Life drawing to life painting in oils with Alan McGowan

Ref: SWE32210

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About this course

Oil paint is a rewarding and challenging medium to produce life figure studies of any length. You will concentrate on developing the relationship between life drawing and oil painting and the aesthetic of the oil sketch.

Course Description

Painting the figure in oils is both challenging and rewarding, and oil paint makes an exciting medium for life drawing. During the course, you will look at how to develop methods and strategies for developing life drawing, working with life models, starting with dry drawing media and progressing to using paint – looking at tone, mark-making and colour palettes. The aim of the course is to enable participants to use oil paint in a life drawing situation.

You will:

Look at core drawing skills, composition, tone, how to begin a drawing, the role of line, measurement and mark-making;

Consider how these factors will be influenced by the material considerations of oil paint;

Look at how oil paint works and consider colour range and limited palettes.

You will be able to relate the techniques of drawing to the physical properties of 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


  • The model who will sit for the course and some A2 card will be provided.

What students need to bring

  • Studio safe solvent (such as Zest-it)
  • Palette and brushes
  • Charcoal and rubber
  • 4 sheets of A2 newsprint or cheap cartridge paper
  • 3 sheets of A2 white cartridge paper
  • 2 sheets of A2 brown/grey toned paper
  • 1 board/canvas approx. A2 size
  • Oil paints: Prussian Blue, French Ultramarine, Yellow (Primary Yellow or Chrome Yellow, etc.)
  • Warm Red (Cadmium Red (hue) or Vermilion), Alizarin Crimson, Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre,
  • Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Paynes Gray, Titanium White and Zinc White

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials are available to buy, including oil paints in Prussian Blue, French Ultramarine, Yellow (Primary Yellow or Chrome Yellow, etc.), Warm Red (Cadmium Red (hue) or Vermilion), Alizarin Crimson, Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Paynes Gray, Titanium White and Zinc White, and studio safe solvent, palettes, brushes, charcoal, rubbers, paper, etc.

Additional information

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


Alan McGowan

Alan studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Newcastle Polytechnic, and has taught drawing and anatomy for over twenty years in places such as The Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Edinburgh College of Art, Bristol School of Drawing and Leith School of Art. His work has been exhibited at the BP Portrait Award, the Threadneedle Prize, the Society of Portrait Sculptors exhibition and he was a semi-finalist for Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2014.


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.