Colour and Composition in Still Life with Alex Fowler NEAC

With reference to masterpieces from the past

  • Tutor, Alex Fowler, NEAC
  • 22nd, 29th January, 5th and 12th February
  • 10.00am to 12.00pm, returning at 4.00 – 5.00pm
  • via ZOOM, the same code will be used for each class, and both morning, and afternoon
  • £160/4 days,
  • Suitable for all

Charles Hawthorne: “when you go out to paint and things mean only spots of colour to you, you have your painter’s eye with you”

On this four-day Masterclass, you will explore the fundamentals of painting what you see using your own, directed Still Life arrangements as your subjects. With a strong emphasis on colour and composition. You will start the day with various exercises, directions and demonstrations and return at the end of the day with your work (not necessarily finished) for help and advice. We strongly recommend this return later in the day as a time for reflection, advice and shared discussion of the experience.

Alex’s approach demystifies the experience of oil painting. He shows how looking at the world as a Jigsaw Puzzle of colour shapes you can make sense of it, and depict it in paint. 

Starting with how to set up your own still life to achieve various different outcomes Alex will guide you through aspects of painting with reference to masters of colour.

In initially drawing you will explore how to distinguish fundamental shapes. Then taking up your brushes you will discover how, by adjusting and tuning the relationships of each colour shape, you can convey colour and the fall of light, shadows, surface texture, reflections. All this is achieved by paying attention to colours in relationship, rather than as individual colours. 

Painting from life, whatever the subject, can be a daunting prospect. Alex’s approach makes it manageable for all levels of painter in oils, and will open your eyes to the wonder of colour for the painter.


The Course will cover:

  • How to set up a still life
  • An introduction to colour as it applies to the painter
  • Brush technique, mark making and paint application;
  • Colour mixing and organising the palette;
  • Design and composition;
  • Strategies for accurate drawing; 
  • “Making things look real”;
  • Selecting the core value and colour relationships;
  • Strategies for detail and edges;

The intention is for the students to leave with a deeper understanding of how a painting is built out of colour and the tools to continue the exploration in their own work.


Items to be used in each Still Life will be sent to you before each class.

Here is Alex’s Materials list. We understand that budgets can get in the way and that the outlay on oil painting paraphernalia can be painful initially. If you are a beginner have a look at sets of paints and brushes – they tend to be good value. If you already have similar items please feel free to bring them. Try to cover what you can from the list. If you have any questions PLEASE ask.

Paints: (If you can, buy Artist’s Quality Paints. It will cost more but it will go further and the range of colour you can achieve will be far greater. Be aware the student paints, where the name is suffixed by the word “hue” as in “cadmium yellow hue”, are made from a different pigment, in this case arylide yellow, and so can operate very differently to the genuine pigment. In this example, the paint is less opaque and has less pigmentation.

If you are on a tight budget and can only get one genuine cadmium go with Cadmium Yellow Pale which is in between Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Lemon Yellow on the Spectrum. 

I recommend the following colours, but you are free to bring others if you like working with them. 

  •               • Titanium White 
  •               • Zinc White
  •               • Cadmium Lemon Yellow
  •               • Cadmium Yellow
  •               • Cadmium Yellow Deep and/or Cadmium Orange (both optional)
  •               • Cadmium Red Light or Cadmium Red
  •               • Alizarin Crimson
  •               • Ultramarine Blue
  •               • Phthalocyanine Blue or Cerulean or Viridian (see note below*)
  •               • Quinacridone Rose
  •               • Cobalt Teal (optional)
  •               • Burnt Umber (other Earth Colours if you like to use them)

*phthalocyanine is a series 1 colour, so very affordable but very intense so some like to use the more expensive and subtle Cerulean. The cheaper “Hue” version of Cerulean is made from a mix of other pigments (Phthalocyanine, Ultramarine and Whites)

Palette Knife: not to small! Click here for examples: drop handle or flat

Canvases/Boards: for each class 1or 2 canvas/acrylic primed boards (mdf or thin plywood) at least 18” x 26”, in addition: primed paper, a smaller extra canvas, canvas roll or tear off oil painting pad.

Masking Tape

Palette (white is recommended but not essential) – At least A3 There is nothing like too small a palette to hinder your painting.

Dipper:  x 2 (clip on holder for solvent/medium

Medium: Zest it or low odour solvent and oil painter’s medium (or stand oil for making your own bring an extra small glass jar and Alex will demonstrate. 

Empty Jam Jar or small glass bottle

Rags or Kitchen Paper

Drawing Equipment:

  •               • Pocket Sketchbook
  •   • 2B Pencils
  •               • Rubber
  •               • Ruler (about 30 cm)

Viewfinder: I recommend this one: Viewcatcher (or two 90 degree corners of white or grey card and a bulldog clip)

Brushes – A mix of Filbert and round Hog or a Hog synthetic mix*: Sizes 2, 4, 6, 12. A couple of round brushes that come to a good point are useful too. A couple of Large Brushes are important because they help us keep the painting simple.

I recommend online but be sure to tick THE LONG HANDLE OPTION.

* the rosemary and co. hog synthetic mix is called the Classic.

If you have any questions about materials please ask.



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