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. 


Course Director Martin Kinnear awarded Medaille d’Argent at the Paris Salon

We are thrilled to announce that Norfolk Painting School Course Director Martin Kinnear was awarded a medal d’argent at his first Paris Salon! The Salon , organised by the Societie Nationale des Beaux Arts has taken place every year since 1861, and, having presented works by artists such as Monet, Picasso and Degas is widely considered to be the most prestigious open art competition.

Martin Kinnear at the 2018 Salon

Martin’s work ‘Burnsall Winter’  (taken from his 2018 solo show Beyond Here, which may be seen at ), was selected to be shown from from thousands of entries from international artists and took one of the three medals awarded by the SNBA  from a field of over 600 exhibitors at the Salon.

Burnsall Winter. Medaille d’ Argent, 2018 Salon. Oil on canvas 48×36″ by Martin Kinnear

The painting was part of a Martin’s latest biannual show which he creates as he teaches the Norfolk Painting School Diploma, to ensure that tuition is being delivered ‘from a working artist‘. To find out more contact the School.

2019 New Kinnear On Oils Workshops

Improve your Oils with Martin Kinnear

Following the success of our 2018 programme, Martin will now be leading a series of one off workshops through 2019. Themed around a key skill such as loosening up, painting oils for shows or making better colour choices the sessions are intended to directly address positive changes you can make to your oil painting this year, whatever your preferred genre or current ability

Written with our returning students and improvers’ in mind Kinnear On Oils are a series of one off workshops about and of subjects which inspire Martin to paint. This years line up includes session on glazing, colour, working creatively from photographic and digital sources, self critiquing and improving your oils and commercials style landscape and marine painting. Places are strictly limited for each one off course.

To reserve your place call Jane on 07766 230376 or email the school.



Staff to student ratios of 1:8 or better


Over the last years the School has grown, but that doesn’t mean we’ve compromised the quality of our teaching or the 121 time you can expect at your easel. Unlike other Schools our classes aren’t just managed by one tutor, but a team of a lead tutor, plus their fully qualified assistant who has come through our Diploma course training program and is dedicated to ensuring you get the best possible tuition.

And it doesn’t stop there; each and every course is also overseen each day by course director Martin Kinnear who checks your progress with your team each and every day to ensure you’re getting the skills you need from the course. This attention to detail, and our investment in training people to help you makes our courses the best you’ll find for personal attention.