Distance Learning Diploma Course


Diploma Part 3 © Kate TilburyFor many years, the Society has been aware of the need for a ‘correspondence course’, where students learn by working and practising on their own on set assignments, then have the work assessed by experienced Tutors. From all over the world, including the UK, there has been frequent requests from aspirant botanical artists unable to attend a day, weekly or residential course, for whatever reasons, on the subject of how to learn botanical painting. 


When writing The Art of Botanical Painting, it became obvious that it would be an excellent textbook for distance learning, thus the Society’s idea for a Distance Learning Diploma Course was born. The Course is not for beginners in watercolour painting but rather for those with some knowledge of the subject and a wish to learn more about botanical art and its associated skills. The Society’s aim is to develop those skills and help to create a good, well-rounded botanical painter.


The Course is open to students anywhere in the world and there are currently students from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Canada and the USA as well as Europe and the UK. The Course lasts for 27 months and the fee includes a student subscription to the Society for the duration of the Course.

Diploma Part 3 © Jennifer GoodwinStudents often ask whether they are good enough to be accepted on the Course. Before application for registration, students will be asked to provide a colour print of their work so that the Course Director can assess their proficiency.


Students often have the goal of membership of the Society, which is a high aim, but those who gain a Distinction on the Course will be eligible for the fast-track membership method.


DipSBA or DipSBA(Dist) may be used after the student’s name for those students who were awarded the Society’s Diploma.




Each of the first eleven assignments is a practise piece and these will be expected to reach the designated tutor by a due date. The subject for each one has been carefully chosen to improve the student’s ability in the main areas of botanical art and illustration, including design. Tutors will award a mark to each assignment as an indication of the student’s current ability, which, together with the accompanying critique or Tutors Assessment Mark Sheet (TAMS) will enable the student to see which areas need to be improved upon. The TAMS will show 10 key areas of assessment and the Tutors will include advice, diagrams and colour notes as necessary. Marks given for assignments will NOT contribute to the Course total. The Course grade will be based solely on three Diploma Portfolio pieces, the sketchbook and an essay.


Diploma Part 3 © Nadia FarottiStudents may telephone, at designated times, or email their Tutors throughout the Course. In this way students will be able to take advantage of Tutors’ comments, act upon advice to amend or re-attempt part of the previous assignment, for their own satisfaction and to aid the learning process.


The Introductory meeting will be held in the first year and a Seminar will take place during the second year, both in the Spring during the Annual Open Exhibition of the Society in London, when students can meet Tutors and each other, take the opportunity for social contact and discussion, show the Tutors amended work, talk about any difficulties and take part in practical demonstrations. Students are required to keep a sketchbook throughout the course in which to do exercises, pencil and tonal studies, colour notes and charts and layout sketches as required. This sketchbook will be judged as part of the final Diploma Portfolio. Also included with the final Diploma Portfolio should be an essay, chosen from a list of subjects, which the student can work on for the duration of the Course. Appropriate allowance will be made for students whose first language is not English as the essay will be judged on content and understanding rather than grammar.


Tutors are all respected botanical artists and Members of the SBA with many years of experience in a variety of fields ranging from teaching, illustration, botany and commercial design.


Further Information


A prospectus, list of assignments, details about starting dates of Courses, application form, fees and payment arrangements are Downloadable as a PDF here Course 13 commences on the 1st January 2016. 



The Graduation Ceremony for Course 9 was held on Friday, 9th May 2014 at The Artworkers Guild, 6 Queen Square, London when family and friends looked on proudly as Diplomas were awarded by Course Director Simon Williams SBA.


A total of 46 students from the UK as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the USA completed Course 9 and 35 were present, with their guests, to receive their Diplomas.


There were 8 Distinctions, 24 Credits, 10 Higher Passes, 4 Passes and no fails. The Award for Excellence went to Nadia Farotti who achieved an overall mark of 93.03%. Laura Ashton won the Jantien Burggraaff Memorial Award for progress. A new award for Diploma Portfolio Achievement went to Jennifer Goodwin.

Alistair Scott with Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Alistair Scott from England receives his Diploma with Distinction from Course Director Simon Williams SBA.

Anita Frison with Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Anita Frison from Italy awarded a Diploma with Credit from Simon Williams SBA.

Ishbel Fleming - Boyd with Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Ishbel Fleming - Boyd from England awarded a Diploma with Higher Pass from Course Director Simon Williams SBA

Kate Tilbury receives her Diploma with Credit from Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Kate Tilbury from England receives her Diploma with Credit from Course Director Simon Williams SBA.

Nadia Farotti with Course Director Simon williams SBA © SBA


Nadia Farotti from Italy receiving her award for highest % achieved on the course from Course.

Jennifer Goodwin with Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Jennifer Goodwin from England received her Diploma with Distinction.

Robyn Hulley with Course Director Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Robyn Hulley from Australia receives her Diploma with Credit.

