Abstracting Nature

Acrylic / Mixed Media / Abstract / Landscape - Materials included

Book Selected Date

Course details

Enjoy creating experimental and abstract compositions inspired by walks in nature on this three-day course. 

St Ives Painting Course Kitty Hillier

Join Cornwall based artist Kitty Hillier in taking inspiration from her daily wanderings around the Cornish coastline for this three-day course. Benefit from Kitty’s contemporary take on landscape and nature. An approach that has been attracting attention both locally and nationally. 

The aim of the course is to seek inspiration from your everyday environment through a process of close observation, slow drawing and playful mark-making. Start with a slow meander through St Ives and across Porthmeor Beach. Gather objects for inspiration and draw your surroundings using close observation. Using all of your senses, Kitty will show you how to pay attention to the seasonal transitions, forgotten spaces and discarded objects.

Drawing inspiration from the work of various artists including Eileen Agar, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Sandra Blow, Kitty will explain how these artists distilled natural shapes and forms into their creative practice, and how you can use these artists’ works to inspire your own creative journey.

Integrating this inspiration into your own work, you will use ink, collage, colour mixing and layering to play with various ideas. Taking inspiration from Kitty and other artists’ practices, learn how to add texture and depth to your painting. Building up the surface of the painting use sand and other mediums, mixed to paint, you will end the course by creating your own unique abstract reliefs.

Day to day plan

This is a rough indication of what to expect over the course. However sometimes the structure of the days may alter depending on the nature of the group and weather.

Day 1

On the first day go for a walk with Kitty through St Ives and on Porthmeor Beach. En route make sketches of your surroundings and collect objects to inspire. Build your own tools using some of the objects you’ve collected from your walk. You will use your tools for some experimental mark making and drawing using ink.

Day 2

Start the second day by looking at other artist’s work who are inspired by their surrounding landscapes. In the second half of the day, Kitty will demonstrate colour mixing using primary colours. Using your unique colours paint some sheets ready for collage. Kitty will then show you various cutting techniques for collage. Playing with colour combinations and composition, learning ways to create successful compositions and resolve an image.

Day 3

The final day will be a chance to gather everything you’ve learnt and to develop either one, or a series of, paintings. Inspired by Kitty’s own abstract reliefs, experiment with materials and explore ways of building up and working back into the surface of the painting. Share your work with the rest of the class at the end of the day.

What will I learn?

  1. Gain inspiration from your everyday surroundings. Learn close observation and how ‘being in the moment’ can help you make more intuitive, abstract work.
  2. Build confidence in drawing and mark-making.
  3. A greater understanding of other artists who have been inspired by landscape and abstraction.
  4. Building tools from objects around you. Gain confidence in working in various mediums.
  5.  Transform your observations into abstract paintings.

Who would this course suit?

This course is suitable for anyone. If you are interested in loosening your approach to drawing and painting, as well as finding new ways of capturing the environment around you, this course is for you. Most importantly, this will be a chance to explore and experiment without judgement.

There will be some walking on the morning of the first day.

Abstracting Nature

Acrylic / Mixed Media / Abstract / Landscape – Materials included

Book Selected Date

Taught by


View Kitty’s Work

It’s always great to hear that after trying some of these quick mark-making and drawing exercises, people are keen to repeat them at home regularly as a way to relax or reset. My approach encourages play, experimentation and trust in our gut intuition. 

What to Bring

Our studios are fully equipped and we provide you with all the materials you need for your course. However, if you have a favourite set of brushes or any specialist materials that you would prefer to use, please bring them with you.

Timings and Breaks

The first day starts at 10am and finishes at 4.30pm, please aim to arrive ten to fifteen minutes before the start time.

All course days after that start at 9.30am and end at 4pm. There are plenty of nearby places to eat and we will serve tea and coffee at break times during the day.

What our students say

This course has inspired me to kick start my practice.

Karole L

Transformative in terms of artistic process.


I enjoyed the pace and range of materials that Kitty covered. The course has given me lots of ideas and things to think about over the next few weeks. We were lucky enough to see Kitty’s piece in the exhibition at the Penzance Exchange, and it helped understand her thinking. The studio was really well organised – lovely to be able to have coffee and biscuits too!

Sara M

The course was very well organised, Kitty was very experienced and enthusiastic. The experimental side was fantastic. Thank you!


Studio Courses

How can I get help in choosing a course?

Our friendly expert staff are always happy to discuss your needs and our courses in more detail to help you with your decision. Please call us on 01736 797180

How do I get my work home?

Tutors have special techniques for transporting oil paintings and the school has plastic folders available in our shop for £3.50 or do bring a portfolio.

For international students we are happy to arrange transportation of your work back home.

What do I need to bring?

Absolutely nothing! All materials and aprons are provided although some people do like to bring their own set of brushes.

What do I do for lunch?

Courses allow an hour’s break for lunch and there are numerous places nearby or you are welcome to bring a packed lunch into the studio.

What times do courses run?

Most of our courses start at 10am and end at 4.30pm on the first day. Subsequent days we start at 9.30am ending at 4pm.

Weekend Courses run 10am – 4pm on the first day but the final day starts at 9.30 and ends at 3.30 with a short lunch break to enable people to get home that evening.

Do you have to be experienced to come to the School?

The School is a very friendly and welcoming place for all ages and experience. Our drop-in life classes and August half-day workshops are ideal for those wanting to have a go for the first time. Most of our longer courses are also fine for novices.

If any of the courses do need a bit of experience we flag this up in the brochure and on the website.

Booking a Course

How can I reserve a place?

We will hold a provisional reservation for 24 hours if you give us a call whilst you find accommodation. Otherwise please book online or by telephone 01736 797180.

You can reserve a place with a £100 deposit; balance is due 12 weeks before course start date.

About St Ives

Where do I park?

The nearest long stay public car parks are the Island and Barnoon Long Stay Car Park, both a 5 minute walk away. In the peak summer months it may be easier to park at Trenwith Car Park by the leisure centre and walk down into town. If you don’t fancy the walk up the hill at the end of the day there is a shuttle bus which runs from outside the cinema.

How do I get there?

Public Transport: If you are coming from further afield the main train line runs into St Erth which is a 15 min taxi ride away or you can take the St Ives Bay Line which runs approx. every 30 minutes. The School is a 10 minute walk from St Ives station.

Driving: M5 will take you to Exeter where we recommend that you take the A30 across Bodmin Moor and into Cornwall. After passing Hayle, leave the A30 at St Erth roundabout for St Ives. Turn right at the second roundabout. This road will take you through Lelant and Carbis Bay into St Ives.

Where can I stay?

St Ives has a huge selection of hotels, guest houses and self catering accommodation to choose from. Please browse the art holidays St Ives section on our website and give us a call if you would like any help.

You might also like...