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TRAVEL / Hobby Holidays: Painting

'THERE is no way to success in art but to take off your coat, grind paint, and work like a digger on the rail-road, all day and every day.' At least that's what Ralph Waldo Emerson felt about painting.

If you take a more relaxed attitude, and like the idea of a week or two behind an easel,absorbing the countryside or sketching a studio nude, there's no shortage of places to choose. The success of your holiday is likely to depend as much on the chemistry of the group you end up in, and whether you feel inspired by the teacher, as the place you choose. Most courses are held in beautiful landscapes so if your art is a let-down, you can take solace in the view.

Most 1994 programmes have not been finalised. Prices given are mainly for 1993 and may well rise. They include full board and tuition but not travel, unless indicated. Materials (paints, brushes and so on) are not always included, but you'll be given a list of what to take.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Virtually all specialist courses and holidays will cater for beginners and artists of any standard. Many will also let you choose your own medium (though oils can be a problem because of the long drying times). You'll be taken through the main principles, usually in groups of up to about 15 people. If you're really serious about learning it might be better to enrol in evening classes. Earnley Concourse (0243 670 392), near Chichester, an adult education centre, takes a more formal approach to tuition than some, and this winter is holding 21 drawing and painting courses - from Chinese brush painting on silk to an introduction to pastels. Most are held over a weekend and cost pounds 124.

THE CONSTABLE FACTOR: For those who want to follow in the footsteps of the great:

Suffolk: The Field Studies Council (0743 850674) holds a one-week course (among many others at its centres around the country) 'Painting in Constable Country'. It is based at Flatford Mill and costs pounds 229.

TAKING IT EASY: You're unlikely to suffer from stress on these holidays, but two tour operators offer morning-only programmes that you can combine with a beach holiday:

Rhodes: Sunmed Go Greek (061-745 7000) charges an optional extra of pounds 55 for morning courses when you book an April holiday in Lindos, ( pounds 200- pounds 250 per week, including flights).

Tobago: Caribbean Gold (081-741 8491) runs a 10-day, mornings-only 'Jungle Art' course with its beach holidays. The course costs pounds 175 on top of the 10-day rate of around pounds 1,000 in high season (including flights).

SPLASHING OUT: The cost of painting holidays is roughly proportionate to the distance travelled. But you do get stunning scenery, reliable light and good weather for your money:

Morocco and more: Artscape (0702 435990) runs courses in several countries, from 10 days in Morocco ( pounds 929 including flights), to nine days in Brittany ( pounds 800).

Cyprus: Sunvil's (081-568 4499) painting programme costs pounds 939 (including flights) for two weeks.

Italy: The Centro d'Arte Verrocchio (071-727 3313), based in a converted farm in the village of Casole, near Siena, is run by sculptor Nigel Konstam. Visiting tutors teach painting for two-week stints, cost pounds 450- pounds 500 (see Cutting Costs, below).

France: Stanley Woolston (010 3365 717964) holds painting and sketching weeks costing pounds 454 at his studios near Albi in South-west France. Sessions include group discussion.

FAMILY FAVOURITES: It's not usually a problem to take a non-painting partner with you (in fact there'soften a slight reduction on the fees) but, if you don't mind having children there as well, try these:

Taunton Summer School (0823 276543), based at Taunton School, runs a variety of art courses for adults and activities for children aged seven to 15. Family rooms cost pounds 235 per person (for a week's course), or you can put the children in a dormitory and book a double room. The school's 1994 courses will be held at Easter only.

The Field Studies Council (see above) organises special family painting holidays in the Greek (Dodecanese) islands. Adults pay pounds 680 for a week including flights, children pounds 340.

The Kingcombe Centre (0300 20684), near Dorchester, holds occasional painting days for children ( pounds 9.50) as well as a residential programme.

GOING SOLO: This is excellent territory for single travellers. Many people attend alone, the centres usually have plenty of single rooms and very few charge single-room supplements.

CUTTING COSTS: Prices stay fairly steady on most of these holidays throughout the year, so you can't make savings by going out of season. Godfrey Meggitt (see below) is particularly good value, while the Centro d'Arte Verrocchio (see above) has a self-catering option for pounds 100 less, while under-thirties get a pounds 40 reduction and can save another pounds 80 in return for 'light kitchen work' - it also offers five scholarships to young artists not following a degree course.

THE INDEPENDENT ARTIST: Two options are particularly flexible:

Wales: Acorn Activities (0432 357335), based in Herefordshire and Wales, runs day courses including oil painting, painting on china and other crafts. For most you pay ( pounds 35) by the day and book as many days as you like. Arrange your own accommodation, or book through them.

Godfrey Meggitt (0656 647 304) runs weekend drawing and painting holidays on a gorgeous estate on the Welsh coast, with hearty food and simple accommodation. His wife Io also teaches in her blacksmith's shop. Courses are arranged by mutual discussion and cost about pounds 80.

Lizzie Cox and Julian Fraser (0984 631048) are artists who live in Somerset and run short courses for children and for adults. These include weekends of walking and drawing on Exmoor; two days textile-printing; etching, watercolour and stone lithography.

Specialist magazines such as Leisure Painter and the Artist's and Illustrator's Magazine run advertisements from many centres and schools in the classified section.