Porthmeor Programme - Studio Based

Mixed Media

Book Selected Date

Course details

An eight month intensive course to develop you as an artist, enabling you to find and express your individual creative voice.

The Porthmeor Programme is a unique opportunity to find and develop your individual creative voice over the course of 8 months. Making is at the heart of it. We combine professional guidance and support from 1-1 tutorials with our lead artist, with practical making workshops led by guest artists.

This year we will take just 10 students on our face to face programme and this small group size means a generous amount of tutor time alongside a close, supportive peer group.

Many students go on to exhibit together and establish valuable long term networks. We have now run the Porthmeor Programme for 10 years, guiding over 100 students through our unique programme so far.

The process will take you on a journey over the 8 months with the primary purpose of expanding your personal practice. Running through the programme is the development of your critical voice through personal projects, one to ones and group crits.

You will learn to develop key ‘creative muscles’: risk taking and experimentation alongside the art of translation and interpretation.

Monthly Workshop Plan 2024

Workshops run over weekends. They always have a practical making element as we believe we learn best through making and doing although we also build in time to reflect, discuss and critique. Each session focusses on a key theme.

15 – 17 March

Introduction with Kate Southworth and Motivation Through Materials – Kitty Hillier

19 – 21 April

Harnessing Chance in Painting – Kate Southworth

17 – 19 May

Dreams and Drives – Ilker Cinarel

21 – 23 June

Discover Your Voice Through Nature with Greg Humphries

6 – 8 September

New Dimensions – Camilla Dixon

11 – 13 October

Finding the Essence – Rachael Kantaris

8 – 10 November

Revitalise- Jill Eisele

6 – 8 December

Closing weekend with Kate Southworth

What skills will I learn?

The sessions are varied, and most people will come across a new technique or nugget of information they will find valuable. However, the primary focus is not on developing your painting skills in these sessions. It is about discovery, taking risks and gaining insights.

We design the sessions to limber up your creative practice, to energize and to build the critical voice you need as an artist. We are happy to advise you on our shorter courses online and face to face that offer a range of practical skills development. To help you supplement the Programme with practical learning we off a 15% discount on all our online sessions.

Who would this course suit?

This will suit both early stage artists and those with more experience who are looking to challenge and stimulate their practice. We believe that developing a strong practice is where you start.

The focus is not on the secrets of getting gallery representation or making a living as artist or even how to improve your painting technique. It is about helping you become the artist you want to be. This is the first most critical and exciting step and this is what we can help you with.

Porthmeor Programme – Studio Based

Mixed Media

Book Selected Date

What to Bring

All materials will be provided.

Timings and Breaks

Each weekend will run 10am – 4.30pm on the first day, then Saturday and Sunday we start at 9.30am, taking a short lunch break on Sunday, aiming to finish at 3.30pm so everyone can get home that day.

How much contact time is there with the tutors?

Every month there will be a weekend workshop, a small group follow on discussion and you will have a personal 1 to 1 tutorial.

We will also have an online platform for your group to discuss and share work on, offering peer support and encouragement. Your tutor will also interact between sessions here providing ongoing feedback and support.

What happens when the programme ends?

We have a number of offers for those who would like to touch base again and refresh. These include artist retreats ranging from five days to a weekend, the opportunity to hire one of our studio with a 1-1 crit as well as some online meet ups. 

How is the programme structured?

Over 8 weekends, you will enjoy a mix of individual tutorials and guidance from our lead tutor, accompanied by a structured and varied creative programme taught by our guest artists.
Each weekend runs over three days, 4-6 weeks apart, with a break over July and August.

The lead tutor gets to know and your work in depth and you will have the benefit of a variety of guest artists who give you a different perspective on your work.

Our guest artists are: Greg Humphries, Camilla Dixon, Kitty Hillier, Ilker Cinarel, Jill Eisele and Rachael Kantaris.

Taught by


View Kate’s Work

Kate Southworth makes paintings, spells and rituals. Her work explores calendrical and alchemical transformation. In addition to solo and two-person shows, her work has appeared in more than 35 group exhibitions including Craftivism at Arnolfini, Bristol.

We caught up with Porthmeor Programme alumni Sue Watt to get an insight into life before, during and after the programme. Sue lets us in on her daily routine, her artistic inspiration and her upcoming show at Penwith Gallery…

How would you describe your art practice?
Purposeful, honest and frequently all consuming.

What does your daily routine look like?
The awful teenagers leave at 8.30am and I work until 3pm most days. I also work for a few hours in the evening, normally killing anything good that I have done in the day. I don’t have a routine as such, I just get lost in the work most days. If I stumble, I watch one of my little films and I’m off again…..

