Creative Course ‘Las Ramblas’ / Joya: arte + ecología resident artists Judy and Mark Macklin


Meandering across this alpine desert, cutting pathways through the mountains, are beautiful and geographically dramatic fluvial systems called ‘Rambla’.

These are dry ephemeral streams whose morphological changes are caused by very infrequent high energy events when a rain threshold is exceeded and the dry river flows again.

Such environments in an arid landscape are inevitably teaming with life forms and geological formations. Bee Eaters, Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Shrikes, Hoopoes and many more. Plant life is abundant too and the nature of the water course’s character creates dramatic and beautiful geological form.

It is a place to spend a day or more, to creatively drink from this ‘invisible’ river.

This is a weeks multi media course formatted to explore this environment in whatever manner you choose. It’s an opportunity to research, catalogue and celebrate the abundance and quiet drama of one of Andalucia’s special places.

Creative Courses start at €314 (245 GBP/385USD) contact for further details.

Simultaneously here at Cortijada Los Gázquez our residency Joya: arte + ecología is hosting artists Judy and Mark Macklin who have a ‘rambla’ project…

Judy & Mark Macklin 500

Visual Narratives of Deep Time in Las Ramblas

‘The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to explore the notion of ‘deep time’, particularly human- environment interactions in the context of Las Ramblas – the iconic ephemeral rivers of southeast Spain.  We will use traditional geological techniques within a novel graphic and text-based framework to produce a rich visual dialogue that documents the physical, biological and cultural evolution of river forms and landscapes.

Judy and Mark’s recent collaborations include land-art interventions related to the Neolithic and Europe’s first farmers in Romania, and ‘a sense of place’ in the peatland rivers of Ireland and the Netherlands.  This project will explore the seemingly counterintuitive notion of ‘dryland rivers’, and the role of water and water (mis)management in creating a palimpsest of landforms.  Issues considered will be: Ice Age legacies, prehistoric and historical land-use, rapid climate change and the impacts of anthropogenic global warming’.

Judy is a practising Artist and Educator based at the School of Art, and School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Aberystwyth University.  She is a printmaker specialising in wood and linocuts.  Mark is Professor of Physical Geography and Director of the Centre for Catchment and Coastal Research, Aberystwyth University. He is an authority on river systems and environmental change.



A New Guest Comment…

‘I went to Cortijada Los Gázquez for a week long Joya: arte + ecología group residency. There was a great atmosphere that we were moving forward in our lives. We ate around a dinner table every night home cooked food from the local market. All ages were there. We talked and made work. We were a part of sustainability in practice. Simon told us the names of the plants and bugs, and the underlying systems in the land. Bon Iver and Manu Chau drifted through the beautiful house. Maxine the dog let us pet her lots on the last day. It was an experience similar to that which we should demand as a constant within our lives, always. Thank you for having me’.
Martin Torley

I love Martins description of being here and feeling ‘a great atmosphere that they were moving forward with their lives’. To be conscious of living sustainably is to create a future to move forward into. Thank you Martin.



New Comments in our Guest Book…

It’s great when guests really get a handle on what we are all about. This is from a Texan architect turned teacher after a weeks course with us. You can read more comments in our guest book here…

Laura Williams



creative course / Art Forms in Nature

AFIN April

This is an ‘applied arts’ programme where one can explore the nature of form and pattern occurring in the natural world. One then has the opportunity to consider and develop a practice of manipulating these forms in preparation for ‘applied or ‘decorative’ arts, be it for wallpaper, ceramics, furniture, graphic design, textiles, etc. The choice is yours.

Plant life, geology, climate, light, insects and more are all the traditional haunt of artists in their search for design. Consider the capital of a Corinthian column whose form is dictated by the folding leaves of the acanthus. The filleted fish bones pressed by Picasso into wet clay for a plate. The symmetry and organic form in the prints of Ernst Haeckel and his observations in nature.

