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“Watercolour Florence”

I loved my week of study with John. It was an amazing experience. I enjoyed the stay at the Convent and the restaurant where we had our meals. He added in a Evening walking tour and a visit to the Uffiz Museum. He is a great teacher and a very nice person who worked very hard to help me improve my skills. I look forward to studying with him in LeMarche. M. Yarney, April 2017

“Florence Watercolour course”

I came on Easter week. There were just two of us: me from London, and Myrna from Houston. We had the best time! The Oblate convent was a great, simple central location. The watercolour course was inspiring. I had painted before, but John Skelcher was an excellent teacher of perspective and colour theory. He was also a great guide to Florence – showing where the best Gelateria is! He also knew that there was a special Easter ceremony at the cathedral, and made sure we didn’t miss it. I would love to come next year to one of his oil painting courses in LeMarche. D. Oliver, April 2017

“Amazing experience !!”

I have just returned from a fabulous week at The Retreat !! Apart from John being the perfect host and exceptionally talented, his method of teaching and organisation of our week was excellent. Nothing was too much trouble and I was amazed at how much we covered and how much we all progressed in such a short time. Stunning scenery, fabulous food cooked by Jana and wonderful company made this a truly memorable experience for all. Cannot recommend highly enough !!! Jess V. Sept., 2016

“An incredibly relaxing way to paint and experience the beauty of Italy’s countryside!”

I stayed at the Retreat for a week in late July for one of their plein air painting holidays. The Retreat is nestled in a beautiful countryside landscape of Italy. It is not a very touristy area which adds to its charm. You look around you and think, “Are you kidding me? Am I in a painting?” Breathtaking views and scenery. You’ve got mountains, hills, valleys, vineyards, and endless sunflower fields. It was a treat in itself to have a home base in this serene beauty. You could live there a lifetime and not run out of things to paint. Visiting the nearby hilltop towns in the evenings for some watercolor painting was a really cool experience as well. The towns are nearly abandoned or they have a pretty small population so we’d show up, John would do a demonstration and then we got to go off on our own to pick a spot to sketch and paint. I thought this was really neat and you could feel like a local artist in an Italian village on a hill. No matter which way you went, there were quaint little cobblestone alley ways with arched doorways and historic architecture. John and Jana could not have been better hosts! I had the most amazing week staying with them. Jana is an amazing cook who made us amazing, unique local and organic meals that were unbelievably delicious. As a foodie myself, there were plenty of opportunities to try out local cuisine and wines. John is an outstanding artist and teacher and just all around genuine guy! He will always keep you smiling and laughing. He gives great one on one critiques and help when you need it and took us around to some wonderful painting locations and hilltop towns. Whether you’re more advanced or more of a beginner in the arts, this trip will suit you. You really learn to appreciate what goes into plein air painting. I had a wonderful week and would love to come back! Ashley H, August 2016

“A wonderful week!”

I’ve recently returned from a lovely week spent at the Retreat, it was my first painting holiday so I had done a lot of research before deciding on this one. I’m very glad I did as not only was the level of teaching extremely good but also Janna and John are excellent hosts and went out of their way to make my, and the other guests, stay as enjoyable as possible. The Retreat it self is set in a quite and beautiful rural setting that cannot fail to inspire creatively. During the day we learned new skills and techniques in using oils and watercolours, and while enjoying the beautiful local countryside and villages. With his tremendous knowledge and artistic ability John taught us how to gain confidence and skill with great patience and humour. Janna prepared delicious fresh, healthily and plentiful meals using fresh local produce and evenings were passed around the table over glasses of local wine or at a local restaurant. My room was clean and comfortable and I enjoyed some of the best quality sleep that I have had in some time. This holiday would suit both beginners and more experienced painters alike and I cannot recommend it more highly. AnneMarie, August 2016

“Simply amazing ”

