Painting – powerful composition with Maxine Relton

Ref: S4D13329

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About this course

Develop your intuitive sense of composition through an imaginative series of practical studies focusing on shape, colour, tone, texture, rhythm and space. Experimentation is encouraged to get your ideas flowing.

Course Description

Developing our intuitive sense of design and composition is a creative process; encouraging, exploring and understanding that process is the purpose of this course.

What makes a painting or other artwork look right i.e. convincing and complete? Are there basic principles that can shape our creative thinking, and, if so, how can we avoid the predictable and succeed in finding a personal voice of our own?

You will look at the work of some established artists, past and present, to compare underlying structures and discuss strengths and weaknesses. You will try different formats for yourself and will be given time to share and review your discoveries as you go along.

Establishing a strong framework before beginning a new work can liberate the imagination and get ideas flowing. The tutor will guide an imaginative series of practical studies, looking at the rich choices available to you to form such a framework: line, shape, colour, tone, texture, rhythm, space, etc. You will work in the medium of your choice but are encouraged to try different techniques, materials, sensibilities and approaches to discover more effective ways of communicating your ideas, harnessing exciting new powers of expression, dramatic emphasis and balance.

The tutor will bring samples of her own work to share the thought process behind them, and she will demonstrate different approaches throughout the course.


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


  • The course fee will include the cost of some materials to be shared amongst the group.
  • Equipment such as scissors, craft knives, cutting mats, rulers, small mixing palettes, water containers, lightweight folding chairs and drawing boards are provided for you use while on the course.

What students need to bring

  • Painting materials (water-based, not oils) and medium of your choice
  • Sketchbook or paper suited to your painting materials and medium
  • Mixing palette if you have one (small ones provided)
  • Basic drawing materials
  • A handful of colour magazines for cutting up if you have any
  • You are invited to bring some examples of your own work to review with the tutor in this new context where time allows, and, if possible, some examples of work by other artists that you find particularly inspiring.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Drawing and painting materials of all kinds, including paint-mixing palettes
  • Pencils, pens, rubbers
  • General purpose notebooks and sketchbooks of all kinds
  • Craft knives and scissors
  • Assorted drawing and watercolour papers
  • Available from tutor:
  • On this course, some tools, materials and papers will be supplied for students wishing to try unfamiliar techniques and processes in the projects proposed.

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.