Tiger Rock: Rebecca Duckett’s Art Retreat

Previously, we introduced Rebecca Duckett, and how she alluded her career influences, accomplishments and future plans. And to follow up on that, today, we shall explore how she did all that, in an art retreat that she developed and mediates. I have always been intrigued by her artistic visions and manifestation of colours. What better way to pick her artistic brain’s right hemisphere than to sign up for it?

The welcome board at Rebecca's Art Retreat.
The welcome board at Rebecca’s Art Retreat listed the names of all six participants.
Image by Author

Rebecca’s Artistic Workshop Retreat

Tiger Rock on Pangkor Island is Rebecca’s home and serves as the host to our creativity. Cleverly architectured to nestle into the forest reserve hill, it comprises a series of complexes – the Main House, Pool House, Hill House, Pool House Chalet and The Studio.

The Pool House at Tiger Rock, the venue of The Art Retreat.
Tiger Rock’s Pool House at twilight.
Image by Author

We were a group of six ladies at Rebecca’s Art Retreat (The Retreat). All with artistic inclinations and training, except for me! Admittedly I was overwhelmed, intimidated even! Lyndsey Mercer and Kim Ritchie are art teachers at international schools in Kuala Lumpur. Joanna Line is a self-taught artist with a few art courses under her belt while Zöe Ha was once a primary teacher who’s just artsy (her words, not mine!). Loo Jia Wen is in the business of jewellery making with crystals.

The six participants and Rebecca at the Art Retreat.
The participants at The Retreat.
Front row (l-r): Loo Jia Wen, Joanna Line, Lyndsey Mercer. Middle row (l-r): Kim Ritchie, Azlina Ali, Zöe Ha. Back row: Rebecca Duckett.
Image courtesy of Lyndsey Mercer

Rebecca said she has geared this artistic retreat and workshop to beginners and artists who want to have a go at, or wish to revive their practice of observing and drawing the small natural things that are in Malaysia’s wonderful jungle.

I felt slightly less apprehensive.

The morning view from The Hill House in Tiger Rock, one of the accommodation complexes at The Art Retreat
An exhilarating morning view from the Hill House at Tiger Rock to inspire the creative hearts and souls!
Image by Author

Introducing The Idea Of ‘Kaizen‘ At The Retreat

The first session was held at the kitchen in the Main House. We were each given an art pack and subsequently briefed on the techniques and materials that we would adopt at The Retreat. First off, Rebecca introduced us to the idea of ‘Kaizen‘, the intention to develop a little routine.

The art pack for the participants at The Retreat.
The kitchen table at the Main House is our work area. Our art pack comprised poster paints, pastel oil crayons, colour pencils, books and drawing cards.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Duckett

Practice, practice, practice. Making art in itself is meditative because it involves focus. I always use little drawing cards. Just two minutes a day, everyday, really makes a difference!

rebecca Duckett

Day One – My First Hand At Drawing At The Retreat

I reached out for a drawing card, pen in hand and eyes roaming the perimeters for ideas, I must have held that glazed look for over a minute! Clearly Rebecca understood my apprehension when she remarked, “No one is here to judge!”

The view of a thatched roof from a window at the Main House.
The view from the kitchen, the thatched roof that inspired my two-minute drawing!
Image by Author

After two minutes, we then moved on to a slightly larger card. I drew the same thatched roof, this time using a twig and dipping it in ink, as instructed. I hesitated. In all likelihood, I would be creating irregular lines, or worse, smudging it!

Two ink drawings.  of the hut with a thatched roof. The smaller car is with pen and ink, the larger one is with twig and ink.
Above, the two-minute drawing of the hut and thatched roof using a regular ink pen. Below is the larger version, the drawing is with a twig and ink.
Image by Author

According to Rebecca, it is an exercise designed to ‘disrupt’ your hand, forcing you to change how you work. Admittedly I found this somewhat liberating. By virtue of the limited control of ink, my ‘mistakes’ were not obvious. I accepted the perceived imperfections, working my way around whatever marks that I had unintentionally made.

End Of Day One At The Retreat

As dusk descended, we gathered at the Pool House with our final instruction for the day. It was to be a drawing in oil pastel on watercolour paper. I contemplated and again took awhile to make my mark, more so a paralysing response above all else! Drawing within a stipulated time takes getting used to. I settled for the frangipani, as it seemed to be an easy interpretation. I found myself trying to capture the big picture, an entire scene that is in effect more challenging.

Evening by the swimming pool at the Art Retreat.
The evening by the poolside, participants of The Retreat drawing with oil pastel crayons, whilst Rebecca Duckett, in purple, offers some inspirational words!
Image by Author
The frangipani in oil pastel.
My evening offering was the frangipani plant bending over the swimming pool.
Image by Author

Day Two – A New Experience

We spent the morning at the island’s fishing villages, Sungai Pinang Kecil and Sungai Pinang Besar, sourcing ideas for our future work. Inspired, invigorated although somewhat wilted by the morning’s wanderings, we looked forward to afternoon shade at Tiger Rock.

We returned to the oil pastel piece of the previous evening, working on creating another layer to the drawing by using poster paint. This would result in a shine to the initial drawing. It seemed I had not pressed down firmly when working the oil pastel and the resulting effect appeared muted. Nonetheless, I had not counted on the difference it had made to the initial work I had put into it. Without question these enlightening discoveries at The Retreat had encouraged me to be more adventurous.

