Classical Art Atelier

Enlightened Figure Painting

3-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Adrian Cooke

The 18th-century 'Age of Enlightenment' heralded many new ideas and developments in thinking and technology. In art, from 1760 onwards, a more rational style of painting, known as Neoclassicism, emerged in opposition to the previously decadent quality of the Baroque and Rococo, echoing the new spirit of revolution that was sweeping across Europe. Many great painters such as Nicholas Poussin, Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres began to advocate clarity of form, sober colours, shallow space, and strong horizontals, reflecting a mood of clear thinking which was prevalent at the time.

In this three-day oil painting workshop, you will be introduced to the painting practices of the neoclassical masters, and methods and techniques of the academic style of painting that is currently being taught in Florence and other major realist art centres in Europe.

The Enlightened Figure Painting Workshop will be held at Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford,
on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 03-05 April 2020.
Limited Places! Please BOOK EARLY to ensure your place on this workshop and SAVE 10%!

Each student will select one 18th-century master painting to copy in order to learn the methods and techniques of the masters. Copying master paintings is a standard 'atelier method' approach to learning the skills of oil painting, and one that has been practised by all of the Old Masters.

In this workshop, you will learn the principles of academic oil painting, covering topics such as gesture, proportion and the subtle and accurate use of colour. Beginning with the dry-brush method, Adrian will demonstrate and explain how to measure and capture accurate proportions, and how to emphasise a good sense of gesture in the figure. You will then be shown how to structure light and shadow in your painting, understand and apply dead colouring, and finally render large and small forms in the first and second passes of the painting process.

The entire process will be illustrated through a cohesive step-by-step procedure designed to enhance the student's ability to render the human form.

Materials List
  • Basic materials included*
  • Handouts
  • Practical exercises
  • Live Demonstrations
  • Slide Presentations
  • Refreshments provided

*Students will be required to bring certain materials.

"The chief consideration for a good painter is to think out the whole of his picture, to have it in his head as a whole... So that he may then execute it with warmth and as if the entire thing were done at the same time."

Jean-Auguste-Dominique INGRES (1780-1867)

Workshop Outline

Day-to-Day Work

Day 1: Friday

Getting Started with the Basics

On the first morning, you will be introduced to some basic concepts about pictorial representation, namely: design, value and form. You will work on some preliminary exercises including matching a value colour strip and rendering a flesh-toned sphere. You will be shown how to set up your palette correctly, handle thew oil painting medium effectively, and understand some basic colour theory including the Munsell Colour System.

In the afternoon, you will begin your master copy painting. These first steps are all about gesture and placement - getting the figure painting started and generally establishing where everything is going to fit.

Day 2: Saturday

Dead Colour and First Painting

On the second day, you will lay in the dominant colours in the lights and in the darks to completely fill out the canvas. This is called a ‘dead colour’ layer because we’re still working lean, and when it dries, it tends to deaden the colours. Saturday will focus on big-form modelling. The key principles of oil painting, as well as traditional studio practices, will be demonstrated and explained. Some of these include working on a coloured ground (or 'imprimatura'), understanding composition, developing contrast and value, colour mixing, brushwork, and glazing.

You will learn how to:

  • Draw with the paintbrush
  • Create three-dimensional volumes
  • Use of a set palette
  • Mix flesh tones for full-colour painting
  • Use and understand oil painting materials
A painter must not only be of necessity an imitator of the works of nature... But he must be as necessarily an imitator of the works of other painters: this appears more humiliating, but is equally true; and no man can be an artist, whatever he may suppose, upon any other terms. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92)
Day 3: Sunday

Second Painting & Glazing

On the final day, you will complete a second and final pass of the painting, turning your attention now to the smaller and medium forms. Subtle application of paint in glazes to create soft transitions of tone and carefully refining the quality of edges will be prioritised at this stage.

Glazing refers to the application of a thin layer of paint applied over a different coloured ground or previous layer. The resulting colour and effect is much more lively than if you had produced by this colour by mixing on your palette. This is because light enters the transparent film and is refracted from below.


In the afternoon, you will bring your master copy painting to a conclusion, and we will spend a little time assessing the work.

Workshop Details

The Enlightened Figure Painting Workshop will take place in Waterford this April 2020. See details and special offer below, or contact us to find out more and to enrol.

# Venue Duration Day Time Dates Price Discount
1 Garter Lane Arts Centre, WATERFORD 3 Days Fri.-Sun. 10.00am-5.00pm 03-05 April 2020 € 300 € 270

Important Notes

  • You must book before 29 February 2020 to avail of the 10% early bird discount.
  • Fees are non-refundable and non-transferrable.
  • Classical Art Atelier reserves the right to cancel any course or workshop at any time if the minimum number of students required is not reached. In such cases, your fee will be fully refunded. But if you are booking accommodation, you may want to consider taking out travel insurance to cover any cancellation costs.
  • This is an oil painting course, and uses oil paints, solvents and mediums (such as mineral spirits, turpentine and linseed oil) that have a small and safe degree of toxicity but can emit strong fumes, which may cause headaches, drowsiness and skin irritations. Our classrooms are well-ventilated but please be aware that we cannot eradicate these fumes completely, and that by enrolling on this course you are accepting these conditions.

About Adrian Cooke

Painting Instructor

Adrian Cooke has been working as an artist for over 25 years, initially pursuing an education and career in classical music - piano and music composition (1996-2002), and later spending 10 years working in graphic design.

Largely a self-taught visual artist, he began his training in classical drawing and painting in 2012, taking courses at The Drawing Studio, Dublin, Vitruvian Studio, Chicago, and Watts Atelier in California. He is continuing to study classical painting at the Florence Academy of Art this year. His first exhibition was a series of classical portraits and master copy drawings at 33 The Mall, Waterford, in 2014.

This kind of education in classical realist drawing and painting is just not available in mainstream third-level art colleges here in Ireland, so it was necessary for me to look elsewhere, at specialised international fine art academies, to learn these traditional painting and drawing techniques and practices. Hopefully, in turn, my school and I can now provide this much sought after training for other artists. Adrian Cooke, Artist and Director at Classical Art Atelier

In 2015, Adrian established his own private art school, Classical Art Atelier, which operates at most major arts and education venues across the south of Ireland. He has been teaching there for the last 5 years, and his school has enrolled several hundred students to date from all kinds of artistic backgrounds, both amateur and professional, and from all over Ireland and abroad.

Adrian works predominantly in traditional drawing and painting media, regarding these fundamental skills and techniques as essential building blocks for his own work. His artistic style, though, would be better described as Abstract Realism.

Materials Lists


Unstretched canvas will be provided by the academy. However, it is imperative that you bring a portfolio case large enough to fit a canvas 50x40cm or some other means of taking your wet canvases home with you. Your work will not be stored by the academy. You will need to bring a certain amount of materials yourself. All materials and art supplies are available at Cork Art Supplies, where you will be entitled to a 10% discount upon enrolling for this workshop, or at Jackson's Art Supplies UK

Oil Colours
  • Titanium White
  • Ivory Black
  • Burnt Umber
  • Raw Umber
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • French Ultramarine Blue

Optional Extras

  • Lamp Black
  • Venetian Red
  • Red Umber
  • Cadmium Orange
  • 4 x Bristle Filbert (size 4)
  • 2 x Bristle Filbert (size 6)
  • 2 x Soft Synthetic Filbert (size 8)
  • 1 x Soft Filbert (size 12)
  • 1 x Soft Round (size 1)
  • 1 x Soft Fan Brush (size 6 or 8)
  • Liquin
  • Fast Drying Linseed Oil
  • Odourless or Low Odour Mineral Spirits (or Turpentine)
  • Wooden Palette
  • Palette Knife
  • Palette Cups
  • Glass Jar
  • Paper Towels
  • Masking Tape
  • Skewer or knitting needle
  • Mahlstick
  • Portfolio Case
Enlightened Figure Painting Workshop

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