I spent a week at The Retreat and it was one of my best vacations so far. The place has a gorgeous view and quiet countryside vibe. The painting trips to nearby towns with John were informative and relaxing. We did oil painting during the mornings and switched to watercolor for the afternoons. I learnt so much about color and perspectives from John’s demonstration, while having time to explore my own artistic style. When we are at The Retreat, Jana takes really good care of us with amazing and healthy food for every single meal. The quality of food is not highlighted enough on the website, you will be so well fed with fresh local food and wine while you are here. One week is simply not enough to explore this beautiful region so I hope to find time to come back again in the future. Han Ming, July 2016

“One of the best vacations you will ever choose”

I visited the retreat on May 2016 and it was one of my great choices for vacation. I admit that at first I was a bit concern about the age population, but its turn out to be perfect. This kind of vacation is fit for all ages. The views are amazing and the whole place is peaceful. Better than the pictures. Although the other reviews, if you ask in the terminal about the bus station It is easy to get the place. Jana cooks an amazing food and john is a great guide, painter and person. …… For me it was a good brake, and rich and full of expiration journey. I took the yoga and painting course and it was amazing. This is the time to mention that I had no experience at all in yoga and still the classes were fitted to us and the yoga teacher was one of the best I had ever known. We traveled a lot and had some free time in every location. I learned many new paining techniques and got some new air and inspiration. Everyone who need vacation, love painting, meeting new people and visiting peaceful places- I recommend with all my heart to visit on the retreat! Have a great vacation! A. Yanko 2016

“A magical bubble of time spent and full of inspiration – simply charming.”

To go on a painting holiday has always been one of my dreams and this didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was beyond my expectations. From the moment I was met at the station ( after a long train journey all the way from London) by the lovely owner and painter, John, I was swept up into an environment of overwhelming beauty, kindness and excellent hospitality. The Retreat’s location is breath-taking and the only noise is that of Nature. My bedroom was perfect with freshly cut flowers and I had the best nights sleep I have had in ages. John went out of his way to make sure that myself and my new painting buddy were happy and achieving all that we wanted to from the experience of a painting holiday. His tuition was excellent, encouraging and inspiring and I have now started painting again. I was able to say to friends on my return that I’ve been tutored by an artist who is exhibiting in Florence !!! (Bought a couple of his prints – couldn’t resist them). We painted and sketched in fields, in a piazza and hill-top towns. Jo T. June 2016


Have you ever thought of keeping a place a secret because it’s so special you don’t want the word to get out? That’s how I feel about The Retreat and its surroundings after spending 4 consecutive weeks there this past spring. As an aspiring painter who wanted to learn painting basics and work on my creative side, the experience at The Retreat exceeded my expectations. Under the support and guidance of John, I was able to make significant progress in my drawing and painting skills. Experiencing different mediums and going to different idyllic locations where John took the class to paint and draw made the learning process a complete joy. The region is breathtakingly beautiful, authentic, and off the tourist track. In addition to providing a plethora of information about the region as well as being an exceptional hostess, Jana prepared delicious and varied meals with fresh ingredients, day after day. And yes, it’s true, the views from The Retreat are amazing.

Maria. A, USA, 2012

The most perfect holiday for an artist of any ability. Beyond all expectations.John is a talented artist that can actually teach. Every day is a new experience.His gentle reassurance and outgoing personality made us smile. The small group of eight, allowed us all to get special attention.
Le Retreat is in a remote area of Le Marche…overlooking rolling hills, farmlands and framed by hill top villages. It seems unreal it is so beautiful.
To add to this perfect holiday we were spoiled by Jana and her charm and her culinary expertise. Every meal was delicious.
We took a few excusions to the hill top towns and sketched and painted. Everything was planned out and we just had to enjoy the “best of everything.”

