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Contemporary Encaustic on Crete: An Artist Retreat

April 22, 2024 - May 1, 2024


A 10-night,9-day immersion in the craft of encaustic painting, inspired by the culture, cuisine, & Mediterranean landscape of Crete.

Encaustic on Crete presents the opportunity to practice the art of encaustic painting with two expert and international instructors, to do so in the heart of encaustic’s history as a Byzantine medium of icon painting—and all the while to relax in a luxurious, inspirational setting overlooking the Aegean Sea among the olive groves of Mediterranean Crete.


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Retreat Highlights:

    • Six days in the field among inspirational Aegean settings, highlighting seaside, pastoral, and historic landscapes.
    • Six days of studio instruction by expert practitioners Kelly Milukas and Dietlind Vander Schaaf.
    • Private studio access for independent work.
    • Guided special excursion days to:
      • The Byzantine art museum and famous vineyards of Agia Triada Monastery to review ancient icon paintings, (and enjoy a session of wine tasting!)
      • The Venetian Old Town of Xania for markets and museums.
      • Dramatic southern coast beaches, (with an optional guided trek down famous Samaria Gorge.)
    • Sunrise activities including guided yoga, Mediterranean plunges, grove walks through the ancient olive trees, or fresh morning beverages while overlooking the sea.
    • Delicious and healthy meals featuring breakfasts of fresh baked Cretan pastries healthy mid-day sustenance & dinners at Crete’s best farm-to-fork tavernas.
    • A full-free day to explore the local area on your own or with new friends; or to just relax by the pool at our luxurious lodgings.
    • Price includes instruction, all non-personal studio equipment, meals (with local wines & beers), lodging, & ground transportation, including a single group airport transfer on your arrival and departure.
    • A limited number of spaces are available for non-participating friends or partners. Non-participants are welcome during excursions, meals, social, and non-program activities.

Program Details

Join renowned artists & instructors Kelly Milukas and Dietlind Vander Schaaf for an opulent painting retreat, deepening your practice and enjoying 10 nights & 9 days on Crete, living at Villa Koukouvayia, a small olive farm in the island’s western Chania region, just above the Aegean shore. This retreat is designed to immerse you in beauty & vitality, inspire you, and renew your artistic practice. Kelly & Dietlind will meld their talents and yours using the local landscapes as inspiration for sketching.  Together, with others in the small group, you will improve your ability to see from new perspectives—not only the spaces surrounding you, but your artwork itself.

Our field work will draw focus from a variety of inspirational settings nearby and take advantage of Crete’s dramatic geographical and cultural landscapes.  From mountaintop to seaside, from small village life and pastoral vistas, we’ll also include historical old towns still vibrant with residential neighborhoods & color.  After harvesting imagery and sketches during the dynamically lit hours, we’ll return together to Villa Koukouvayia for a combination of continued instruction, studio work, and private practice in the evenings, with social & sunset hours that allow us to recap the day together before our evening meal.

Our daily schedule will revolve around early-riser activities of mindful movement, including guided yoga, grove walks, Mediterranean plunges, or simply enjoying morning beverages on our quiet verandas above the sea.  Daily breakfasts of homemade granola, Cretan yoghurt and fresh local pastries will complement mid-day nutrition and a nightly celebratory meal at one of the nearby farm-to fork tavernas.

This immersive art experience, with two dedicated instructors and a maximum of 10 participants, includes 6½ days of workshop instruction bolstered by self-directed studio time during evening hours.  Appropriate for both representational and abstract artists, the retreat will focus on different aspects of painting, including values, color relationships, and compositional issues, employing a daily schedule of field work during peak light-hours and studio response and instruction in the less dynamically lit hours of the day.

And interspersed among our dedicated working schedule will be two special excursion days highlighting some of Crete’s iconic sites & experiences—providing further inspiration to your artist eye.  These include a wine tasting at a Agia Triada’s historic monastery vineyard and a review of their Byzantine icon and fiber-arts museum, and an afternoon soaking up the ambience of Xania’s Venetian Old Town.  We’ll also take a day to travel up and across the pastoral alpine plateau of Omalos, from whence the famous Samaria Gorge drops precipitously and cascades gently along 16 kilometers until it exits into the Libyan Sea.  Participant’s who opt to hike the gorge will enjoy a guided traverse followed by a stunning boat ride along the dramatic cliffs of Crete’s southern coast, meeting the others, who chose, instead of the gorge hike, to enjoy a day of the white sand and blue waters of the charming harbor town of Sougia.

