Portraits in oils for beginners with Jane French

Ref: S2D29576

Location: West Dean

About this course

Start painting portraits using oils with confidence. Your focus will be primarily on using the medium of oil to depict tonal values, strengthening your drawing ability, introducing more vibrant colours and using looser brushmarks.

Course Description

Learn to understand an approach to painting a portrait using the medium of oils. You will complete two or three oil studies, which will reflect an increase in confidence in using the medium (and related materials/equipment). You will gain a greater understanding of painting and drawing from a live model and you will take part in exercises that improve your skills in matching tonal values, creating three-dimensional proportions, and pushing the range of saturated colours/hues.

The course will begin with a presentation from your tutor and a review of materials and equipment.

You will be working from a live portrait model during the course: one for the first full day and a different model for the final day. You will be given drawing exercises, colour/value mixing exercises and tutor demonstrations. The course will be broken down into various sessions, suitable for those new to painting in oils, and you will be provided with group tuition, demonstrations, as well as individual one-to-one support throughout.

At the end of the course, there will be a review and a display of the work you produce. You will have completed two or three portrait studies in oil paint.


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


  • On this course, the College will supply most of the materials, including:
  • Oil paints, disposable palettes, Zest-it (odourless solvent), oil painting paper and 2 x canvas boards
  • Two brushes – Rosemary & Co – short flat synthetic brush, long handle, size 4 and size 0
  • Some burnt umber acrylic paint
  • The model who will sit for the course

What students need to bring

  • Brushes, a selection of short, flat brushes (suitable for painting in oils), plus one large for applying acrylic paint to canvas
  • A couple of pointed, round brushes
  • Jam jar with a lid
  • Apron or painting shirt
  • A cardboard/plastic box in which to transport 2/3 wet paintings

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • The shop has a range of art materials, including: oil paints, canvases, boards, brushes, Zest-it odourless solvent, etc.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


Jane French - Tutor at West Dean College

Jane French

Jane has been working as a professional artist – specialising in portraiture - for around 15 years. She completed a BA degree in Fine Art at Newcastle University and an MA in Design at DMU, Leicester.


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.