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Introduction to Short Courses Summer 2018 Introduction to Life Drawing Art and Anatomy Botanical Drawing The New Sylva: Drawing Trees with Sarah Simblet The Drawing Book Chinese Calligraphy and Landscape Painting Deconstructing the Cubist Still Life Exploring the Exotic Still Life Life Drawing - term-time classes

Exploring the Exotic Still Life

Exploring the Exotic Still Life is a six-day non-residential painting course with Clova Stuart-Hamilton, and will also include a lecture from a visiting speaker and a visit to the Ashmolean Museum.

Course dates : Monday 30 July - Saturday 4 August

Based in the Ruskin studios, students will have the unusual opportunity to produce a sustained piece of work from a large, multi-aspect still life/mock interior, loosely referencing Matisse’s Moroccan period with a little extra inspiration from last summer’s Matisse in the Studio exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Clova Stuart-Hamilton, Orchid and Blue Chair (gouache)

Including instruction in the forgiving and versatile medium of gouache, the course first addresses the basic elements that underpin all still life painting.  The abundant possibilities for arresting compositions that the vibrant colour harmonies, bold decorative shapes and patterned textiles offer will then be investigated.  The exotic construction will have been knowingly assembled to enable positive outcomes for painters with a range of abilities and painting styles.  Beginners should have a little knowledge of colour mixing and drawing - however, there will be plenty to stretch and stimulate the more advanced.

The striking hues, strong composition and the use of pattern and decorative motifs of artists such as Matisse, Vuillard and Anne Redpath will be analysed and discussed.  In turn, these works from the late 19thc/ 20thc will be contextualised by examining earlier examples of the genre in the Ashmolean Museum, notably, the exceptional Daisy Ward Collection of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still life.

By the end of the course participants should have amassed strategies for recording shapes, judging proportions, creating successful compositions and analyzing tone and colour, in addition to completing a substantial painting (or two) on board or heavy watercolour paper.  They should also have developed greater insight into how they might set up and paint from their own collections of objects.

Geoffrey Cunningham (course participant 2017)


  • Day 1
  • Gouache - the versatile medium
  • Avoiding common drawing problems with a still life
  • Day 2
  • Discussion about stylistic approach
  • Strategies for a strong composition
  • Preparing to lay out and start your painting using thin paint
  • Day 3
  • How to tackle drapery
  • Modelling simple form
  • Continue to develop the painting with more opacity
  • Ashmolean visit
  • Day 4
  • Exploration of different approaches to handling pattern
  • Fine tuning colour mixing and matching
  • Techniques for enhancing the quality of light
  • Day 5
  • Focus on mark making and paint application
  • Using a range of brush marks, more texture and variety is introduced
  • Lecture
  • Day 6
  • Trouble shooting, pulling the composition together and completing the painting.
  • Group critique and appreciation of work produced


The materials and equipment required for painting in gouache will be supplied, including paints, water containers, brushes and palettes plus heavy watercolour paper or board to paint on.  Students can bring additional brushes and a sketchbook and pencils if they wish.

Clova Stuart-Hamilton, The Sitar (gouache)

Booking a Place

There are no entrance requirements or criteria, but participants must be over the age of 16. Tuition is in English.

Booking can be made at the University of Oxford's online stores.

There are three payment rates available :

i) Standard Adult : £860.00

ii) Oxford University students, staff and alumni (10% discount) : £775.00

iii) Students (with a current NUS card) and OAPs (5% discount) : £820.00

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 OAP 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

For information on the Ruskin's cancellation policy in relation to the summer courses, please refer to the short course introductory page

Course Tutor: Clova Stuart-Hamilton

Clova trained at the Ruskin and the Royal Academy Schools in the 1980s, winning a number of major prizes and scholarships.  She has shown extensively in London: Sue Rankin Gallery, Cadogan Contemporary, Burlington Fine Art, Darren Baker Gallery and the Mall Galleries (NEAC and RBA Open) and in Oxford, where she has found many collectors.  Shows in East Anglia, the Southern counties and Edinburgh have taken her work further afield in the UK; whilst overseas she has found buyers in the US, Hong Kong, France where she sometimes exhibits, and most recently in Sweden.  

More information about Clova can be found here