In this section

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

Drawing Book: experiments on paper

This week-long programme runs from Monday 26 August to Sunday 1 September. Based on Sarah Simblet’s internationally renowned book of the same title, this is a practical and inspirational studio-based course in experimental drawing.  
Photograph: Nancy MacDonald 2018

Set in the magnificent Drawing Studio of the Ruskin School of Art, Sarah Simblet leads practical drawing lessons through group tuition (with some one-to-one time), visits to museums and collections, daily illustrated lectures on the history, contemporary practice and diverse role of drawing in our lives, demonstrations of materials and techniques, and - on the first day of the course - instruction in how to make your own drawing (sketch) book to then use and fill throughout the week. 

Photo: Nancy MacDonald 2018

During the course, the practicalities of drawing are broken down into simple parts and explained one by one. For example: frame, plane, shape, space, line, mark, gesture, time, rhythm, speed, form, surface, texture, lighting, illusion and perspective. Sarah also explains the best use of materials such as boards, books and papers, metal point, pencils and crayon, erasers, chalks, charcoal, graphite, fibre tip pens, dip-pens, quill and inks. 

"Best course I have ever attended."  Course participant 

"It exceeded expectations because I feel that I understand more about myself as well as drawing... The space was glorious and became home for a week. It all felt natural and embracing. Thank you for a wonderful experience."  Course participant

Photos: Nancy MacDonald 2018

“There is a point in all our lives when we first control our mark and make it a line, then drag our line into a loop and from that first unit build and describe the shape of something or someone we know. As children we love to draw. Hours are devoured in the inextinguishable blaze of our imaginations wielding across paper brightly coloured crayons, pens and paints... As a teacher of drawing I work with people of diverse ages, aspirations and experience, and I enjoy no greater reward than seeing a beginner’s face illuminated with the surprise of what they can achieve.

"Drawing occupies a unique place in every creator's life, be they a sculptor planning an installation, a fashion designer, architect or engineer, a member of an evening class, a composer notating a score, or a quantum physicist trying to see for themselves the forces and fluctuations of the universe. For me personally, drawing is the most immediate expression of seeing, thinking and feeling, a tool for investigating ideas, a recorder of knowledge, and a reflector of experiences. Drawing is the mirror through which I can understand my place in the world, it shows me how I think and makes me feel excited to be alive.”               Sarah Simblet.

Photo: Nancy MacDonald 2018


Programme: 26 August to 1 September

  • Subject to variation
  • Day 1  
  • am:  Course introduction 
  • Studio demonstration: How to make a sketch book 
  • pm: Make your own personal sketch book and begin to use it… 
  • Day 2  
  • am: Lecture: Diversity and Meaning in drawing
  • Studio demonstration: Beginning to study the elements of drawing: frame, plane, subject, space and shape  
  • pm: Studio exercises in composition (framing a subject)
  • Day 3
  • am: Lecture on Perspective (its variations and use)
  • Studio demonstration: how vanishing perspective works
  • pm: Visit to draw in The Natural History Museum, Oxford
  • Day 4   
  • am:  Lecture: Expressive mark making 
  • Studio demonstration: The best use of drawing materials
  • pm: Studio exercises in handling materials and mark making, with emphasis on using ink 
  • Day 5   
  • am: Studio demonstration: Metal point drawing 
  • Drawing Trees in Christ Church Meadows: structural and expressive drawing
  • pm: Draw outdoors all day (weather permitting and / or in the studio if preferred)
  • Day 6
  • am: Studio demonstration: Light and Tone. Reductive drawing using charcoal and graphite
  • All day: Observational drawing from still life, (including the option of drawing from a comparative anatomy collection)
  • Day 7   
  • am. Concluding lecture followed by Q&A 
  • Life drawing all day
  • An afternoon glass of chilled Prosecco to celebrate the end of the course


Course Practicalities

The Drawing Book is an in-depth course, accessible and open to everyone. No previous experience is necessary. The course offers a clear foundation in drawing for the absolute beginner and refreshment to the more experienced artist. 

There is a maximum of 16 places on the course. It is taken by amateur and professional artists of both traditional and contemporary practice, people from fields as diverse as sixth-formers, teachers, accountants, architects, technologists and scientists. Everyone brings a wealth of life experience and individual interest in the subject. 

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.

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

The Ruskin provides essential studio equipment, including a generous quantity of cartridge paper and basic drawing materials. You are invited to bring your own additional materials if you wish, especially if you enjoy working with colour. Plain neutral fabric is provided for the cover of your book. You are welcome to bring your own alternative.

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.

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

Photo: Nancy MacDonald 2018


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 :

i) Standard Adult : £1,075.00

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

iii) Students (with a current NUS card) and OAPs (5% discount) : £1025.00

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 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. 

Photo: Nancy MacDonald 2018