Portrait painting in oils with Luca Indraccolo

Ref: S5D29496

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About this course

Learn how to successfully approach portrait painting in oils. You will observe the sitter in the same sustained pose from life covering topics like anatomy, colour theory, values, edges and medium.

Course Description

Learn how to successfully approach the complicated subject of portraiture painting in oils. You will observe the sitter in the same sustained pose from life to understand the planes and anatomical structure of the head and what to look for to achieve a likeness.

During the course you will look at:

The anatomy of the skull (useful landmarks from an artist’s point of view) - this will allow you to control proportions when working from life, given the inevitable subtle movements and slight changes in the pose by the sitter.

Standard proportions and planes of the head - understanding ideal proportions is a very useful tool to be able to capture a likeness, as the individual character of a particular face relates to this basic structure.

Basic composition strategies for a portrait - you will look at how to place the portrait within the confines of the canvas format.

Different approaches on how to start a painting in oils - depending on your level of expertise and confidence you will either draw on paper and transfer the drawing, or start directly on the canvas.

How to organize a value range to convey a convincing light impression - colour theory and how it applies to practical paint mixing.

The correct use of medium - we will discuss the ‘fat over lean’ principle and its benefits.

The importance of edges to achieve the impression of form and how to manipulate a background to add a sense of depth and atmosphere.

By the end of the this course, you will understand the stages involved in creating a realistic portrait painting and will have learned techniques they can apply to your own work and studies going forward.


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 model who will sit for the course.

What students need to bring

  • Some of the following pigments might be hard to come by - an alternative is suggested:
  • Lead White - PW1 (recommended) or Titanium White - PW 6
  • Nickel Yellow - PY 53 or Cadmium Yellow Light - PY 35
  • Raw Sienna Deep - PBR 7
  • Cadmium Red - PR 108 or Transparent Oxide-Red Lake - PR 1Q1 or Italian Brown-Pink Lake - PR101+PY42 (by Old Holland)
  • Alizarin Crimson Lake Extra - PV 19 + PR 177 + PBR 23 or Permanent Alizarin Crimson - PR 177
  • (both permanent versions of Alizarin)
  • Cobalt Blue - PB 28 or Ultramarine Blue PB 29
  • Raw Umber - PBR 7
  • Ivory Black - PBK 9
  • Old Holland and Windsor & Newton oil paint series should have most of the above mentioned colours, though any brand will do, as long as the paint is ‘artist’ quality and not ‘student’ quality.
  • Overall, a good selection of brushes should be used. The more brushes, the easier it is to keep colour mixes clean. A variety of sizes is essential for handling large areas of the painting as well as small details. However, a set of at least 10 ‘filberts’ and/or ‘flats’ should be enough to get started. Your tutor uses mainly hog bristle brushes, as they have quite a spring and lend themselves to impasto painting, however if you are partial to a smoother finish, then softer bristles would be better.
  • A few very small synthetic brushes are very useful for small details as they give a sharper brush mark.
  • Stretched linen canvas or gesso panel. Your tutor recommends universal primed in a medium or fine grain approx.
  • 35cm X 45cm (or slightly bigger).
  • Wooden arm palette (if you are right handed please bring a balanced palette for your left hand and vice versa).
  • If you know how to put down an imprimatura please do so with a thin wash of Raw Umber, as this will save you painting time. Alternatively, there will be a demonstration on the first day for those who are unsure.
  • 2 flexible steel palette knives
  • Linseed oil (either refined or cold pressed)
  • Odourless turpentine substitute for painting such as Winsor and Newton Sansodor. Please, no turpentine or white spirit.
  • Airtight metal brush cleaner or glass jar with a lid for keeping solvent
  • Dipper for medium or small glass jar
  • A good supply of kitchen roll for cleaning brushes
  • Wet wipes
  • Disposable tupperware tub for keeping excess paint overnight
  • Something to carry your wet paintings home in or with on the last day - for this I recommend a canvas
  • carrier - if you are unable to find one, another canvas of the same size as the painted one can be strapped to the front to keep the painting safe while being transported.
  • The list below is to give you different options when starting a painting depending on the individual level of experience (and confidence) with oil paint and colour mixing.
  • If you are very new to this medium, but are more familiar with drawing in pencil, your tutor would suggest to start on a piece of paper, then transfer the drawing to canvas before starting to paint.
  • Similarly, if you’re not familiar with colour mixing, your tutor might suggest a small colour study to get the ball rolling.
  • Small canvas offcuts or canvas paper for colour studies (approx A4).
  • Cartridge paper and tracing paper. Both should be big enough to cover the entire canvas (as a single sheet or multiple sheets taped together)
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil (anything from HB to 2B)
  • Rubber
  • Ball point pen
  • Charcoal (soft willow charcoal will do)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials including Winsor & Newton artists quality oil paint in Lead Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue or Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber and Ivory Black. A good selection of brushes - filberts and flats. Steel palette knives, linseed oil, Sansodor and Zest-it, dippers and a good selection of drawing materials and papers should you need them.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Luca Indraccolo

Luca Indraccolo is an Italian-born artist known for his skilful and realistic oil paintings. He specializes in figurative and narrative art.


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

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