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Draw it like Cornish

(22 January 2020)

Norman Cornish

For the past year, the North-East has been celebrating 100 years since the birth of one of its most talented artists: Norman Cornish. Over 30,000 people have visited the nine centenary exhibitions and marvelled at Cornish’s abilities. One leading commentator recently claimed his work was “was good as Rembrandt”. Now we're working with artist and educator Paul Raymond to offer everyone from complete beginners upwards the chance to learn and experiment with his techniques, all for free.

Q: What is an Alternative Drawing School?

Paul: We want to celebrate Norman Cornish’s work and promote enjoyment through drawing. We’ll take inspiration from how Cornish drew and what he drew. It’s called an Alternative Drawing School because the sessions will be quite experimental. Hopefully participants will learn some new creative ways of drawing and making artwork.

Q: What will the School include?

Paul: Each week we’ll focus on different materials and processes. First we’ll use experimental drawing techniques to promote observation, before moving on to large-scale drawings. We’ll also be using rapid drawing skills, inspired by Cornish’s sketchbooks. Following sessions will include mono-printing inspired by memories of a fading past, drawing on location, and the creation of a collaborative drawing installation. 

Q: Who can take part?

Paul: Anybody! No experience is necessary and all materials are provided.

Q: Why should anyone give it a go?

Paul: These sessions are not about being ‘good at drawing’. Everybody can draw and enjoy the process of drawing. 

Q: Tell us about yourself…

Paul: I am an artist and educator living and working in the North-East. I combine elements of sculpture, performance and digital work. Although my work isn’t traditional I believe that drawing underpins everything I do. I’m also part of the North East Artist Teacher & Educator Network, which aims to promote learning through art and creativity.

Q: How does Norman Cornish and his work inspire you?

Paul: I grew up in County Durham and my family are from mining communities. Norman Cornish made artwork about the world that he was living in - a period in history and a way of lifethat is rapidly disappearing. I feel that his artwork is very important in how we understand life in those times. Also, his work shows that art is not something that should be limited by background or class: art is for everybody.

The Alternative Drawing School will take place at Palace Green Library, Durham University, on four consecutive Saturdays, January 25 and February 1, 8 and 15, from 10.30am to 12pm. Participants can attend any or all sessions. Each will stand alone, but complement each other.

Entry is free, but places should be booked. For more details, visit or email:

The ‘Norman Cornish: The Sketchbooks’ exhibition is at Palace Green Library until Saturday, 23 February. Visit