Most of us will, at least on occasion, sing, dance, take up an instrument or play a sport as we move through the decades of our lives. And yet, when it comes to art, many adults will scarcely ever put pen or brush to paper again after leaving school, despite that we continue to encourage drawing and painting in our children (and for that, thank goodness). In 2020, a study revealed that nearly half of Britons do not consider themselves to be artistic – and that includes those who enjoy creative pursuits such as gardening or cooking. Well over half lamented the fact, citing lack of time, inspiration or know-how as the greatest stumbling block to expressing their artistic impulses.

If it is know-how that is proving the greatest obstacle to opening up your artistic sensibilities, then an online course which can be taken at home and in your own time could be just the thing. Happily, they abound and these are the online art courses that we rate for stimulating your artistic instincts and honing those skills.

If realism is your thing, there is no better online course than this.

St Ives School Of Painting

St Ives School Of Painting

Famously, St Ives has long drawn an artistic crowd. Barbara Hepworth’s perfectly preserved studio is here, as is the southernmost outpost of the Tate. And while the St Ives school of artists never regarded themselves as a cohesive body, the west Cornwall town’s special quality of light, as well as its landscape, forms and colours has nonetheless kept the artists flocking since the early 19th-century, becoming a particular hub for the abstract movement through the 1940s and 1960s. The seasoned art historian will know of the great names associated with this place, from Patrick Heron to Terry Frost to Bernard Leach – and, thanks in part to the St Ives School Of Painting continuing the good work, aspirant artists continue to come for all the same reasons. One snag: St Ives is a long haul for many of us, which is why the school’s online courses are a particular boon. Explore its wealth of pre-recorded classes, from Looking For Colour with Camilla Dixon (£27) to Developing Abstraction with Liz Hough £120) to Figure – Inspired By Matisse with Alice Mumford (£27). Explore more.

The Realist Academy


‘I want to send a huge thank you to @terezabarnard and her The Realist Academy™. The class is beyond amazing, it has completely changed my art and let me finally paint the images I see in my mind.’ These words are just a few amongst many of the paeans of praise from the alumni of The Realist Academy, a brilliantly comprehensive mega course from realist painter, Tereza Barnard.

A note: this is less for the general dabbler; more for aspiring painters who are keen to develop a career in art, supplying the tools not only to paint professionally but also for online marketing and building a social media presence. And, in that way, it is unique, cutting through the veil of mystique that the artworld sometimes feels shrouded in and looking at it instead in the round: what are the principles of realism? How does an artist develop their voice? How do you market yourself? Each question is worked through and answered through the tutorials. What makes this course so compelling is that its tutor is evidence of its efficacy: five years ago, she was an amateur who liked to paint; now painting is her career. Her alumni, some of whom were beginners before they took the course, have been shortlisted for prestigious prizes, made it into the likes of Top 50 Emerging Women Artists Awards, and have gained gallery representation. If realism is your thing, there is no better online course than this. £1,649. Explore more.

Central St Martins

Central St Martins

This hallowed institution needs little by way of introduction. The alma mater of luminaries such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano to Phoebe Philo, Jarvis Cocker, Stella McCartney, M.I.A., Joe Wright, Gareth Pugh, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou and Matty Bovan, its record of churning out radicals, luminaries and trailblazers speaks for itself. If you’d like to harness knowledge from the best, its roster of 1,500 short courses is a great way to learn for artists who want to hone their skills. Working in a variety of media, the courses are interactive and will involve constructive critiques of your work. £420. Explore more.

London Drawing Group


Founded in 2016 by Luisa-Maria MacCormack, Lucy Mcgeown and Frances Stanfield – a trio of alumni from Royal Drawing School (see below), London Drawing Group runs classes all over London, as well as online. Regular collaborators with august institutions, such as The British Museum, Tate Galleries, Hastings Contemporary, Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Hayward Gallery and most recently The National Gallery and the Barbican, the driving purpose is to make art accessible to everyone – a raison d’etre that we admire hugely. The many and varied online classes include Drawing From The Gee's Bend Quiltmakers, Drawing from Movement, Sargent And Fabric: A Friendly Guide To Oil Painting and Beatrix Potter: Squirrel Nutkin. They ask only for donations, thus truly making these classes available to all. Explore more.

Royal Drawing School

As an independent charity, all of Royal Drawing School’s 350 full- and part-time courses are heavily subsidised, and thus the onus is on keeping art open for all regardless of circumstance. There is a postgraduate-level programme in drawing, plus fully-funded international artists' residencies and places on a Young Artists programme for 10-18 year-olds. But if you want to learn online, there is ample provision for that too, ranging from the Drawing Online Development Year (£3,980) to the Drawing Intensive programme (£1,600 per term) to shorter courses, such as the Children’s Book Illustration Summer School with Emily Haworth-Booth (£455) to an evening printmaking class with Jake Garfield (£20.50). In other words, the gamut. Explore more.

Little Art School

Everything about this course sounds inviting, from its sweet name to the way in which even total neophytes are welcome. They say, ‘We take a step-by-step approach to developing skills and techniques. Our course has been developed and tested over several years; we know that we can teach ANYONE to draw and paint with our unique, highly structured course. The course is designed to be completed in sequence, with skills developed and reinforced in every lesson.’ A full course costs £350, which includes 30 lessons, a year of access to the tutorials and all the art material you will need, delivered to your door. The testimonials are effusive and heartfelt – this feels like a really lovely place to learn. Explore more.