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A Guide to Art Classes and Painting Lessons in the UK

By Yann, published on 23/06/2018 We Love Prof - IN > Arts and Hobbies > Painting > Where Can I Learn How to Paint?

‘Begin by learning to draw and paint like the old masters. After that, you can do as you like; everyone will respect you.’ ― Salvador Dalí

In the UK, you have the luxury of being able to take a stroll through the city and discovering some of the country’s most beautiful watercolour paintings, impressionist oil paintings, portrait paintings, landscape paintings or even digital paintings.

Let your imagination run wild as you wander around contemporary art galleries, such as the Tate Modern and rub shoulders with some of the 47 million annual visitors to the UK’s art galleries and museums.

Learning to Paint

Learning to paint and learning to draw are activities anyone can partake in – despite what you might think! Of course, not everyone can become a professional painter of the same calibre as the likes of Van Gogh or Rembrandt but it is possible to learn drawing and painting skills by taking art classes.

Art and painting classes will teach you the basics of oil painting techniques, acrylic painting techniques and drawing techniques, mixing colours, perspective, shadows, layers, scrumbling and still life painting skills.

Yet some people will obviously be a lot further off from becoming a master painter and reeling off acrylic art masterpieces than others  (yes, I’m talking about me here ^^)…

Once you have got to grips with basic painting techniques and painting with different kinds of brushes you will be able to start on your next watercolour or oil paint artistic masterpiece!

Professional Painters and Amateur Artists

There are a number of different ways to learn to paint and different paths will apply to those looking to paint professionally and those simply wanting to start painting classes in order to develop a hobby.

Get your watercolour palette and brushes ready because this article will help you find out which route is best for you!

Learn How to Paint through an Art Club or Association

Fine art course and abstract art courses will teach you how to paint like a pro! Be it abstract art or representational art, take in your surroundings and let your imagination do the talking! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Art Course Costs

The amount of money involved in the Art industry is enough to turn heads when it comes to selling a particularly rare canvas but when it comes to paying for painting lessons it can put quite a few people off.

But that is not to say that just because art with a capital A  is a completely inaccessible market for the majority of people that the same also goes for painting classes.

A number of community painting clubs, associations and organisations run beginners’ painting courses at very affordable prices. You won’t have to tighten any purse strings if you want to be an oil paint and acrylic paint pro or create a magnificent watercolour painting or landscape painting after all!

And to convince you, here a few advantages of learning to paint at an association near you:

  • The cost – certain organisations provide 2-hour long painting classes at around £30 a month. The majority of these types of organisations also allow art lovers to pay solely for use of the facilities and just bring their unfinished artwork with them. They also offer concessionary prices for the unemployed, seniors and students.
  • The friendliness – the atmosphere in a public or community painting class is usually more relaxed than in an art school! Offering mutual support to fellow artists is one of the key values of this kind of organisation and can really help to improve your technique in oil painting, acrylic painting or watercolour painting and you may even learn about painting by helping others with a composition.
  • Creative freedom – a lot of art organisations and clubs require art students to bring their own incomplete artwork and personal projects with them to class and encourage them to use a bit of artistic licence to finish projects using a variety of art materials, such as coloured crayons, watercolours, oils, pastels or paints. Taking art classes in a community organisation will thus enable you to learn to paint step by step whilst at the same time fostering creativity.
  • Personal tutoring – community art classes are often very small and allow you to have the benefit of one-on-one interactions with the art teacher. This kind of art instruction is sometimes almost like having a painting tutorial and you can really improve a lot under this kind of art instruction.

Community Art Courses vs Art School

Some people believe that beginners’ community course art teachers lack the strictness and quality of those of art schools.

However, they can provide some helpful painting tips and are usually highly qualified, assessed on their artistic talent in their own right and for their ability to lead painting workshops before they are chosen. Like any other art teacher, the majority of their wages are funded by the art course fees paid for by the students.

If you are concerned about the quality of an abstract painting, life drawing or painting and drawing class then why not try a trial session. It is the best way to get rid of any false preconceptions you may have and to see if the class suits you.

Finding Specific Art Classes or Painting Courses Online

How can you learn how to paint? Even the greatest painters had to start somewhere! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Finding a painting teacher online can seem complicated with all the different adverts that flash across the screen whenever you open a new page. However, in reality, all you need is to be organised enough in your search for the perfect match!

