Ud i det blå – Bornholm 2020

(picture:  ‘Emporer Dragonfly 3’ Nik Pollard)


Field Painting course on Bornholm, with Nik Pollard and Ben Woodhams

Sunday the 13th to Saturday the 19th September, 2020

The Course

Drawing and painting outside can be both exhilarating and daunting.

This course will use drawing as a way of ‘active looking’. Staying with our subject and getting to know it more intimately. Testing our understanding and exploring different means of interpreting what we see and feel. As long as this process is part of an honest investigation of what we are experiencing there can be no such thing as a ‘bad drawing’. It is all part of a never ending process of trying to understand our world better.

The physical challenges of being outside in all weathers can generate a vibrancy and creativity in our mark-making and creative output that can sometimes be lost indoors. Sustained observation and full immersion in the natural environment is the theme underlying this course. In all weathers and for extended periods of time, course participants will embrace Bornholm’s fantastic natural environment, as we attempt to sketch, draw, and paint under the open skies.

(picture:  ‘KYST 28.01’ Ben Woodhams)

For some, the work made outside might normally be a way of collecting raw material that will later be developed indoors. For others the work on the ground may be taken to a finished piece there and then. We will look at how both a quick sketch and a more developed piece can have their virtues. Both are part of an ongoing process leading towards greater understanding. Working with others exploring similar themes in divers ways gives an inspiring sense of ‘safety in numbers’ as well as a great group dynamism.

Led by Bornholm resident and artist Ben Woodhams and the experienced and highly regarded English artist and printmaker Nik Pollard, the course leaders will take you on a journey through the Danish island of Bornholm’s diverse and wide ranging landscape. Visiting some of the lesser-known sites on the island, we will attempt to record and interpret the birds, plants and landscapes that we encounter, in a meaningful and creative way. This course follows on from the first ‘Ud I det blå’ course in 2018, with the late Greg Poole.

During the course you can expect a wide ranging introduction to field painting, natural history interpetation and ways of working outdoors. The pros and cons of different media, techniques, and outdoor kit will be discussed and investigated. How can we maintain a confident approach when faced with the complexity and dynamism of the natural world? How is it possible to capture the essence of a bird in movement, or the hugeness of the autumn sea?

(picture:  Shelduck throwing shapes’ Ben Woodhams)

The course will be taught in English (Nik and Ben) and Danish (Ben).

The Venue

Bornholm is a Danish island situated in the Baltic Sea between Poland and Sweden. A veritable paradise for naturalists and geologists, The island offers a rich and varied natural environment, with deciduous and coniferous forests, farmland, sandy shores and rocky cliffs – all within close proximity to the course headquarters. In September the bird migration will be in full swing, with the island a popular stepping stone in the route south. During the week we hope to visit many different sites on the island, depending on the weather and the wind direction. Højskole – the venue for the course is located in central Bornholm, close to farmland, forest and wetland areas.  Cranes and ravens will be foraging just a few minutes walk from the Højskole . On the sandy southern coast huge flocks of geese mingle with waders and terns on passage. In the rocky north, gulls and peregrine falcons wheel amongst the granite cliffs. If time and weather conditions permit, we may even find ourselves on the rocky and windswept Ertholmer islands off Bornholm’s Eastern coast, a minute archipelago where over 275 bird species have been recorded.


This course is hosted by Bornholm’s Højskole, a remarkable educational institution situated in Bornholm’s forested centre.

Denmark’s ‘Folkehøjskoler (folk High Schools) are an idiosyncratic and very Danish educational movement, initially created in the 1850s to educate Denmark’s peasantry. They now offer a wide range of residential courses to adults from all around the world. Bornholm’s Højskole is a cradle of creativity and inspiration. Participants from the week’s courses eat evening meals together and can join shared social events At the week’s end course leaders and attendees will present an informal exhibition of the week’s work that will be open to the general public.


You! – The Participants

Course participants need not have prior experience of working outdoors, and we expect and hope that attendees will come from a variety of different backgrounds and abilities. This course is all about being outside and looking. Process will be more important than end results. A diverse and supportive group dynamic is what makes a course like this extraordinary and unforgettable. The positive energy that a group of field painters can produce has to be experienced to be believed!

