Still Life: Surface + Space (CW)

Oil / Still Life - Materials included

Book Selected Date

Course details

Train your eye to work with negative space and learn to develop your observation, composition and painting skills so you can approach still life painting with new found confidence.  

This course deals with the painterly concern of space. As integral to composition as subject, the ability to recognise the function of space in your painting is a breakthrough moment for any artist. It is through seeking out the relationship between surface and space that a mere sketch of what’s there transforms into a meditation on the life behind the still life.

Learn new ways of looking at objects, discerning their character and the nature of their relationship to the space around them. Tom shows you compositional techniques and how to abstract shapes and forms in a way that feels more interpretive and authentic to you. His focus as a teacher is on the development of your personal practice. You’ll explore different artists’ interpretation of surface and space – from the dazzling textures of Bonnard to the spartan simplicity of Morandi – to give you an idea of how to extract a dialogue from your subject.

Known for his mastery of light and texture using oil paints, Tom offers you a more expressive approach to this tricky medium. Working in the studio from still life compositions, learn to trust in your intuition for what makes an image interesting. Whether you use it to bring a lively, dancing character to your work, or to create something more restrained and pared back, Tom shows you how to retain vitality in your oil paintings.

This course is an opportunity to develop your own unique painting language, one you can use to bring a distinctive voice to your painting, still life or otherwise.

Day 1

After an introduction to the course we will look at some observational skills using a series of objects. We’ll be looking for their character as much as their structure. From here, we’ll move to setting up a still life composition, focusing on the relationship between space and surface and what feels interesting to you.

Day 2

We’ll continue to work on our subjects from the day before. Tom will demonstrate some compositional techniques as well as approaches to working in oil paints. We’ll look at influential still life painters and their use of surface and space.

Day 3

Continuing to work on our painting, we’ll reflect on the discussions from the previous days and use it to resolve and pull the final painting together.

Still Life: Surface and Space (CW)

Oil / Still Life – Materials included

Book Selected Date

Who would this course suit?

This course is suitable for beginners as well as more experienced painters. It is a chance to develop new ways of looking at a subject and a more advanced painterly understanding of composition. It is also perfect if you have some prior knowledge of oils and would like to develop it in more expressive directions.

What will I learn?

  1. Enhanced observational skills
  2. A deeper technical understanding of using oil paints.
  3. Awareness of how to use negative space in compositions.
  4. Techniques for interpreting different surfaces.
  5. A keener understanding of the relationships between objects and space.

Taught by


View Tom’s Work

The process of learning a practical discipline such as painting, can seem both daunting and frustrating. In the landscape and the studio I assess each individual student’s ability and use this as a starting point, trying to keep the teaching just beyond the curve of what they can and want to do. As much as teaching them the basics and certain techniques of oil painting, I wish to show them pointers and possible directions of development within their own work.

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 3.30 on Sunday after a short lunch break to try an enable people to get home that day.
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

Tom was great and offered good tips. The whole feel was nice. The other staff were always smiling, helpful and friendly. The view was lovely too. All materials were provided, and it wasn’t a problem that I was a novice to oils.

Katy H

Tom was informative, adaptable, supportive, and engaging. He was very patient and pleasant. A great experience.

Bruce B


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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