Here at Los Gázquez we have an abundance of pristine nature to explore. From atop the forested or craggy slopes of the sierras down to the barrancas and ramblas in the valleys below, the gentle but fascinating study of life and physical form is a place you can draw inspiration and exercise your creative mind.

Take advantage of our ‘early bird’ discounts.



Creative Course / Exploring Contemporary Art

exploring 2dates

Exploring Contemporary Art at Cortijada Los Gázquez

Two five day summer schools in 2012

30 June – 4 July and 7 July – 11 July

Ever wondered what contemporary art is all about?

What exactly post-modernism is but were too afraid to ask?

Fancy learning something new whilst enjoying a sun-filled summer break?

‘Exploring Contemporary Art’ is a five day summer school that delves into contemporary art, why it looks the way it does and what it may all mean. Combined with fantastic Mediterranean food, twilight walks, starlight cinema and a focus on art and ecology, this summer school will equip you with the confidence to understand and ask questions of contemporary art. It takes place here at Cortijada Los Gázquez, a tranquil and stunning artists eco- retreat within a national park in the mountains of Andalucía, Spain.

Gill Nicol runs ‘lights going on’, making contemporary art accessible through talks, courses, training and workshops. Gill trained as an artist and has worked for many organisations including the Tate, Henry Moore Institute and the Ikon Gallery. Here’s what participants have said about her venture:

Most enjoyable was Gill’s approach and style of teaching. The informative, fizzy and genuine style turns two hours of talking into an enjoyable and stimulating experience.

Great delivery – passionate and engaging, but not too intellectual. – Make it longer, I wanted more!

Simon and Donna Beckmann are the directors of Cortijada Los Gázquez  creative retreat / eco-guest house and founders of Joya: arte + ecología – a residency/opportunity for artists engaged with ecology. Here is what previous guests and artists have said about them:

I don’t think that there was any point in my life when almost all my joys – art, outdoors, long walks, food, Mediterranean, peace, laughter, olive trees, soulful people and great conversations – were condensed in 12 hours a day, every day, for a week. Another one into the gratitude box’!

‘I could not have hoped for a better combination of restorative holiday and artistic challenge– I really appreciate the time they personally took to help me develop my skills and direction as an artist – and I have come away energised and inspired, and perhaps slightly chubbier from all that delicious cooking, bliss’!


Day one. Arrive, introduction to the next three days by Simon and Gill with champagne and supper with introductions.

Day two. Start bright and early after breakfast with session one 1900-1960. An introduction to Modernism, with key works from Picasso, Duchamp and Jackson Pollock, looking at Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by The Joya: arte + ecology ’starlight cinema’ projected onto the back of the cortijada, with a focus on an artists biography. Titles to be announced.

Day three. Another fabulous breakfast followed by session two 1960-1990. A look at post-modernism, and a whole load of ‘isms’ such as Arte Povera, Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Performance and Pop Art.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by The Joya: arte + ecology ’starlight cinema’.

Day four. Enjoy the penultimate sun-soaked beautiful breakfast before commencing session three, the last 20 years. An in depth look at the YBA’s (young British Artists) and many other contemporary artists to understand how their work relates back to other works; how their practice reflects society and underlying themes of the last ten years. The last hour will look at 4 artists who work with the environment.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by Q+A  and a recap of the previous sessions. Finish the day with a party to celebrate what you have learned and shared

Day five. After breakfast leave Cortijada los Gázquez with new found confidence with contemporary art and a lot of good food inside you.

Cost: £ 500 for the summer school. This includes tuition, food and accommodation, but NOT flights.

Getting there: You can fly to Alicante, Granada, Almería or Murcia from where you can hire a car, take public transport (not Murcia) or we can arrange a taxi for you and your friends.

As an alternative, there is always the train.

Let’s suppose you are leaving a city in Northern Europe, for example London. Your destination is Granada, only an hour and a half away from Los Gázquez.

