Art might be one of the smallest words in the dictionary, but these three, unassuming letters open up a world of creative opportunity for anyone who wishes to grasp it. Perhaps art has been your life-force since the very first time you picked up a pencil in primary school; or you might have a nagging urge to take up a quilting or jewellery class. The wealth and breadth of art courses available are truly astonishing (there are 1,000 plus on offer) with every possible creative taste catered for. There are practical courses for hands-on arty stuff or really interesting, thought-provoking theory classes (like art therapy or history of art) to get your brain cells whirring with new ideas and concepts. Why not try out an art course that is totally different from your day-to-day working life – who knows where it might lead?
What instantly springs to mind when the label art course is read out, are practical classes in the traditional artistic sense: fine art, sketching, watercolours, pastels and oil painting for instance. While these are available in various sites around country with classes aimed at different abilities, the art world offers so much more to whet your creative appetite. How about making your very own Art Deco Fan lamp, where in just one day you learn the skills of Tiffany-style stained glass art and take your lamp home with you at the end of the day, to plug in and use. There are also a whole host of jewellery classes for making necklaces, bracelets and earrings using beads, textiles, paper, silver and wirework.
It's time to let your imagination run wild, with art courses in everything from patchwork and quilting to paper making and upcycling clothes, so you can transform worn-out skirts and dresses into fabulous new creations! At the other end of the spectrum, a thoroughly modern 'IT for Art' course is a great introduction to creating drawings on your tablet or Ipad. You need to take your own gadget but will be advised on the best applications to use.
Family workshops are perfect for honing your creative skills in art and craft play with children and grandchildren; and particularly useful for those who engage in creative play in the workplace.
A theoretical point of view
There is another side to the art world you might like to explore. As well as putting paintbrush to canvas and creating a masterpiece, art is also full of discussion and debate. This theoretical angle might just be what you are looking for to expand your horizons and get your teeth into something totally inspiring and thought-provoking. As just a taster of what's out there, maybe enrol on a course to analyse the relationship between creativity and madness; try a class on the explosion of American art in the 19th and 20th centuries; or others on Art and Faith where you will explore the symbolism of images, objects and buildings across a range of faiths.
Another option (combining practical and theory skills) is an art therapy foundation course which will introduce you to the value of art making in mental and emotional health. You will gain valuable insight into your own creative processes as well as providing a good grounding if you want to go on to further courses and train for a profession in art therapy.
Planning, preparation and performance
Forging a career as an artist is undeniably a tough one. While your passion is poured into creating beautiful works of art, you clearly need to make your business work and earn an income from all your hard graft. For more information, tips and advice check out our handy guide to artist careers.
There are courses that can help with this too. A workshop looking at how to develop a professional art practice will equip you with all the basics involved in setting yourself up as a professional artist, from promoting your work, networking, applying for funding and finding studio space. 'Funding and Global Networking for Artists' is another brilliant course if you want to make the challenging transition from the studio to an active and thriving artistic practice. Then there is the art law courses which focus on legal issues for artists including copyright laws and how to protect your work from commercial abuse – a crucial bank of knowledge in our ever-global internet culture.
For students just setting out into the world of art and who want to secure a place to study art and design in higher education, there are several courses available on portfolio presentation. These one-day, bite-sized classes show you how to optimise the presentation of your art and design portfolio including advice on content and how to compose your personal statement. These are brilliant confidence-builders leaving you with a full understanding of the relevance and importance of a succinct and effective portfolio.
A – A fabulous way to explore the world and express your thoughts and feelings through a wealth of medium, from paint, to chalks to pencil, computer and sound
R – Really anyone can have a go! Whether it's studying the work of the great Renaissance artists or creating beautiful jewellery to give away to friends for the best homemade presents
T –Try it now. Enrol on one of the many art courses taking place near you.
By Lara Sargent
Confusion is a familiar feeling to anyone who has visited an art gallery and found themselves wandering from exhibit to exhibit baffled by what they’re viewing, desperately trying to interpret some kind of message or meaning within the frames. While most of us can appreciate good art, being able to read it and fully understand it is a different thing altogether.
Art historians make a living out of this though and Leslie Primo prides himself on his ability to make art accessible to even the most philistine gallery visitor. A graduate in art history and Renaissance studies, Leslie has worked at the National Gallery for 14 years giving lectures to the public, as well as teaching a number of different art history courses in a variety of colleges and universities.
In between art tours and history lectures we managed to snatch a few moments with Leslie at Bishopsgate Institute to find out more about the art world and the courses he teaches.
How did you first discover your passion for art history?
A primary school trip to the National Gallery, but the passion would not be re-ignited until another visit, one late night after work, as an adult.
Are you any good at art yourself? Or do you prefer appreciating others’ work?
I am not any good at art myself; I have seen too much art to create art, so I do prefer to appreciate the work of other artists.
Do have a favourite?
Rather predictably for a Renaissance specialist, my favourite artist is Leonardo da Vinci because he is an artist not restricted by boundaries, such as what it is to be an artist. An artist who doesn’t believe in the modern concept called cheating, he is the quintessential modern artist that is only now understood by contemporary artists. However, if he was alive now, because of his experimentation and use of unorthodox approaches to art, he probably would not be understood by most of the public.
Tell us about the course you teach at Bishopsgate...
It’s called ‘Unlock the otherwise impenetrable world of the art gallery’. It’s about revealing the art behind the art, the origins of art movements, the world of the art gallery and the reasons why art is made in the first place.
When students come to the first session, what’s the first thing you teach them?
Art history is not a precise science, there is no such thing as art history, just art histories.
Sounds intriguing! What’s the main thing they take away?
