Acrylic painting for beginners with Christine Forbes

Ref: S2D13344

Location: West Dean
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About this course

Learn everything you need to know to get started with acrylics. Using both still life and images be guided through each stage including drawing, brush handling, colour mixing and balancing, and composition.

Course Description

The tutor will show you everything you need to know about how to get started with acrylics, using both still life and images as a creative resource. The course is structured with plenty of demonstrations on acrylic painting techniques and how to get the best out of your materials. Starting with observational drawing, you will learn how to handle both paint and brushes. You will experiment with colour mixing and balancing, and gain an understanding of composition. An intuitive approach through specific exercises is encouraged.

Your tutor will guide you through each stage, from drawing work to colour sketches, and these in turn will be developed into one or two finished pieces. You will try out some additives that allow the paint to be manipulated imaginatively, and discuss the different surfaces you can work on. You will start a process library, which will be demonstrated and explained by your tutor. These will give you an understanding of how brushes and other implements can be used to skilful effect. Also, in this structured programme, there is scope for you to be adventurous and develop your own methods and ideas. There’ll be plenty of one-to-one assistance as required.

At the end of this course, there will be a group review, and you will have enough knowledge and reference material to make an enthusiastic return to this wonderfully playful medium.

General course outline:

Introduction and various approaches

Drawing and its relevance

Talk on colour mixing, composition and the personal touch

Paint and brushwork techniques, including ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ effects

Other mark-making devices

Demonstrations for all of these

Paint additives: different textures from liquid to impasto

Developing sketches into paintings

One-to-one support

Group review and keeping up the momentum


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • The College will supply some paper, gesso and acrylic paints to get you started.

What students need to bring

  • Acrylic paint – suggested colours: Gamboge, Hookers (mid) Green, Scarlet Lake, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, White, Black
  • Acrylic impasto medium, acrylic retarder
  • Selection of brushes - suggested sizes: flat bristle brush size 30, flat bristle size 16, flat bristle size 10, nylon round sizes 10 and 6
  • Sketchbook size A4 or A5
  • 2 or 3 primed boards (suitable for acrylics) size A3/A4
  • Good quality cartridge paper – 2 or 3 sheets about 140 gsm
  • Cotton rags
  • Enamel plate (or stay wet palette)
  • Old credit card, cling film
  • HB pencil, 6B graphite stick, plastic eraser, pencil sharpener or knife
  • Palette knife, masking tape
  • One large sheet of tracing paper
  • Wear old clothes or bring an apron

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • We have a generously stocked craft shop, which opens daily from 8.30am-2pm. For any materials you need to purchase from the shop, we suggest you do so during the first morning of your course, after having discussed with your tutor.
  • A good variety of art and craft materials are available to purchase including: general drawing equipment, 6B graphite sticks, acrylic paints including Gamboge, Hookers (mid) Green, Scarlet Lake, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, White, Black, acrylic medium and retarder, a good selection of brushes including flat bristle brushes size 30, flat bristle size 16, flat bristle size 10, nylon round sizes 10 and 6, A4 and A5 sketchbooks, A3 and A4 primed boards, cartridge paper, tracing paper, palette knives, masking tape, stay wet palettes, palette knives and masking tape.

Additional information

Please wear old clothes or bring an apron as acrylics won’t wash out. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals, and safety boots, if specified.


Christine Forbes, tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Christine Forbes

Christine Forbes is a Sussex artist and graduate of Northbrook College, Worthing. Her background is in design, acting, fashion and catering. She has been teaching for over 16 years (both adults and children) and includes: The National association of Gifted Children and HMP Ford. She continues to work for private, club and corporate clients. Christine exhibits regularly and is a member of the Sussex Watercolour Society. She runs her own gift card business.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.