Art inspired writing with Ruth Brandt

Ref: SWE31959

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About this course

This course, exploring the ways paintings can be used to stimulate ideas for stories, characters and poems, is suitable for writers of all levels, as well as anyone wanting to try something new. It can provide a fun way into creative writing.

Course Description

Prose and poetry written about a work of art, known as ekphrastic writing, has a long tradition, from ‘The Iliad’ to Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and Tracy Chevalier’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. During this course you will consider the many ways a painting can be used as the source of inspiration for a poem or story, including delving into setting, creating and deepening characters, generating atmosphere, investigating lyrical and figurative language, providing historical detail, and more. Previous knowledge of art or artists is not necessary, but where a student does have such knowledge, this can be called on.

The course is suitable for all writers, whether at the start of your writing journey, or further along and seeking ideas on how to expand and improve your prose or poetry, or develop a longer project. It also provides a fun way into creative writing for anyone wanting to get a feel for the subject.

Working in a supportive, encouraging environment, you will explore ways of using paintings, including those on display at West Dean College, as inspiration through class discussions and written exercises. Regular feedback and guidance will be provided by the tutor, and there will be plenty of time for independent writing in and around the college’s inspirational setting.

By the end of the course, you will have developed an understanding of how paintings can be used to inspire creative writing. You will have written and edited several pieces, and you will leave with increased writing skills and the confidence to write more.


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

What students need to bring

  • Notepad and pen, or Laptop

Additional information

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


Ruth Brandt portrait

Ruth Brandt

Ruth Brandt’s short stories and flash fiction have been widely published. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Write Well Award and Best Small Fictions Award. Her short story collection No One has any Intention of Building a Wall will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in 2021.


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

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