From Figuration to Abstraction

36 TUTOR: Caro Woods (MA Falmouth 2003)

Demystify the process of abstract painting. In this exciting experimental workshop, you will learn ways to move from observed, figurative mark making in front of a given subject, towards a more abstracted version of your subject matter. Working collaboratively as well as individually, you will explore both considered and expressive approaches to a range of drawing, painting, mixed media and collage techniques. For practice, you will be working not only from subjects in the grounds of Marlborough College but also from drawings made on a morning outing to the ancient site at nearby West Kennet Long Barrow. All levels of ability are welcome, from practicing artists to enthusiastic amateurs willing to give it a go.

2 Full Day
Full day course

Course Notes

For the Adventurous

Over the course of my art teaching career, I have been told so many times by aspiring artists that they would love to learn to paint their favourite subjects in an abstracted way. Well here is your chance to do just that. I believe there is never a substitute for the practice of figurative drawing as the foundation for art education. And indeed, drawing from observation is the basis for this workshop. However, this course is designed for those artists who want to expand their creativity and enjoy an experimental approach to their work. You will be working both collaboratively with your fellow participants as well as individually to develop your own approach at various stages of the process.

Subject Matter: Still-Life and Landscape

For practical exercises to begin with, we will use a series of figurative, still-life set-ups based on living plants, both inside the classroom as well as outside in the extensive grounds of Marlborough College. In reality, any subject matter would be suitable, but the use of living plants as a focus for drawing from life, allows a certain degree of organic free flow to take place in your drawings.

Making Drawings in Nature

Working outside in the elements, such as wind and rain, doesn't always allow us the luxury of time for a more considered approach. This kind of spontaneity forces you to use your intuition and this rapid reaction to what you see creates the perfect fertile ground for happy accidents. You will be using these 'signature' mark-making drawings as the foundations from which to further develop your ideas.

Outing to West Kennet Long Barrow

You will also be working from drawings made during a morning visit to the nearby West Kennet Long Barrow where you will be encouraged to make representational drawings and make notes that reflect how you feel about this special ancient site. This visit will be an opportunity to work independently, experimenting with materials and putting into practice what you have learnt. There will be adequate preparation and clear goals set for these outings.

The Paths to Abstraction

Back in the studio classroom, you will be guided through the process towards abstraction by exploring different ways to go about it. Taking your drawings 'from life' (done in front of the subject), you will follow either a more considered, step by step 'academic' abstraction process such as drawing the same subject multiple times, becoming increasingly abstract with each drawing (like Picasso's 'Bull' series), or a more gestural, intuitive mark-making approach as a response to 'feelings' about a subject. It might even involve cutting up your drawings and rearranging the pieces in a new layout or making new images from small sections. And in that process, learn to make important decisions about when to go with the flow and when to pause and reflect and make decisions about how far in the abstraction process you want to go. You will also be encouraged to expand your repertoire of mark-making by using a variety of 'found' organic objects that can be used as implements to draw with. This allows a certain amount of free-form, working with intuitive and inventive freedom as a response towards the natural world. Different techniques, such as collage and mixing media, will also be explored. The course will culminate in a (voluntary) public group show and final critique.

All levels of Ability Welcome

This course is suitable for all levels of ability and, in particular, ideally suited for participants who may want to move their practice forward. Please also note, there is some walking involved which might not always be on level ground.

Materials and clothing

For the 'drawing' element of this course, a sketch book and some basic drawing materials, including ink, charcoal and pastels, will be provided. You will also be encouraged to make your own drawing materials from found objects (see above). Although there will also be a small quantity of additional paper available, students are also welcome to bring a favourite medium to work with, should they wish to further explore the qualities of that medium. Please be prepared to wear suitable clothing and footwear for studio work as well as outdoor 'adventuring'.

Course Tutor

Caro Woods

Caro Woods

MA Falmouth 2003

About Caro


Caro Woods,(born 1954). Aged 18, Caro studied at the Sir John Cass School of Art, London before gaining her MA in 'Contemporary Visual Practice' at Falmouth School of Art in 2003.Shecurrently lives and works in a converted Methodist Chapel on Dartmoor, having moved from her tiny cottage in West Penwith, Cornwall in 2017. Widowed shortly after her first marriage at the age of 24, a move to the Channel Islands in 1989, re-marriage and the birth of her two children, Caro began to find her visual 'voice' when she started to explore the cliff paths of Jersey, recording the landscape in pocket-sized sketch books. This obsession with walking in the landscape in search of the perfect light or the perfect composition, resulted in a practice that was as much about walking in nature as it was about painting, becoming increasingly fascinated by the land as a multi-faceted mass of geology, archeology, energetic forces, pathways and tangible ley lines that echo down through the ages.


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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM