The art of imperfection in painting – wabi sabi with Helen Turner

Mixed and other media

Ref: S5D11277

Contact us

Places available

About this course

Working with the wabi sabi aesthetic, which is characterised by imperfection and incompleteness, you will use multiple handmade processes with different materials to make expressive and meaningful work allowing the materials to show their life and use.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to enjoy the materials and allow the painting to evolve as you work. You will be experimenting with the careful layering of paint, repetitive brush strokes and mark-making with varying rhythms to create densely constructed forms which shift and change through the process.

This course is about applying the wabi sabi philosophy directly into your work. Wabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that celebrates the beauty of the handmade, imperfection, nature, incompleteness, ever-changing qualities of the materials and not having the outcome as a priority.

You will be discovering and exploring materials through deconstructing, manipulation and playing with fabric, pigments, paints and drawing materials allowing the work to make itself. This is very much an eastern philosophy, connecting the inner to the outside world and its ever-changing qualities.

We will be looking at artists mainly from the east, namely Korea and Japan, including western artists too.

The course is structured in the sense that there are set techniques that you will be learning. Using different paints, inks and pigments in varying forms. This will be the starting point for making your work alongside one-to-one tuition from the tutor.

The natural forms from the West Dean Gardens will be used as inspiration, as well as the work of other artists.

Working in a group helps generate the sharing of creativity and processes. Using the wabi sabi philosophy as a particular way of working can take the stress, completion and hard work out of the making of art.

Mid-winter school week – 5–10 December

Kyra Cane, Mark Cazalet, Cas Holmes, Fiona Hutchison, Helen Turner

This group of five courses, works with the common thread of encouraging you to refresh your creative output, and inspire new work over the coming winter months. They are suitable for intermediate and advanced, artists and makers.


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


  • 2 X MDF boards (40x30cm), some heavy weight (300gsm) cartridge paper and some lightweight (130gsm) cartridge paper, newsprint paper, glue and masking tape. Some Zest It, linseed oil, household gloss varnish, plaster, filler, primer, gesso, lining paper and a large roll of Fabriano 220gsm roll and rabbit skin glue to share amongst the group.

What students need to bring

  • Sketchbook, brushes big and small, drawing materials – charcoal, pencils rubber.
  • Paints – tubes of oil colour, acrylics. Ink. Pigments and glitter (suppliers Brodie and Middleton, AP Fitzpatrick) e.g. Prussian Blue, black, earth colours are cheaper, UV colours.
  • Canvas 1 – 2 metres and linen 1 – 2 metres.
  • Old pillowcases, fabric of any kind, cellophane, old bits of anything you have, clothes.
  • Rags and yoghurt pots for mixing. The more you bring, the more you can experiment with.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Oil paint, acrylic paint, paper, inks, canvas and linen, sketchbooks, charcoal, pastels
  • Available from tutor:
  • Pigments and any extra plaster
Choosing your own materials before you come is personal and will resonate in your work rather than relying on buying everything from the College shop.


Helen Turner

Helen has successfully been teaching painting and drawing for 20 years. She has a BA Hons in painting from Canterbury College of Art (1986) and Postgraduate Diploma, from Cyprus College of Art (1990). In 2002 Helen was selected for the John Moores painting prize; 2011 was included in the touring show About Painting with a published book, and in 2012 she had a solo show at the Eagle Gallery. In 2014-16 the artist was represented by Wilson Stephens and Jones Gallery. In 2013 all of Helen's work was destroyed in a studio fire in Lewes and it was after this that Helen started to work in a different way using a wide range of materials, experimenting and finding new and exciting ways to make work.


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

Courses of interest

Sign-up to be the first to know

Sign up to our Short Course enews to hear about new courses, late availability and get creative inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.