The frangipani with a layer of poster paint over the oil pastel.
My oil in pastel takes on a different look when glossed over with poster paint.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Duckett

Next up was my first experience with charcoal! I liked the feel of it on paper and the freedom that it provides. Tiger Rock was indeed an inspirational location as we worked around the different spaces in the Main House. With the jungle vegetation offering a wealth of ideas, most of us only had to look outside the window for inspiration.

The Art Retreat offers inspiring vistas, just look out of the window!
Kim Ritchie looks out to the jungle for her inspiration in charcoal.
Image courtesy of Lyndsey Mercer
A charcoal drawing of a hornbill perched on a tree, the view from the window.
Lyndsey Mercer’s charcoal drawing is a hornbill that had conveniently settled on a tree right outside the window!
Image courtesy of Rebecca Duckett

Day Three – The “Big Project”

Sunday was our last full day at The Retreat. Our morning began with a little introduction on our task for the day. As with all projects, a plan is the essential base. We were then briefed on the various options to printing patterns. One way was to create a template by cutting out our own stencil. We could also use other materials to print – the favourite potato, okra, the stem of a lotus root, leaves, or just about anything you might like to use for good effect.

Rebecca  Duckett, our host and mediator at The Art Retreat making a stencil of a fish.
Rebecca Duckett cutting out a stencil of a fish.
Image by Author
Ideas for potato printing patterns at the Art Retreat.
The potato allows you to cut and create many designs to print.
Image courtesy of Joanna Line

Left to our own devices, the ideas flowed from out previous days’ exposures and experiences. Encouraged to create layers in our work, we enabled the emergence of textures and depth.

I also found the best of motivators in my new-found friends. Often coming around, they encouraged and offered suggestions on colours, options on printing and how best to fine-tune my work. By then I had gained a measured amount of confidence although not enough to work on a bigger piece of art paper like theirs!

The Frangipani, My Inspiration

I decided to focus on the frangipani that was in abundance by the pool. Flowers in general have always been my obsession and these were easier to ‘tackle’ as opposed to the hibiscus, for example. I drew up a draft of how I might like my art to look like but left out much of the medium and colours used. I’d prefer to go with the flow!

Rather pleased with my effort, I was particularly proud of the sponge effect finish. By creating layers, a different image had emerged. We were encouraged to continue working on our piece after leaving Tiger Rock. I was against it for fear of botching it up. Which was the very thought Rebecca had wanted to banish from my mind! I was not about to gamble on the possibility that it could, in fact look better!

Using oil pastel for the finishing touche to the painting.
Adding the finishing touch with oil and pastel on my drawing. I had created a textured finish by using a sponge and gently dabbing onto paper.
Image courtesy of Zöe Ha

You hold yourself back because I feel you keep telling yourself ‘I’m not good at art’. This means nothing! Art is about doing and your head and hand work differently from anyone else. You need to just do and not be afraid to mess up. You need to make mistakes, you need to just relax and play with the paint or whatever medium you want to use.

rebecca Duckett
The completed work - butterflies fluttering around the frangipani.
My completed art work. The frangipanis were stencilled to create uniformity. The stems and leaves were drawn free-hand, whilst the leaves and butterflies were imprints from the stalk of the traveller’s palm.
Image by Author

Future Retreats

I loved Rebecca’s Art Retreat and wouldn’t mind having another go at it! I found it to be a revelation of sorts. Certainly it had bolstered my confidence in art. What resonated with me was the need to discover the smaller things that make up the big picture. Nuances that hold their own beauty to make the image a whole. Art imitates life!

Rebecca Duckett looking out of the kitchen window at the Main House.
Rebecca Duckett from the kitchen window of the Main House.
Image by Author

Rebecca’s schedule limits the frequency of facilitating artistic workshop retreats like this. Twice a year at best, although admittedly it is an essential exercise to improve as an artist, she says.

I find it extremely beneficial to be working with lots of different people in close quarters. Satisfaction comes from all that discussion, experimentation and exchange of ideas. The beauty of the retreats is that in teaching, I always, always find more ideas for my own practice. It’s also brilliant when I manage to push other people out of their own art and creative ‘comfort zones’. It’s satisfying for everyone.

Rebecca Duckett

Where Do We Go From Here

Interested in participating in a retreat? Or perhaps keen to consult Rebecca on some of her works, or even yours? Rebecca is very accessible and responsive to queries and information. Also, do follow our next episode to discover how she created her collection, ‘100 Patterns in 100 days whilst she was in Italy during the COVID-19 lockdown.

About Azlina ALI

Veteran journalist, wife, mother, with an ever burning passion to write and tell stories. Then throw in a dose of healthy diet and an active lifestyle, Azlina is a force to be reckoned with. She's a lean, mean storytelling machine.

3 Replies to “Tiger Rock: Rebecca Duckett’s Art Retreat”

  1. Dear Azlina! Thank you for this wonderful article on the journey through your art retreat with me. I loved how you shared your work & we could all see how it progressed. Thank you!

    My next art retreat is set at the beginning of December – 7-10th- 3 nights/4 days

    Rebecca x

    • Oh my, I was indeed blessed to have had this privilege! Discovering my capability was indeed a bonus. Thank YOU for the encouragement, faith and enlightening experience.
      The art retreat was indeed food for the soul.

  2. Pingback: Rebecca Duckett Breathes Colours Into That Plain White T-Shirt - Espoletta

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