Norfolk Painting School Live goes Live for Diploma students

Dear Jane, Martin and everyone else,

Just a great big huge THANK YOU for the last 3 days. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it was – how very, very helpful. That you put all this together in a couple of weeks is just extraordinary – the standard of the lectures and demos is world class as usual, Martin, but the technical side of things was super impressive (and this during a time when the whole world is living its life over the internet and draining gigabytes by the nano second). Furthermore the SPIRIT of NPS was so in evidence – if anything (and I am not sure why this is) it was better. Being able to see my colleagues faces and expressions, and put little messages in chat without interrupting you (Martin) was even better than class. I felt closer to my colleagues being able to see their faces than I usually do in class. Also I was able to follow the demos better because of the zooming in. I could lift up my lap top and have a jolly good peer at the screen. Also take screen shots (for my own use, obvs) in a way I wouldn’t have felt comfortable during class (and would have caused interruption).

You are an inspiration, the whole lot of you! Especially for me who (cue violins) has been stuck on the sofa with a boring but very bad cold for the last 6 weeks! (I always get viruses badly – I have a rubbish immune system like you Martin). I wasn’t able to do any of the demos because I cannot get to my studio, but I have just spent a HUGE amount of money on an overbed table like they have in hospitals, plus a special easel at Jacksons, and from next Wednesday I shall be able to paint again.

So a big, big thank you to you all. To produce something of that quality in such a short period of time is utterly gob smacking. And completely inspiring. Thank you so so much.

CM. March 2020

What to expect on our Contemporary Masterclass

I learned today that my next contemporary masterclass on Joan Eardley sold out – but that the demand for places is so high I’ll have to take a slot out of my studio diary and find another date for the School.

So if you missed out on my first class,  there’s still an opportunity to explore the thrilling techniques of this increasingly popular artist.

Eardley, Joan Kathleen Harding; Summer Sea; Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture;

The appeal of Joan Eardley is as obvious as it’s enduring. Her work is punchy, creative, expressive and authentic – yet it has all of the traditional  visual rigour of tonal ebauche.

Like many mid century British artists Eardley’s work has slowly gained the wider recognition she deserves for its visual power,  originality and humanity.   I first saw Eardley’s work a decade or so ago in one of our regular visits to Scotland.  Despite the show only having one of her works in it, Eardley’s work stood out for her bravura use of paint.


Children and Chalked Wall.

Having noted her as one to watch, I cleared my diary for the Scottish Contemporary Gallery retrospective of her works in 2017 and have been itching to devote a serious workshop to her memory since.

The masterclass will cover all of Eardley’s subjects , landscape, seascape, interiors, townscapes and of course, figures.  During the course we’ll look at her aesthetic and technical choices, her amazing use of colour, bold use of line, and the way she knowingly exploits depth -. But more than that, all masterclasses are ultimately about how technique serves artistic vision. When Eardley visited Paris in the 50’s she remarked that all of the painters she met were producing work after Matisse, Picasso or Rouault, rather than themselves. She learned to take the best of other people’s styles, and  bend them to her vision. It’s a big ask, but such understanding starts with technique; skills facilitate creativity.

This then this isn’t a class about learning to copy her work, but much more usefully to understand how its was made, analyse her decisions and learn to put those principles into your own original style.

Active Study like this is a cornerstone of the Norfolk Painting School, and why our students learn to improve their own styles, rather than simply copy how their tutor paints.


Diploma Student Successes

Chaiya Art Awards

Diploma Graduate Chris Wilmott has been shortlisted for the Chaiya art awards 2020. The prestigious exhibition runs from Friday 10th – Sun 19th April 2020
 11am – 6pm every day (till 4pm on final day) 

Gallery@OXO, Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House St, London SE1 9PH

Cover Artist

Diploma Graduate Jill Chaloner has been singled out by the  BJPsych (British Journal of Psychiatry)  magazine to be its front cover artist this January.

New 2020 Courses

Fen with her study after Freud.

We are delighted to launch the 2020 course calendar with brand new courses running in Norfolk, such as Colourful Impressionism , Light & Atmosphere alongside some new Kinnear On –  courses for the more experienced painters with courses dedicated to Glazing, Drama and Composition and of course the exceptional ‘must do’ Colour. These all have new content for 2020.

Please do call or email me to join us in 2020.


