Contemporary oil painting from an ancestral photograph with Amy Dury

Ref: SWE13338

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About this course

Using your family photographs, you will use exciting explorations in colour and composition to recreate cherished figures and faces from your past through drawing exercises, leading to an oil painting on canvas.

Course Description

This course will celebrate and reimagine the people from your past – those you knew and those perhaps long past. Figures and faces can be explored through expressive colour and creative compositions. You will discover new ways to interpret and honour treasured family memories. There is also the option to work with other found vintage imagery.

You will explore a variety of techniques to play with your imagery and then explore how to use expressive colour in oil paint to create your unique painting. Demonstrations of techniques and study of other artist’s work will inform and enrich your experience.

The first evening will be an active session of mixed media sketching using inks and collage, followed by the first day where you will explore your images with an introduction to using oil paints. You will choose your composition and learn ways to accurately transfer your ideas to the canvas. The second day will involve painting your own canvas, inspired by your discoveries and choices. Colour mixing, brushwork and accuracy will be explored with supportive teaching and artists’ examples.

The emphasis of the course will lie in helping you find an approach which you can carry on, nurturing your own journey in paint and exploring the use of photographs.

At the end of this lively and engaging course, you will have produced several sketches and a painting to take away with you.


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 some of the materials, including:
  • Cartridge paper and oil painting paper, charcoal and ink
  • A2 or similar canvas to produce your final piece
  • Oil paints and acrylic paints

What students need to bring

  • A selection of brushes (your tutor recommends flats 1cm and 2cm and a small detail brush)
  • Pencil (4B or 6B), sharpener and rubber
  • An apron or old clothes
  • A selection of photogaphs – printed out or digital (tutor can provide other imagery if preferred)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of brushes, paints, papers, canvases and general drawing materials.

Additional information

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


Amy Dury, tutor at West Dean College

Amy Dury

Amy has 20 year’s experience specialising in drawing and painting. Trained at the Glasgow School of Art, and now Head of Art at Varndean College, Brighton. She has taught sessions for the Tate Gallery and appeared on Portrait Artist of the Year whilst exhibiting widely with portraits and narrative paintings.


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.