Academic Portrait Course

6 Week Course – Price £195

6th Jun -11th July 2015
Saturdays, 9.30-13.00

Grisialle workshop

This is the first of two courses to be run in conjunction with the “Complete Portrait” article featured in the Summer edition of Artists & Illustrators magazine 2014.

Summer 2014 Artist and Illustrators Large

The first portrait painting course will be dealing with Underpainting and the second Glazing Techniques. This workshop will focus on the underpainting. The underpainting is produced to work out the composition and tonal range. Then coloured glazes are added to finish the portrait.

There are a number of ways of creating an underpainting and the three most popular are known as Verdaccio, Grisaille, and Bistre. For this workshop we will be studying the Grisialle method which is the most systematic approach to painting whether it be a still life, portrait or landscape.

The course is highly recommended for any artist wanting to achieve a high quality finish. Colour is a stretch for any painter so it’s better to concentrate on one thing at a time rather than everything at once. This technique is  a step by step process designed to help the artist move forward in a sure footed way.

More Demonstration videos>>>

Teaching Style

Beginners and experienced people are welcome. Understanding is key and nobody gets left behind. Each student will be helped until they grasp the principles of the lesson.
Louis believes in leading from the front, demonstrating each step in front of the group and on students’ work if needed.

Louis Smith studied Classical Art in Florence and has exhibited his work in the BP Portrait Award and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

 Course Outline

Over the 6 weeks we will be learning how to paint a Grisaille underpainting, below is a short introduction to each step.

Step 1: Construct and Articulation. We begin with a construct, first working out the size and placement of the head on the canvas. Then looking at the proportions of the head, dividing it up into thirds and useing comparative measuring to accurately lock down the features.

Step1 construct-articulation grisaille

Step 2: Silhouette stage. Once we are happy with the line drawing its time to check the positive and negative spaces of the head, remembering that the light and dark masses are just as important as each other and should always work together.

Step 2 Silhouette grisaille

Step 3:  Local tones and darkest dark. The idea is to make an average tone for each element of the portrait to make it easier to judge the tonal relationships in the finishing stages. Always start with the darkest dark to gauge the surrounding tones. Begin with the darkest dark of the hair and t shirt, the face in shadow and finally the background.

Step 3, Grouping-the-darks grisaille

Step 4: lightest light, Fall of light and Big Form Modelling. Begin with the Lightest Light of the forehead using thick impasto white paint, now we have the lightest light and the darkest dark to establish the tonal range of the portrait. Then we need to observe the Fall of Light, the further from the light source the darker the object, observing the gradation of tone between the forehead and neckline.  Next its Big Form Modelling, we need to detach ourselves and see things as a simple geometric object, ignoring the details of the model and render the head as though it were a sphere.


Step 5: Variations of the Darks and Rendering the Lights. First start with the Variations of the Darks, after establishing the context for the lights its time to look at the shadows and bring them to a finish. Keeping the tonal range to a minimum so that the viewer’s eye is less drawn to the shadows. Next is Rendering the lights, the aim is to create a sense of structure and divide the head up into planes. Imagine being a sculptor carving out the facets of the face that will be rounded off later.

Step 4, Planes-of-face grisaille

Learning Outcomes

• Use of dry brush as a sketching implement
• Proportions of the face
• How to prime a canvas
• Wash brushes and maintenance
• Using the brush as a measuring device
• Comparative measurements, transferring the measurements of the face to canvas.
•How to analyze shapes, negative and positive, use of tools to help the eye see more objectively.
•Use a value strip.
•Comparing tonal value
•Mixing paints and use of mediums.
•Appropriate use of glaze and impasto to describe the light and shadow of the face.
•Brush sizes and different types to be used at the various stages of the painting.



The studio is equipped with easels and work stations to make it more convenient for the students to organise their materials and focus on their work.  The studio is also lit with balanced lighting which can save a lot of problems when dealing with a colour palette.

