FAQ

Students do NOT need to bring ANY supplies.

Image of painting materials.

What materials do I have to bring?

The cost of all materials is included in the price of the lessons. This allows the student painter to experience painting in oils without the excessive cost of purchasing brushes and paint before understanding how to use them. Although we use a reputable student quality paint in the Introductory classes, there is an ongoing discussion regarding professional grade materials throughout the course. Students will have a full understanding how to set up their own studio in their own homes including how to set up a studio without using toxic solvents.

Why paint with oils? It has been discovered recently that acrylic can off-gas. There is a misconception that there is always a strong smell in the studio when painting with oils. However the linseed oil that binds the oil is non-toxic. Although we do use solvents in the studio, they are odourless, evaporate less and are in closed containers except for the last 5 minutes of the class. Students who wish to avoid solvents altogether will be presented with other options. There is no strong smell in the studio. We do not use water soluble oil or alkyd paint. Traditional oil paint has stood the test of time, modern materials have not.

Do I have to know how to draw and paint already before I take the course?

No. You are not expected to have any experience or talent before taking the course. It is a modern concept that artists are “born” with talent and that these skills are not taught. The Old Masters knew that drawing and painting were teachable skills. The course starts at the very beginning with “how to see” and moves on from there. It is perfect for beginners for this reason. It is also very good for experienced painters because so many have developed bad habits and need “re-training”. You will be instructed on how to complete the “cartoon” or drawing using traditional measuring tools but as a beginner your first painting will be traced from the original image to allow you to focus more on painting rather than drawing. If a student would rather spend more time on developing their drawing skills, the option is there and students are encouraged to practice the skills taught by working through the drawing and measuring exercises given out in class.

What happens in the first session?

The first two classes are Introductory classes. The first class will include a slide lecture as well as some drawing exercises designed to train the student to measure and draw accurately. The second class will include a demonstration on how to draw the cast using different measuring tools followed by an introduction to the Bargue drawing system. Students will be working on their own original painting by the third class. From that point on, there will be ten studio classes equal to 20 hrs of work. Students work on their own painting at their own pace. You will learn how to work through the stages of a traditional painting.

What happens when the first session ends?

Students choose whether they want to continue in the class under the tutelage of the maestro Paul Richard James or they simply take what they have been taught and practice the method independently. There are a number of skills that need to be developed. Students are given drawing and painting exercises that can be practiced for years. For the students who decide to continue in class, most continue to work on their first painting until completion and others choose to work on another project. Students are free to move between subjects and to work on personal subjects.

How are these lessons different from other lessons I have taken in the past?

This course is different from other classes because it is a specific historical method that is taught in a highly structured way. The students at the atelier are serious about becoming better painters and are willing to put in the effort to reach their goal. It is not that atelier students do not have fun. Many of the students are very social during the lessons and have become friends outside of the studio. However, there is an emphasis on skills development. This is not a “paint night”, although students are free to bring a bottle of wine. You will receive full instruction on an individual basis. There is no guesswork as you progress through the painting. You will not be left alone to figure it out yourself. You will also receive a great deal of information about the Old Masters methods and materials as well as an understanding of their unique way of seeing. The first session is designed to give the student a taste of a full 4-6 year Academy or Atelier experience.

How long will it take to finish my painting?

It depends on the complexity of the image you choose. This not a “paint night” where the ONLY objective is to leave with a finished painting. Although our goal is to complete a painting, the skills that inform our ability to paint are the focus of the lessons. There is a learning curve with the classical arts. Think about learning how to play guitar for the first time. It is unusual but not impossible for a student to finish a painting in one session however it will likely take three sessions to complete a full painting. Students are encouraged to take home and work on the painting between class times if they are in a rush to complete the work. Students may wish to work on a smaller or partial image if they wish to complete a painting in one session. Students who decide to only take one session are able to visit the atelier with their independent work for advice for no extra charge on an ongoing basis. Again, the most important thing is that you are focused on your skills. We all have the ability to learn how to paint. Some people take longer to learn, that is all.

What happens if I have to miss a class for some reason?

Missed classes can be made up at another time if you give the Atelier 24 hrs notice that you will not be coming. You are NOT entitled to a make up class if you simply do not show up for class. Make up classes are posted each Monday morning on the Facebook page of the atelier at 10 a.m. You simply choose a class to replace the one you are missing. Of course, this should not be abused.

Are the materials and art supplies really free?

Yes, all of the paint, brushes as well as the canvas support are all included in the cost of the lessons. This allows students to try oil painting to see if they like it without the initial expense. Students can also borrow materials to take home to work between classes. The cost also includes HST.

Are the photos on the website painted by students or professionals?

They are painted by students at the atelier, many of whom have never painted before. However, each painting took some work to complete and there is a learning curve. It is unlikely that you will walk home with a finished painting in one session, but you will have a good understanding of how to.

Do I get to pick my own image to paint?

We do not work with live models in class. We work through copying an already existing Old Masters image or a photo source. The skills that are developed through copying from the flat are transferable to working form the model and from life. It is much easier to individualize the learning experience this way. You will be able to use what you learn in class in a life drawing studio.

You can choose the image you would like to paint in consultation with the maestro. The image must have good resolution and colour. Information about choosing the image will be introduced in the first two Introductory classes. Students who “need” a finished product by the end of the first session are encouraged to choose a partial work or a simpler piece to work on. Students can choose their own subject matter: figurative, portraiture, landscape, still life, fantasy, or an existing historic painting. Students can also choose from the Atelier list of images if they are not sure what to paint.

Will learning this style of painting mean that I will lose my ability for self expression

Absolutely not. The academic method teaches you the visual grammar that is necessary for self expression.

After you learn how to measure accurately and to create colour accurately you are able to paint anything you like, in any style you like. There is a kind of freedom in that. Your style will come from your unique choice of subject matter as well as the colour, light, and the key you work in. Your brushwork will also be all yours! The past is filled with unique painters who all learned the same way of drawing and painting.