Distance Learning Diploma Course

There has always been a need for a ‘correspondence course’, by which we mean a distance learning 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, frequent requests came 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.

Vicky Hallam DipSBA (Dist) Diploma Portfolio Part 1 Botanical Illustration. Coloured pencil and ink

The Course is open to students anywhere in the world and there are currently students from Australia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, India, Israel, Italy, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.  The Course lasts for 27 months and the fee includes a student subscription to the Society for the duration of the Course and Foundation membership of the Society for the year after Graduation.

Students often enquire whether they are good enough to be accepted on the Course. Before an 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 have a good chance of becoming a Fellow member.  You can find out more about this on our ‘Becoming a member’ page.

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

Caroline Buckley Dip SBA (Dist) Diploma Portfolio Part 2 Mixed Study Composition. Coloured pencil.


Each of the twelve assignments is a module and 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 ten key areas of assessment and the Tutors will include advice, diagrams and colour notes as necessary.  The modules will all count towards the total marks for the course.  At the end of the course, students will also submit three Diploma Portfolio pieces on specific subjects.  Students are also required to submit 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.   Modular assessment of the twelve assignments, three Diploma pieces and the essay will determine the grade of the Diploma.

Students 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.  There is also a password-protected area of the Society website which features demonstration videos, Powerpoint presentations, SBA magazines and talks.

Course Director Simon Williams with Odette Razini Course 18 receiving her Diploma with Distinction.

So that students do not feel completely isolated, an Introductory meeting will be held early in the first year and a seminar will take place during the second year, both in London.  During these meetings, 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 encouraged 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.

‘Satisfaction can come from perserverance’


For Further Information: Course 21 commenced in January 2024. An example of the prospectus, list of assignments, application form, fees and payment arrangements is available to download as a PDF here

Frequently Asked Questions about the DLDC

Patricia Gherase DipSBA (Dist) Diploma portfolio part 3 Fruits or Vegetables study. Watercolour