And within the days of learning and experience, the retreat will provide a full free day for individuals or new friends to forge their own agenda, either exploring the local area as you wish, or simply relaxing at the villa, unburdened from itineraries and schedules.

Your retreat package includes a private room with options to upgrade to premium rooms with private balconies, terraces or other dramatic features.  Or you can take advantage of generous occupancy discounts by choosing to lodge with accompanying friends or other participants.  With only the independent day & your private purchases excepted, your retreat costs are truly inclusive, covering meals, beverages, ground transportation, social & guided activities, tips, gratuities, etc.


Your Instructors:

Cretan Destination Retreats is proud to power the spring and fall versions of this exciting itinerary with artists known not only for their skill, practice and work, but their instructional expertise and dedication.  For this spring 2024 offering, participants will enjoy the leadership of the American artists Kelly Milukas and Dietlind Vander Schaaf.

Kelly works and teaches in a variety of media, among them water-based & ink-based paints, pastel, and mixed-media-sculpture; with a particular love of (and expertise in) this retreat’s focus: creative encaustic.  In addition to private mentoring and instruction in her seacoast New England studio, Kelly serves as Artist Instructor for the International Encaustic Conference at Truro Center for the Arts in Massachusetts, and for the International Association of Pastel Societies in New Mexico, where she holds a Masters Circle title.  Kelly is a frequent national contributor in museum programming, private retreats, corporate creativity and team-building programs, and her résumé includes international bio-tech science residencies, and a residency with the well-known interior design firm Taste Design of Rhode Island.

Kelly is past President of the Providence Art Club, and the Founding President (Emerita) for South Coast Artists of Rhode Island & Massachusetts.  Her story, studio, and artwork have been featured in prestigious publications, such as New England Home, IAPS Globes, Sotheby’s 401, Artscope, The Pastel Journal, and Newport Life; and in books such as 100 New England Artists; Best of American Pastel, Artists’ Homes & Studios, and The Cortland Review.  In addition to profiles and highlights, Kelly’s held solo exhibitions The Ronald Reagan International Forum in Washington, The Regenerative Medicine International Forum in Berkeley California, and the Palm Beach Photographic Centre of Florida.  Her work has featured prominently at international art fairs such as Red Dot Miami and Boston International Art Fair; and she boasts a list of awarded works purchased and held by national museums, international private and corporate collections.

Kelly aesthetic leans toward the abstract, and she is process driven—which underpins her skills as a mentor and instructor of both groups and individuals.  But it is her abiding curiosity for new experiences, deeper knowledge, vibrant materials, and new ways to wander, combined with her love of people, science and the natural world, that provide Kelly with the perception that places her—as both teacher and practicing artist—in a class of her own.

Kelly’s partner for the spring retreat, Dietlind Vander Schaaf, holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco and an MA from the University of Southern Maine.  Among other venues, Dietlind has exhibited at Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Fuller Craft Museum, and On Center Gallery, in the historic artists’ enclave of Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Her work has been featured in Maine Home + Design, Decor Maine, UPPERCASE, Artscope, and Downeast magazines.  Dietlind is an Ampersand Art Supply ambassador; a Core Instructor with R&F Handmade Paints; and the former president of New England Wax, a dedicated consortium of practicing encaustic artists.  An annual presenter at the International Encaustic Conference, Dietlind has conducted and taught workshops throughout the United States and internationally.  She has earned grants from the Maine Arts Commission and the Hemera Foundation’s Tending Space Artist Fellowship.  In addition to her artistic accomplishments, Dietlind is a 500-Hour Kripalu yoga instructor, with specialty training in meditation, Ayurveda, vinyasa, and pranayama practice, and will serve as a leader during our guided yoga sessions.

Itinerary Brief

Day #

Program Outline

0 Participant Arrivals, Welcome Dinner & Program-Intro.
1 AM: Field Studies at Roman Polyrrhenia.

PM Studio Work

2 AM: Field Studies at Historic Village of Topolia.

PM: Studio Work

3 Excursion day: Sunrise Yoga & Swim at Seitan Limani; Agia Triada Monastery Museum & Vineyard; Field Studies in Xania’s Old Town.
4 AM: Field Studies at Nopigia cliffs. 