Kathleen R, USA, 2012

As a COMPLETE beginner in the art world I was a little daunted at the thought of spending 10 days painting, when I wasn’t entirely sure which way round to hold a paint brush. However my fears were instantly banished from the moment we arrived at The Retreat. A thoroughly wonderful holiday, in which John catered for all levels. Very encouraging teacher, who built up my confidence with painting. Not only that but it was a very special time for my Mum and I who had come together and I can safely say we will always remember The Retreat experience. Set in beautiful scenery and with wonderful hosts – this truly is divine! I wish that everyone goes there… I’ll even lend you my paintbrush!

Amy, London, 2012

“Magnificent setting, excellent tuition and fun…”

John and Jana have created a haven for aspiring artists seeking the perfect country setting, healthy but mouth-watering food, excellent tuition, and seriously good company. Not to mention the local wine! This truly beautiful part of Italy is possibly one of it’s best kept secrets, as yet relatively undiscovered by tourists. Both John and Jana go the extra mile for their guests. John is passionate about his subject as well as local history, making your day “off” an interesting and fulfilling one. My week on the course was light-hearted, full of laughter and fun, but I did come away with a much deeper insight into colour and perspective with regards to my art. I highly recommend this course.

Susan R., Cape Town, S.A., May 2011
Both John and Jana were amiable hosts and great conversationalists. John taught us about colour mixing and different types of media. He was very encouraging, imparted techniques at appropriate times, and was flexible enough to customize our free day according to feedback by the group. Jana was the efficient minder of all other office matters, and a terrific chef. The best food I had in Italy was served by Jana at The Retreat.

I liked the fact that materials and equipment are all provided on this course, as it makes The Retreat a ideal stopover for a week or more during a long vacation. No extra baggage to carry about except some completed art pieces and a sketchbook. There are countless subjects to draw in the lovely landscape and scenery around the Le Marche region, and the sunsets from The Retreat were breathtaking. I had refreshing morning walks with the dogs, and much fun stalking the beautiful cats. 🙂 John drove us everywhere for landscape drawing, so no problems if you aren’t a trekker.

Clara T. Singapore, 2012

John and Jana are just wonderful hosts for this art camp.
Not only we were treated with John’s vast art knowledge and instructions but a history lesson as well – love some of the local stories and the trips out and about. Studio is well equipped and super confortable beds…..Le Marche is truly Italy’s hidden gem and there is so much to explore and paint – one week is never enough time – thank you for a wonderful holiday filled with many happy funny times,

Paris. S.A. 2011

Jana have created a stunning retreat in a secluded spot near Force in rural Marche. They offer exceptional hospitality, excellent food and wine, and five star painting tuition for experts and also beginners. The atmostphere is peaceful. The views are out of this world. My wife and I were welcomed as if we were old family friends. I cant think of a better place to escape and paint. We will definately be back. Thankyou John and Jana for such a wonderful weekend!

Nigel and Vivi, October 2011

We went to The Retreat for a special birthday. Everything about the experience exceeded our expectations. The location is absolutely beautiful and so inviting to the artist in you. John’s art instruction is outstanding, the small class sizes allow him to give individualized instruction and you will come out a better artist. As hosts, John and Jana (and Lily and Ivy) make you feel like family. It was truly a special experience that we will never forget.

Kevin S.,Colorado, USA, April 2011

Last month, April 2011, I spent 9 wonderful days in the breathtaking mountains of Force (le marche), Italy at The Retreat. – a landscape artist’s heaven! I took the course in life drawing and can honestly say, after many art courses, I walked away from there with the best instruction that I’ve ever had. John is a fantastic teacher and, with a small group, he had alot of time to spend with each of us. The meals were fantastic – all ingredients fresh from the farmer’s market. Jana is an excellent chef.

If you’re looking for a totally pampered artist’s experience – this is it!

Diana M., New Jersey, USA, April 2011

“Absolutely Fabulous!”

