Monday, 9 September 2013

How to: DIY Art School Education

Keith Arnatt, see here

How to be an Artist the DIY way. Going to Art School now is beyond expensive, with an average graduate incurring at least £27,000 worth of debt for a 3 year Degree course here in the UK, and that's simply college fees! I believe in easy access to education, and many things are freely accessible or available more cheaply.

This post is dedicated to obtaining an alternative art education using free or inexpensive online and physical resources. As a Londoner the physical resources will be based around London, however I'm sure similar resources are available in other places across the globe + you could always use it as an excuse to visit London and it'd still be cheaper than getting an Art Degree!

Being an artist isn't something one does in 3 years anyway. It's a LIFESTYLE; a way of being; a mode of ongoing thinking and existing ad infinitum. It's the best way to have fun, to grow, to make creative choices - along with working hard too (but work you love is an entirely different feeling to work you hate or dislike). Doing art and creative activities opens up so much from mind expansion, to social life, to ways to question & research, connect, discover, and generally process your way through this journey called life, in the most interesting way for YOU (it's always a personal journey).

So, what to do and where to start:

  1. Online courses: Coursera offers free online art courses for anyone across the globe:
  2. Learning Resources: Tate's website hosts a series of art learning resources you can download and use: Tate Learning Resources, one of my favourites is the Robert Mapplethorpe Learning Resource
  3. Online lectures/podcasts: Learning about the history of art is of vital importance for any informed artist to make critical and engaging work. Podcasts and online lectures are freely available. The Open University hosts some here: Art History Modern & Contemporary + The National Gallery here
  4. Free Art Tours/history lessons: The National Gallery also provides free guided tours through their collection discussing the history of works on display. Daily at 11am and 2pm + you can book your own group for free if booked in advance: Free Tours - how cool is that, free art history lessons?!
  5. Paying Lectures series: The Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London run a series of lectures: Ideas That Changed the World - for a nominal fee (each one £10 I believe)
  6. Reading Rooms & online research publications: Tate also offers Reading Rooms/Research Centres with a range of publications accessible for free you just need to register and book an appointment: Tate Reading Rooms as well as online free research publications for perusal: Tate Research Publications
  7. Libraries: Another great place for publications and archives on art and craft is the V&A Museum reference library - the room in itself is simply amazing! + there's always your local library art section
  8. Free Talks: The V&A also run a series of free lunchtime talks - the next one coming up is on Moleskine Sketchbooks - how artists & designers have filled them & the importance of drawing
  9. Free & inexpensive talks: The ICA in London offer a free talks series linked to current shows + other talks for a nominal fee (usually £5)
  10. Workshops: In terms of getting on down and making Tate run free drop in workshops - see here, and the Pump House Gallery in South London run a series of free talks and making workshops
  11. Free Drawing classes: If you're already an art student you can go to free drawing classes at the Princes Foundation in East London - you just need to book
  12. Physical Courses: Morley College run some great art courses and whilst they are not free they are cheaper than art degrees with the odd taster session 
  13. Taster Classes: Putney School of Art in London also offer great taster classes at £10 each - see here
  14. Books: Don't forget good old fashioned books which you can buy online, in shops, at second or thrifty places for nominal fees. I've learnt some of my best things from books: How to be an Artist, How to be an Explorer of the World, What Do Pictures Want?, The Story of Art, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence to name a few
  15. Studio visits: why not be bold and ask to shadow, visit, interview an artist you admire in their studio. Some may be too busy of course, but others I'm sure would welcome the chance to discuss and share
  16. Gallery and Museum visits: visit gallery and museum shows regularly, familiarise up close with how artists handle and execute their materials - nothing beats this
  17. Book a tutorial with a professional artist/tutor and get feedback on your works in order to progress and develop, or learn something one to one. Seek out a tutor/artist you like and ask them if they'd do a private session with you - I bet loads of them would! (unless they're extremely high profile but you gotta at least try!) fees may be dependent on their status of course :) Zeitgeist art projects offer tutorials with artists/prof tutors - but you need to be a member: scroll down here for more. Artist Kesha Bruce also offers resources and sessions at (all online so you can be anywhere in the world)
  18. Make work and show: if you're feeling bold and experimental why not join in with The Sketchbook Project and begin your CV national/international showings ;)
  19. Create your own project & salon: there is nothing better than just doing. Know what you're interested in creatively and begin researching & making - get stuck in to your very own project. Start a sketchbook, throw yourself in the sandpit of art making - your studio could be anywhere from the great outdoors, to kitchen table, a cafe, or your mind. Initiate the process of recording and documenting, doing, experimenting & assessing: art can be tough if you're doing it in a vacuum alone, so get together with other artists and friends and have a salon - peer group feedback and record the ideas and feedback you're getting to refer to and think about at a later date
  20. Apply for or put on your own shows and simply start doing what you really WANT to be doing
  21. Don't give up
Some extra ideas from Ellie at

visiting open studios, where one can meet artists and chat, and hear about arty things, suppliers, classes etc and it can be a less daunting environment to speak to artists in. One can also gauge about tuition opportunities there.

And blogs are also great to see in to an artist's world and works, often with links to other artists/places and additional resources.


If you have any other suggestions or resources, please feel free to let me know in the comments and I can add them here. 

Happy making and back soon.


The book from the last post (give-away) has gone, but there are still places available for the course if you wish to join us.


  1. Hi Amelia, you asked about the rings on my blog post. They are made by woodware and I got mine from The craft Barn. hugs Mrs A.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know :)

  2. GREAT article and list of resources! I'll definitely be passing it along.

    1. Thanks Kesha! Lovely to see you here :)

  3. wow Amelia this is a great post, full of tips and resources. All that money and one is hardly guaranteed even a job out of college. And if one is available, the compensation is meager to say the least.

    1. Yes, an artists life is one full of creative ways to earn as well as the art itself! I often find it strange that doing an MA in art one often ends up paying for the privilege of being an artist rather than being paid for your training/vocation - maybe it's up to us to change things. Thanks for stopping by. Ax

  4. This is a great list Amelia! Thanks for sharing alternate ways to 'earn' an art degree, though I agree that being an Artist is not something that is learned, but a LIFESTYLE =-)

  5. Wow - an amazing collection of links and ideas for DIY learning and arting - thanks providing so much detail :)

  6. The importance of art education,is for us to evaluate our selves on how we connect with our surroundings.

    Arts and Education


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