Category Archives: Supplementary courses and training

Oil painting beginners course

25-26 August 2016

I have always been intrigued by oil paints, but knowing they are technically more demanding (and expensive) than other media has put me off “having a go”. All this changed when one of my fellow OCA students studying for a BA(Hons) in Painting suggested the Norfolk painting school (Norfolk painting school, n.d.). I signed up for a 2 day beginners course, seeing that the school came very highly recommended and that the course required no prior knowledge or experience.

The school was set up by professional oil painter, author, and recognised expert Martin Kinnear and his wife Jane in 2007. Martin teaches the more advanced courses, my tutor for the beginner’s course was artist Vanda Richards (Vanda Richards, n.d.)

The teaching was very concentrated. Lessons started promptly, excellent facilities and studio assisted ants ensured that the maximum time was spent painting and not setting up the studio, preparing or cleaning materials. The techniques were demonstrated by means of the tutor making a study after one of the famous painters and the students interpreting and making their own studies.

The following content was covered:

  • Making gesso, preparing boards for painting, constituents of painting medium, how to prepare and store it.
  • Paint brushes/mark-making implements required and what types of marks/when in the painting process they are used (including the use of kitchen towel for blending and tonking!)
  • The difference between pigments and paints, some being naturally more translucent and others more opaque.
  • The importance of layering thin (heavily diluted with medium) washes first, then moving progressively to thicker and more opaque paints, finishing, if desired with impasto effects.
  • How to go about constructing an oil painting – i.e. sketching an outline, then laying down a wash/washes, outlining, blocking, then filling in.
  • Cleaning brushes.
The first exercise was a confidence building study – a simple landscape to get us used to mixing paint with medium, applying it to the board and blending. What a revelation – a simple landscape of the North Norfolk coast so easily produced! Certainly a confidence building seeing as similar scenes could most likely the the subject for future work.
We then went on to paint a still life study after Cezanne.
For this painting we used a bole (coloured gesso). It featured the use of paints with different translucency properties. Again a result which I consider a success being only my second oil painting ever.
On the second day we painted a larger study after Seago.
A more complex picture, it involved different mark making techniques, including the use of a silicone “clay-shaper” for the grass on the sand dunes and impasto technique to highlight the bright areas of cloud.
Although oil painting is not a technique which can be readily incorporated within a textile practitioners work, it can be used to provide analogies and insights into texture and form, which could Be a catalyst for further sketchbook exploration. Furthermore, practice of painting, provides familiarity in capturing and analysing visual information, colour mixing and sensitivity. I hope to have the time to continue, experiment and practise using oils as a supplementary activity.  


Norfolk painting school (n.d.) Home. At: (Accessed 20 October 2016)

Richards, V. (n.d.) Vanda Richards Art: Home. At: (Accessed 20 October 2016)