Sylvia Steinhauer awarded a Diploma with Credit from Simon Williams SBA © SBA


Sylvia Steinhauer from Austria receiving her Diploma with Credit.

Course 9 Diploma Evening © SBA


Course 9 Diploma Evening.



Students are required to produce three pieces of work for their Diploma Portfolio: a botanical study, fruit or vegetables, and a mixed study. Images of some of the Diploma Portfolio artwork are shown below.

Diospyros 'Kaki Thumb © Estsuko Niigata


Diospyros 'Kaki Thumb'

Estsuko Niigata

Mixed Study © Janina - Maria Sassanejad


Mixed Study

Janina - Maria Sassanejad

Onions © Hazel Black SBA



Hazel Black

Anthurium andraearnum 'True Love' © Becky Davison


Botanical Illustration

Becky Davison

Fruit and Vegetables © Minna Keeler


Fruit and Vegetables

Minna Keeler

Mixed Study © Susan Camilion


Mixed Study

Susan Camilion

Botanical Illustration © Vicki Lee Johnston DipSBA (dist)


Botanical Illustration

Vicki Lee Johnston

Mixed Study © Waiwai Hove DipSBA (dist)


Mixed Study

Waiwai Hove

Cauliflower © Chris Taylor DipSBA (dist)


Vegetable Study

Chris Taylor

Diploma Part 3 © Soojung Han


Diploma Part 3

Soojung Han

Diploma Part 2 © Mixed Study


Diploma Part 2

Mary Dillon

Diploma Part 2 © Sally Cokeley


Diploma Part 2

Sally Cokeley


















DLDC Residential Courses at Plas Tan y Bwlch 2015


Plas Tan y Bwlch is offering two highly successful courses again in association with the SBA Distance Learning Diploma Course, 2015 will be its eleventh year and highly acclaimed worldwide.


24 - 29 May 2015

At this time of year the gardens are beautiful with Rhododendrons and it is a great chance to get tuition from three tutors.

Kay Rees Davies, Sandrine Maugy and Simon Williams will be tutoring independent styles and techniques with watercolour and gouache options.

Kay will be specialising in painting leaves and mixing greens while Sandrine will be showing how to use harmonic shadows for flower studies.

Simon will once again bring along the brilliant gouache to cover techniques on working with the medium on white paper and coloured suppports.

The former Course Director Margaret Stevens PPSBA will be guest lecturer for an afternoon to demonstrate working on vellum. This is a surface that has been recently introduced into 2 assignments on the Distance Learning Diploma Course and and ideal time to get some tips to working on vellum.

This is not an opportunity to be missed and places are now very limited.

Non-DLDC students will be equally welcome. Included in the course will be a visit to Bangor University Botanical Gardens. It will be during the free untutored session on Wednesday afternoon and it will make an ideal opportunity for some sketchbook work.


13 - 18 September 2015

Back for the second time will see Robert McNeill using watercolour and Simon Williams using gouache.

The very unique male duo of botanical tutoring will once again offer a dynamic teaching approach using different styles with skills that benefit both mediums.

Robert has over thirty years experience as an art tutor and his work during the exhibition was awarded the People’s Choice Award for best in show. Robert’s aim is to be true to Art and Science whilst incorporating a passion for form, meticulous detail and a need to capture the dynamic qualities to subjects through the use of watercolour using a variety of techniques including wet into wet and dry brush, with a focus on transparent overlays.

Gouache uses a lot of dry brush techniques and Simon specializes with these techniques that allows for creating very dramatic paintings with a realistic finish. This is an ideal medium for illustrators and botanical artist to develop clean, fresh and vibrant work, not least when used on a coloured background. Simon will demonstrate working on coloured board as well as white paper along with dry brush work using hatching techniques to render fine detail.

A guest lecturer is booked for an evening talk. This September the lecture will be by Ann Bebbington, Author of the book 'Understanding the Flowering Plants' published in November 2014.

Due to its popularity early booking is advised and non-DLDC students will be equally welcome. Included in the course will be a visit to Bangor University Botanical Gardens. It will be during the free untutored session on Wednesday afternoon and it will make an ideal opportunity for some sketchbook work.


Plas Tan y Bwlch is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of North Wales, easily reached by road or rail. Extensive gardens, woodland and lake combined with comfortable accommodation and very good food make this a delightful place to stay and non-painting partners can usually be accommodated.



Contact Details

Telephone: +44 1766 772600

Web: www.plastanybwlch.com
Email: plas[at]eryri-npa.gov.uk


The photographs below were taken during the Courses of 2014.

Gouache painting with Simon Williams © SBA DLDC


watercolour demonstration by Margaret Fitzpatrick © SBA DLDC


Julie Coleclough working on a Chilli in gouache © SBA DLDC


Robert McNeill Demonstrating in watercolour © SBA DLDC


Georgina Barnes watercolour studies © SBA DLDC


Viewing of artwork produced by the end of the week © SBA DLDC



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