Grab a pen and jot down a few essential criteria that you will require of your future acrylic painting course!

Art Course Criteria

  • Geographical location 
  • Level taught – are you a total beginner or would you ideally like to try out an arts course that lets you perfect various artistic techniques?
  • Level and qualifications of the teacher
  • Type of arts course proposed – one-on-one classes by yourself, in a group, via a webcam or in person…
  • Speciality still life, working with gouache or watercolour paints, sketching, Chinese painting,  esquisse, sculpting
  • Response time
  • Budget

All of the above criteria will not only help you find an art course perfect for you but will also affect the hourly cost of classes for learning how to draw. Make sure that you have adjusted your criteria according to the price that you want to pay for classes before you start your search.

Art Class Equipment Material

Don’t forget that purchasing painting and art equipment materials will also be quite costly! You will need to buy or prepare an easel, canvas and pieces of scrap cloth as well as a paintbrush (or a set of paintbrushes), paints (watercolour/acrylic/oil/gouache), crayons, marker pens, chalk pastels, clay or charcoal pencils depending on what kind of art project you would like to undertake.

Finding an Art Teacher Near Me

Here at Superprof, we have more than 1,500 art teachers who are based all over the UK and ready to provide you with painting and art classes and courses. The platform is really handy as it is so easy to use and the majority of our teachers offer the first lesson or hour free! Taking a trial lesson is a good way of getting to know if you are a good fit with the teacher and if the course will meet your expectations.

Art Classes for Free – Study Art at A-Level!

A-Level or Extracurricular Art?

If you studied Art and Design or Design and Technology (DT) at GCSE (or even if you didn’t) it is still possible to do art at college. If you are thinking of doing painting professionally or you think it will complement your other subjects in a way that will help you follow your desired career path you can take Art and Design or DT as one of your AS or A-level subjects.

If you are not quite sure what you want to do or want to take up humanities or scientific subjects then you could always choose art as one of your optional modules to study outside of your main subjects a few hours a week. Most colleges also offer extracurricular art classes and clubs that run on a weekly basis.

Try attending sculpture and art classes Considering sculpting? Remember to take photos of your sculptures and use them in your oral presentations or portfolio! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Art at Sixth-Form College

Not many people really learn how to start painting at Sixth-Form. Most people already have a sound grasp of how to paint or draw before they embark upon A-level art and use the course as a way to define their own artistic style and put together a portfolio of work from sketches and drafts that eventually become full-blown projects.

Specific drawing, painting sculpting or modelling techniques can be refined during the 5-6 hours of weekly art lessons, which is the minimum amount of study time but you will still need to spend long hours outside of class time studying other works and finding themes that can be applied to your projects.

In most colleges, AQA AS and A-level Art and Design exams and portfolio visits by an external examiner take place around June time:

  • AS Level Component 1 (Portfolio) – the portfolio of work constitutes 60% of the Art and Design AS and is calculated with full marks being 96 marks. There is no time limit for the portfolio as it is not conducted under exam conditions, which means you can take it home or even to the park to complete!
  • AS Level Component 2 (Externally Set Assignment) -the externally set assignment constitutes 40% of the overall Art and Design AS and is also calculated with full marks being 96 marks. The assignment is conducted under exam conditions with a preparatory period and 10 hours of supervised time.
  • A-level Component 1 (Personal Investigation) – like the portfolio at AS, the personal investigation constitutes 60% of the Art and Design A-level and is calculated with full marks being 96 marks. There is no time limit for the personal investigation as it is not conducted under exam conditions.
  • A-level Component 2 (Externally Set Assignment) – the externally set assignment constitutes 40% of the overall Art and Design A-level and is also calculated with full marks being 96 marks. The assignment is conducted under exam conditions with a preparatory period and 15 hours of supervised time.

If you do not pass or did not get the marks you hoped for with regards to elements of your AS level, you can always retake them during the January resit period. If you think you deserved a higher grade then you were given for either of your exams and think you were unfairly marked then you can always request that your work is sent off to be remarked.

Optional Art Modules

No matter what A-level or AS subjects you choose, almost all colleges offer the option to also take additional classes in art as part of your optional module.

