Painting still life – towards abstraction with Nick Bodimeade

Ref: S5D33043

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About this course

Learn to respond directly to still l i fe through drawing, collage and painting. Explore shape, composition, materials, tone and colour. Through a series of exercises, develope confidence in stripping away the superfluous to cap ture the essence.

Course Description

Still life could be thought of as a kind of testing ground for ideas and approaches to painting. The still life is, after all, a subject constructed with artmaking specifically in mind. This course is about going beyond representation, by exploring how the processes of drawing, collage and painting enable you to see your subject afresh and give you confidence to strip away the superfluous and reveal the essential. The aim is to produce several works in series, enabling comparative judgements to be made and learning to be clearly achieved.

Abstraction is a broad and slippery term, but through daily slide shows looking at the historical development of abstraction from still life, a clear path from Paul Cezanne, through Cubism and the works of St Ives artists to the present day, will be charted.

Acrylics are preferred due to their fast-drying qualities and their compatibility with other water-based mediums, PVA and collage.

Day 1: You will be making observational drawings with charcoal, cloth and eraser from elements of the still life. Simplification of form and focusing on specific visual qualities will produce images that transform the subject and reveal new possibilities. Editing, materials handling and mark quality, composition, space and pattern will be key components of the day.

Day 2: Working with paper that you have coloured at the beginning of the day, you will make collages in response to both the still life and the drawings of the previous day. Collage will allow a new focus on shape and edge qualities, placement and compositional decision making and maintaining clarity and simplicity. The relationship between collage, still life and abstraction in the works of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Ben Nicholson will be examined.

Day 3: With your studies as a starting point, you will continue the process of abstraction through the production of a series of ten small paintings on board, which you will work on for the remainder of the course, exploring the material and handling properties of paint, only using the actual still life for occasional reference, if at all. You will push the simplification of form to line, stripe, block and blob as in the works of artists such as Nicolas de Staël, Patrick Heron and William Scott. The work will progress with the help of comparative critical judgements, made possible by working in series. Individual support and evaluation will be provided at key points.

Day 4: You will spend the day working on your increasingly resolved series of ten paintings. Importantly, you will learn how to make dramatic and substantial changes to paintings whilst maintaining freshness and simplicity. The principle of holding onto your best work whilst taking risks with your worst will be established. The tutor will provide individual support with evaluations and discussions at key points.

Day 5: In the morning, you will continue to develop your paintings, holding onto the successes and taking risks with the less so. After lunch, we will put up a display of works and finish with a group evaluation.


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 includes the cost of providing the following materials: perishable elements of still life, ten MDF boards per student (20cm x 20cm x 6mm), acrylic primer and some charcoal.

What students need to bring

  • Painting shirt or overalls
  • A large palette for mixing colour, scissors, craft knife, sponges, palette knives/trowels, charcoal, masking tape, PVA glue
  • A range of acrylic paint of a reasonable quality - good student paint or artists’ quality. Very cheap paint will only produce disappointing results, as it tends to have insufficient pigment loading to allow overpainting. Suggested colours: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Magenta, Lemon Yellow, Burnt Umber
  • Brushes: your tutor recommends a range of flat pastry type, baker brushes from 25mm up to 50mm wide to encourage boldness and simplicity.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good range of art materials are available to buy, such as acrylic paints in a variety of colours, including Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Magenta, Lemon Yellow and Burnt Umber, masking tape, PVA glue, sponges, palettes, knives/trowels, palettes, scissors, charcoal and craft knives, a good range of brushes and additional MDF boards.
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor is providing sheets of 370gsm paper; please pay for the paper you use before leaving the course. The average cost is £10 for the course.

Additional information

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


Nick Bodimeade

Nick trained at Worthing and Wolverhampton art colleges, has taught at many UK schools, colleges and universties at all levels up to MA. He exhibits with St Annes Galleries, Lewes. Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel and the Porthminster Gallery, St Ives. Nick's work is held in many public and private collections including, The Contemporary Art Society, The Landmark Trust and the Government Art Collection. He is a Trustee of Fabrica, Brighton's leading Contemporary Art Gallery.


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.