Life painting in oils – a comprehensive course for beginners with Zara Drummond

Painting - Oils

Ref: S5D11843

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About this course

On this comprehensive oil painting for beginners' course, you will produce a series of paintings of figures from life. You will learn classical techniques such as measuring perspective, the 'box method', how to observe and 'see' the figure, chiaroscuro, drawing with paint, handling colours, brushes, use of mediums and composition.

Course Description

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

You will begin with introductions to every aspect of painting with oils. The tutor will describe and demonstrate tools of the trade through to how to stand, see and look to produce the best representation from life. All will be described and demonstrated. You will be guided through many classical drawing and painting techniques, condensed into this comprehensive course to help you become more confident and proficient at figure painting.

You will start with a limited palette of colours, ‘seeing’ the model and gesture/pose, practicing perspective techniques and an introduction to chiaroscuro (utilising darks and lights).

The tutor will then guide you through each stage of the process, adding colours, mixing colours, how to use mediums, the advantages of wet versus dry paints, moving from shorter through 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, plus understanding 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.

- Modelling 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 all the various stages in making the painting, supported with one-to-one tuition and group discussion to help you progress and discover your desired direction in art.

By the end of the course, you will have gained knowledge on perspective and made three or more effective figure paintings. You will have learnt about mixing colour, brushwork, chiaroscuro and finally, be amazed with your learning and improvement over the duration of this comprehensive 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 and mediums 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 White and Zinc White, (If only one shade of white is bought, then buy Zinc White.) Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red.
  • Optional: Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow.
  • 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 medium houshold painting brush for gesso/background.
  • Medium:
  • Zest-it or Shellzolt or other low-odour turpentine substitute.
  • Stand oil and linseed oil.
  • Canvases:
  • Bring a minimum of 4 boards or canvases, ranging from A3 upwards. (Tutor will be using 30cm x 40cm and 40cm x 50cm canvases). Optional: prepare a canvas with 1-2 coats of white or grey tinted acrylic gesso. There will be gesso available to do this at the studio if unsure.
  • Palette:
  • Wooden or tear-off paper plus palette knife.
  • 4 little glass jars with lids (do not need to be any bigger than a very small jam or mustard jar - such as 1 or 2 oz/30-60g jar.
  • Rags or kitchen roll.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Canvas/boards
  • Brushes – Filibert and or flat size 12,10, 8, 6 and 2
  • Oil paints - a good variety of colours
  • Brushes – a good variety of sizes, shapes and prices
  • Stand oil, linseed oil, mediums, Zest it, palettes and drawing materials
  • Small glass jars with lids
  • Available from tutor:
  • PM1 medium by Michael Harding, a useful painting medium mix of stand oil and linseed.
Bring a book or pad to make notes.


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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