Optional modules usually constitute one or two hours a week of study and are very often not assessed at the end of the year but simply offer you a way of enriching your studies for free.

Optional art courses that you have taken are also a handy thing to mention in your personal statement when it comes to applying for a university as they show that you are a creative and well-rounded individual.

Learning to Paint at Art School!

If you pursue your studies in fine art, painting or any other type of art at an art school then you have probably already decided that you would like to take-up art professionally.

Art courses can truly change your life. Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places – in realist paintings, decorative paintings, landscape paintings, or even in your back garden! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Art School Application

An art school will help you to progress in your artistic work and help to improve your style, whatever material you are using – whether it be watercolours, pastel chalk, coloured pencil or whatever else it may be. Before you are accepted onto a course you will be assessed accordingly and will, therefore, be required to have a solid foundation in painting and drawing.

The process of getting accepted into an art course can seem quite complicated as more than just a specific type of profile, they are looking for people with their own personalities whose values match those of the art school and who have a certain sensitivity and cultural and artistic awareness.

Pre-Application

Before you even apply, remember that at some of the most prestigious art schools, such as the Royal College of Art, which is not only ranked best in the UK but also in the world, you will need to be capable of working long hours and working independently, willing to persevere and be highly demanding of yourself. Curiosity is obviously an important quality to have when trying to get into an art school.

Taking a course in Art and Design at A-level whilst you are at Sixth-Form College can help you to find your own style and build up a portfolio of work to present during the application process. Make sure that you also develop your own general artistic cultural background at the same time.

Taking a year out after you finish your A-levels to take foundation art courses where you can understand more about colour theory, colour mixing and other techniques all whilst further developing your portfolio is advised. Gaining inspiration through travel is also not a bad idea and may you in order to get the best chance of being accepted.

Choose carefully when it comes to selecting an art school and do not apply to too many at the same time or you risk sending off an application that is too general and gets rejected.

Target the art schools that correspond most with what you are looking for, for example, graphic art, visual art, animation, etc.

Art School Assessment Criteria

Preparing for the interview process is essential!

Even though each art school has its own selection and assessment process, most follow basic procedures when it comes to application assessments:

  • Drawing Assessment
  • General Culture Assessment
  • Interview – where you show your portfolio or defend your artistic work and explain your inspiration and aims (10-15 pieces of work done with different mediums).

There may even be a foreign language assessment and another supervised group work assignment in order to observe your personality when working with others and the way that you work. This is important as being an artist is actually quite a solitary activity but at school, we are constantly taught to work in teams and as part of a group!

Art School and University Tuition Fees in the UK can be quite astronomical with rates as high as £9,000 a year, which can really set you back a bit even if you are eligible for a student loan. A cheaper alternative is to head for warmer shores and study somewhere on the continent where even fees for world famous schools, such as the School of Fine Art (Ecole des Beaux Arts) in Paris are next to nothing.

Beware, competition is rife though!

If you don’t really fancy going to art school you can also take art foundation classes at vocational colleges, such as Cambridge Regional College, or attend a university art course offered by universities such as Leeds Univerisity.

Doing an art course at an art school or university in the UK can be quite a costly venture

Of course, this will be a little more pricey than venturing abroad and can be just as competitive!

Definitions – Learning to Paint

If you not new to the world of arts and crafts and have already been learning how to paint for some time now, terms such as glazing, ink wash or literati painting, pigments, graphite, turpentine oil and impasto (Italian art categorized by thick paint) will probably already be part of your everyday artistic vocabulary!

What is a Posca?

Posca is almost like a cross between watercolour paints and a brush for painting. It is a water-based marker pen that can be used on a wide variety of textures (wood, textile, slate, porcelain, etc.).

It is available in a range of colours, both primary colours and a whole range of secondary colours from white to titanium to deep sea blue and can be used for blending, creating tones and mimicking strokes of a watercolour brush to create really realistic and precise effects.

What is Turpentine Oil?

Turpentine oil is an essential oil obtained through purification and distillation of turpentine. It is an excellent solvent to use on fatty materials and is therefore essential for oil painting! It is, however, less commonly used for other forms of painting like watercolour painting or acrylic painting, which use paints that are not as thick as oil paints.

Most painting beginners do not know this handy painting tip that turpentine oil actually helps to speed up the drying process – so you’ll no longer have to carry on watching paint dry!

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