Sketching across the South Downs with Maxine Relton


Ref: S3D11131

Suitable for all

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About this course

Make expressive and characterful sketches, as you enjoy short forays into the ancient rural settings of West Dean. Frame strong compositions, connect with the land and distil your immediate responses to develop a personal drawing style.

Course Description

Capturing the immediacy of the world on the wing is the essence of this course. With sketchbooks in hand, we’ll be taking short walks in the South Downs, keeping our eyes peeled and our minds open to every imaginable source of inspiration: strong landscape compositions, striding walkers, fleeting wildlife, village scenes, dramatic cloudscapes and the ever-absorbing abstract patterns of the earth’s rich textures.

This is about learning to see as an artist. Wherever your interests lie (colour, texture, line, tone), whatever your medium (painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, ceramics), whatever your approach (representational, abstract, interpretive, expressionistic, stylistic), you will always find a rich source of inspiration in the world around you if you have an open, receptive and enquiring mind. This course is about trying out and comparing your visual responses, then giving some time to developing these back in the studio. It aims to provide springboards for your future rather than finished, completed work.

Whether beginner, intermediate or advanced, you will be exploring a wide variety of approaches, testing out ways of drawing and painting that most appeal to you, so that you can develop what comes most naturally to you.

You will gain confidence in the art of lively, expressive responses, extend your drawing and painting skills, learn to work on the move with a compact, portable kit to suit your style and all the while revitalising your senses in the autumn light and special beauty of Britain’s newest National Park. You will visit different and varied morning and afternoon locations, as well as invest time in the studio for considered developments. Some optional, unsupervised evening projects are suggested. Your tutor will bring a number of books for inspiration, as well as some original work of her own to share.

By the end of the course, you will know how to distil and frame your subject, lead the eye around your focal point, combine the organic, geometric and abstract into a convincing whole. You will know how to shape your own compositions with greater skill and understanding, and how to use your sketchbook as a creative tool to form a personal and invaluable visual encyclopaedia for your future work.


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


  • Included in the course fee: some materials shared amongst the group. Lightweight folding chairs if required, and basic studio equipment. Maxine will also bring a variety of sketching tools and materials to discuss and try out.

What students need to bring

  • A rucksack containing drawing/painting materials of your choice in a waterproof plastic bag
  • You are also advised to bring comfortable, waterproof footwear, weatherproof jacket with hood, separate hat with a brim (or visor), sunglasses and umbrella.
  • You may wish to bring a camera for later, secondary reference
  • Painting overall for studio work
  • A few colour magazines of any kind that you no longer need
  • Any items you may have from the list below

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A sketchbook of good quality cartridge paper in any preferred size that is comfortable to carry (spiral-bound with a rigid back is practical)
  • Drawing/painting materials
  • If using watercolour paints, please also bring a sketchbook containing watercolour paper
Please note: Maxine always likes to have a chat with students personally on the telephone when planning her programme for each course. This gives her the opportunity to find out about any special interests or focus areas you have, to tell you a bit more about the course and to answer any questions you might have about it. Your email and phone number will be passed to Maxine. If you would prefer the tutor not to contact you, please let the Bookings office know.


Maxine Relton

Teaching at West Dean since 2005, Maxine works across drawing, painting, printmaking, bookmaking and mixed media. Exhibits widely, runs a 3-floor gallery of her work in Gloucestershire, included in public and private collections around the world. Trained in London at Camberwell and the Slade. An elected member of the Royal West of England Academy.


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

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