Tuesday evenings, can you make yourself available?

Zoom and Plein Air Drop-in Groups – click on the links below

Tuesday and Friday morning Pleinairists
Tuesday Evening Short Pose Drop-in Life Drawing
Wednesday Afternoon – Drop-in Portraiture
Saturday Morning – Drop-in Life Drawing and Painting

Tuesday evenings – are you doing anything? If not why not support Freya and Holly who will be kicking off a new short pose group which runs from 7.00-8.30pm on Zoom. Perfect with your aperitif or even with your digestif, if you are sensible and eat early. Have a look below


A rule being broken: Coco knows she’s not allowed on the models drapes but… so comfy. Now someone has to wash the blessed things! You’ll notice Carole being very tolerant, you’ll also notice she has her painting trousers on, the studio is being transformed.

Simon’s notes from the studio:

One of the advantages of being left alone in the studio during this Covid19 thing is having un-overlooked access to the art cupboard. No one raises a vigilant eyebrow as I appropriate some cobalt blue or cut off a generous swathe of Belgian linen as I did for a couple of this week’s studies.

I often paint on board, it’s cheap, easy to store, and depending upon what you prime it with can give you skiddy slickness or grainy tooth. The usual primers are acrylic based, the one we use in the studio is Michael Harding’s non absorbent one. Acrylic primers will give a very dry surface and even the non absorbent one is quite absorbent. Most acrylic primers presume to call themselves gesso, which they aren’t but may contain aggregates like limestone dust, to give tooth. For my taste, far too much tooth, I often put a couche of medium or oil down to loosen up the surface or paint into an open imprimatura.

Primers for canvas can be quiet different, the texture of the fabric itself gives the pigment something to cling to so the primer doesn’t need to have much tooth. In practice most inexpensive canvases use something called universal primer, which you could also call acrylic primer because that’s what it is. It’s probably brilliant with acrylic paint but it has the same stiffness with oils that you have to endure with acrylic ‘gesso’. On top of that, because it absorbs, it sucks the oil out of the paint, deadening it and giving it a matte surface.

You may like a matte surface but the chromatic pungency of oil paint relies upon the oil refracting light through the body of the paint, suck out the oil and that brilliance is diminished. You can try oiling out but, I’ve had paintings that take several oilings and still suck and die.

David Sawyers solution is to introduce the oil as he works. He paints almost exclusively on board, a surface he has made his own. He works quite wet with medium, which remedies the absorbency and gets brilliant results.

Then there is oil primed linen, the stuff they left me in the studio with this week. The primer, if you were to paint it on board, would be like glossy eggshell paint, useless to paint on; but put it on canvas and it is the surface of the Gods. Colours remain vibrant, you can move them around, rub them off, lay them on thick or thin and the surface supports you, willing you on. Because the paint goes on without a fight, the brush marks are remembered, maybe not your bag but there if you want them. If you’ve painted with Clare Haward you’ll know she scrapes back a lot, do that on board and it’s all gone, on canvas a ghost remains which can be like a summation of all the previous marks and an excellent new beginning or even final statement.

Compared to painting on board it’s like a different medium and can take some getting used to but most certainly worth persevering with and ultimately far more forgiving.

It can get quite expensive, hence my reluctance to use it lavishly but we sell a piece that will go on to a 12″ x 16″ stretcher for a fiver, which is less than a pint of beer these days and a lot more fun.

If you want to paint on hardboard you can get an eight foot by four foot sheet from B and Q for a fiver, they’ll even cut it down for you. Just make sure you use artist quality primers, for a slicker surface try archival PVA or rabbit skin glue.

We’re looking forward to being back in the studio on the 1st of September with antiseptic artists separated by PVC screens. At first there will be eight artists. You sign up on the website and choose your slot. We know that artists prefer being in the centre of the room so to make it fair we will have a first come first served system where it costs slightly less to be to the side of the room. In all cases there will be a good clear view of the model and plenty of space to work. We are still working on the website so be patient with us!

Tuesday afternoon short poses

We’ve paused this group for the moment, it may well be back in September when we can do it for real; for the moment our energy will go into Tuesday evenings short pose group.

Pleinairists with David Sawyer RBA

Given the weather we have been having it’s anyone’s guess what will happen this week. The forecast offers Wednesday as the only one without rain and thunderstorms, not that such trivialities should concern the committed plein air painter of course.

David says:”Weather not looking too good for next week at the moment
Hopefully it will improve by Friday and we can return to the Labyrinth garden in Ruskin Park
Has anyone ideas of where to paint in London on the bank holiday?
The embankment near Tate modern has good views of St Paul’s but there’s a lot of architecture to paint
There’s also interesting things to paint around St James park and the Mall”

The best bet is to join the Pleinairists Whatsapp group to get up to the moment info on where we are painting, and painting we will be. Drop us an email if you’d like to be included. You only pay if David is taking the session, Pleinairists do meet up separately – check out this painting by Sarah Dickinson from last week in Ruskin Park’s Labyrinth Garden – now sold.

If you are interested in painting along with David the Cost is £35 per session, which lasts approximately three hours. We use our Pleinairists Whatsapp Group to coordinate.

These are small groups where social distancing is maintained throughout.

Sign up here

Tuesday Evening Life Drawing 7.00pm-8.30pm on Zoom


Holly will be the model for the first of these evening sessions. Holly is a strong and flexible climber and cyclist.

This group has relocated to the evening and now runs for just one and a half sweet hours. From 7.00-8.30pm Holly will be pulling poses and Freya will be drawing along and MCing. The plan is to offer short poses and maybe some dynamic poses.

You can join them on Zoom from 6.45pm to get to know them and any other drawers before work commences at 7.00pm.

The cost is £8 but if you can convince us you’re a student we’ll give you a code to get the session for £5: drop us an email

Click here to book

Wednesday Drop-in Portraiture 2.00pm-5.00pm on Zoom

Holly will be back for the second week of this reflective pose. She will have her ear in the right place next week too! (it became detached during the session, infuriating but she was very good about it, barely noticing.) If you work fast why not join us, you’ll have three hours to pull something off. Hopefully not an ear.

Look at Holly’s sculpture here:@hollykilohduce  and watch her climb impossible things here

Please book here

The session fee will be reduced to £10 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout.

Saturday Drop-in Long Pose Life Drawing 10.00am-1.00pm on Zoom


Freya by Heather Sherratt


Freya by Su Zhang

The second and final week with Freya as our model. We have her in this delightful curled up pose which is very Lucian Freud as the camera is looking down on her. Heather Sherratt‘s shows the pose. If you concentrate on the closeup camera you’ll get a nice intimate portrait like the one by Su Zhang

A single pose life session delivered over Zoom.

Please book here

The session fee will be reduced to £10 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout.