Win a £500 art voucher

Choose from hundreds of great two-day courses at West Dean College

Having picked up neither pencil, nor paint brush since school, I was ready to discover that I have zero aptitude for art, writes Charlotte Reather. However, rather like singing, art appears to be something we can all have a go at, make a noise, or in this case leave our mark.

As a burgeoning amateur gardener, denizen of the countryside and lover of botanical plates, the West Dean College of Arts and Conservation’s four-day residential watercolour course, ‘Painting Leaves, Mixing Greens’, piqued my interest. I arrive at the flint-fronted college, set in the beautiful 6,350-acre West Dean Estate, on the edge of the South Downs National Park in West Sussex, which was established as an arts and crafts educational community by the poet Edward James, a patron of the surrealist art movement.

The little-known gardens are stunning and, after supper, and an introduction to the course upon our arrival, by Day 2 I’m taking in their verdant beauty, collecting leaves with my six course compadres and the highly-regarded botanical painter and class tutor, Sandrine Maugy, a protegee of gardener, author, and broadcaster Roy Lancaster.

We stop at a Gingko tree. “The Gingko biloba,” explains Sandrine, “is one of the oldest tree species on the planet, some 200 million years old and its leaves are among the easiest to draw.”
“Foliage,” Sandrine explains, “is really important in botanical art and often neglected. People don’t give the same love to their leaves as their flowers.”

And just a few days spent studying a few humble leaves - gingko, lily, and the rose - the shapes, frills, folds, veins, and hues allow me to immerse myself in my task with ease.

The course is, like many others on offer, open to all abilities and my friendly class helps and chivvies one another along through minor setbacks and frustrations from shading to mixing the watercolours. After several sketches of my gingko leaf, tracing the image, transferring to watercolour paper, three washes, much shading, and three applications of colour (yellow and two greens), Sandrine comes to inspect my work. I take a breath.
“It’s really good,” she says. “Great veins!” Usually, an exclamation reserved for my phlebotomist, but I’ll take it!

Sandrine’s top tips:
1) Use the right materials. Don’t opt for cheaper paints or paper. Painting is difficult enough without working with the wrong tools.
2) Work on drawing. Don’t jump into painting – for a strong body you need a strong skeleton; in art a good drawing makes for a strong painting.
3) Pay attention to light and shadows. Don’t neglect the tonal work – paint shadows before you think about colour.
4) Follow your nature. Do what you love, don’t fight it and try to do something you don’t like. Go with your own style.
5) Choose the right pigments. When you pick a pigment, have a reason for it. Know the rules before you break them.
6) Don’t try to control watercolours. Let them go with the flow.

What you can win
If lockdown has inspired you be more creative or made you want to develop your skills by learning new techniques and exploring new ideas, the short courses at acclaimed West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex offer a huge variety of choice with an impressive line-up of tutors.

We have teamed up with the college to offer a £500 voucher for a place on a two-day or weekend course. With courses ranging from botanical painting, sculpting and gilding a natural object; woodcarving – natural forms; outdoor watercolour sketching; and botanical photography, you will learn from expert tutors in fully-equipped studios and can take advantage of the inspirational college surroundings, including their award-winning gardens.
West Dean College offers hundreds of short courses throughout the year for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels and ranging from one day to five-day courses, either at weekends or weekdays.

New courses for the Autumn/ Winter season from October 2021 onwards have just been launched online. To welcome students to a safe and hospitable environment and to ensure the college is Covid-secure, many class sizes are reduced and measures are in place operating on a principle of the same as, or better than, national guidelines.

For full details, please visit:

How to enter
For your chance to win this amazing prize, complete your details.
The closing date is 12 August 2021. Our winner will be chosen at random for this month’s prize draw and travel is not included. The prize total of the Gift Voucher is £500 and cannot be exchanged or transferred for money.

Terms and conditions can be found here.

"Win a £500 art voucher" entry form

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