Take the lunchtime Eurostar to Paris and find a nice little restaurant there for supper. Next, take the ‘trainhotel’ overnight to Madrid.

The next morning? Well you will have plenty of time to visit one of the three big national art galleries here.

Museo del Prado – Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ for example.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – Miro, Kandinsky, Klee and all the way back to the guilded jewels of Italian and Dutch primitives.

Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia – Picasso’s Guernica.

When you have had your fill go and find some tapas on Cava Baja and then make your way to Atocha station and board the late afternoon train to Granada. It arrives just as the city comes awake at about nine thirty in the evening. Drink in some nightlife and the next morning visit the Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens.

Bursting at the seams with culture you will be ready to visit Los Gázquez for a quiet considered and creative response to the fabulous art and architecture you have just seen.

Otherwise you can fly in the knowledge that your carbon foot print for such a journey is about equivalent to a week’s stay in a conventional hotel. Here at Los Gázquez we are carbon neutral so you have more or less offset the carbon emissions of your flight completely.



ICE / sunshine and a cold northerly wind




Early Bird Booking rates for Creative Courses

early bird 6 2

Cortijada Los Gázquez are offering discounted rates on creative courses if you book well in advance. For further details please look here. EARLY BIRD BOOKING



Digital Sierras / creative course in Fine Art photography


En Plein Air / Don’t think just pink…

En Plein Air February 500

Spain is the worlds second largest producer of almonds at 282.100 tons per year and especially, in our arid piece of Spain, it is an essential cash crop growing as it does at altitude.

almond blossom scan copy

It flowers early too compared to other fruiting trees. This year with the winter being mild we can expect it to be flowering at the end of February which is why we have programmed this course for this time of year.

almond blossom:telecoms

But don’t assume that the landscape becomes just pink. More often it is the relationship between the colour of the blossom and the surrounding landscape that makes a truly observed picture successful. And importantly February makes for increased drama…

blossom 12:03:09

And it’s important to consider that earth colours, siennas, ochres and umbers are opaque. Light bounces off their surfaces. Light is reflected into you eye whereas almond blossom (for example) is translucent…

almond blossom

and the sunlight passes through the flower petal. This is why watercolour is such a wonderful medium for like almond blossom the colour is translucent. Light passes through watercolour and bounces off the white reflective paper back to your eye. This is what gives water colour such vivaciousness.

blossom below la muela


Van Gogh was keen on almond blossom too.

On January 31, 1890, Theo wrote to Vincent of the birth of his son, whom he had named Vincent Willem Van Gogh, (as we know he was extremely close to his younger brother), Van Gogh immediately set about making him a painting of his favorite subject: blossoming branches against a blue sky. The gift was meant to hang over the couple’s bed. As a symbol of this new life, Vincent chose an almond tree, which blooms early in southern regions, announcing the coming spring as early as February. Van Gogh Museum

almond blossom event

If you would like to come and join us all are welcome. The weeks course is 850€ all inclusive apart from airport transfers. Expect sunny, beautiful days painting and convivial evenings by the wood fire and eating good food. For further details contact Simon at This will be a quality learning experience.



Creative Course / art + ecology

Art Ecology 500

Art and Ecology is a six day (or less) course designed to help you develop the tools needed to extract creative ideas from your immediate landscape.

This is not just depicting the landscape but engaging with it.

The location is specific to the high alpine desert of Almería in southern Spain inside theParque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez. The course is held at Cortijada Los Gázquez, creative retreat and eco-guest house, an off-grid and totally sustainable location.

*(a week at Cortijada Los Gázquez as opposed to a conventional hotel will off-set the carbon emissions from a return flight from northern europe)

You will be guided to make informed creative decisions as a consequence of studying the history and culture, (agrarian and otherwise) of the area, the climate in relation to climate change, flora and fauna, issues of sustainability through ecology systems and landscape character assessments.

As your ideas formulate we will…

For further information contact Simon on



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