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Art Academy East review – Muddy gets arty!

Itching to try out something creative, but unsure how to get started on your own? Read our honest review of an Art Academy East course, pronto, to decide whether it's time to get booking.


Art Academy East is a bright and thriving arts centre that’s tucked away down the end of a Norwich industrial estate – a bit of a hidden gem! I headed up there recently to join in with an oil painting class, part of the academy’s six week Absolute Beginners Guide to Painting course.

The college is open to all abilities and anyone aged 19 or over, and offers all sorts of fabulous creative courses – from short pottery workshops to year-long diplomas acredited by the UAL. Plus, it sponsored the Muddy Stilettos Norfolk Awards last year! But what is a session there actually like?


I was instantly impressed with Art Academy East’s colourful, spacious classrooms and the funky decor – especially the hot pink neon sign.

While I love a spot of painting, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to oils, so it was very welcome to be taken right back to the beginning by our brilliant tutor Mark. He was great at making things as simple as possible, without being patronising.

Plus, the big video screen at the front made it ultra easy to see what he was demonstrating – so there’s no craning your neck or crowding around the teacher’s desk!

Mark led us through a series of small, paint-along studies on a single board, from basic (but oh-so-satisfying) colour blending through to an impressionistic landscape.

We learnt about the key oil painting principles, such as moving from dark to light colours and from thinner to thicker paint, and even about how to keep brushes clean (less obvious than it might seem, and really important if you don’t want a murky-looking painting).

There was plenty I had either forgotten about since A-Level, or never learnt, and I had great fun trying out new techniques such as impasto – using a palette knife to smear thick paint straight onto the canvas. Just call me Vincent Van Gogh!

It was also really intriguing to try out scumbling, using a palette knife held at an angle to scrape paint across the board, and playing with the resulting effects. It’s so rare (and welcome) to get the chance to mess around just for the sake of it as an adult – let’s have more creative play for grown ups, please?


Whether you’re a total art virgin who just fancies trying something new, or a creative type who wants to hone your skills, I’d be surprised if Art Academy East didn’t have a class for you. It doesn’t matter if you think you were “rubbish” at art a school – AAE have the ethos that art is a learned skill, and you probably just never found the right teacher.

It’s so valuable to take this kind of time, just for yourself, and the pressures of the outside world really do seem to melt away when you’re focused on making something. Plus, you might meet a few nice new mates!


You can browse all of Art Academy East’s courses here. I’ve got my eye on the How To Paint: Contemporary Coastal Scenes short course.

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