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Life Drawing - term-time classes Introduction to Short Courses Summer 2019 Art and Anatomy The Archaeology of the Self Botanical Drawing Chinese Landscape Painting Deconstructing the Cubist Still Life Drawing Book: experiments on paper Introduction to Life Drawing

Botanical Drawing

This course takes the fascinating and diverse world of plants as rich inspiration for learning how to draw. In 2019, it will run for the week of Monday 5 to Sunday 11 August. UPDATE: THIS COURSE IS NOW FULLY BOOKED
Photograph: Sarah MacDonald 2018

Taught by fine artist and writer Dr Sarah Simblet, this intensive seven day course in experimental drawing is based on her best-selling book Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants (2010). 

In this course Sarah combines elementary drawing lessons with visits to see rare works of art and expeditions to draw plants and trees in the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Christ Church Meadows. Sarah gives daily illustrated lectures on topics ranging from the history and contemporary practice of drawing and the best use of drawing materials and techniques, to the essentials of plant morphology.

Photo: Nancy MacDonald, 2018

Each day Sarah brings an abundance of fresh seasonal plant material collected from the landscape surrounding her home in rural Oxfordshire. These include the flowers and fruits of native and naturalised trees, corn crops and diverse specially grown broadleaved plants donated by the owners of gardens, woodlands and a nearby water meadow. 

The Botanical Drawing course aims to inspire confidence in the beginner and refresh the work of the more experienced artist. No previous experience is needed. Essential materials are provided and participants who complete the course will achieve an exciting volume of both experimental and traditional drawings, and have learned skills relevant to both Fine Art practice and botanical illustration. 

Photo: Nancy MacDonald, 2018

"Sarah is such an inspirational and expert teacher. She is so talented but is still able to reach out to learners with the sort of helpful and practical advice that is 'enabling' rather than prescriptive. Both group and individual guidance is always sympathetic and appropriate - she start from 'where you are' and always moves you forward from that place. Excellent! Thank you!"  Course participant

To watch an interview with Sarah Simblet please follow this link

Photo: Nancy MacDonald, 2018


Programme - Monday 5 to Sunday 11 August

  • Day 1 
  • am: Sarah presents her own drawings.
  • pm: Visit to draw in Oxford Botanical Gardens.
  • Day 2   
  • am: Lecture on Diversity and Meaning in Drawing.
  • am: Studio drawing. Materials and mark making.
  • pm: Studio drawing. Large scale drawing with brushes and ink.
  • Day 3  
  • am: Practical look at Plant Morphology. Articulating parts.
  • pm: Using pen and ink. Analytical thinking.
  • Day 4   
  • am:  Drawing trees in Christ Church Meadows.
  • pm: Visit to Oxford University Herbaria Collections.
  • Day 5   
  • am: Group Q&A: Demystifying drawing.
  • pm: Introduction to metal point drawing.
  • Day 6 
  • Free drawing all day in the Botanic Garden or Studio.
  • am: voluntary introduction to sketch book making.
  • Day 7
  • am: Lecture on lighting and atmosphere in drawing.  
  • pm: Reductive drawing class and concluding celebration.


You will be working in the studios at 74 High Street and in nearby parks and gardens. Each teaching day begins at 10am and finishes at 5pm (though the studios are open for personal practice from 9am until 6pm).

When in the studios, the School offers refreshments all day and there are many restaurants and cafes near the school for lunch.

The Ruskin will provide each participant with easels, donkeys, paper, plants and containers, pens, nibs and ink, charcoal, and a garden cane. You are welcome to bring along to the course any additional materials, plus your own sketchbook. 

There is a maximum of 16 places.  

Tuition is in English. No academic or artistic criteria are required for attendance on this course although all participants must be 16 years old and over. Please be aware that there is limited disabled access at the Ruskin.

For further information, please email, or phone: +44-(0)1865 276940


Booking a Place

Booking is done through the University of Oxford's online store. We regret that the Ruskin cannot reserve places or take payment for bookings. 

There are three payment rates available :

Standard: £1,075.00

Students and over-65s (5% discount) : £1025.00

Oxford University students, staff and alumni (10% discount) : £970.00

If you select a discounted booking rate, you will need to present your University alumni/staff card, NUS card, or some form of identification indicating your senior status at the start of the course.

These courses are non-residential – participants must arrange their own travel and accommodation.   To enjoy the full Oxford University experience, we recommend booking accommodation in nearby colleges through University Rooms (guests must be 21 or over, or accompanied by someone over 21).


Cancellation Policy

Please note the Ruskin's cancellation policy for the summer short courses.  These policies are in contrast to the terms and conditions listed on the online store and take precedence over that policy.

Deposit, calculated as 15% of the course fee, applies to all courses.

Any booking that is cancelled more than one month before the start date of a course will receive a refund of any fees paid minus the Deposit.

Cancellations received within one month of the start of a course will not be eligible for any refund. The Ruskin strongly recommends that customers take out travel insurance against loss of the course fee in case they need to cancel at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances.

Where a customer wishes to cancel a place on one course and transfer to another, this refund policy will normally apply.

The Ruskin reserves the right to cancel a course up to one month before the start date of a course, beyond that point, a course will be guaranteed. If a course is cancelled by the school, participants will be refunded in full. 

Photo: Nancy MacDonald, 2018