Student of the Month: Aneta Maciuk

It’s that time again where we select our ‘Student of the Month’. It’s not been an easy decision but there’s a piece that stood out to us recently and we are keen to show it off!

Aneta Maciuk is one of our new students; she has only been to a few classes but has already managed to complete a mini masterpiece! The smoking skeleton is a painting made using acrylics at our weekly ‘Painting for Pleasure’ class held at The Islington Arts Factory on Thursday evenings.

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Join In: Art Classes in Galleries

The Independent Art School Campaign for Drawing WorkshopWe have an exciting new line up of art classes starting in January 2015, running at some of the major art galleries around London on Saturday afternoons.

Join us for a 2.5 hour class in some of the most important art galleries in London including the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Britain.  Our tutors will take you through some fundamental drawing techniques and the group will sketch together using the gallery’s collection as our inspiration.

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Announcing our New Classes at the Custard Factory

We can’t wait for the opening of our brand new branch of The Independent Art School at the Custard Factory in Birmingham!

We have taken on three beautiful studios with high ceilings and large windows overlooking the canal and we are almost finished renovating them to create a purpose built space for art lessons.  Here’s a sneaky peak of our new large studio half way through the renovation – if you use your imagination I’m sure you can see how great the studios will look when complete!

Custard Factory The Independent Art School The Custard Factory

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Setting Artistic Goals for the New Year

We all know that we are hopeless at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. It must be part of the requirement process to becoming a human being: ‘Must be bad at sticking to resolutions’.

If you are artistically inclined, you might find yourself adding something along the lines of ‘be more artistic’ or ‘do more painting’ to your list of resolutions this year. But how can you turn those written-down goals into real life? We’ve got some tips to help you make 2015 your most creative year yet!

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Are You Using the Correct Paintbrushes?

An artist’s paintbrush is like his magic wand. The more you work with your brushes, the more familiar you will become with how they behave with the paints and how you can get the most out of them. Just like any tool, using your paintbrush will become second nature with practice, and soon your brush will feel like another instinctive part of your body.

A good set of brushes will help you make the most from your paints, and using the wrong brush can ruin your finished work.

If you’re just starting out, choosing from the vast array of paintbrushes in an art shop can be an overwhelming experience. But never fear! The Independent Art School is here to help you pick the right brush and get you on your way to creating a masterpiece!

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Our Guide to Buying Great Art Materials

How do you go about getting together your own collection of art materials if you want to start painting? It’s sometimes hard to make the first steps when the options are so overwhelming… not to mention, expensive. Shopping for art materials can be a fun experience and most Artists generally find it a quick way to boost their inspiration through all the potential uses of your new equipment!

When you’re first starting out, you don’t need an endless amount of paints, pencils, paper or equipment. In fact, overloading yourself with too many choices may hinder your progress. It is far better to start gradually and become confident in one or two mediums before trying something new.

So, what are the must-haves for a budding Painter, and where can you get them?

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Announcing the Opening of a New Branch at the Custard Factory!

Custard FactoryI’m excited to announce that we are opening a new permanent space in the heart of Birmingham’s creative quarter at the Custard Factory!  We are going to use this as a hub for our creative classes in the West Midlands.

About the Space

We have taken on three studios in our own self-contained area of the Custard Factory, next to the art gallery on the ground floor.  The studios have high ceilings and beautiful large windows overlooking the canal, flooding the space with warm light.  There’s a lovely quiet and private feel to the space and we are working on transforming it into a creative oasis for our students.

We have builders in the studios at the moment knocking down walls and rearranging the space to create the perfect haven for our art lessons!  Here is a sneak peek of what the studios looked like when we took them on, I’m sure you all have the creative vision to be able to see what a lovely space we can create!

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Five Reasons to Be Inspired By Van Gogh

When you think of Vincent van Gogh, what springs to mind? Paintings of sunflowers sold for millions of pounds, or a crazy artist who chopped off his own ear?

