EXPRESSIVE STROKES – Portrait Course in Oil or Acrylics with the life model

This fun portrait course is about loosening up your approach to painting portraits, playing with materials and embracing something new. Each class will explore a different colour palette, mark making techniques and ways to build an expressive portrait. We will also cover the basics of proportions and how to use the planes of the head to create form. Working from a live model there will be demos and artist inspiration to keep everyone on the right track and an opportunity for feedback on your work.
We will be working with a live model each week – painting from life

Suitable for all levels.

Week 1
Exploring how to draw in the head with the brush using a monochromic palette and ways of making economic brush marks.

Week 2
Building on the previous week’s class with the addition of limited colour, using the Zorn palette and thinking about the relative warmth and coolness of colours in the face.

Week 3
Using a primary colour palette to mix fleshy tones and play with the thickness of the paint to see how it can affect the way you read the surface of a painting.

Week 4
Playing with colour, using complementary colours to create a more expressive and personal response to the head.


Paints – Oil or Acrylic

Titanium White
Lemon Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Red
Alizarin Crimson
Cerulean Blue or Cobalt Blue
French Ultramarine
Burnt Umber
Black (any black is fine)

Oil Painting Mediums

– Low Odour White Spirit (to clean brushes)
– Winsor & Newton Sansodor Turpentine (low odour thinners for diluting paint)


A variety of shapes and sizes are useful – hog hair brushes hold the paint better for textured marks, but synthetic ones are fine too.
I like to use a mix of shapes e.g. short flat, long flat and round brushes for painting with a range of sizes e.g. 3,6,8,10

Painting Surface

You can either work on canvas or board and we will use o per week. If you really want to explore mark making and thickness of paint use something fairly small (A6 size approx.) to start off with. You will be able to judge from the first class which size works best for you and be able to adapt your approach as the course progresses.
I like to stain my boards with a light tone before I start – something like a thinned burnt umber with a little bit of white paint.
In addition, you may wish to use paper or canvas paper to practice mark making on for warm-up exercises.
You can buy tear off throwaway paper palettes e.g. Winsor & Newton tear-off palette – 14.5. X 9.5 inches, which are good for oil paint.
If using acrylic, you can use anything from a paper plate or cardboard to a plastic palette.

Other things you might need:

· 2 jars with lids
· Kitchen roll
· Palette knife (optional)

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