Painting - Oils

Portraits in oils – working from dark to light with Haydn Cottam

Ref: SWE09921


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Places available

About this course

Improve your technical understanding of oils with control and tonal organisation. Learn to broaden your visual vocabulary and the expressive possibilities of this malleable medium.

Course Description

Learn to use paint with a gradually increasing opacity and a growing awareness and understanding of how colour can be employed in that process. The aim is to improve your technical ability to manipulate the materials you are working with and thereby control your picture making. This control will allow you to be more confident in your ability to describe what you see and to express yourself more fully through painting.

Painting in oils is notoriously difficult, and most people, including long time painters can sometimes struggle to always master their medium. There are ways of tackling the problematic nature of working in oils, which can make the process more controlled, and less unpredictable.

This painting course offers you the chance to try a new method of working. A model and some props will be the subject matter, and you will concentrate on the abilty to describe the effects of light on form. You will begin with some preliminary charcoal drawing, using an eraser. This preparatory exercise will help you focus on working from a mid-tone layer of charcoal challenging you to see your subject in tones, rather than line, and will immediately begin the process of working from dark to light.

You will then work with paint on canvas on a ground, or neutral colour base. The aim is to overcome any technical problems of using oil paint, in a controlled manipulative manner, by understanding how method can help. A lack of method in building an image in oil paint, which is a fluid an flexible medium, often results in a muddy and greyed outcome. This can be overcome by working from dark to light.


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, 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


  • On this course the College will supply the model who will sit for the course and 2 x A2 canvases.

What students need to bring

  • Rags and an apron

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Canvas and boards to paint on
  • Charcoal
  • Eraser
  • Oil paints
  • Palette
  • Linseed oil
  • Odourless solvent – Zest it
  • Brushes


Haydn Cottam

Haydn Cottam is a painter who trained at St Martins College of Art, London and since graduating has exhibited in Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Cardiff, Leicester, East Anglia, Cheltenham and Sussex. He shows at the Catto Gallery, Hampstead. Haydn has won painting prizes at the National Portrait and Mall Galleries and his work is part of the BBC archived National Art Collection.


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

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