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch Artist born in 1853. The son of a pastor, he worked as art dealer as a young man, before spending some time teaching and working as a missionary in Belgium, and eventually becoming a painter.

Now regarded as one of the most important and influential painters in the world, Vincent van Gogh never saw the praise and celebration of his work during his short lifetime. His career as a painter lasted just ten years, and was marred by mental health issues and a lack of recognition. He is certainly a rich source of inspiration when you’re feeling less-than-motivated.

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Creativity Challenge December: ‘Recreating’

December Project: ‘Recreating’

Jane PerkinsIntroducing this month’s project based on Found Objects, which we hope will inspire you!

Found Objects is a phrase commonly used to describe any pre-made objects that you include in your artwork.  Artists have used all manner of objects from Duchamp’s urinal to Jane Perkin’s recreations of modern paintings using found objects.

Whilst contemplating what to gift to others this festive season, think about yourself in this process too.  Your task this month is to find an object or a group of objects to focus upon.

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Top Tips for Making Friends With Your Sketchbook

sketchbook 2We all have an idea of what our ideal sketchbook will look like, brimming with creativity and full of clever little drawings and whimsical flashes of inspiration.

The trouble is, our sketchbooks so often fall short of our grand aspirations and we become nervous about making a mess in a book reserved only for perfect sketches. Here are some top tips to help you get messy and learn to love your sketchbook!

1.  Take your time in choosing the right sketchbook. Most art shops have a staggering selection to choose from, and your sketchbook is really quite a personal choice, so make sure the ‘feel’ of it works for you. Some key things to think about are the size and paper quality:  You don’t want it to be too heavy because you’ll -hopefully- be carrying it round with you.

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The Independent Art School’s Workshop at The Campaign for Drawing

The Independent Art School Campaign for Drawing WorkshopWe had a fantastic group for our drawing workshop at Trinity Buoy Wharf as part of the Campaign for Drawing’s exhibition Recording Britain Now.

As you may know Trinity Buoy Wharf is the base for our London offices so we know the site really well.  TBW is a little creative hub with lots of interesting architecture, sculpture and installations so it felt very natural to use the site as our inspiration.  Our group ranged completely in both age and ability and we were really proud of the work they created, congratulations to all who joined us!

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Join Us for a Drawing Workshop at The Horniman Museum

We have a FREE workshop running on Saturday 22nd November 2014 from 1:30-4:00pm at The Horniman Musuem in South London.

The class will be lead by our friendly and inspirational tutor Sally Ward and you will be drawing from the museum’s fascinating collection of African Art, Natural History and other curiosities.  We may even have the opportunity to get up close with the exhibits in a private room.  If the weather is nice we can also draw in the beautiful 16 acre garden.

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How to Stretch and Prime a Canvas for Painting

Stretching and priming a canvas is a lost art nowadays, thanks to the miraculous modern world of pre-primed, pre-stretched canvases. Many artists have never attempted to make their own, and it can seem there is little point in going to the efforts of stretching and priming your own when ready-made canvases are so much easier and often, cheaper, but there is still merit in making your own, especially for a special or personal piece of work.Canvas stretching and priming

The Vital Ingredients:
  1. Canvas
  2. Stretcher Bars
  3. Tacks
  4. Rabbit Skin Glue
  5.  Stretcher Pliers
  6. Gesso or other primer

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Student of the Month: Darcy Tighe

Darcy Tighe The Independent Art SchoolCongratulations to Darcy Tighe who has been selected as our Student of the Month! Darcy has been working with her tutor Hannah for around 3 months.  Hannah was really impressed with Darcy’s hard work and thought she had progressed quickly during their time together so she nominated her for Student of the Month!

Darcy got in touch with us a couple of months ago as she was about to begin a BTEC in Art & Design at Manchester College – and hoped to follow this with a BA course in Fine Art Sculpture. She was hoping to get some help developing technical and creative skills to help prepare her for this and to improve her confidence …so this is where we got involved!

