Issue 196
Winter 2016

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Feb 21, 2018
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    A new, independent art school is born

    Frances Anderson talks to the get-up-and-go founders of a flourishing new venture based in East Lothian

    FOUNDED IN 2013, Paintbox, an independent arts school based in East Lothian, is going from strength to strength. Founders Jemma Derbyshire and Lynsey Connachan met while both working at Leith School of Art in 2011.

    "Jemma was running a workshop in the Highlands that was over subscribed and she asked me to help out. It was from this that Paintbox began and we knew we were on to something special." says Lynsey.

    Growing up in the Highlands, Jemma graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2008, and is now a professional artist, and the main tutor at Paintbox. She began running classes in her local community centre in Portobello and then started running weekend workshops in the Highlands as she felt people shouldn't have to live in the city to be able to access these types of things.

    After graduating from Heriot Watt University, Lynsey worked for a luxury retail company while still keeping an interest in the arts. Working as an administrator at Leith School of Art, she met Jemma, and Paintbox was born. Lynsey deals with the Paintbox management, as well as being the chef for the weekend workshops and luxury art retreats that Paintbox regularly run.

    Setting up and establishing an arts school is no easy task, particularly in today's economic climate.

    "In the initial stages, the growth was very organic," says Jemma.

    "We had a vision of what we would like Paintbox to be, and we have worked very hard to keep focused on that vision. We're both very driven but found the hardest part in the beginning was having to keep up full time jobs at other organisations whilst trying to set up Paintbox.

    School founders Jemma Derbyshire and Lynsey Connachan

    "We don't receive any financial support or backing – it's completely self funded, through blood sweat and tears."

    Paintbox has a permanent studio base at Cockenzie House and Gardens from which they run their classes and workshops.

    "This has allowed us to fully establish Paintbox as an independent art school in the area. Cockenzie House and Gardens is already a little hub of artistic activity, and we're keen to grow this further," says Lynsey.

    Providing a variety of art classes, workshops, online distant learning courses and luxury art retreats across Scotland, based on a huge range of drawing and painting techniques including acrylic, oil, oil pastel, soft pastel, ink, collage, the ancient technique of encaustic, to printmaking and many, many more, they also offer their art classes in Edinburgh, Fife, the Borders and the Highlands.

    "We've just recently launched a new programme of courses including a mentoring programme for artists, Artist Bootcamp – designed to help artists 'get themselves out there,' and then a calendar of five week courses in drawing and painting for all abilities. These will run alongside our current calendar of courses, workshops and luxury residential retreats.

    "Our ethos is to offer honest, high quality teaching in a relaxed environment to all levels of ability," says Jemma.

    Complete beginers are welcome. There are art classes for all skill levels, from drawing and painting workshops for beginners to two year courses to help in becoming a professional artist.

    "We aim to support, nurture and inspire, and to help to develop drawing and painting skills, and creativity."

    Artists also have the opportunity to exhibit their work. "We have an annual exhibition each June for all our students. We also run a Professional Development course and these students put on a professional show in a Dundas Street Gallery each June. We had over 300 people at the opening of this year's exhibition 'Tenfold'."

    The establishment of Paintbox is clearly having a positive impact on the community. "We have several community members who just decided to 'come along' to a class and for example one lady is now enrolled on two courses and has been to three of our luxury art retreats, it has become a huge part of her life.

    "The impact on remote areas is big, we have students booking months in advance and also students coming from places like Edinburgh to, for example, the Highlands to 'escape from it all'.

    "It brings life to these more rural communities and becomes a real social hub. We find so often people live such busy lives, and do so much for other people, we want to be there to do something for them and ultimately allow them to invest in themselves."

    Whether attending one of Paintbox's weekend workshops or signing on for a year long course, Paintbox certainly offers the chance to nurture and improve artistic skills.
    Cockenzie House and Gardens,
    EH32 0HY
    Tel: 07852 951592


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