© John Piper

Observation + Abstraction

Drawing / Mixed Media / Abstract - Materials included

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Course details

Explore the possibilities of abstraction on this three-day course drawing inspiration from your direct surroundings. Experiment with new ways of working from figuration to abstraction.

Camilla Dixon, observation and abstraction

Suitable for anyone who is looking to shift from purely representational expression to something more individual. This three-day course uses the different ‘backdrops’ around us – landscape, interior, figure or still-life – to help you find your own visual vocabulary.

Starting with different approaches to line drawing, Camilla takes you through simple exercises, encouraging you to pull-out the abstract elements of a scene. Rather than attempting to ‘represent’ your chosen object or scene, Camilla encourages you to see these afresh, helping to direct the eye more keenly and truly.

Ideal if you are looking for drawing as a way to concentrate and relax as well as a way to ‘get in the zone’, but also useful for anyone starting a project from scratch or for a total beginner. Camilla shows you how to use drawing as as a starting point, or way-in, to creating a larger more complex painting, collage, relief, sculpture or installation. Through a process of selection, editing, enlarging, layering and repeating, find new ways-forward to creating paintings from objects, landscapes and figures. Above all, this will be an opportunity to have fun and to experiment!

Camilla Dixon
Camilla Dixon, observation and abstraction
Camilla Dixon, observation and abstraction

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, experiment with line drawing. Start with looking at objects and backdrops that you are drawn to, be that landscapes, interiors, still-life or figures. Camilla will take you through a series of simple exercises to loosen your approach to capturing these things and to see them afresh.

Day 2

On this second day, you are encouraged to ‘pull out’ the abstract elements of these line drawings and develop them into a series of abstract work by introducing colour or collage. Thinking about what form these abstractions may take, be it painting, sculpture or installation, Camilla will help you to develop these works further.

Day 3

Working in the studio, develop these works further to come away with a finished, or multiple ‘finished’ pieces. Share your work with your tutor and peers.

What will I learn?

  1. Build confidence working from figuration to abstraction.
  2. Use drawing as a way to relax.
  3. Experience of a variety of unconventional materials, giving you a bolder approach to creativity.  
  4. An understanding of the principles of making abstract art and the process of abstraction.  
  5. An understanding of the possibilities of multi-dimensional working.  

Who would this course suit?

This course is open to people of all experience levels that want to make abstraction less abstract! It is an ideal place to nurture your creativity and understand the process from pieces that describe to pieces that evoke.

Observation and Abstraction

Drawing / Mixed Media / Abstract – Materials included

Book Selected Date

Taught by


View Camilla’s Work

I find tutoring to be a constantly evolving project. It supports my creative work as it requires that I not only understand my processes but can apply them in a way that is useful to other people in their quest for creative flow. Harnessing a fluid and responsive working method, can address all sorts of practical or emotional obstacles that students face. It can be quite literally life-changing.

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 finish at 4pm and there will be an hour for lunch. 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

I liked being taken somewhere I’d never imagined going. I’d follow Camilla anywhere she wanted to lead (artistically speaking, and within reason).

Pauline Johnston

Camilla was inspirational and adjusted the plan to the group perfectly. There was a great atmosphere, and I certainly learnt a lot. I came home with a renewed creative energy!


Camilla was an interesting and inspiring tutor. The studio and setting were beautiful, and we were made to feel welcome. Despite being a beginner to art, I felt that the course was as appropriate and accessible to me, as it was for those with more experience.

Hilary M


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.

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