8th & 9th February 2024

Portraiture ~ Personal Intent & Expression 

Tutor: Toby Wiggins RP

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‘Portraiture – personal intent and expression’


"Painted portraits have a life of their own that comes from deep in the soul of the painter and where the machine can’t go. The more photographs one looks at, it seems to me, the more one feels this."

Vincent Van Gogh 

Day 1. To Draw.


You will apply a warm and cool ‘ground’ to two small boards or canvases for use the following day in acrylic or oil paint. I will explain and help with this at the beginning.


We will begin with a series of quick drawings to familiarize ourselves with the model and help us gravitate towards a viewing position that offers us something we find compelling. We will then explore structure, proportion, shape and composition through one or more developed line drawings. Following this, a ‘considered’ tonal drawing to explore light, form and space.

(To help with these drawings, we will look at the anatomy of the head for artists and discuss the form of the head and shapes within it. We will talk about the growth of the head; symmetry and asymmetry, the changes with ageing. We will also explore a number of portraits that offer us developed character and varied techniques – Please feel free to bring along prints, books or digital images of your favourite portraits for discussion).

Through these drawings we will approach that abiding issue of ‘likeness’ and where to find it.


Day 2. At First Attempt (wet into wet / alla prima)


You will now translate your new knowledge into paint through two ‘head and shoulder’ studies onto the surfaces prepared on day one. The technique will be explained with a demonstration for those new to it.

We will do a morning study in natural light and an afternoon study in artificial light and compare the results. We will work with a limited palette to begin with, focusing on developing light and shade through tonal relationships then adding more colour to gain a sense of warm and cool. We will also look at how to organise your palette and brushes and specific techniques to build texture and mark making.


(We will discuss several good examples of portraiture to determine different techniques and approaches for painting portraits from life. We will also talk about, and see examples of, different surfaces and supports to work on. We will explore how to mix paint, try various mediums and apply the paint with various tools).  

(We will incorporate a discussion around colour theory and see how this is evident in some portrait examples. We will try limited colour combinations and then see how saturated (pure) colour can ‘activate’ a painting and how we might harness its potency and control it to enhance, extend and elevate our portrait).

Throughout both days, there will be one to one guidance and we will finish with a short critique/disussion around the group's work. 

All levels of experience and total beginners are welcome.

Gift Vouchers Available

Toby Wiggins

Toby graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 1999. He recently won the Ondaatje Prize for portraiture 2023. He has also won the Prince of Wales Drawing Award in 2005 and 2013, the Lynn Painter Stainers Prize for Figurative Painting in 2009 and has exhibited regularly at the RA summer show, BP Portrait Award (NPG) and with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, becoming a member in 2006 in which year he also won the BP Portrait Travel Award.

Toby continues his practice in portraiture, undertaking a variety of commissions alongside excursions into landscape painting and a variety of teaching roles.

1999 RA Post Graduate MA -‘Diploma in Painting’, Royal Academy Schools

1994 BA Hons Fine Art (1st), Falmouth College of Art and Design


2023 The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

2013 Prince of Wales Drawing Prize (RP)

2009 First Prize - The Lynn Painter Stainer Prize (Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers)

2007 University of Wales Purchase Prize (Print Originals, Mall Galleries)

2006 Elected member Royal Society Portrait Painters

2006 BP Travel Award (NPG)

2006 Changing Faces Prize (RP)

2005 Prince of Wales Drawing Prize (RP)


Royal Academy Summer Show, BP Portrait Award, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Holburne Portrait Prize, Royal West of England Academy, NEAC, Discerning Eye, Jerwood Drawing Prize.


Fine Art Society, University of Wales, Falmouth Art College, Bournemouth University, Somerset County Council, Dorset County Museum, Alleyns School Dulwich, Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers, Girton College Cambridge, Imperial College London