Jane xx

01485 528588

2019 Diploma Taster Day Places Now Open

Let’s talk about your Art

If you’re serious about joining one of our Diploma Programs then make a date to meet course director Martin Kinnear for a discussion of our diploma  course and how your current portfolio of works fits with what you can learn on it.

 2019 Diploma Course Taster Day

You can book a diploma portfolio interview to take place after any of your course days at the school (subject to Martin’s availability), or attend one of our annual Diploma Taster days, for a day of demonstrations, lectures and book a 121 chat about you (our 2019 date is September 11, to book just call the school).

2019 Itinerary

The day starts at 10 am  and finishes around 4pm

10am -12 noon demonstrations and presentations on the Diploma

12noon – approx. 4 pm 20 minute 121 portfolio interviews with Martin

Course Director Martin kinnear

If you can’t make the annual taster day, Diploma Course meetings are free of charge and obligation, but subject to limited availability, with priority going to existing foundation course students, however we’re always happy to welcome new students to the school. To discuss your needs simply call jane on 07766 230376 or contact

Principles and Instances

Course Director Martin Kinnear on what you should look for in  a good painting course.

Martin Kinnear with ‘ While Others Wasted Time Growing Flowers (oil 96×48″) from his Painted Garden show 2016.

I’m often asked by prospective students ‘ Will I learn anything?‘ Setting aside the observation that we don’t know what they know or what they could yet know, I’m afraid that the answer is ‘ yes, and if you’ve already been taught, absolutely.’

You might infer from this that I’ve got a downer on art teaching, or that I subscribe to that old lazy tutor’s standby that creativity and art cannot be taught.  Nothing could be further from the truth, the trouble is that showing somebody how you paint, and teaching them to paint are quite different things, so before you book a course with us – or anybody else – be clear about the difference.

Martin Kinnear demonstrating traditional glazing after Turner

The easiest way to ‘teach’ painting is to paint in front of people. It’s an old stand by at art clubs, and if you know what you’re looking for when watching an artist any work, not without educational value.

However, as much as I enjoy painting for myself, and as much as you might enjoy the theatre of watching paintings being made, observation of myself or anyone else painting in their style isn’t a great learning experience.

All you’re seeing, when you watch me – or anyone else paint –  is the end result of a series of nuanced and ongoing decisions. Questions about colour, about composition, about physicality and handling. Decisions about grounds, and imprimaturas, gessoes and mediums are all there – but are there unspoken, unexplained and under the surface.  Watching a painting being made,as a means of learning to paint for yourself,  is as useful as driving over a bridge in the hope that will show you how to build one.

Art history is about instances, learning is about collecting principles

The key to this is understanding the difference between an instance and a principal. Any given painting is by definition an instance of how painting can be done. Just as a particular painting by Monet is an instance of his style and Monet himself is an instance of to paint in an Impressionist way, and Impressionism in its broadest sense is merely an instance of how to paint from ebauche to direct. No, what you want on a course are building blocks not pre selected painting methods. Learn the principles, the building blocks of painting, and you’ll be able to paint in your way, not merely like your tutor or the thousand other students who’ve learned the instance of their style.

Demonstrations are the means to understand how principles work as in this foundational glazing demonstration

That’s why the Norfolk Painting School is built around teaching students the principles of painting, and despite being the leading  specialist oil school in the UK has no ‘house style’.

Our 2019 Courses are built around a structured way of teaching principles, from foundational courses on core skills to the rich, challenging and full foundation of our Diploma Course and the ‘deep dives’ of our specialist short courses, everything is designed to give you the principles you need to answer that burning question. Yes you will learn something – and specifically you will learn to paint like you. 


Why you should change your style

Fresh back from his Salon success in Paris, Course Director Martin Kinnear, muses on the prose and cons of starting afresh each year.

Deciding to change one’s painting style  is a big step, yet I’m always encouraged in my efforts to constantly re-evaluate my methods, re-interpret my ideas and re-invent my style by following the example of great artists. It’s very tempting to get one’s style and technique over the finish line of familiarity, approbation and competence and then sit on one’s laurels. Instead I want to encourage you to look at your work on Jan 1st, throw it all up in the air, and say to yourself, ‘today is a day for what if?’

Pre Christmas was big for me, and the School. My latest body of work Beyond Here, went down a storm at its preview in Yorkshire, and then went on to bring home a Medaille d’ Argent from the Paris Salon. That matters because my work is very much a reflection of what we teach at the School, and our Diploma students quite rightly expect that the methods we teach should lead to successful outcomes.

