painting, and obviates the need for all that stretching and planning ahead. I can also use the same paper for my students too, as it’s not too expensive.

Another factor here in Bulgaria is that it is usually available in my favourite art shop in Burgas, the Armstrong Centre, where I usually buy a whole pack of 25 sheets at a time sealed in it’s bag. This ensures that after the factory worker that made it, (St.Cuthberts Mill in England) that I am only the second person to handle it.The reason this is important is that the surface should NEVER be touched with your fingers, which always have residual oils on them, which can ruin your finished art work . Something your average art shop assistant seems unaware of !

I would encourage you to experiment with the paper you can buy locally, and when you find one that suits you STICK WITH IT and get to know it’s qualities (and maybe it’s limitations too) .


If you paper is too thin it will buckle badly when you wet it and leave your finished paper in ‘stripes’ where the paint settled in the hollows. Too heavy and whilst it won’t buckle at all the surface can be a little ‘dead’ and un-responsive.



This is a very personal thing, a flat paper surface sometimes called ‘Hot Pressed’ is more receptive to flat washes and more detailed work . ‘Cold Pressed and Rough’ gives all those lovely ‘happy accidents’ where the paint sediment collects in the hollows.Try doing  a wash using say Burnt Umber and Ultramarine and you will see what I mean.

I think that if you stick with the main brands of papers from Saunders or Arches you really can’t go wrong. Most of the main manufacturers will send you samples so you can experiment. A google search for Watercolour Paper should get you to all the manufacturers Worldwide.


Yes you can, but I rarely do, as the paper, having been painted previously on one side is never completely flat. By the way you can tell the ‘face’ front of the paper by checking for the logo. Sometimes you have to hold it up to the light to see the watermark.


I always used to cut my paper, to fit my 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8th sheet standard mounts, but it was very labour intensive especially if I was preparing 20 pieces for a large workshop class. After reading a book by one of my favourite Australian artists John Lovett I used his method of simply marking my board with half, quarter and eight sheet sizes, laying down the sheet and tearing against a large metal square, bought from a DIY store. I handle the paper only by the edges when tearing, then storing it in plastic bags to keep it in pristine condition.

If you are a complete beginner, and find that big white piece of relatively expensive paper intimidating,  (GIVING YOU THE FEELING THAT I SIMPLY MUST PRODUCE A PAINTING) try using Wallpaper lining paper, that should be a liberating experience. Stand up, put some music on, and get out your biggest brushes, and just have fun !

I hope this has been helpful.


Happy Painting !