Sketching the living world with Maxine Relton


Ref: S3D11813

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About this course

Improve your drawing fluency while engaging more closely with the living world. Learn to respond rapidly to a variety of ever-changing subjects such as animals, birds, trees and insects. Distil essential forms and pick out the most expressive and strongest lines, tones and colours.

Course Description

You will be working as much as possible directly from life; drawing from the fauna and flora of the College’s beautiful rural surroundings and nearby coastline, as well as having access to private farmland on and around the West Dean Estate. Your tutor will demonstrate different tools and approaches at every opportunity, as well as sharing her own sketches and the work of other artists. You will start by being guided through some inspirational visual references before you tackle the challenge of timed and informative speed-drawing sessions.

Your tutor will include some optional, unsupervised evening projects and will offer you useful advice on a compact and versatile outdoor sketching kit to suit the particular style and focus of your own work. She will also provide a number of well-illustrated books for you to enjoy and reference, and will suggest ways of developing your sketches into more considered work if you wish.

By the end of the course, you will have greatly accelerated your drawing and painting speed and agility, arming you with increased sketching confidence and ability in line, tone and colour. You will also have deepened your understanding and developed a closer bond with the living world of our shared planet.


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 until 9pm, 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


  • On this course the College will supply some materials to be shared amongst the group, as well as lightweight folding chairs and basic studio equipment. A trip to the falconry.

What students need to bring

  • A rucksack containing drawing/painting materials of your choice in a waterproof plastic bag.
  • 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, use a sketchbook suitable for wet media or bring an additional sketchbook containing watercolour paper.
  • You are also advised to bring comfortable, waterproof footwear, weatherproof jacket with hood, separate hat with a brim (or visor), sunglasses and umbrella. A camera for later, secondary reference is useful and you may want a painting overall for studio work

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Sketchbooks
  • Drawing/ painting materials
You will be visiting a local falconry in our minibus during the course, included in the course fee. Your tutor always likes to have a chat with students personally on the telephone when planning her programme for each course. This gives her to 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 the tutor. If you would prefer the tutor not to contact you, please let the Bookings office know. If you wish to contact your tutor for advice before you hear from her, do call 01453 832597 or email In case of voice mail, please leave your telephone number and mention the dates for the course you are due to attend, and she will get back to you. Wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toed shoes or sandals.


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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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or a Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts (10 three-day study blocks, over two years). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.

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