Green is the Colour, one of two works from 2018 selected by the Salon – the question is what now?

Time then to sit on my laurels? Well I might have if I hadn’t have spent a few days with Picasso in Paris. I took the opportunity to see two shows, the first Blue and Rose at the Musee D’ Orsay, on Picasso, the second, Cubism at the Pompidou,  impossible without him.

Picasso.-Bleu-et-rose, Musée-d’Orsay

Both were shows about Picasso of course, and all that implies – the familiarity of his great works, the fame, the invention, but more than that and most of all these were fundamentally shows about Picasso’s ability to look at himself and say  ‘what if?’

I start all of our Diplomas with different students, different lesson plans but the same central theme; the constant theme of change. It’s also true of our short courses, the big idea is to take on board the big ideas, and that means to be a better artist one has to embrace personal change.

Finding out who you are, by painting how you feel; that’s the trick of it. Norfolk painting school student work Diploma 9 WS6 by E P-Y

It’s hard to think of an artist of note who didn’t evolve, and difficult to imagine one who was more mercurial in is art than Picasso.  Love him or hate him ( and I defy you to love or hate all of his various periods ), Picasso, remains current and divisive, so much so that even 45 years after his death most of my students think of him as a contemporary artist.  He’s not of course, but only if you subscribe to the position that ideas go out of date. I don’t and just like the great man himself I’m convinced that the true history of art, is the record of how we visualise our ideas.  As our hopes and dreams, our concerns, our beliefs and our passions change, then so should our art.

In this respect it matters not whether visual art was created on a cave wall by Neolithic hunters or on a canvas by Matisse, Mondrian or Chagall. visual impact, clarity of thought and direction of purpose, that’s the thing, and Picasso had it in spades.

My take out from Paris? Picasso was almost completely fearless in his art, almost because even the most accomplished and lauded painter must fear that the work they create will eventually loose something of its freshness, vitality and originality if it is not constantly questioned by its maker. Fear of sleepwalking into mediocrity drove his passion for learning.

2019 is a new year and as I move forward and look towards the year, its just not possible for me to paint – paint honestly  – as I did in 2018, look back too much and we close the door to possibility.

My 2019 Course roster is really a series of workshops on helping students come to grips with possibilities. Yes you can paint but how could you use colour? Should you question how to use optics? Or values? Can digital devices help you make visual poetry out of the things you see?.  These are valid questions about timeless concerns. To teach is to learn, and in delivering these courses you can be sure that whatever else I’m doing with you, I’ll be questioning and refining my own assumptions.

So over that last slack week between Christmas and the New Year I’ve been kicking my style around, and doing a lot of ‘what if?’ thinking and painting in my studio.  I strongly encourage you to do the same, and if you find you need help with that, then you know where we are.

More student work, Norfolk painting school Diploma 9 WS6

Imagination: Use it or loose it


Ten New Year Resolutions for Painters

Improving your oil painting is a great new year resolution, but where do you start? Here are some top tips from the Norfolk Painting School team.

Every journey starts with a decision to set out on your path. Course Director Martin Kinnear arriving at the Louvre for the 2018 Salon where his work was awarded a Medaille d’ Argent

  1. 1.Make a Space.  Being creative requires room for you to work and think, so set aside room for a studio in your home. It needn’t be grand – but it must be convenient. Driving out to a studio or having to set up and clear away your oils is a sure way to reduce your time and enthusiasm for learning.  If you need health and safety advice contact the School or do what we do and choose ultra safe Gamblin products which can be had from our school materials shop.

2.  Skills first then creativity. Skills facilitate creativity, so  invest a little time in learning how to use paint. Nothing is as demotivating as making an expensive and self indulgent mess – so build your confidence by investing time in your studio craft.  Make solid start by choosing just a few colours and brushes. leave all of that extra kit for later. If you need help being reductive try a palette of three primaries plus the two achromatics, a simple medium and just three brushes.  Any of the School foundation courses, such as Simply Oils, are great ways to get properly skilled up before you explore your personal creativity.

School director Martin Kinnear mixing up a traditional oil and wax medium in his studio circa 2008. Skills facilitate creativity.

