July Courses: Mat’s experience


One of our July Course students, Mat Hill, wrote up his experience of the July Courses on his website. You can view his website here.

Whilst making some CG art in autumn 2021, I began to feel that my visual skills had hit a wall! I strongly related to the idea that your taste can outgrow your ability.
Doing more CG and digital painting projects would have helped, but I feel a lot happier when I spend less time using software…

A few months later, I learned about the traditional ‘atelier’ style of fine art study.
It long predates modern art schools, and focuses on technical skills and producing realistic representations from life. This appeals to me, especially as it involves plenty of tactile and intrinsically aesthetic mediums.
A stick of charcoal has the lowest input latency out there!

I am documenting my progress here. Partly to share my learning paths, but also because y’all keep asking to see my drawings :’)

For specific learning resources, check out my art books & links!

I spent july 2022 at London Fine Art Studios on an intensive foundation, figure, portrait, and landscape course. Unfortunately I was unwell for most of the landscape week, but I loved my time there!

We did about 5 hours of drawing / painting a day, with lots of one-on-one tuition and feedback. Everyone was very friendly, but mainly focused on improving their skills.
I noticed that the rate of improvement, both in myself and other students, was largely down to attitude; how willing we were to erase and re-do until we had absorbed and acted on the tutor’s feedback.

I would highly recommend the school! There was a wide range of abilities, but the atelier teaching style accommodates this by design.

Charcoal drawing on brown packing paper of a lit plaster cast torso bust, beside the real thing.
July Courses London Fine Art Studios
Torso cast with willow charcoal on packing paper, 3 hours.Working on cheap packing paper lowered the pressure, and made it super easy to erase mistakes.
Charcoal drawing on white paper of a lit plaster cast torso bust, beside the real thing. July Courses London Fine Art Studios
Torso cast with willow charcoal on fancy paper, 5 hours.The fancy paper was really nice to blend into, especially with a paper stump. Erasing was less of an option though, and I struggled to keep my lines light enough to re-work.
Grey-scale oil painting of a lit plaster cast human skull, beside the real thing. July Courses London Fine Art Studios
Skull grisaille oil painting, 5 hours.I’d done lots of graphite studies of skulls, but it was fascinating to approach a familiar and delicate subject through large, clumsy brush strokes.
July Courses London Fine Art Studios Full-colour oil painting of a still life scene, beside the real thing; a tall chrome teapot sitting behind a yellow cup and a brown onion with long green sprouts.
Still life colour oil painting, 10 hours.I loved painting the reflective teapot; very few strokes are needed to imply a metallic reflection. Our limited palette relied on yellow ochre, which wasn’t saturated enough to mix the bright greens in the onion’s sprouts. The tutor gave me a blob of cadmium yellow, and it immediately produced vivid green mixtures.
This piece was a pretty intense intro to colour painting, but after repainting the onion over and over, I’m happy with the final result.
July Courses London Fine Art Studios Charcoal drawing on brown packing paper of a figure outline.
Figure outline with willow charcoal on packing paper, 20 minutes.We did a few of these, and this was the first one that clicked for me. Finding the overall proportions with a box was tricky, but rapidly improved my ability to judge proportions by eye.
July Courses London Fine Art Studios
Charcoal drawing on brown packing paper of a figure with hard-edged shadow shapes.
Figure shadow shapes with willow charcoal on packing paper, 20 minutes.It’s hard to believe how simplified things should be in the early stages of a piece, so this exercise was really handy.

Figure with willow charcoal on fancy paper, 5 hours.

I really like the subtle values in this piece. You can see how much I simplified the shadows as I gained confidence.
In the last 5 minutes our tutor demoed some stuff on my paper; adding the dark accent lines, the finger shadow, and the face. They made it at least 100x better.

It’s worth noting that the photos in these slideshows were taken at 20 minute intervals, each time the model takes a break (and has time to dress and step out of view).

Figure grisaille oil painting, 5 hours.

There were so many great anatomical details to find in the drawing stage. I ended up rushing the greys, but I’m happy with the values I chose for the head and chest.

Figure colour oil painting, 10 hours.

I got really into the drawing stage, only to realise it gets totally painted over!
The initial hour of colour painting was scary, but our tutor suggested we spend more time on the background shadows, and everything immediately felt better. I really enjoyed finding all the subtle warm and cool colours in the skin, and learning how to control edges to give a more 3D appearance.

Portrait with willow charcoal on fancy paper, 1 hour.

This was my favourite piece of the month! I finished quickly and didn’t want to overwork it, so I added lines to find the subtler shapes and details.

Portrait colour oil painting, 10 hours.

Really enjoyed finding all the bright colours in this! The bright pink shirt reflecting into her hair and skin was really cool.

Well done to Matt and to all our students from the July Courses! Some beautiful paintings were produced.

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