PM: Studio Work

5 AM: Field Studies at Agios Thomas Meadow. 

PM: Studio Work

6 Excursion day: Omalos Plateau, Samaria Gorge, Southern Cliffs & Coastline.
7 Free Day:  Independent Exploration, Activity or Relaxation at Villa Koukouvayia
8 AM: Field Studies at Sfinari Beach and Western Windmills. 

PM: Studio Work

9 AM: Final Studio Work.

PM: Presentations & Celebration Dinner with Sharing of Works

10 AM:  Good-byes & Participant Departures; Airport Transport

PM:  Program Wrap up with Staff


Requirements &/or special conditions

This retreat is appropriate for both representational and abstract artists, from moderate to advanced and at any part of their journey, including those artists returning to practice after a significant hiatus.

Experience using a torch for encaustic painting is helpful, but not necessary.


Date & Price

1) Spring ’2024 Starting 22 April with Facilitators Kelly Milukas & Dietlind Vander Schaaf
2) Autumn ’2024 (October dates & details announced soon)

Price of $4,400 for single occupancy standard room, with optional pricing as low as $2,900 with room-sharing options. Premium room upgrades available.  All prices  include meals, lodging, transfers, etc.

Program Length: 9 Days, 10 Nights



Lodging Venue: We will stay at Villa Koukouvayia Farms, a luxurious private inn and purpose-built retreat facility nestled among groves in the heart of Crete’s western olive region and overlooking the Aegean Gulf of Kissamos.


Date & Price & Policies:

Standard Price: $4,400 (Single occupancy, standard room.)

Minimum Payment: $1,000, with final fees paid no later than 120 days before arrival.

All selections are first-come first-served, secured with participant’s minimum payment.

A wait-list is available for up to 5 people, with a minimum deposit of $500, to be returned 1 week prior to retreat’s start if no slots become available.  If wait-listed participant is informed of availability, he/she has 7 days to fully sign-up and pay remaining fees.

Cancellations:  Cancellations from CDR, Kelly or Dietlind will result in full refunds no fewer than 7 days after cancellation announced.  Cancellations due to participant exigencies will result in refunds only to the degree a replacement participant can be found.  No additional fees/s will be charged for cancellations.

Field sites and other activities cited in projected itineraries are always subject to change due to curriculum variables such as light & weather, accessibility issues unique to the group, and the importance of safety concerns.

Please note:  Retreat is not guaranteed until fully subscribed.  Registered participants will be informed as soon as retreat is confirmed or 120 days prior to retreat, whichever is sooner.  Until that time no flights or other travel expenses should be booked.


Supplements & Discounts Available:

Limited number of premium rooms (balcony, terrace or other special features) available for $500 supplement.

A luxury suite with private bath is available for $1,000 supplement.  (Sorry, but this room has been taken ☹)

Occupancy discount of $500 available for each roommate sharing room.  (Comfortable room  occupancies are available for up to four participants per room.)
For room choices at Villa Koukouvayia, click here, and be sure to review all the photos for each room to see all the bed configurations available for that room!

Limited number of non-participating partner/friend placements are available for $2,900. Accompanying, non-participating guests are included and welcome at all meals, social and excursion events that are non-studio or instructive in nature.


Payment Currency: $USD$



Arrival and departure flights to and from the island of Crete and the airport of Xania (CHQ).

Any ground transportation, meals, expenses chosen independently from program’s planned itinerary, including expenses chosen during the program’s “free” day.

Airport transfers beyond a planned Xania (CHQ) arrival the afternoon of arrival day, and departure transfer the morning of departure.  Note: Crete’s other airport, Heraklion/HER, can sometimes offer itineraries that make the extra drive (2.5 vs. 1/2 hour) and expense worthwhile.  Let us know if you need to book into and from Herakleion, and we’ll try to provide assistance to ease the extra distance between this airport and Villa Koukouvayia.)

Individually selected beverages beyond the house wine, beer, and non-alcoholic refreshments included in all program meals.



Next Steps?


April 22, 2024
May 1, 2024