Standing Stones, Orkney - Photo credit: Charles Tait

Art is born from inspiration found in extraordinary places...  join us in Orkney and immerse yourself in its remoteness, its rugged beauty, and its mystery. 
It's time for your unforgettable creative journey to begin...


Orkney 2023 - Your Creative Adventure Awaits.  

Orkney - known as the gateway to the Northern Isles - was once described by Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown as having "an imagination haunted by time",  where "the hills tell old stories, and the cliffs are poets with harps."  A collection of enchanting islands off the north coast of Scotland, Orkney is remote, mysterious, idyllic... one never runs out of words to describe this stunning place.  It’s a land of more than 5000 years of neolithic history, with dramatic sea cliffs, a rich artistic vibe and a culture that is truly unique to Orkney. And now YOU have a chance to  experience its magic this summer.  Join talented artists Elske deGroot and  Sylvia Galbraith for a week-long artists' retreat filled with inspiration and wonder.  You'll completely immerse yourself in your art, leaving the distractions of everyday life behind.  Guided by two experienced artists, you'll expand your creative mind and take your art practice to new levels, all while sharing ideas and experiences with your fellow participants.  


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Marwick Head

Do you...

  • have a desire to make art but don't know where to begin?
  •  have creative experience, but want to try new art forms?
  • need time and inspiration for new work?
  • want to discover connections between art, history and location?
  • learn from other creative people?

    If you said "yes", book this retreat!

by George Mackay Brown

Monday I found a boot –
Rust and salt leather.
I gave it back to the sea, to dance in.

Tuesday a spar of timber worth thirty bob.
Next winter
It will be a chair, a coffin, a bed.

Wednesday a half can of Swedish spirits.
I tilted my head.
The shore was cold with mermaids and angels.

Thursday I got nothing, seaweed,
A whale bone,
Wet feet and a loud cough.

Friday I held a seaman’s skull,
Sand spilling from it
The way time is told on kirkyard stones.

Saturday a barrel of sodden oranges.
A Spanish ship
Was wrecked last month at The Kame.

Sunday, for fear of the elders,
I sit on my bum.
What’s heaven? A sea chest with a thousand gold coins.

Where you'll stay

Linkshouse - an artist's legacy.

Once the home of artist Erland Williamson, this historic mansion is situated steps from the North Sea in the village of Birsay on the Mainland Island, Linkshouse has been extensively renovated - the lounge area on the ground floor features framed views out to the lighthouse on the Brough of Birsay and to the imposing cliffs of Marwick Head.  A fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, bathroom and reading snug complete the ground floor. 

You'll find your rooms are restful spaces, each with two single beds and its own bathroom, window desk and some of the best views in Orkney.  Imagine waking up to the sounds of surf and seabirds right outside your window!

Linkshouse also has three individual studios for you to work in as you wish, including two "wet" studios in the stone outbuilding so we can get nice & messy!   They include storage and desk spaces, and will be available any time you feel inspired to work.

Nearby you'll find archeological sites, historic architecture, beaches, and the main towns of Kirkwall and Stromness, filled with shops, cafes, artists' studios, and galleries... they're definitely worth a visit!

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Imagine this...

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Your Room

  • Enjoy a bright, restful shared space
  • Comfortable single beds, two per room
  • Amazing views
  • Modern, ensuite bathroom


  • Modern kitchen equipment
  • Includes catered & self-serve delicious meals prepared for you with seasonal local  produce
  • Fresh locally- baked cakes and breads
  • Vegetarian options available
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Creative  Spaces

  • A quiet reading/thinking nook in the main house
  • Main house studio/workroom for  group discussions & exercises
  • Two creative "messy"studios in a stone outbuilding 
  • 24-hour access to the studios
  • Large windows and skylights with natural light spilling into the spaces

 Local Tours

  • Local history will inspire your creative process
  • Find inspiration among the standing stones, ancient architecture, cottages and incredible beaches
  • Native plants and wildlife abound - perfect subjects for your artwork
  • Visit nearby artists' studios  - pottery, weaving, painting, and more


 The Art 

Supplies are included for:
  • Photography -  bring your own digital or film camera, and a laptop for editing
  • Historic photo processes - cyanotype, lumen prints, pinhole
  • Encaustic -  painting with beeswax, embedding, combining photographs & encaustic
  • Mixed media with found objects

  • Optional - you may wish to bring supplies specific to other media - such as sketching, pastels, oils or acrylic paints, fibre art

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The Itinerary

Here's an idea of what we'll be up to each day, although we might adjust as needed; after all, the creative process can't be controlled by precise timelines, and Orkney's weather has a mind of its own .  Each day will include group instruction & activities, with individual mentorship as well as free time to explore new concepts, or to work on your own. The studios are available 24 hours a day...
(but we DO encourage you to sleep once in a while!)

We believe in mellow mornings!  Start your day with a quiet breakfast or sunrise walk on the beach, or enjoy your coffee while chatting with the others. 
You choose. 

We'll regroup for dinner each night and spend the evenings reviewing the day's accomplishments over a glass of wine or local beer.
Then again, how about some night photography under
the gibbous moon?  

Here's what your week will look like:

Day 1 

Meet in Kirkwall for the trip to Linkshouse, arriving in Birsay to settle in before we gather for dinner.  We'll have an informal group discussion to help everyone establish some goals for the retreat, then check out the studios and grounds to get the creative juices flowing.  

Day 2 
Jumping right in.

