Sketching across the South Downs with Maxine Relton

Ref: S3D31775

Book now

Places available

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 is the essence of this course. With sketchbooks in hand, you’ll be taking short walks in the South Downs, keeping your eyes peeled and your 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 largely about trying out your responses to outdoor scenes, but does include some time to develop these back in the studio. It aims to provide inspiration if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced student, in the form of springboards for your future, rather than finished, completed work.

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 while revitalising your senses in the autumn light and special beauty of Britain’s newest National Park. Some optional, unsupervised evening projects may be 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 and combine the organic, geometric and abstract into a convincing whole, using your sketchbook as a creative tool to form a personal and invaluable visual encyclopaedia to develop your ideas further.


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


  • Included in the course fee are some materials shared amongst the group. Your tutor 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 an umbrella.
  • A camera is useful for later, secondary reference.
  • Painting overall for studio work
  • A few colour magazines of any kind that you no longer need
  • Any of the following items you may have:
  • A sketchbook of good quality cartridge paper in any preferred size that is comfortable to carry (spiral-bound with a rigid back is practical)
  • If using watercolour paints, please also bring a sketchbook containing watercolour paper
  • Lightweight folding chairs are available to borrow if required, and basic studio equipment

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials, including sketchbooks, paper, drawing materials, painting materials and watercolour paints, etc.

Additional information

If you wish to speak to the tutor in advance to discuss any aspect of the course, please let the bookings office know at: [email protected] who will forward your details to the tutor. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes 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.

Courses of interest

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 advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). 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.