3. Get the right Kit. Take yourself seriously and get the right kit for your studio. As a minimum you’ll need a decent sturdy easel to stand up as you paint , boards or canvases to paint on,  a work desk or tabouret to hold your stuff as you paint, a palette, a jar for medium, a jar for solvent a waste bin and some rolls of kitchen towel.  Most of our students find they have too much kit , so it pays to take an inexpensive foundation course before you buy, or if you want to jump straight in, call the school and ask for one of our inexpensive Starter sets, of colours and mediums, which include everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Oils is an old and traditional skill so it’s easy to get bogged down with complex kit. Our advice , keep it simple and let us help you to get just what you need, and nothing you don’t.

4. Have a process. Painting is a skill, and like any skill it pays to work methodically. Doing so will give you great results, help you to identify what you can improve and most of all, build your confidence. We teach lots of historical painting processes at the School, but our choice is ebauche. Its easy to learn and gives you that painterly look to your work from the first lay in. To paint ebauche style just work big to small, translucent to opaque and lean to fat over a value 5  imprimatura or bole. If you’d like instruction – then any of our courses will help you with the technique.

Learn what you want but start by understanding a process. Student TS with his Caravaggio technique studies 2015

5. Get Inspired. Enthusiasm is everything, so if your creative fires are burning a little low, then get out and see things you simply have to paint. Our favourites are gallery shows – nothing is as inspiring as seeing great work – but inspiration is everywhere if you take some time to look. Don’t forget that your skills might make some inspirational ideas difficult to pull off; so if you can’t paint it yet, take a note in your sketchbook until you can.

Get inspired. Silvi at the Norfolk Painting School.

6. Set Targets. Many painters set out to create a painting a day for a year, and thats brilliant if you have sound studio craft, beware however of reinforcing mistakes by practicing them. Its far better to paint three pictures well than 365 badly. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll need a benchmark though, so set yourself an initial target of painting the same thing three times. Paint it once to experiment, paint it a second time to correct what you know you could do better, then for the last time to the best of your ability. When you come to the school bring your benchmarks in, they are a great way of comparing what you knew against what you learned with us.

Learning the basics, students on Simply Oils concentrate on getting their process right

7. Manage your time well . Painting is fantastic and we loose days just painting for the joy of it. When you set out however it helps to set some self imposed rules to help you to focus on creating, evaluating and improving your work. A time limit per painting is a great idea, a three hour morning session to create a modest ebauche oil on board is a good starting point. You’ll want to further divide that time into thinking, painting and evaluating; make sure you get into the habit of thinkpaintevaluate , and you’ll improve incredibly quickly. If you’re not sure what good painting looks like, then compare your work to an relevant and accessible artist you admire or take a course with us; all of our short courses will introduce you to appropriate benchmark artists for the skills you’ll learn.

Evaluation improves learning outcomes.

8. Reach Out. Painting’s a solitary art, but it really helps to reach out and put yourself and your work before other artists. Rule your family out as critics, and any online groups who simply say everything is fantastic. Good criticism is helpful and actionable advice. Look for feedback on how you manage the key principles in painting, find fellow artists who can identify solid actionable concepts such as value plans, colour management or compositional structure in your work will help you to improve.  Finding good advice is imperative, as judging one’s own work is notoriously difficult. We all  learned painting by applying the key principles to our work – if you’re not sure join us on a short course.

Join a group – one of our Diploma groups critique each other’s works

9. Write it Down. You are in control of the project , so make it happen by writing down what you need to do. Here’s our list :  1. Get a studio. 2. Focus on skills this year, then creativity when those are in place. 3. Choose the right kit, remembering that too much is a bad idea.4. Decide upon your painting process, and stick to it. 5. Stay inspired, diarise gallery visits and set aside time to be in places which inspire you. 6. Practice regularly and well, avoiding the common mistake of reinforcing poor technique. 7. Structure your studio time to ensure you are learning actively by evaluating your work. 8. Make finding useful  and actionable criticism part of your plan. 9. Write your plan down and 10. Action it today.

One of our apprentices in his studio area. Your never too young or old to start the right way

10. Get Started. Unrealised potential is avoidable by getting on with it. In 2000 our course director Martin Kinnear decided to get on with it and take painting seriously. He’s now a recognised artist who paints every day for a living and enjoys every minute of doing what he’ loves rather than commuting to and from the office.’ Since 2007 we’ve helped thousands of people realise their dream of becoming better artists; it doesn’t take much but it has to start with you.

Martin Kinnear at the 2018 Salon. This stared by making a decision to get on with it.