In this section

Life Drawing - term-time classes Introduction to Short Courses Summer 2019 Art and Anatomy Botanical Drawing Chinese Calligraphy and Landscape Painting Deconstructing the Cubist Still Life Exploring the Exotic Still Life Introduction to Life Drawing Introduction to Screen Printing Sculpting the Head: Anatomy, Form, Personality The Archaeology of the Self The Art of Wax: Flesh and Mortality The Drawing Book: experiments on paper

Sculpting the Head: Anatomy, Form, Personality

Eleanor Crook returns in 2019 with her five-day course on head and neck (portraiture) anatomy. This is a dynamic programme that explores the head as a three-dimensional form, an anatomical structure, the seat of personality and the subject of expressive creativity. It will run from Monday 29 July to Friday 2 August.
Photograph: Nancy MacDonald 2018

Developed in response to the significant success of Art & Anatomy, this intensive five-day course allows participants to explore human anatomy and movement in greater depth.  Guided by renowned anatomical and forensic artist and sculptor Eleanor Crook, participants will build from observation, drawing and anatomy to experimental sculpting and object-making.

Your knowledge of the skull will begin with a day of anatomical instruction and searching, expressive drawing with Sarah Simblet. You will explore the skull from all angles until it is understood as a rounded, containing, functional and balanced form.

Drawing will move into handling a plaster skull of your own, building its face in wax, as Eleanor introduces you to Forensic Facial Reconstruction. You will discover the relationship between the skull and the muscle, the flesh and skin of the face. You will learn how the head balances on the neck and how facial expression is generated from the coordinated contraction of a network of muscle fibres, sculpting each as you learn its shape and function. You will complete an anatomical head to take home for future study.

On the third day, your sculpting comes to life as the class builds a classic bust armature and sculpts the head in clay from a life model. You will be taught how to work both from figure measurement and from direct observation, recognising the anatomy you have now learned in the living body, keeping in mind the energy and personality of the sitter and encouraged to place your personal stamp on the finished work.

Eleanor will provide a full demonstration of every stage and illustrated talks with examples from many artists and styles to help you find your own voice within an historic yet contemporary field. The model is discussed as anatomy and physiology but also as an expressive subject, as an art object, as a site for experimentation and expression.

Photo: Nancy MacDonald 2018

The last studio session builds on a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum to see the treatment of the head in many world cultures and the use of actual skulls in object making.

On returning to the studio each student receives another plaster skull to transform as they wish: for decorating, collage, wrapping, rapid improvised sculpture using found materials, surface painting, overmodelling and utterly transforming into its own creation.



  • Day 1
  • Anatomy of the human skull (with Sarah Simblet)
  • Day 2
  • Muscles of facial expression and wax sculpting over a life-size cast skull
  • Day 3        
  • Head-sculpting in clay from a sitter on a classic armature
  • Day 4      
  • Completing your clay head: expression and surface
  • Day 5 
  • am: Pitt Rivers Museum visit
  • pm: Skull decorating to create a powerful head object


Teaching is based in the Ruskin's studios at 74 High Street, Oxford OX1 4BG. The teaching day runs from 10 am to 5 pm. The studio is open for personal study from 9am to 6pm.

The Ruskin provides all essential studio equipment (including cast skulls and stands), and materials (paper, pencils, pens etc, wax and clay and modelling tools).  Participants may wish to bring their own sketch-books, materials and means of carrying their work home.

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

Light refreshments are available all day. Lunch is not provided but can be purchased from a range of nearby cafes and delicatessens. 

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: £800.00

Students and over-65s (5% discount): £760.00

Oxford University students, staff and alumni (10% discount) : £720.00

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 status at the start of the course.

These courses are non-residential – participants must arrange their own travel and accommodation. To enjoy the full University of Oxford 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.