Holiday Inspiration: St Ives School Of Painting

For generations, artists have flocked to St Ives, drawn here by that famously clear light and the inspiring array of subjects. If the idea of painting in this idyllic setting appeals to you, an art course at the St Ives School of Painting could be your perfect Cornish holiday activity.

We’ll take a closer look at this welcoming art school and what it offers visitors to St Ives.

About St Ives School Of Painting

St Ives School of Painting is an art school and registered charity in the heart of the old town. The friendly school welcomes anyone who would like to try their hand at painting, hone their skills, or who simply wants to experience the artistic side of St Ives. 

If you want to try something different during your Cornwall holidays, an art course with St Ives School Of Painting could be the perfect experience for you. The School is based in Porthmeor Studios close to Tate St Ives, where the team of over 30 artists teaches an impressively varied collection of courses.

Porthmeor Studios: An Inspirational Setting

What could be more inspiring than brushing up your painting skills in Porthmeor Studios, where artists such as Ben Nicolson, Terry Frost and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham once worked? These early 19th-century workshops were originally built for the pilchard industry (hence their enviable coastal location) but have been used as artists’ studios since the 1880s. 

Artists Leonard Fuller and Borlase Smart established the School here in 1938, moving into the venerable old studios that had recently been used by sculptor Denis Mitchell. You can easily imagine all the artists who stood on these old boards before you, looking out over the same stretch of sea. It’s an incredibly evocative place to paint.

The sheer beauty of the local scenery is also inspirational. Classes often go outside to paint, heading out to the promontory known as “The Island” on the east side of Porthmeor Beach. Even inside the studios, the seaside setting and airy workspaces make sure that you capture that unique St Ives light.


Art Courses For Everyone

Let’s make something very clear about joining an art class at St Ives: you don’t have to be good at art! Taking part in one of the School’s classes is about enjoying yourself and trying a new experience. Jane Cowans from St Ives School Of Painting explains it perfectly:

“Our mission is about inspiring people to make the most of their own innate ability.”

We all have that creative spark inside us and the teachers at St Ives are there to help you find yours. There are specific courses for beginners and more experienced artists; however, many of the classes are small and mixed ability, so everyone feels comfortable and can work at their own pace. 

On Holiday In St Ives? Join An Art Course!

Immerse yourself in St Ives’ art scene by joining an art class in historic Porthmeor Studios. The School offers a selection of three-day or weekend-only courses on the most wonderful array of subjects. 

If you don’t have time to commit to a three-day course, come along to one of the life drawing classes, which are held every Thursday and Saturday. These welcoming sessions last just a couple of hours and cost £25 (2023 prices), making them a wonderful introduction to St Ives’ art world.

Whichever class you or your children join, all materials are included, so you won’t need to add canvas and brushes to your luggage!


Courses For Younger Artists

St Ives School of Painting also runs art courses for children during the school holidays. These are aimed at young artists of around junior school age (Key Stage 2) and last around 2-3 hours. The classes are friendly and engaging and, like the adult classes, are suited to a wide range of interests and experience.

It’s best to book ahead online because the young artists’ courses are really popular (especially during the summer holidays). If you’re looking for something a bit different for your family to do in St Ives, an afternoon at St Ives School of Painting is an excellent option.

Take Some Time To Enjoy An Art Class

An art class in St Ives is about more than learning a new skill – it’s about immersing yourself in your own creative world. Painting and drawing are marvellously therapeutic activities: when you’re engrossed in your work, there’s nothing else in that moment, giving your mind a chance to properly unwind. If your everyday life is busy and you feel like you have very little headspace, take some time out to try an art class.

If you love the course (and we know you will!), your St Ives art experience doesn’t have to end with your holiday. Until you can come to St Ives again, you can attend their excellent online courses, which the team has been developing since the 2020 lockdowns. The School’s online art courses cover all sorts of areas, from seascapes to figure drawing and are becoming increasingly popular.


Holiday Cottages Near St Ives School Of Painting

Have you booked onto one of the School’s three-day courses and are looking for accommodation? We have a selection of beautiful holiday cottages in the centre of St Ives, some even among the same narrow lanes as St Ives School of Painting itself

If you’d like to know more about the St Ives School of Painting and its courses, you can contact them directly on 01736 797180 or email

For more information about the best places to stay near Porthmeor, please ask us at Cornish Escapes. We’ll be able to recommend some lovely holiday cottages, many with inspirational ocean views.

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