Ilga Leimanis has been teaching short courses at Central Saint Martins since 2007. From Beginners Drawing to Kickstart Your Creativity (Online), Ilga has many fascinating and inspiring courses to discover and start with. Here we delve further into Ilga’s own practice and explore what can be gained from the various courses on offer, whatever your skill level, for students and professionals to those taking their very first creative steps.
Ilga Leimanis

Ilga Leimanis at Five Years

How did you come to work in your field?

I have always had an interest in art, and was fortunate to study and develop a career. I was confused by drawing when I started my studies, but through experience I came to understand how it is possible for everyone to learn drawing skills.

My background is in painting and art history. When I moved to London, I was open to new opportunities, and based on my skills, I was invited to help develop a manual drawing skills course for architects and engineers, which brought me into many leading offices, most recently working with over 200 architects at Foster+Partners. I’ve learned on the job, and for over 11 years, have been testing and improving my approach to teaching drawing, distilling a method which gets consistently good results in a short period of time.

Tell us about your work.

As a painter, my last body of work was a large series of portraits, but for my recent solo exhibition in October, I made wall drawings, three-dimensional masks and monoprints at Five Years, an artists’ project in Archway, where I am a member.

©Ilga Leimanis

©Ilga Leimanis

I have been working collaboratively for the last 10 years as one half of the duo Ortelius Drew, together with Amsterdam based artist Doreen Wittenbols. We draw on location, have been commissioned for site-specific drawings and launched our European Tour. We are going to Rome in March to make new drawings, selected for the Artrooms Roma Contemporary Art Fair.

Three years ago I started another collaboration, Architecture of Conversation, together with architect Bidisha Sinha. Our explorations have led us to develop textile designs, and we are currently working on our first collection.

I have also been invited to write a book on Freehand Perspective Drawing for The Crowood Press. Over the years, many students have asked if I can recommend a book on drawing techniques, and soon I will have my own book to recommend. This is very exciting! Look for it in 2019.

Ilga Leimanis's students.

Ilga Leimanis’s students.

What courses do you teach and who should attend them?

I teach drawing and creativity courses, in the studio and online.

Broadly, all my drawing courses will cover manual skills; you will learn how to draw from observation, learn how to see, and understand how to make it look right.

Some of my drawing courses are quite broad (Total Drawing), covering all subjects, while others are geared more for beginners (Beginners Drawing) or for those preparing a portfolio (Drawing Portfolio – Daytime). Subjects include still life, life drawing, portrait, townscape (perspective), visual research, and illustration. I usually introduce idea generation through drawing, understanding a more experimental, creative process and what to do when you don’t have a subject to observe, or if you want to find your own voice or style.

I teach a Townscape Sketching course, entirely on location, using the principles of observational drawing as well as understanding perspective.

Ilga Leimanis

Ilga Leimanis, photographed by Tim Baynes

My Idea Generation Processes and Kickstart Your Creativity (Online) courses explore how to develop your creativity. I’ve taught the Ideas course for about eight years; it developed from my drawing courses when I realized how hard it was for students to let go and try something new and be creative. I came up with an easy method to develop potentially limitless new directions. My Ideas course uses simple materials (2D and 3D) in addition to drawing. Three years ago, I was invited to develop a workshop for UAL Academic Support taking the drawing element to explore idea development through sketching. Students across the university from art and design departments, as well as business and marketing courses have gained from this simple drawing process.

My portfolio students have successfully gained places on Foundation, BA or MA courses at CSM and other schools in the UK. Other students and professionals develop creativity and drawing skills for many different reasons, including problem solving. Some are medical doctors, software designers, corporate branding and marketing professionals, textile designers and film producers, to name just a few.

I love what I do, and I have been invited to deliver workshops for a broad range of students and professionals, here in London, as well as internationally.

Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?

I think inspiration is really fluid, always changing. There are many things I get excited about, for example, I love Instagram at the moment. I feel inspired by the artist, illustrator, fashion and interior design galleries I see.

Ilga Leimanis's Instagram, @ilgaleimanis

Ilga Leimanis’s Instagram, @ilgaleimanis

Another recent inspiring discovery was the Eduardo Paolozzi exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. He worked with everything! From drawing, print, sculpture, film, fashion, wood, ceramics, mosaic, etc. The work is so diverse, because he was always responding to the idea, and the materials followed. It’s all about process.

Name a favourite book, film or song that you would recommend.

This is a really hard question. I have been working on a UAL staff research project, within the Retain-Achieve-Succeed programme for the last two years, about the link between drawing skills and creativity at UAL, together with my colleague Chris Koning. This work brought me into the Institute of Education library, where I started reading academic literature again, for the first time since completing my MA. It was such a thrill, a really steep learning curve, it was so hard, but it reminded me that learning is a life-long pleasure! Pick up any book, just read!

©Ilga Leimanis

©Ilga Leimanis

What/where is your favourite London discovery?

I am originally from Montreal, Canada and have now lived in London for 14 years. I love everything about London!

Since 2007, I’ve run Drawn in London, my monthly location drawing group, which has brought me (and the group) into many diverse London locations, some of which are private spaces, thanks to former students or friends who have suggested them. Some favourites over the decade include the Serpentine Pavilions, The Royal Opera House, Six Fitzroy Square, Two Temple Place, Balfron Tower, and The Science Museum’s Mathematics Gallery.

I am also a huge fan of Peckham, in South-East London, the neighbourhood where I live. It is exciting to live in an area full of creativity and change …and hugely inspiring!

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

Test out ways to experiment, draw, stay curious and always try something. Feel free to let go of perfection.

Ilga tutors upon Beginners Drawing, Idea Generation Processes, Drawing Portfolio – Daytime, Kickstart Your Creativity (Online), Portfolio Sketchbook, Total Drawing, Townscape Sketching and Total Drawing (Online), the majority of which presently have course dates available to book right now! Ilga also teaches at the residential course for teenagers, Art and Design Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds, places go fast so book today to avoid disappointment. To see more of Ilga’s work you can visit her website,, or stay up-to-date through her social network channels: Facebook, Instagram (@ilgaleimanis) and Twitter (@ilgaleimanis).