Expressive figure painting – theatrical narratives and colour with Chris Gilvan-Cartwright

Painting - Subject Led

Ref: S3D11952

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About this course

Learn how to paint expressively in acrylics from a life model with both nude and clothed poses, incorporate narrative backgrounds and theatrical makeup to gain bold, colourful, abstract and expressive paintings.

Course Description

This playful painting course explores expressive figurative painting in acrylics from the life model with both nude and clothed poses incorporating narrative backgrounds and theatrical makeup to gain fabulously bold, colourful, abstract and expressive paintings.
The focus will be on colour, composition, abstraction and mixed media techniques. You will start by making a series of quick drawings and studies from the life model who, throughout the course, will incorporate a theatricality to the poses to inspire your work. You will then move onto acrylic painting and explore abstract figurative paintings by looking at form, colour, texture and scale. The course will help you to explore making bold and colourful expressive paintings, experiment with mixed media techniques and work on textural prepared surfaces and larger scale formats.

You will broaden your knowledge of painting and increase your confidence in depicting the figure from both observation and abstraction. Gain knowledge of different approaches and techniques to loosen up and improve your ability to work on larger scale works. You will also understand how to increase visual impact of your paintings through expressive colour work.

Led by an inspirational tutor, you will be guided through demonstrations, exercises, discussion and one-to-one tuition which will help you develop your paintings and playful attitude to making work.
A playful and practical approach to painting from the model is encouraged on this partly structured course which covers:

- Ideas and inspiration on being more playful and freeing up your approach to painting
- Acrylic painting techniques and expressive mark-making
- Quick and longer studies from life model
- Still to movement
- Line to colour and bold compositions
- Larger scale paintings
- Form, colour and abstraction
- Contextual references looking at contemporary paintings for inspiration.
- Discussion and encouragement of your ideas and approaches
- Practical sessions
- Tutor feedback


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 plus some cartridge paper and newsprint.

What students need to bring

Water spray

Any items you have from the list below.

Available to buy

Available from shop:
White cartridge paper 300gm, brown parcel paper
Acrylic paints
Brushes: A range of brushes (including large household brushes)
Black Indian ink (water resistant) and coloured inks
Oil pastels, charcoal and graphite
Palette knife, scissors
PVA glue or Pritt stick

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


Chris Gilvan-Cartwright

Chris Gilvan-Cartwright, aka The Baron Gilvan, is a painter, performer and animator.
Graduating from Central St Martins he won the Royal Overseas League bursary to paint in India and Nepal. He designed the BBC Proms logos for two seasons, has exhibited extensively and performed at the Jerwood Gallery Hastings. Chris also trained at Kracow Academy of Fine Arts, Poland, and University of Brighton. He has taught over 20 years from Foundation to Degree level. Chris is a member of Central Illustration Agency and has illustrated 20 children's books, including 'Becoming Me', Frances Lincoln Publishing.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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