Life painting in oils for beginners with Zara Drummond

Ref: SLW13460

Location: West Dean
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About this course

Make a representational oil painting of the figure. Techniques include drawing in paint, colours, palette, brushes, mediums, composition, and light and shade (chiaroscuro).

Course Description

An introduction to the fundamental techniques of painting with oils, you will learn how to make a faithful representation of the figure. On the first evening, there will be introductions, followed by quick poses, drawing with oils with a limited palette.

The tutor will guide you through each stage of the process, starting with a few short poses with a limited palette, followed by one long pose.

On this structured course, you will learn:

- A traditional approach to observing and measuring the figure to get a more accurate and whole-body composition.

- About the different types of brushes and how to use them.

- How to mix and apply colours and how to mix flesh tones with a limited palette.

- How to work with mediums and the versatility of paint, of ‘fat over lean’.

- About light and shade (chiaroscuro).

- How to work with a model in the studio – setting the lighting.

- Observation techniques to get effective work down quickly.

Throughout the course, you will receive helpful hints and tips on working with tools and media. The tutor will demonstrate various stages, and will support you with one-to-ones and group discussion to help you make the most of your course.

By the end of the course, you will have gained knowledge of colour, brushwork, light and shade, and you will have completed a life study in oils.


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 course fee includes the cost of providing a life model, and some oil paints and mediums shared amongst the group. Students may need to purchase additional paints and mediums as required.

What students need to bring

  • Oil Paints: White Titanium and Zinc (If only one shade of white is bought, then buy Titanium White.)
  • Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red.
  • Brushes: A selection ranging from thin to broad brush. Minimum of 3 brushes. Rounded end preferable to flat but in the end it is a personal choice. Rosemary brushes are very effective but expensive.
  • Medium: Zest-it or Shellzolt or other low-odour turpentine substitute.
  • Canvases: Bring a minimum of 3 ranging from A3 upwards.
  • Rags

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good selction of art materials including: oil paints in a variety of colours including Titanium White, Zinc White Zinc, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, canvases and boards A3 and upwards, brushes – Filbert size 10, 8, 6 and 2, drawing and painting materials including Zest it low odour solvent.

Additional information

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.


Zara Drummond

Zara Drummond changed career from award-winning Industrial Designer to Fine Artist after a riding accident. She re-trained at Chelsea College of Arts, and studied drawing at the Royal College of Arts. With paintings in private collections all over the world, Zara Drummond is best known for her portraits over the last twenty years.


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.