Drawing the Collection – behind the scenes at West Dean with Amanda Beck

Ref: S3D09944

Suitable for all

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Places available

About this course

Let objects inspire your journey into creativity through drawing from the West Dean Collection. Learn new drawing techniques as you gain a rare and fascinating insight into the life of College founder, Edward James, patron to the Surrealists.

Course Description

The course will provide you with an unique insight into the legacy of Edward James and the fascinating stories behind the College’s extensive art and object collection.  A guided tour of the historic state rooms will take place where you will have the opportunity to view the artwork on display and learn about the history behind the scenes at West Dean College of Art and Conservation. 

You will view artworks by iconic artists such as Christian Bérard , George Grosz, Eugène Berman, Pavel Tchelitchew (portrait of Edith Sitwell), Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Tilly Losch and Leonora Carrington.  An intriguing insight into the life of Edward James will be provided through selected object handling and drawing from the collection, you will have the opportunity to sketch from the collections in the house and the beautiful grounds of West Dean Gardens. You will also have the opportunity to view the film ‘The Secret Life of Edward James (1978)’ giving you an insight into some incredible moments of his journey as a patron to the avant-garde. 

Back in the studio you will be encouraged to take up your own creative journey inspired by the collection with a selection of drawing exercises introducing you to a variety of materials and techniques.  There will be focus on tone and line to describe texture and structure, inviting you to get hands on with history and sketch from these wonderful objects.  Demonstrations on sketching with watercolour pencils and sketchbook in colour, line, mark-making and composition.  

You will take inspiration from French Fashion Designer and Illustrator, Christian Bérard’s, original Indian ink design for ‘Le Serenade’, a Parisian chamber music society supported by Edward James in the 1930s through the exploration of the medium of ink to create your own design inspired by the artist.  Allow the objects to inspire your journey into creativity, ignite your imagination and learn new techniques along the way. 

By the end of the course you will have learnt how to use museum and historic collections to inspire your creativity and give you confidence to sketch directly from life. You will have learnt about Edward James’ legacy through his collection using a variety of drawing exercises, materials and techniques.  


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

Water spritzer spray bottle (Derwent is preferred by your tutor)
Electric rubber optional (Derwent is preferable plus batteries)
Any items you may have from the available to buy list.

Available to buy

Available from shop:
Black ink – small bottle of Windsor and Newton 
Koh- i-noor Mondeluz 12 Aquarelle coloured pencils
2B and 5B pencil
Putty rubber, plastic rubber, enclosed pencil sharpener.
Watercolour brushes round size 10 and 4
Pentel water brush pen
A4 NOT watercolour sketchbook (landscape – Seawhites is preferred by tutor)
A1 x  sheet watercolour NOT paper 300gsm
Cartridge paper


Amanda Beck

Amanda Beck trained as an Illustrator at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. She is an experienced tutor working within arts organisations and the Oxford University Museums service. Research Casting International Ltd commissioned her to record the building of the Blue whale skeleton for the Natural History Museum, London.  


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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