Today the fun begins...  both Sylvia and Elske will lead our first session, with discussions on photography, encaustic and mixed media, and get you started in the studios.  They'll help you establish a framework and set some goals for the week.  The afternoon will include a guided tour of the area with a local historian.   

Day 3 
Expanding your mind.

Let's talk about art- theory, structure, composition -  and
take a deep dive into our own processes.  You don't know what that is?  That's o.k.  Elske and Sylvia  are here to help you figure it out.  They have some fun,
thought-provoking exercises planned to help stretch your creative mind.
which sounds painful, but it's not!)

  Day 4 

 Studio Time/Play Time!

Today we get messy.  We'll start the morning by taking a short hike to gather found objects - rocks, seaweed, bits of glass, plants, shipwrecks, sheep fluff (but please, no live sheep!) - then head into the studios to try our hand at different processes like cyanotype photographs,  embedding objects into encaustic, or some combination of these.  Or maybe you'd prefer to photograph, sketch or paint your finds, or collage them onto heavyweight paper?  That's ok too... 
Low tide will be around 2:00 pm...  this might be a great time to stroll across the causeway to the Brough of Birsay to catch that golden light. 
You can carry Sylvia's camera bag for her 😂

 Day 5 
You're doing great!

Today's more open-ended...  you'll be able to work in the studio with Elske and Sylvia on hand to keep you motivated.  You'll have an opportunity for some private time with either one; they'll offer extra tips and guidance, and can introduce you to other processes as you wish.   We'll also gather for a group discussion later in the day to share our experiences so far.  

Day 6 

Let's take a break!

 By now you're definitely feeling pleased and proud of your accomplishments so far, and you deserve a break.  Elske and Sylvia have a little treat planned...

Orkney has a vibrant artistic community, and while you’ve all been so busy with your own work this week, it would be easy to forget that.  So, they've arranged a tour of  local artists' studios, and lunch in Stromness.   You'll meet artists working in textiles, wool, pottery, wood, and jewelry,  and can shop to your heart's content.   We sure hope you left room in your suitcase!

 Day 7 

 Show time!

Hopefully you're filled with inspiration and feeling more confident in your creative process.   Maybe you've discovered a new medium that will inform
your future artwork. 
Today you'll have time to fine-tune things in the studio, and work with Elske or Sylvia if you need extra help.  Later we'll have a "show and tell" ...   sharing our struggles and successes, and enjoying the company of the group one last time.  Then it's out for a celebratory dinner...  you've earned it!

Day 8 

Tears and good-bye! 

One last walk on the beach,
then we gather ourselves to head back to reality. 
The shuttle will bring you back to Kirkwall in the morning
to begin your journey home.

It's not really good- bye, just "so long for now".
You've begun beautiful friendships (just like in the movies!) 
We know you'll continue to your artistic journey, 
and see you at our next retreat.

Meet Your Hosts
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Sylvia Galbraith

Sylvia Galbraith is a Canadian photographer whose artistic practice includes landscape, documentary and historical photographic processes.    She has worked as a professional photographer for over 35 years, and has participated in residencies across Canada.  Sylvia teaches photography at the college and university level, as well as from her own studio, and is a popular guest instructor at venues across Canada.  

With many years of teaching experience and a strong exhibition history, Sylvia brings versatility as an artist, an unparalleled skillset,  and an open, cheerful personality to the retreat. 

Best known for her stunning landscape photography, Sylvia is happiest in truly remote locations and bad weather.   She’s the photographer you see perched on a cliff in a windstorm, freezing her fingers in blowing snow, or crashing through two-meter waves in a boat that’s most likely too small for the job.

Favourite sayings include:
Got a great rain suit, and know how to use it!” and
Photos before food, but definitely not before coffee!”

Visit Sylvia's website here.



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Elske deGroot

Elske deGroot, based in Canada and The Netherlands, facilitates artistic retreats in France, Italy and Scotland.  She  began her artistic journey working as a commercial photographer and educator in Toronto, Ontario. Through teaching photographic darkroom and printing techniques, she realized that the tactile and physical approach to art-making appealed to her most. Expanding on her lens-based experience, she began to incorporate photographic pieces into other media such as encaustic, often layering images into beeswax, or collaging them with found objects.

Elske has discovered that through experimentation there are no limits to her practice. Her current work directly responds to her surroundings, using every day experiences as her starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context, snippets of time and place. With a subtle minimalistic approach, Elske creates work which demonstrates both clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual art.

"I love summer, the warm breezes that come along with it, and how the bees will often fly towards the encaustic works I create, attracted by the smell of the beeswax."

Visit Elske's website here.

Start your Creative Adventure Now

Orkney 2023 - Pre-registration

Want to know more?  We're taking pre-registrations to help us get to know each other, and to make sure you have all the information you need before booking.  Tell us a bit about yourself by completing the form below. Where are you at  in your artistic journey, what draws you to Orkney and this particular retreat?

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy - (note they are listed in euros).  If you're travelling alone we will match you with a suitable roommate.  The rooms are large and comfortable, with an ensuite and two single beds.  

Double Occupancy Valentine's week special pricing €3,397 (savings of €500)*

Double Occupancy regular pricing €3,897

A €500 non-refundable deposit will be required to complete your full registration, with the final balance of €3397 due on or before April 26, 2023.  Once registration opens you will receive an email with payment instructions. Payment can be made by PayPal, credit or debit.

Registration and payment of your deposit confirms your agreement to the terms and conditions.

*Valentine's week special ends 11:59pm Feb 17th, 2023