Student experience: what is it like to study on the Online Drawing Development Year?

Dec. 1, 2021

What is it like taking on an intensive, postgraduate level practical drawing course that is entirely remote? Here our current pilot year students share their thoughts…

Online Drawing Development Year

Designed by artists, for artists, the  Online Drawing Development Year is an innovative new course that has been devised to allow arts graduates and those with a developing studio practice, to benefit from live online drawing tuition and a structured critical dialogue with tutors, mentors, and peers over the course of three terms.

You can join from wherever you live  

Magdalena joined our course from her home studio in Poland after discovering the Royal Drawing School on Instagram. She told us, “It’s amazing and enriching – I’m attending a London school but I’m here in Poland. I can meet people from all around the world with different backgrounds, experiences and cultures.” Olive agrees. After following Royal Drawing School on social media and eager to be able to sign up for a course, Olive was delighted when she saw this online opportunity pop up. “The main benefit is that I can do it – being based in Bristol, I just can’t travel to London for a weekly course.” This option is much more accessible and easier to commit to, which is so important for a lot of students outside of London.   

If you have access needs, this course is for you  

For some creatives who have major lifestyle commitments such as full-time jobs, caring responsibilities, or specific access needs – it’s just not possible to attend an intensive course consisting of multiple classes a week in a physical studio. “This course is really good for people who find it difficult to leave the house for whatever reason – they can bring the course home to them,” says Olive. It’s true that the pandemic has really shown us what is possible to do from home. And the accessibility of online courses has meant that learning opportunities have opened up in a whole new way for those who always found that they had limited options previously. Amy, one of our current students, lives outside of London and also has a chronic illness. “Accessing education in person can be difficult. The Online Drawing Development Year has given me a new freedom in accessing amazing tutors, students and courses.”

Drawing by Amy Austin
Drawing by Amy Austin

You can fit this course around your busy schedule 

No commuting to the studio means more time for drawing, and more time to fit the commitment of the course around your life: “I can still work full time and participate in three evening classes a week. I was worried that I’d be exhausted after work and not want to do anything. But the course is so well structured, after each class I could see I had so many drawings and I just felt energised,” says Magdalena.   

And if illness strikes, it’s much easier to catch up online. Olive tells us, “I was sick the other week but I could still log on and see what everyone else had made in class, so I got a very real sense of the lesson. I could also access the presentation from the tutor, so I can catch up in my own time.”  

Drawing by Vanessa LawrenceDrawing by Vanessa Lawrence

It offers more one-to-one time with tutors 

“It’s similar to being in a studio but you’re on screen,” says Sarah – “so there’s a detachment there slightly, but there’s also more intimacy, in that you have a direct contact with the tutor. You can have a one-to-one in a ‘break out room’ – which is a private discussion away from the group. And instead of standing huddled in a group looking at a book on the floor while the tutor discusses an artists’ work - the tutor brings their images right into your home to look at.” 

Sarah adds “I do miss being in the studio and the personal experience of standing alongside someone, but I think online creates another version of that which can be very creative and very intense, which perhaps the physical classes don’t have.” 

Magdalena doesn’t think the online classes take anything away from the support you can receive or the level of tuition. “I can still have a one-to-one or talk in the group. If I need help, I can just ask the tutor. I don’t think it differs that much to in-person classes.” 

You will see your art practice deepen and develop 

“I feel a lot more confident now,” says Olive, “that’s a huge thing for me. I’m not so precious about my work anymore and I really enjoy playing, and the process. I used to always go straight to the ‘final’ piece but now I make a lot of preparatory drawings and play with colour and materials, cut things up and make collages. Being given new challenges, not questioning them and just doing things I wouldn’t normally do, with really amazing tutors has definitely made a permanent, positive change to the way I work.” 

“I’ve found that I’ve perhaps been more focused online because I’m surrounded by my books and previous work - I can see my progression very visually” says Sarah. “I am looking forward to being in the studio again but this has really helped me and taken me down roads that sometimes I’ve found uncomfortable but there has been a rich reward from that.” 

Painting by Olive Haigh
Collage by Olive Haigh 

There is still a sense of community 

Is it possible to have a sense of community and peer support, when it’s all taking place online? Sarah nods, “We might not be able to go for coffee or lunch together – but everyone tends to be very supportive of each other.” 

“There’s the feeling that you are physically in the class but you also have the comfort of being at home. I can hear the tutor talking, or other students asking questions, which is reassuring” says Magdalena.   

Olive tells us, “the critique and the tutorials I get from other students on the course is great. I love using Padlet to post my drawings and to look at everyone else’s work. I think that’s quite different to doing a class in person. You get much more time to really look at everyone’s art, and to see the whole process – all of their early sketches through to final pieces, which is very exciting.”

Sarah Street in the studio
There are other benefits too… 

Lugging heavy art materials on the tube is definitely not something to be missed. And you’ll never have that moment when you open your bag and realise, just when it’s too late – Oh no! I’ve forgotten my favourite pastels. “You have access to all of your materials, so you can easily change your mind during the day and switch from oils to watercolour or whatever you like,” Sarah tells us. 

Ultimately, we’d love you to join us and get as much out of the Online Drawing Development Year as our current students have. Vanessa really sums it up when she says, "It's been the most spirited and inspiring development of my practice. An incredible journey so far." 

We’d love you to join our new cohort. Are you intrigued? Applications for our Spring Term start are now open, and close on 6th December. Find out more about the Online Drawing Development Year and how to apply.