Visited The Retreat during the week Sept 4 to 11, 2010 to take part in the Water Colour Painting for Beginners Class and enjoyed it immensely. Our hosts, John and Jana, treated their guests like royalty. They remained cognizant of our every need throughout the entire week. John is a very conscientious and caring art instructor and gave individualized instruction as needed. He took us out on several historical outings and gave us a good introduction to life and living in the Le Marche area of Italy. Our outings always started or ended with a painting session of a new and inspiring landscape view. The meals at The Retreat were very satisfying, varied and sumptuous. We enjoyed good wine, good laughs and great art classes. Thank you John and Jana. !!

Beverly S., White Rock, Canada, 2010

The week I spent at the retreat back in september 2010 gave me such a surge to explore my art and medium further. I was overwhelmed by the energy that John puts into his art and has helped me to further study watercolours extensively. the excursions and extra info that was given was invaluable. I will treasure the time I had there and will endeavour to return asap. The hospitality and crumptuous food was a delight, made friends with some great people as well. I loved the countryside an unspoilt part of Italy.

E. Brooks, Australia, 2010

I spent a fantastic week from 2nd to 9th October, 2010 at “The Retreat” in Le Marche, Italy. It was the perfect place to paint and relax. I enjoyed spending the time with 3 other like-minded artists from different parts of the world. John was a patient creative teacher who assisted us to achieve exactly what we individually wanted. Jana was an excellent chef and made fabulous food for every meal. We sat overlooking the magnificent panorama sipping wine for lunch under an autumn sun eating great food prepared by Jana. And at night we would have dinner in the studio or go out to a nearby restaurant. I look forward to returning next year.

J.Sienna, Australian Artist living in Rome, 2010

Spent the week of August 7-14 at the Retreat. Mornings were spent using the incredible landscape as inspiration for both drawing and painting. While the afternoons offered many escapes to the surrounding towns and villages allowing for a glimpse into life and history within the rich Le Marche region of Italy. John, Jana and Thomas offered us great hospitality, making us feel completely at home upon arrival and throughout our stay. Not to mention, the food was amazing…..from the perspective of an art teacher, I would recommend the Retreat, especially for beginner/intermediate artists looking for a place to get away for inspiration, and looking for support in their venture to gain more insight into art technique-John is a good teacher and a good artist.

 Christy, Calgary, Canada 2010

Both John and Jana have created a very lovely and peaceful environment for learning. You’re totally cared for and nothing is too much trouble. Tuition from John is just great and I believe I learnt a huge amount in 4 days of life drawing and came home very ‘va va voomed’!

Would thoroughly recommend this for a complete beginner or a passionate amateur or a true professional – the tuition works at all levels. It’s inspired me to carry on at my amateur level. Will look forward to a return visit at some time in the future.

J. Watson, London, 2010

Spent a week landscape painting with John and 3 others. The instructions was great and the class was light hearted and good fun. Although we all came away with art that surprised us all. John and Jana are great hosts and the accomodation/setting could not be better. Loved the food and relaxing atmosphere. Returning in September for a life drawing class and I can’t wait. Highly recommended.

M. Wild, Bath, 2010

The Retreat is an ideal place if you want to have a painting holiday in Italy.The views are absolutely amazing and inspire you to paint at all times.The hosts, John and Jana, are very friendly and helpful, on top of that Jana is the best cook in the world. You will certainly be spoilt by them. Wonderful trips to different locations to paint.And at night time ,after a delicious dinner the magic starts with millions of fireflies glowing in the dark.

C.Carey, London, 2010

John and Jana,

Thank you so much for a wonderful week in the beautiful region of Le marche. I enjoyed my stay with you immensely and it has definitely inspired me to explore my creative cravings and hopefully, with practice, discover a medium that I can become competent in. John, it was amazing to be in the company of such accomplished artists without feeling intimidated. Your encouragement and tutorage was fantastic and you relaxed, yet informative approach created the perfect balance in the perfect surroundings. Jana, you are a fabulous chef/host/mum! I was so grateful to you for catering for my current condition… I would have no hesitation in highly recommending your courses and tremendous hospitality. Thank you for a great week that I shall never forget.

With best wishes,

Natalie B. 2009