Life painting in oils – improvers with Zara Drummond

Painting - Oils

Ref: S3D12519

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About this course

Make a representational oil painting of the figure from life. Techniques include perspective, learning how to observe the figure, chiaroscuro, drawing and painting with paint, handling cool and warm colours, palette, brushes, mediums and composition.

Course Description

This course reinforces the fundamental techniques of painting with oils as well as how to make a faithful representation of the figure from a live model.

The first evening begins with introductions followed by quick poses, loosening up, whilst using a limited palette of oil paint colours. This begins to exercise the art of ‘seeing’ the model and gesture/pose, practice perspective techniques and introduce chiaroscuro – darks and lights.

The tutor will guide you through each stage of the process, adding colours, how to use mediums, the advantages of wet versus dry paints. You will move through the course to one long pose in order to practice all of the above.

On this structured course you will learn:

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

- Gesture and vibrancy to convey ‘character or energy’ in the pose.

- 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,’ dry versus wet paint.

- Positioning of the figure and painting using 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 tips on technique and tools. The tutor will demonstrate various stages, supported with one-to-ones and group discussion to help you, your particular level and desired direction in art.

By the end of the course, you will have gained knowledge on perspective, made three or more effective figure paintings, learned about mixing colour, brushwork techniques, chiaroscuro and finally, be amazed with your learning and improvement over the duration of this short course.


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, gesso, Zest it, stand oil shared amongst the group. Students may need to purchase additional paints and mediums as required.

What students need to bring

  • Oil Paints:
  • Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium and Zinc White, (If only one shade of white is bought, then buy Zinc White.) Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Rose Madder*, Alizarin Crimson,* Cadmium Yellow.*
  • *Optional.
  • Brushes:
  • A selection ranging from thin to broad brush. Sizes 2 -12 or broader. Minimum of 4 brushes. Filbert (rounded end) to flat but in the end it is a personal choice. Rosemary brushes are very effective but expensive. Procryl is also good for oils. Bristle is a good basic. I x medium houshold painting brush for gesso/background.
  • Medium:
  • Zest-it or Shellzolt or other low-odour turpentine substitute. Linseed oil and stand oil.
  • Canvases:
  • Bring a minimum of 3 boards or canvases, ranging from around A3 upwards. Optional: prepare a canvas with 1-2 coats of white or grey tinted gesso. There will be gesso available to do this at the studio if unsure.
  • Palette:
  • Wooden or tear-off paper plus palette knife.
  • Rags or kitchen roll.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials including oil paints in Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and Zinc White, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow. Zest it. Canvases/boards A3 upwards. Tear off palettes, palette knives. Linseed oil and stand oil.
  • Brushes – range of filbert sizes including 12, 10, 8, 6 and 2. Paint mediums and drawing materials.
  • Available from tutor:
  • PM1 medium by Michael Harding, a useful painting medium mix of stand oil and linseed.
Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


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.

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