I have always painted, but traditionally did so more regularly when not living in London. The pace of life in the capital leaves little time for reflection, and few of us are able to dedicate a week at a time to working on our observational drawing. Changing schedules and family commitments render weekend courses almost impossible to regularly attend, and returning to a work-in-progress-piece after having missed classes can be bewildering.
Aside from the time-tabling issues, many of us seem put off at the idea of taking up our brushes after a break of some years, only to be told to ‘express ourselves’. All too often I hear complaints about the lack of structure of art courses run by some of the UK’s leading institutions, where emphasis is laid more on natural inclination than the structured learning of techniques. Although full-time art schools may find a more freewheeling approach fruitful, I would argue that my natural inclination when told to express myself freely is towards panic.
Art, for me, still encompasses an element of craft. It is the learning and mastering of that craft that brings the mind to the unique balance of concentration and serenity that characterises meditation. When I paint, hours can pass, calmness ensues, no part of me is wondering about the state of my inbox or my reception on social media. I am absorbed in the ancient craft of creation, and modern anxieties fall away.
But for the meditative benefits of art classes to take effect, structured lessons with a focus on mastering techniques are crucial. Art students should be guided, not left disorientated and confused. The therapeutic effects of artistic training can only be felt if it is indeed a training, and not an exercise in frustration.
Below are my recommendations for drawing courses in London.
For those on a budget: First Thursdays at The Royal Drawing School.
A free class with informative and encouraging teachers, life drawing sessions are also held on the first Thursday of every month.
For fixed date courses: Art Academy London offers well structured 10 day courses for varied levels of experience. From beginners drawing to portrait and figure sculpture, courses can be selected to suit the student.
For an historical environment: At the Royal Academy, the wide range of courses on offer and the high standard of teaching means that courses get snapped up incredibly quickly, but if you can manage to reserve a free spot be confident in the knowledge that you are working in an institution famous for its teaching for over 200 years.
For flexibility: The Sunny Art Centre. For those looking for guidance at a time that suits them, the Sunny Art Centre allows prospective students to book packages of classes to be taken at a time convenient to the individual. Located in Chancery Lane it provides an oasis of calm for those in need of an after-work wind down. Teachers tailor each lesson to the student to ensure a satisfying and informative learning experience, and all necessary equipment is available to purchase at the gallery.