Portrait painting workshop
Image shows the workstation, the Alla Prima painting is for display purpose.

Course Deal = £20

Organisation is a challenge faced by most beginners.  The studio is equipped with work stations to ensure everything is at hand.  The students will be using the same paints and canvas that the teacher uses for demonstration purposes, eliminating a number of problems that students have when they bring their own paint and canvas.

Each workstation includes:

Palette knife
Medium holder
Prepared Canvas
Kitchen roll
Paints (Burnt Umber, Black and White)

(Offer does not include brushes – Information on dedicated suppliers shall be provided)

Workshop = £195


6 Week Course = £195. To register for the workshop, fill in your details and pay a 20% deposit below. Then pay the balance on the day. An email will be sent to confirm your attendance the week before the start date.


Saturdays, 9.30-13.00.


Prices for Hotels in Manchester centre vary depending on the football. I would recommend staying in Altrincham its about 20 mins from Cornbrook Tram Station which is around the corner from the studio. If your on foot the Premier Inn is a short walk from Altrincham Station if your driving there are other hotels that are cheaper. Altrincham is a nice part of Manchester and if you fancy somewhere nice posh for a couple of drinks then Hale is just around the corner.

Below is a link for hotels in Altrinham just enter the dates at the top of the page for prices.

Click here for hotels on TripAdvisor website>>>

Venue Address

Louis Smith Art
Phoenix House
Ellesmere Street
M15 4JY


Set navigation for Cawdor Street.  Ellesmere Street is blocked in the middle for the next year. If you are traveling by car enter Ellesmere Street by turning left after the Church on the roundabout over the Mancunian Way.

Free Car Park at the rear of the building on Cawdor Street.

Public Transport, trams, buses timetables and parking, click here>>


Louis Smith

Tel: 07980989666


15 thoughts on “Academic Portrait Course”

  1. I loved both the courses I did with Louis, even though I’ve painted commercially for years within the greeting card industry and have a degree in fine art, these courses were suitable for any level and Louis’s courses filled in the gaps I needed, ( the lighting was particularly useful ) and gave me the confidence to get back into doing the things I’m passionate about. Thanks Louis for a fantastic time and the opportunity to spend some quality time with like minded people.

  2. This is an extremely good course and I recommend it highly. The approach was new to me but I learnt lots of really useful techniques that had an immediate impact on my painting. As others have mentioned Louis is an excellent teacher who doesn’t let anyone fall behind. Louis makes tackling a challenging subject fun.

  3. This course is amazing and I cannot recommend it enough. You learn so much from a great teacher who is very patient, accommodating and helpful regardless of what level you are at.

    It’s the first time I have ever done a painting without drawing it on first. I learnt so much that its impossible to look at paintings in the same way, especially when it comes to lighting. it was a great six weeks and the only disappointment was when it ended.

    If you are considering doing it please do, you won’t regret it. It’s a chance to learn to so much in a relaxed environment with friendly people with decent tea and biscuits thrown in as well.

  4. I found the six week portrait course both very rewarding and great value for money. I signed up for the course with the ambition of learning additional approaches in oil painting and what I came out with was exactly that.

    I found the tutor (Louis Smith) to be a brilliant teacher; this, on the basis that he clearly explained the methods he taught (most were backed up by live painting demonstrations or an example). Throughout the course I had numerous questions and thoughts, all of which he never failed to fulfil. He also gave time to each student throughout the course offering expertise and recommendations.

    I’ve acquired a small arsenal of new principals to use when I paint, As such thank you Louis. The course is highly recommended to all.

