A regular tutor for our painting holidays is Fiona Graham-Mackay. She has been chosen for the most prestigious portrait show in the world — the BP National Portrait Gallery London summer exhibition. More than 2000 paintings from 80 countries were considered, just 50 selected for the show. Right at the front, Fiona’s portrait of the Queen’s former poet Sir Andrew Motion. Her series of BBC 4 radio programmes, "A Portrait of ..." have been highly acclaimed.
Fiona studied at the Royal College of Art under the illustrious Quentin Blake. Even before she left the RCA her work was in demand by leading London publishers. Fiona was and continues to be her own painter. Her painting has been so in demand during the past five years that she has travelled across thousands of miles to fulfil commissions – some of them in less that easy circumstances. For example, at the height of some of the worst tensions in Afghanistan, Fiona was painting in Pakistan and the Afghan border.
At the more comfortable level of painting, Fiona has in the past six years returned to portraiture. Her painting of the late Baroness Thatcher’s foreign secretary Lord Carrington now hangs in London and will be featured in a new biography of the British statesman. Her portrait of Prince Michael of Kent is in the entrance to one of Europe’s most famous yacht clubs where he is admiral. Shortly before his death in 2013, the Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney unveiled Fiona’s portrait of him and it now hangs in pride of place at the Athenaeum in Pall Mall London. Most of her portraits are private commissions often finding a facet in the sitter that even family had never seen. One painting of a former spy had an ex-KGB officer remarking “So that’s who he is!”
"Absolutely superb. Our tutor,Fiona Graham-Mackay, was brilliant: intelligent, warm, and empathetic. She has the gift of enabling students to give the very best of themselves, and to push their boundaries. The hotel chosen (La Ghirlanda) was outstanding: delicious food, impeccable service. Painting in Italy does seem to attract lovely people, and the dynamic between participants was excellent. A holiday to remember".
"As you can see by the five stars I've rated the holiday I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The situation of the hotel is perfect with such wonderful views to paint that it was hardly necessary to venture out. If you did the village was only just up the road and the walks through the countryside were beautiful. Because our tutor Fiona was so helpful and enthusiastic I learnt so much about all aspects of art".