A typical painting masterclass at Inglis Academy

What happens in a "Paint a Masterwork" art lesson at Inglis Academy on Sydney's lower North Shore?

The masterclass lesson format at Inglis Academy involves painting masterpieces by the likes of Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh.

I developed "repertoire based painting" based on the way we in the west have traditionally learned music, by performing classics by the likes of Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart. It is also the way you probably learned language in school, by studying literature.

What is the advantage of repertoire based painting? You are working towards:

  1. A definite goal
  2. A goal (the masterwork) which is widely recognised as being of worth
  3. Within a limited time frame (typically 4 hours)

Read on to see how we pull all this together in one session!

So we are working within a limited time frame and aiming to produce a reasonable interpretation of a recognised masterpiece painting.

We better have a plan!

And we do.

The lessons is broken into four stages:

  1. Loosening up
  2. Sketching
  3. Tone and texture
  4. Tweaking

Stage 1: Loosening up

You will often hear the phrase "loosen up" in art lessons. What it means is to access the non-verbal visual literacy centres in the right hemisphere of your brain.

The process works best when the physical mechanism (your body) is also working "loosely".

We explore the connection between looseness in the body and looseness in the mind, via simple drawing exercises.

Toning the canvas is a good opportunity to develop sensitivity in our technique.

So now we have toned the canvas, loosened up physically and mentally, and have the basic sketching skills working.

Stage 2: Sketching

We do a compositional thumbnail in pencil, making all the big decisions about what shape goes where on the canvas.

By adding tone to the sketch our 2-D sketch becomes a 3-D sketch.

We paint the compositional sketch on the canvas, in a very loose style. We still have the option of moving things around on the canvas and altering the composition.

Stage 3: Tone and texture

Once we are happy with the position of the objects we start to play with colour and tone.

Stage 4: Tweaking

In the final quarter I leave you pretty much to your own devices and act as a consultant when you get stuck.

The result

What do we achieve in just 4 hours?

  1. Your own version of a recognised masterpiece painting.
  2. Practice in painting quickly
  3. A record of the sketches and colour formulas in your visual diary
  4. Techniques to quickly get into a 'flow state'
  5. Ways to access your visual intelligence
  6. Practice in abstraction
  7. ... and lots more!


Two happy workshop participants with their first paintings.

"Paint a Masterwork" art lessons at Inglis Academy on Sydney's lower North Shore.