What do you enjoy doing outside of your art? How does that feed into your practice?
I am a primary carer for my disabled son Tom so I am either caring or creating. Both feed into each other. I need the high of creating to counteract some of the low of caring. Similarily, a lot of the caring involves quiet contemplative moments where I think about creating. I can’t remember what I used to do before, but it couldn’t have been important.

Who inspires you as an artist?
There are so many…. Sandra Blow for her absolute commitment, Danny Fox for his story telling, Peter Lanyon for his love of paint and finally but fundamentally, Liz Hough and Ilker Cinarel who showed me how to add purpose, meaning and substance to my work and ultimately, changed my life as well as my practice.

Have you always been interested in art, or was it something you came to later in life?
I started life drawing 10 years ago, simply to find a room where I didn’t have to talk about being a parent of a disabled child. I only started creating at this level once I had filled in my application for the PP2018 programme. I thought I wouldn’t be chosen and decided that I needed to teach myself how to paint, I think it was my way of preparing for the disappointment. But as luck would have it……

What did you do before the Porthmeor Programme?
Caring for Tom and his brother and sister took up much of my time with ad hoc accountancy work and finally, the odd art class whenever I could fit it in. I had to give up my job when I had Tom which was miserable, as I was very career driven. This work ethic and stamina has filtered into my creating work and I now feel alive again.

What drew you to the programme?
It wasn’t done lightly. I knew if I was successful that it would involve paying for carers, relying on family, etc… etc…. there were so many reasons not to do it but I was desperate for guidance and to meet other artists that were like me.

What would you say has changed for you since the programme?
Everything. I no longer want to produce meaningless, pretty work. The medium also doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am showing you my life whether that is in paint, film, print, etc….. I am a fairly private person so am stunned when the abstracted shapes of a painting (after many layers), let you in.

What is your favourite memory of the programme?
I have painted my favourite memory in ‘Don’t open the window, Pat’. My fellow artist friend Pat would regularly hoist up the sash window in the back studio facing onto Porthmeor Beach. The resulting Atlantic gale would blow in and everything we were working on would take off, it was very funny – every time.

Painting by artist on a long art course Porthmeor Programme at St Ives
Painting by Sue Watt – Porthmeor Programmme Alumni

What advice would you give someone wondering whether to apply for the programme?
‘If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. If you are lucky enough to get the opportunity, then show your gratitude in your level of commitment. Above all, remain open minded.

What artistic achievement are you most proud of?
My care series which is a set of films and installations about my relationship with Tom and caring. I didn’t realise that I was carrying these around in my head. They have given me great pleasure in their creation and I use the resulting shapes and forms in my paintings. The films have also given my family and friends a glimpse of Tom and I that I wouldn’t have shown otherwise, this has unexpectedly led to a strengthening of my personal relationships.

Are you a full-time artist these days?
Yes, there isn’t time for anything else. And we regularly run out of milk in my house.

How has your studio space evolved since being on the Porthmeor Programme?
I didn’t have a space prior to the programme. Now, I have a studio next door to where I live for the daytime. At night, I work in the spare room next to Tom’s room, so I can also help him if he needs it. He is regularly covered in blue paint.

Have you taken any more courses since the Porthmeor Programme?
No, I only want to work on my own ideas at the moment but I still go to life drawing most weeks. I also try and get to St Ives every few months to film and sketch. It is my place of respite and where I am at my most creative, with no distractions and demands from my life.

Can you tell us a little more about your upcoming show at the Penwith Gallery?
I will be showing work from my series ‘Spinning on Porthmeor’ which refers to a hand made spinning toy that we make for Tom, who enjoys autistic spinning. I have made representative structures of a spinner and filmed them on Porthmeor beach and will be exhibiting some of the resulting paintings, collage and film. The work helped me recognise that for Tom the spinning is also a form of communication with me, so it is personally very special and I hope to convey that in the work.

What does the future hold for your art?
I am fairly ‘all or nothing’ in my life. I hope to continue in ‘all’ for the remainder of it.

What our students say

I can’t express enough how life changing it has been! I feel privileged to be able to attend such an iconic inspiring venue with staff that have such expertise .

Ruth A

I didn’t believe it when a past student said it will change your life but it really is beginning to and we are only half way through!!


After literally years considering this programme, I’ve taken the plunge and couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve loved the connection with my new colleagues and the mentoring sessions were so supportive. I can’t wait to go again.


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

Can I pay by cheque?

Please get in touch by phone and we can hold your place for a few days whilst you post your cheque (made payable to: St Ives School of Painting) to us at St Ives School of Painting, Porthmeor Studios. St Ives TR26 1NG

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 both 5 minute walk away. In the peak summer months it may be easier to park at the big top 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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