Porthmeor Programme

1 Year | 9 weekends | Create, cultivate, elevate.

The Porthmeor Programme is a unique opportunity to find and develop your own creative voice over the course of a year. Making is at the heart of it. We combine professional guidance and support from 1-1 tutorials with your lead artist, with practical making workshops led by guest artists. We take just 18 students per year split into two groups. The small group size means a luxurious amount of tutor time alongside a close, supportive peer group. Many students go on to exhibit together and establish valuable long term networks. Now in its sixth year, 90 students have graduated from the programme so far.

Our tutors have honed the process of helping you take those critical steps to achieve your ambitions as an artist and shape your practice. Delivered over nine weekends, students travel from across the UK And fit the programme around other commitments.

I feel more confident in my ideas and approaching work in a freer, more experimental way. I’m able to push through when the going gets touch. I spend less time worrying and more time painting.
This programme is a real tonic for artists, the playful approach and the serious are well balanced. It’s great to have surprises and learn something new. I have felt nurtured and challenged throughout.

Jill Holland

What will I do in the sessions?

Workshops run over weekends so students can travel from across the UK to join us. 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. These sessions explore five key themes:

1. Encouraging risk and experimentation.
2. Exploring personal narratives and stories.
3. Responding to places, personal spaces and

connections.
4. Refining and removing to discover the essence.
5. Translation and interpretation.

The process will take you on a journey over the year 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. Developing confidence in translation and interpretation is also a ‘creative muscle’ worked on constantly over the nine sessions.

Will I be taught new skills?

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 course that offer a huge range of practical skills development.

How much contact time is there with tutors?

Your lead tutors will be with you on most of the nine weekends. On some of these days there will be also a guest tutor. There will be a number of one to ones over the programme as well as group crits with your peers. In between sessions the tutors are not available, but we will encourage students to set up their own WhatsApp group to offer peer support and encouragement.

What happens when the programme ends?

We programme in number of long weekends exclusively for alumni for those that feel they would like to touch base again and refresh. After that we have a number of offers including 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. 

Who is it for?

We cater for a range of students from early stage artists to those with more experience 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 we believe this is what we can help you with. The time goes very quickly on the programme and you will get the most out of it only if you can invest in your practice in between the sessions to develop work, experiment and research.

How is it structured?

Following an intensive three day study weekend, a rich and varied programme of 8 weekends will be provided around every four to six weeks with a break in July and August. Over the summer there will be a personal and a group project set for you and a Zoom online meetup with your peers and tutor.

Who else will be on the programme?

Every year is different. We have had new graduates to people who have retired and now have the space to devote to their creative practice. We have had textile artists to filmmakers, those with degrees and MAs to those who have developed their practice from doing short courses. There will be a group of 8 and a group of 10 so the cohort will be small. Many people travel to St Ives to do the programme. People have travelled from London, Wales and all parts of the South West. Whatever age, background or experience you will all be there for the same aim of unlocking the artist you want to be. Your peers will often become a solid group of support that you can take with you far beyond the length of the programme. A Facebook group is set so students can also stay in touch with each other over the year.

How much does it cost?

£2,550 
Payable in 3 instalments.
The fee includes tuition, your materials during the workshops and professional seminars to plan next steps. 

The Application Process

Applications for the Porthmeor Programme 2021 open from August 2020.
To apply, please send us up to  five images of your work and no more than five hundred words explaining why you will benefit from joining the programme now, your ability to commit to making between sessions and what you would hope to gain. If you are short listed by the selection panel, we will then be in touch to have a chat via Zoom, so we can get a better feel for how it might work for you. For more information please contact us on 01736 797180 or info@schoolofpainting.co.uk.   subject: Porthmeor Programme


We caught up with Porthmeor Programme 2018 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 aswell 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 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. The exhibition runs from the 6th of March – 6th of April 2020, PV 6th of March.

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.