Us! – The tutors

Nik Pollard

Nik Pollard’s paintings and drawings are generated from sustained, direct observation and are often resolved in the field.   A period of dedicated study at single or related locations is a necessary part of his process. Drawing from all the senses, he investigates the rhythms and characteristics of a location and it’s ecology, resulting in a sense of time and place. Working with a range of mediums, he focuses on the essential aspects of what it is that has drawn him to the subject. Searching for a balance between figuration and abstraction he enjoys exploring the ambiguity and serendipity of mark making. Teaching is an integral part of his practice; he has been a guest tutor at the Royal College of Art, Artist in Residence at Marlborough College and is the Programme Director at Rabley Drawing Centre in Wiltshire.

(picture:  ‘Sparrowhawk perch’ Nik Pollard)

Ben Woodhams

Much of Ben’s work centres around working within a self-imposed framework whilst painting or drawing.  In his latest project, ‘KYST’, he circumnavigated the island of Bornholm in 52 consecutive stages, every Friday, drawing and painting what he found. Ben works primarily in watercolour, and is interested in the relationship between observation and the passing of time. He enjoys taking on everything from vast changing skyscapes to studying the minutiae of insect behaviour. Ben has many years of experience in teaching drawing and painting on Bornholm and further afield, to a wide range of groups, from pre-school children to refugees.

(picture:  Salthammer, August’ Ben Woodhams)

The Practicalities

Bornholm in September can be balmy and mild, but it can also be stormy and cold. We could be painting in our T-shirts and shorts or wrapped in full rain gear in a freezing gale – it will be important that we are prepared for all eventualities! Whilst we will not be walking all day, we will doubtlessly be challenged by muddy terrain and rocky inclines from time to time. We will also find ourselves in some places far from a public toilet, so flexibility is key!

Full board and lodging is offered by the Højskole. Participants can choose from double or single bedrooms, with or without ensuite facilities. Bedlinen and towels are provided, and all meals are at least 50% organic and prepared with local ingredients whenever possible. There is Wifi and clothes washing facilities. There is an art studio, conference rooms, as well as a huge canteen and evening bar area.


Transport within the island during the course is provided by Bornholm’s Højskole in the form of a bus, which will drive us to, and collect us from, the various sites we will visit. In the event we are able to visit the nearby Ertholmer Islands, participants will be asked to pay their own way on the ferry (approximately 250kr/£29/34Euro)

The price for the course (including all tutoring, transport during the week, three meals a day and accommodation) is as follows:

Non-refundable down payment – 1,000kr (approx £114 or 134 Euro) plus one of following:

  • Double room (two single beds) w/ ensuite – 4,050kr (approx. £465 or 545 Euro) per person
  • Double room (two single beds) w/ shared bathroom – 3,550kr (approx. £405 or 475 Euro) per person
  • Single room w/ shared bathroom – 4,000kr (approx. £460 or 535 Euro)

Note: students and young people aged between 18 and 25 years can claim a 1,000kr (approx. £114 or 134 Euro) discount

Registration and payment

For more information about the course content, please contact Ben or Nik directly (info@benwoodhams.com and nikpollard@yahoo.co.uk)

For registration and payment, please see here (link to Højskole’s relevant webpage will be going live soon, when the course will be open to booking)

A few days after registration you will be asked to pay a 1,000kr non-refundable deposit. An invoice for remaining payment and more information on the course will be sent 8 weeks before the course starts.

NOTE! The course is limited to 20 participants, and places are offered on a first come first serve basis.

Getting to Bornholm


From Copenhagen Airport, there are several direct planes every day to Bornholm (Rønne airport) with DAT (Danish Air Transport – https://dat.dk ). If you can manage to book well in advance and find a cheap ticket that can match your arrival and departure times from Copenhagen, this is the easiest option (cheapest return tickets from approximately 850kr/£100/115 Euro) .

Alternatively a bus and ferry combination to Bornholm leaves directly from the airport several times a day. From the airport, the bus drives through southern Sweden to Ystad, where the ferry takes you to Rønne on Bornholm. The whole journey takes less than three hours. This is the cheapest option (September prices yet to be fixed, but likely to be less than 250kr/£30/35euro for a return).

It is sometimes difficult to get a grip on the whole travel arrangements, so do let me help (Ben)!

(picture:  ‘Kingcombe 01’ Nik Pollard)