About this course

Suitable for beginners or improvers, strengthen your ability to draw and paint the head and shoulders from life, as well as from photographic references. Develop your capacity to portray tonal values and introduce the use of more vibrant colours and expressive brushmarks using oil paints.

Course Description

The main aim of this course is to develop your understanding of painting a portrait using the medium of oils. Over the course of five days, you will complete a number of studies, plus a couple of finished pieces, which will demonstrate your increased confidence in using oil paint. You will improve your ability to draw (and paint) from a live model, as well as from a photographic reference, and you will take part in exercises that boost 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 first two days of the course, a different model for the first and second day. The rest of the time you will work from photographic references. You will be given drawing exercises, colour/value mixing exercises and tutor demonstrations. The course will be broken down into various sessions suitable for beginners, as well as for those who would like to improve their ability to paint portraits using oils. You will be provided with group tuitions and critiques, 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.


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 in Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue, Lemon Yellow, Cerulean Blue, Permanent Rose, disposable palettes, studio safe solvent, oil painting paper and 3 x canvas boards
  • 2 x Rosemary and Co short flat acrylic long handle, size 4 and size 0 brushes
  • Acrylic paint (for applying to surface as a ground)
  • Large brushes (for preparing painting surface)
  • The models who will sit for the first two full days of the course

What students need to bring

  • Please bring additional brushes, according to your preference – i.e. a selection of short, flat brushes or pointed, round brushes (must be suitable for painting in oils – can be synthetic or hogs hair)
  • Jam jar with a lid
  • Apron or painting shirt to protect clothing as oil paint can stain
  • A box or container large enough to take home three or four wet paintings (30cm x 40cm)
  • Please bring a couple of photographic portrait references to refer to on the third, fourth and final day. They need to be in high resolution, colour and in focus. The tutor will bring a selection too.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials including paints, paint mediums, canvases, palettes, brushes, aprons, 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.

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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.