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Throughout history the patchwork of boroughs and communities that make up our capital city have inspired artwork from the likes of Joseph Turner, William Hogarth, Thomas Girtin and John Bratby. This tradition of art has long since become established in London, making it the first-choice destination for those interested in studying art and design.
We can see this tradition everywhere but your first choice destination for any art-themed sightseeing would have to be one of London’s famous galleries, such as the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain or the Courtauld Institute, which house many world-renowned and priceless pieces of artwork (including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, Claude Monet’s The Lily Pond and Leonardo de Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks). There’s plenty of material for the more alternative artistic tours too: London attracts no shortage of temporary exhibitions and there always seems to be something new to enjoy from Gauguin’s Portraits, to William Blake’s unobtrusive paintings and etchings, Lucien Freud’s self-portraits or the installations of Olafur Eliasson.
It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to go into a gallery to experience art in London. Merely walk down the streets and you’re likely to stumble upon a slice of culture whether it’s Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Alex Chinneck’s striking A Bullet from a Shooting Star or the infamous Trafalgar Square Lions of Edwin Landseer, not to mention the works Banksy and other street artists on many of the capital’s walls. The iconic London Underground sign has drawn a cult following over the years and with architectural feats such as the Shard, Tower Bridge and Westminster Underground Station, it’s hard to deny the design skills and creativity that have gone into forming the city’s landscape – both above and below the ground! From the historical, the hard-to-look-at, the mind-bogglingly abstract and the politically charged, you can’t avoid art in London.
As a result, there’s a huge emerging artistic scene in London that drives future innovation by drawing on the complex and vibrant histories of the city. Many Londoners themselves turn to art to understand and express the experience of growing up, living and working in the capital, but artists springing onto the scene from across the UK and the world fuel are involved in this community too.
London is celebrated across the disciplines of art and design, but Fashion is an area in which it famously shines. With icons such as Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo all based in the capital, it’s hardly surprising that it is now considered an international centre for fashion alongside Paris, Milan and New York.
With all this going on in our capital, it’s hardly surprising that students flock to London from the world over to study art, design and related subjects. The prestigious University of the Arts is but one (albeit one of the most well-known) of the city’s institutions that attracts students of illustration, jewellery design, ceramic design or even fashion, helping them to thrive and continue to spur the vibrant art and design scene in our capital.
Where better, then, to hone your artistic skills?
In the past a focus on academic subjects in education has left subjects such as art and design on the side-lines. However not only does art and design encompass a huge breadth of subjects, but it brings huge professional and personal benefits to those who study it.
Activities such as drawing, colouring in, painting and making craft are essential to helping children to develop coordination, fine motor skills, dexterity, agility in their formative years, but they can help adults to maintain their agility as they age too. Encouraging creativity in young people helps to boost their confidence and develops their ability to visualise different concepts when planning projects and approach problem solving by thinking outside of the box. Bigger art projects often require collaboration, making teamwork and communication essential.
Art can also be therapy. Being a tourist in London is fab, but living there can be downright stressful: traffic noise, the busy underground, tourists everywhere, pollution, work… For many, art and design offers an escape from the metro, boulot, dodo (as the French would say). A life drawing class, pottery session, or even a colouring book could be your opportunity for relaxation and for creative expression, helping you to increase your concentration and reduce stress and anxiety.
For many the arts are collaborative, it helps us create a community and improve the areas in which we live. Murals are an excellent example of this: whether on the streets or in a community or leisure centre, getting involved in community art projects makes us feel part of something.
Studying art doesn’t necessarily mean creating art yourself and many students choose to study the history of art. This subject encompasses the development of artistic movements, usually stimulated in reaction to societal issues, shifts and contexts. Through studying art itself we can develop a better understanding of the society around us.
Many careers are dependent on a sound understanding of the fundamentals of art and design. If you aspire to become an illustrator, graphic designer, comic book artist, theatre set designer, museum curator, TV producer, fashion designer, tattoo artist, architect or inventor, competency in elements of the subject are essential.
Teaching yourself art and design is a feasible option: all you really need to get started is a pencil and paper and many successful artists have learned through experimenting with different techniques, styles and materials. However outside influence and perspectives provide essential inspiration to your artistic journey, so many aspiring artists choose to learn in more social or collaborative environments.
Art and design is an incredibly broad umbrella term that encompasses anything from life drawing to ceramics or fashion design, so there are heaps of study options available in London.
The Tate London hosts a free exchange (the Tate Exchange) for members of the public to meet, collaborate, share ideas, reflect and play whilst exploring different themes. The programme is packed with artist sessions, workshops, talks and events that are free to attend, from boat building to dance classes, mural painting to reflection. These sessions may be somewhat unstructured with less focus on skills and techniques, but they’re ideal for meet fellow artists and kindred spirits.
If you’re looking for a more formal training in art and design, you may choose to enrol on a course.
Universities, galleries and art schools tend to offer short courses in different areas of art and design, these sessions can focus on anything from learning the basics to exploring specialist areas.
The University of the Arts in London offers short courses in its network of colleges across the city, with durations ranging from 2 days to 6 weeks. You can study niche areas like the history, design and development of the Kimono, health and wellbeing through art or digital publishing, as well as more traditional introductory courses on drawing skills or fashion sewing. Prices vary according to the course, but a ballpark figure is £580 for a 5-day course.
If you can’t give up a whole day or week to pursue your artistic ventures, you could always attend an evening class. Based in central London, Art Academy London offers a range of classes for all abilities in a whole range of subjects, including:
Payment for each half term is taken up front and you can even study specialist areas like feminist art or oil painting. Classes usually run one evening per week for 2 – 3 hours.
By enrolling on a course, you’ll be learning in a social yet structured environment. However, what you learn and how you learn it will depend on the group and teacher rather than your individual needs. As a result, many students seek a private tutor who can help them to focus on meeting their aspirations.
Those studying subjects such as ceramics, fashion, sewing, painting, life drawing, or sculpture find that private tuition is the most effective and efficient use of their time. Studying on an individual basis with a private tutor means your sessions are tailored to your interests and delivered at a pace that suits you. You can also schedule your lessons to fit your timetable and learn wherever you want: no commute necessary.
There are no doubt hundreds of private tutors in our capital city, but how do you find them? You could go on gumtree, ask around on social media, visit your local art school or gallery, look on community notice boards, or simply type ‘private art lessons London’ into a search engine. You could do all that, but you’ll probably see results if you use Superprof.
Superprof is a platform that connects aspiring learners with private tutors. Our tutors come from varying backgrounds, they might be experienced fashion designers and pattern cutters, successful artists, or illustration students from London’s renowned universities. They set their rates based on their experience, location and demand for the subject, so you will find prices to suit all kinds of budget.
We have over 250 art and design tutors based in the Greater London area on our database. Sounds like a lot of choice, right? But you can filter based on location, subject and price before browsing through their profiles. Each profile follows the same format, so it’s easy to compare their methodologies, backgrounds and recommendations from previous students.
Tutors usually offer a first session for free to give you a taste for the subject. So really, what are you waiting for? Take a look through our pool of tutors now and get ready to release your inner Monet or Westwood!