Portrait painting in oils with Adele Wagstaff

Ref: SWE32211

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About this course

Develop oil painting skills working from a long pose, with expert guidance on composition, proportion, tone and colour mixing.

Course Description

Focus your drawing and painting techniques and develop your skills in portraiture as you study the portrait model in one pose over an intensive weekend. Throughout the course, examine and discuss how contrasting artists have responded to the head in portraits ranging from the Renaissance through to the present day.

You will begin by drawing the model to establish the pose for the remainder of the course. You will then examine drawing techniques, line and tone, with a variety of drawing materials. A number of drawn studies will be produced during the set-up where you will analyse composition and the figure in space.

When painting, you will look in detail at colour mixing, colour theory, proportion and anatomy, measurement and how to select and build composition. Techniques in paint mixing and application are covered in both individual and group activities.

As your painting progresses, you will identify and address specific issues as they arise. The tutor offers support and individual guidance throughout the course, and encourages you to apply self-reflection and evaluation to your progress. There will also be regular group discussions and a group critique at the end of the course.

By the end of the course, you will have developed your knowledge and awareness of drawing techniques, anatomy of the head, colour theory, paint mixing and application and composition. You will also have a wider knowledge of portrait artists and be able to use a variety of drawing materials confidently to analyse the figure. The aim is to produce a number of studies and one oil painting.

Course timetable:

Opening evening – after a group introduction, we will have a session drawing the model, exploring line and tone.

Day one – during the early part of the morning session, we will set the pose, then you will work on preparatory studies and begin your paintings. The pose will then continue throughout the rest of the course. There will be a group discussion on contemporary portraiture, supported by images.

Day two – you will continue with your paintings, working directly from the model. At the end of the course, we will have a group discussion on your work. The aim is to work towards the completion of one portrait painting during the course.

Course Materials


  • The course fee includes the cost of providing a portrait model.

What students need to bring

  • Glass jar with lid, kitchen roll, paint rags
  • Palette, preferably wooden
  • Dipper pots
  • Primed surface suitable for oils, either board or canvas
  • Studio safe solvent such as Sansodor or Zest-it (not Turps), linseed oil
  • Sketchbook (A4/A3 in size)
  • Drawing materials, charcoal, pencils, graphite, putty rubber
  • Two sheets of A2 cartridge paper
  • Selection of brushes suitable for oils, including a rigger and a round synthetic brush
  • Oil paints - suggested colours: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine and Raw Umber
  • Any materials thought to be suitable, including tools or equipment you use regularly that are not listed

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials, including oil paints in a range of colours: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine and Raw Umber
  • Palettes, dipper pots, primed surfaces suitable for oils - board and canvas, studio safe solvent, linseed oil, A3 and A4 sketchbooks, charcoal, pencils, graphite, putty rubber, A2 cartridge paper, a good selection of brushes suitable for oils, including riggers and round synthetic brushes

Additional information

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


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)

General Information


Adele Wagstaff

Adele is a painter and printmaker, born in Yorkshire and trained at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Slade School of Fine Art London.
She is a tutor with over 20 years teaching experience with a focus on working from direct observation of the figure, portrait and still life subjects. Adele teaches at West Dean College,
Arte Umbria, Putney School of Art and Slade School of Fine Art, London.


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.