Ideas for abstraction – experimental drawing and painting with Annabel Tilley

Ref: S3D32059

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About this course

Learn to create effortless, colourful, abstract and semi-abstract drawings, paintings and collages derived from everyday objects and the world around you.

Course Description

On this course, you will create small vibrant abstract or semi-abstract drawings and paintings, experimenting with ideas derived from exercises set by the tutor. The emphasis will be on experimentation and moving easily from depicting everyday objects to creating colourful abstract designs.

Using images supplied by your tutor, the course will begin with a series of quick exercises, as ways into abstraction, to work up ideas. You will explore colour, shape and pattern to create a host of inspirational motifs that can be transcribed as part of your design.

Exploring collage, drawing and painting – with the opportunity to draw and paint on a variety of materials from paper and cardboard to old book covers – you will work from your imagination, as well as taking inspiration from the stunning surroundings at West Dean. Group exercises will be followed by further guidance and one-to-one support, as well as group discussions.

By the end of the course, you will have a good understanding of the mechanics and motivation that go into making abstract work, as well as the tools to go on and develop the themes explored. You will come away with at least two completed paintings, as well as a multitude of new ideas and a decent pile of drawings and collages to use as inspiration towards future works.

Course Materials


  • On this course, the tutor will supply a selection of materials to share amongst the group, including two prepared book covers per person, paper, cardboard, a selection of acrylic paint to try out on your book covers, pH neutral adhesive, satin acrylic varnish, inks, coloured pencils, marker pens and collage material.

What students need to bring

  • Please bring a selection of paper-based drawing, painting and collage materials you enjoy working with, including one or two pieces of sturdy cardboard (cut from a cardboard box) around A4 and A3 size.
  • IMPORTANT: please bring a selection of different-sized brushes that you are happy to use with acrylic paint – small for fine work and fatter for covering larger areas – and a palette that can be used with acrylic paint to paint your book covers.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good selection of art materials such as drawing and painting materials and equipment including a good variety of brushes.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


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)

General Information


Annabel Tilley: Old masters ink on paper

Annabel Tilley

Annabel Tilley, graduate of the University of Brighton and shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize, has a drawing-based and sketchbook practice and has exhibited widely and undertaken several residencies. She is a lecturer, co-author of What they didn't teach you in art school (Octopus Books, 2016) and co-Founder of Zeitgeist Arts Projects (2012-2015).


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 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.