See the world and improve your craft

Vacation as a working artist

We travel for many reasons-to see friends and family, relax and get a tan to escape winter, but why not improve your artwork with a trip to someplace you've never been for a workshop?

Retirement can be a difficult time for those aging out of jobs that once consumed our daily lives. The space that opens up in our time seems to be a pit that must be filled or we are left to fritter away the rest of our lives bored in front of a TV set.

It doesn't have to be so.

Cindi Lagoudakis, a retired U.S. Forest Service employee and once temporary mayor of Petersburg developed has been honing her art since retiring a while back.

"The workshop I took was with the Printmaking Sisters Annie Day and Robin Ezra of Australia," Lagoudakis said. "I'd stumbled onto their information online and signed up for a newsletter. They mentioned this class in Florence, Italy, and I decided to join in. Fascinating experience. We were in an historic studio in the Oltrarno, a neighborhood across the Arno River from Florence."

It was pricey.

"The course cost $3,100 Australian ($2,137 US), and then I had to rent an apartment for a month, so fairly spendy. It lasted three weeks," she said.

The Creative Printmaking Techniques is offered to those artists with any level of experience - from beginners to practicing printmakers, book artists, papermakers and painters.

The 60-hour studio-based class of hands-on aluminum etching and waterless lithography features personalized instruction alongside other printmakers in a supportive environment. Included in tuition is a welcome dinner, a comprehensive set of notes, most materials, and a walking tour with an art historian, as well as a studio pouch for small printmaking paraphernalia, a little hand-made book containing a print by all attendees for all to take home. There is also a historic walking tour with an art historian.

The workshop is located in Il Bisonte in the picturesque neighborhood of San Niccolo, and close by are the cultural treasures of the Pitti Palace, the Uffizzi, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce church, and the Piazzle Michelangelo, which displays a bronze copy of his statue of David.

When not in the studio, Lagoudakis explored the area on foot and ate and ate.

"I loved Florence and didn't mind the crowds too much, though they can get to be pretty crushing," she said. "They also make for long lines at the more popular venues, so planning ahead is a good idea.

The food was amazing - even the fresh fruit and vegetables from the market were very tasty. I can't remember being disappointed by a meal."

Still it was a challenge to find one's way around an ancient city.

"The hardest part about being in Florence, other than walking on cobblestone, is that the streets change names frequently and go off at different angles," she said. House numbers don't always appear to be consecutive either, so it can make finding your way a little tricky. Traffic down narrow streets can be daunting whether you are a walker or fellow motorist. One has to pay attention!"

Or head to Maine

How about an art institute with a week's $350 meal plan that includes a lobster dinner?

Maine Media, one of the country's longest-running workshop programs, offers instruction from beginner to advanced and master class levels. You can choose from one-week courses to 10- and 12-week intensives

in photography, filmmaking, book arts and design, and writing.

They have high-octane teachers.

For the course "The Pen and the Camera," renowned non-fiction writer Richard Goodman and Eddie Soloway, who in 1998, received the Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award from the Santa Fe Center for Photography. And the Photo District News named Soloway one of America's

best photography workshop teachers in 2010. They oversee a week exploring the intersection of writing and photography and how to clarify your direction and express your voice.

While not as expensive as Florence, the tuition for this course is $1,495 and room and board on campus is $1,095 for a single for Sunday through Saturday and for a couple, $1,495, which includes meals for two.

The community meals with delicious food and passionate conversation are an integral part of the Maine Media experience, and so the meal plan is required for all students.

There are also photo workshops to the island of Crete in Greece, New York City Street Photography, Paris Street Photography, "Myths and The Land: The Hawaii Workshop", and Venice with photographer Peter Turnley, an American photojournalist known for documenting the human condition and current events. He is also a street photographer who has lived in and photographed Paris since 1978.

Workshops in other locations include: "Spirit of Structure: Ghost Towns of Western Montana"; "Lake Myvatn, Iceland Writing Retreat"; a documentary workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico; and best of all, A photography and nature cruise on Penobscot Bay, Maine, aboard Windjammer Angelique, a 130-foot traditionally rigged ketch. This is an all-levels workshop – Sunday through Saturday with accommodations and meals aboard Angelique ($1,275).

For the Iceland writer's retreat, remember that Icelandic Air offers great packages from Seattle of two-day lodging and flight starting at $1,500.

For more information go to

If you book ahead there is a 10 percent discount and also scholarships at More discounts are offered when bringing a friend or two, and family, too.

And the coast of Maine will be familiar to Alaskans - lots of rocks and cold water. Sometimes there's Northern Lights to boot.

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