The 4 week Classical Oil Portrait Course in Florence, Italy 2015

Carlo, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm
Carlo, oil on linen, 50cm x 60cm

I just finished teaching another 4 week oil portrait course in Florence, Italy for the Cecil Studios.  The students started out with a bit of cast drawing before working directly from models in charcoal and oil.  The sight-size method, as it was originally intended, is used to create life-size portraits under natural light with a historical limited palette.  The class size is limited to 10 students.

The great challenge is the ‘reprogramming’ of the student’s expectations of the portrait painting course.  The goal is not to walk away with several pretty oil sketches.    Ultimately, the emphasis is developing observation skills and the student’s ‘eye.’  The fundamentals of charcoal and oil technique are covered and explored.  In this visual approach to image making the shapes are evolved directly on the canvas.   The resulting work often lacks polish but honestly reveals a diligent study from nature.  Hopefully one leaves with a basic knowledge of important principles that will guide them in their future work.

The model next to the painting in the sight size set up.
The model next to the painting in the sight size set up.

The above picture is of a model in a sight size set up with one of the completed demos that I did during the class.  The one below shows one of the studio spaces.  It was a great experience with a really nice group.  Everyone really applied themselves and the results were excellent.

The studio room at Piazzale Donatello
The studio room at Piazzale Donatello


  1. Good evening Matthew James Collins,

    I admire your work, your portraits are beautifull! When I saw your post about the masterclass at Florence I regretted I did not know about it. Is it possible to send me an e mail when you organise another course or workshop in portrait painting? I realy would like to join your lessons.

    Best regards, Jenneke Brunnekreeft.

    7152 BR Eibergen The Netherlands.

    > Op 7 aug. 2015 om 09:37 heeft Matthew James Collins het volgende geschreven: > > >

  2. This work as presented is excellent.
    I would be interested in your approach to oil painting.
    As an artist working in acrylics my work is limited I think.
    I live in Alabama where the limitations on the arts are only getting off the ground.
    Need to know how close to Alabama your workshop might come.
    Very interested. Thank you.

    • Hi Rickey,
      I am organizing a workshop page for the website that should be up and running in September. Most of my courses will be run in Italy for 2016. Hopefully within a year or so I will be able to broaden my base within the US starting with the Chicagoland area. It will take sometime to find institutions that would like to host my courses. Unfortunately I do not have many connections in the Southern United States outside of Charleston, SC. You can stay updated via my site. All the best.

  3. I am very interested in information on the 4-week oil painting session in Italy.
    I have been a portrait painter for years.

    • Please email me your contact info and I can include you on my mailing list. Otherwise I will be creating a workshop page for the website that should be up and running by the end of September.
      All the best,

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