A basic understanding of the visual language of Western European art including iconography and iconology. And, of course, the ability to feel at ease and confident in art galleries!
How do you make sure they absorb everything?
With quizzes and comparison examples of different works of art where they have to say what might be the common factors between said works.
How subjective is art interpretation?
There is an element to all art that is subjective and thus can be read in different ways by different people. This can be down to individual interpretation by each artist, or it can be because the original information regarding the meaning of particular paintings has been lost over the course of many centuries. But there is also a language to art that is prescriptive and descriptive and can be read in individual works of art, such as the identification of gods and goddesses, well known stories from antiquity, the identification of saints and sinners, and personifications.
What’s the hardest thing about your work?
Earning a living wage can be difficult in art history. For me, planning and writing courses and building up a visual memory of works of art is a challenge too.
We know you run art discovery tours – how do you go about ensuring the art world doesn’t feel too daunting to the untrained eye?
In many cases the artists that made the great works of art were from very ordinary backgrounds and the subjects that they depict; despite being biblical or mythological in origin, are in fact very ordinary stories with moral issues that we are still very familiar with today. My job is to unravel these seemingly complex stories and reveal them for the soap operas that they really are. There is nothing that goes on in art that we really don’t understand, because they are made by humans, and we are human. Art is life and life is art.
We’ll never look at art in the same way again! Thanks Leslie! If you want to look like you know your stuff in a gallery and fancy learning more about art, have a look at the related courses available in everything from art, crafts, history and criticism.
You’ll never be forced to, but many of the longer art courses will offer you the chance to exhibit your work when you’ve finished learning so that friends and family can come along and see what you’ve been up to.
No. Anyone can unleash their creative side with the help of the right teacher. Also everyone says art is subjective, so arguably, even if you don’t feel you’re very good you could be creating a masterpiece.
Yes. Unless you create the next Turner Prize winner, in which case your teacher may try to sneak it away.
Yes! Hopefully your teacher will be able to tell you the answer! But seriously, you don’t need to be an expert on artists that have gone before to be good at art yourself. Sure, it helps to know what’s gone before and to be able to learn from what’s been successful and what hasn’t.
Some do, but straight art courses are focused just on learning techniques and creating art. If you go for something with a focus on art history or criticism you might find there’s more reading and research involved as you learn.
If you’re looking for a career in the art world, it can be very competitive. You could be self employed, accepting commissions but this is very dependent on how good you are since you’ll be relying on people enjoying your artwork to get paid. You might also consider teaching art or going into related areas such as working as an art critic or a gallery tour guide.
You don’t usually need to; these are included in the price. However, you will be making something to take home with you so if you’ve got a preference of material to create art with you may wish to bring it. For example, if you’re doing a sketching course and have a preferred set of pencils, there’s no reason why you can’t bring them with you.
Yes. Whether it’s an apron or an old ‘dad shirt’, there will be something you can wear to cover your clothing. It’s worth wearing things you don’t mind getting a bit messy though since accidents do happen.
In case you need a little more inspiration, here are some of our favourite photo galleries from course providers offering art courses...
She regularly demonstrates and/or teaches in adult education for art societies and on private courses.
Kate is an award-winning professional painter based in the English Lake District and is a elected member of the The Lakes Artists Society and the Birmingham Watercolour Society and a Associate member of The Society of Women Artists.
Kate Bentley A.S.W.A. is a professional, award-winning artist and also a popular tutor with broad experience of teaching.
A oil painting in the studio
casts in the studio
Chinese painting class in Sunny Art Centre, London
Oil painting/ Water color/ Acrylic painting class in the weekend at Sunny Art Centre, London
Still life painting class in Sunny Art Centre, Aldgate East, London
Chinese Painting class at London Sunny Art Centre
Get more ideas and be inspired; we've scoured the web to bring you some of our favourite art videos...
Art, for the uninitiated, is generally quite confusing. ‘What makes art, ‘art’?’ is a question many have asked and even some of the world’s top artists can’t answer it. Some say it’s about being unique, some say it’s about skill, some say it’s making people think and some say that all art is good and that it’s just a question of taste.
Ok, well this has confused us even more. Anyway, here are five that we’ve really struggled to get our heads around. See if you can make sense of them...
1. This art is just sick.
Millie Brown is well known within art circles for her art created by drinking coloured milk and then vomiting it onto canvas (yep, it’s making you view that image above in a whole new light, isn’t it?). She became even more famous when she performed on stage with Lady Gaga, vomiting all over the singer’s dress.
2. It’s a lobster. And a telephone.
Salvador Dali is a very famous Spanish surrealist artist and he created this object back in 1936 (so weird art is nothing new!). It is said that the lobster has sexual connotations for Dali because it appears in many of his other works to cover genitalia. It was designed to create a reaction and it certainly has done.
3. You’re having a shark.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was the name of this 1991 piece by Damien Hirst for Charles Saatchi. It was controversial in that a lot of critics claimed that anyone could have created this piece of art, to which Hirst famously responded, ‘But you didn’t, did you?’
4. But mum, it’s art?
We’ve always needed an excuse for not making our beds and in 1999 Tracey Emin provided us with the perfect one. Her Turner-shortlisted installation, My Bed, certainly got people talking about the interesting items close to the unmade bed. This is another piece of art people question since it is simply her bed as she left it after she had suffered depression and stayed in it for days.
5. Time to turn everything in the bathroom on its side.
This piece, entitled Fountain, by Marcel Duchamp is essentially a urinal laid on its back as opposed to sitting upright against a wall. In 1917 when it was created, it was rejected for exhibition however it’s now considered one of the most iconic works of art of the 20th century and typical of the anti-rational Dada artistic movement.
If you think you could do better than these, have a look at the art courses available.
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