  5. The past comments says it all, Louis is a top quality artist and teacher, he will leave no one behind that maybe struggling, the class becomes a team of artist enjoying the learning process of improving what we do, with the addition of having one of the countries best artist to help us on our way.
    Good luck with your course 🙂

  6. I’ve always had a keen interest in art and wanted to develop my skills in painting but found it difficult to do so without any tuition. Having completed Louis’s six week course I can honestly say that it was exactly what I was looking for. I cant recommend this class enough and feel I have learnt a great deal. Louis is a highly talented artist who is willing to teach anyone the techniques and processes of how to create amazing portraits. With his help I was amazed at what I could achieve and know that this was down to Louis’s expert guidance and that I couldn’t have done it without it.

  7. I found the class as the perfect start to understanding the preparation and workflow involved in developing a highly finished portrait painting. I would strongly recommend Louis to anyone who has an interest in learning how to create a portrait of a high standard.

    He gives full demonstrations on how to develop a painting, as well as giving plenty of time to each individuals work. The studio was very comfortable to work in and I had the chance to meet a great group of people, all with an interest in painting.

  8. I have just completed the six week portrait painting course with Louis Smith. This course is challenging , interesting, inspiring and informative. A wonderful opportunity to learn from a Master. Louis is not only a very talented artist but a patient and attentive teacher.

  9. Not only is Louis a very talented artist, he is also a very patient teacher. I found the portrait course extremely informative and challenging.

  10. After years of searching, after moving to Manchester I was lucky when I saw Paintaportrait was within walking distance from my flat.

    It is rare to find someone with such skill who chooses to teach and pass on their techniques. I found the course extremely valuable as I now appreciate the time, talent and hard work involved in producing a portrait from start to finish.

    It’s quite dangerous – as the six weeks of tuition have reinforced my dream to be able to paint well, so if I quit the day job and move to a warm European country with an easel and paints… there is only one person to thank…

    Honestly, much recommended.


  11. I really enjoyed learning how to paint portraits from a true master. Seeing the breathtaking portraits that hang currently in Louis’s studio was inspiring enough, his portraits have such warmth and life and the vibrancy and use of colour is outstanding. The course itself was in depth and challenging – but equally enlightening and rewarding. I really enjoyed it. Thanks Louis for six weeks of fabulous in depth tuition which I would happily recommend, anyone who has ever been interested in painting portraits – this course is the best.

  12. For anybody reading this and considering taking Louis’ course, I’d like to confirm everything that the others above have said. Excellent course; very informative and definitely brings improvement. I’m sure that, for anyone wanting to seriously improve their painting (for all subjects painted from direct observation, not just for portraits), there is no course on offer anywhere in the region, and possibly anywhere in the UK (I’ve been looking for a long time) that will be so beneficial, so quickly.
    Unlike most art teachers that I’ve come across, Louis does actually have the skills to practice what he’s teaching to a very high level of competence.

  13. I think Robs message summarises my thoughts exactly. I am overwhelmed to find an artist of your ability, in the North West, who is willing to give up their time so generously.
    Your knowledge, demonstrations and one to one advice have been greatly received.
    Should you choose to run any further courses/demonstrations etc; count me in.

    Thankyou Louis for your time (and patience)

  14. Hi Louis, I was going to email you to say thanks for the course, but thought posting this to your site might benefit anyone else who’s thinking about art tuition:

    It’s rare to find someone with this level of technical expertise who is also teaching, in fact it’s virtually non-existent in the Greater Manchester area (having spent a long time searching). The BP Portrait Award short listing is more than justified, as is the cost of this course. The curriculum itself is valuable but, for me, the ad hoc hints and tips, and being able to get questions answered there and then, by a real expert, was possibly even more useful.

    I have worked as a graphic artist for a few years and know there is no magic formula for becoming ‘an old master’ overnight, but the principles taught here are tried and tested, are a firm foundation and can be applied beyond portraits.

    I can testify that my work has progressed with this course and would recommend it to others.

    Thanks Louis!

  15. My experience on the painting course was fantastic and enjoyable. It was the best introduction to portrait painting I have ever had. The teaching demonstations by Louis really put the art of portrait painting into perspective. Thank you again Louis.

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