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Introduction to Our Team

jen 2
Jennifer Fleming:  Founder & Director

My background is fundamentally linked to art, some of my earliest memories involve being engrossed in a drawing or painting and it was always an obvious path for me to take in life.  I studied Fine Art at university and this lead me to start a career as an Artist and Personal Art Tutor.

When I started The Independent Art School back in 2009 it was really a personal mission for me right from the start.  I was inspired to start the IAS after thinking back to my own experiences and I was essentially creating a service that I had wanted so many times during my own art education and in the early stages of my creative career after university.  This is probably what kept me motivated during the difficult times while trying to get things off the ground; I knew how much The Independent Art School could benefit our students because I have been in their position and essentially I still am in their position, no one ever outgrows the need for a creative mentor to provide support, guidance and an alternative perspective to your work.

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Artists to Inspire You: Emily Carr & Kathryn Maple

Looking at other Artist’s work is such an important way to help inspire and develop your own work.  Each month we’ll be looking at a few different artists to bring some inspiration to your Wednesday!  Today we are looking at an Established Artist and an Up-and-Coming Artist.

Emily CarrEstablished Artist:  Emily Carr

Canadian painter Emily Carr (1871-1945) spent time in Paris during the artistic heyday of the early twentieth century. Returning to Canada armed with the influence of post-Impressionism and Fauvism, her paintings of Canadian forests and landscapes- as well as her studies of the waning aboriginal population -show a clear inspiration from artists like Van Gogh and Gauguin. Her palette is clear and bright yet strangely subdued, giving her paintings the freshness and wetness of a forest after the storm. Don’t miss the excellent exhibition showing now at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London. Continue reading

Getting Started With Drawing Workshop

We are excited to invite you to a FREE workshop we are organising called Getting Started With Drawing on the 16th November 2014 from 2-5pm.

The workshop is in partnership with the Campaign for Drawing and will run within the lovely creative community of Trinity Buoy Wharf, which also happens to be the location of our London Office!

Below are some images of Trinity Buoy Wharf which will provide the basis for our class inspiration, it’s a quirky and creative oasis in East London.

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Join Our Creativity Challenge!

Mixed LeavesWelcome to The Independent Art School’s new monthly Creativity Challenge! Each month, we’ll be sending out a topic and we’d love to see what you can come up with in keeping with the month’s theme.

What is the Creativity Challenge?

Our Creativity Challenge is open to everyone including: the public, past and current students, tutors, professional and not-so professional artists alike, in any medium or discipline. Send us in your submissions and we’ll share our favourites on our Facebook page!

How do I join in?

Please send your images via email to  by the 26th November 2014 and we will post our favourites to our Facebook page (

November Project: WARMTH

As the clocks go back one hour and we are afforded an extra hour to sleep, we tend to go into hibernation mode.  Continuing to think creatively can really help improve our wellbeing at this time of year, with this in mind we hope you will be inspired by the word warmth and what it means to you.

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How to Choose The Perfect Composition

Whether you’re choosing items for a still life or trying to take the perfect photograph, the key is always in good composition. Whatever your subject, make sure it’s something you find interesting; the likelihood is others will see its beauty too.

  1. Firstly consider your format; Oval, square, rectangle? If you are drawing from observation it’s helpful to use a viewfinder, these can be made really easily. (See our article on creating a viewfinder here:

  1. Once you’ve picked your scene avoid the temptation to jump right in. Take your time and consider the balance of the picture. A good rule to consider at this point is the famous ‘Rule of Thirds’: a simple trick is to align your items or points of focus along two of the main grid lines. This also helps divide your frame up so you can get your proportions down straight away.

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Using a Viewfinder

Viewfinders can be a wonderfully efficient yet simple tool for selecting a composition, this can be especially helpful when you are starting to think about composition for the first time.

To make your very own viewfinder simply take a normal A4 sheet of paper and fold it diagonally twice as in the diagram below:

Viewfinder 1

Then using a ruler draw a small square or rectangle (depending on the shape of your canvas) where the two lines meet in the centre.  The shape should be small, no larger than around 2.5cm on its longest side.

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