Due to health reasons, Jane will be taking a sabbatical break from running workshops in 2018.  She plans to commence the workshops in February 2019.  Please email Jane at blacklaw@telkomsa.net to ensure you are added on to the mailing list for workshop dates.

Spring Workshop in Simbithi, Jane's Studio - Sept 2015
We had so much fun - we have to have annual workshops up in Joburg.

Workshops in Oils for Beginners & Advanced Painters

Beginners Workshops  are aimed at beginners who know little or nothing about the medium to those that dabble or haven't dabbled for a while and wish to re-kindle their painting again.  These workshops will open (or re-open) your world to the wonders of oil painting.  Offering the essential basic knowledge of the medium, practical step by step aids and inspiration.  It will give you an excellent foundation from which to start painting (again) and will cover :- materials/equipment, reference/inspiration material, preparation of substrate, plotting, colour mixing and rendering.   Demonstrations will be given and painters will begin and complete a painting.

Portrait Workshops offer a guide to expressive impressionistic portraiture.  It will be a time to explore tone, colour and texture to create portraits with emotion, character and depth.  Tapping into our intuition, using various sources of inspiration to create expressive portraits rather than a photographic likeness.

Where: Simbithi-Eco-Estate, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Booking Essential: Limited to 6 or 10 participants(depending on venue)

Cost:- between R850 - bR1000 per person per workshop - depending on venue (banking details on request of booking)

Contact: Jane Digby on blacklaw@telkomsa.net



Tips and Guides to Oil Painting

Points to Consider

Setting up

  • Study your reference, considering the composition, focal points, colours, textures and tonal values. 
  • Composition (decide whether to follow basic rules of composition or to go against the grain – see notes)
  • Consider which substrate you are going to use. Canvas, board, wood, paper etc.  Different surfaces AND sizes will effect the mood you are wishing to create. .
  • Ensure the size ratio of your reference equals the ratio of the canvas, otherwise adjust so that distortion will not occur (request notes of Plotting).
  • Position your easel with the light behind you.  Use daylight bulbs if possible.
  • We paint for our health for ensure that you paint in a well ventilated room/area and it is a good idea to put a barrier cream on your hands prior to painting.


Priming or Activating your canvas

  • Consider whether to “prime” your canvas or not, if so what colour will enhance it – use a transparent colour and warm colours help create mood.
  • Priming gives additional atmosphere and depth to your painting.
  • It unifies various areas of your painting.
  • It is less intimidating starting to paint on a coloured canvas rather then white.
  • You do not have to cover up all those startling “white” bits which fight with your hi-lights.



Aim of plotting is to get the image down onto canvas, not merely a line drawing but a tonal under painting.  This stage makes you engage with the subject, looking carefully at what is there, not at what you think is there. 

  • Plotting – many methods including the grid, tracing, free drawing (see notes on plotting);
  • Look for shapes, angles, positive and negative spaces.
  • Look at the EDGES, some should be hard and some soft.
  • Made sure you know where the LIGHT source is coming from.
  • Turn your painting upside down and on its side, to paint curves as well as to assess it from all angles.
  • Look in a mirror or take a photo, this helps to assess whether you are satisfied with the representation of the subject.
  • If the image is correct at this stage it makes the rendering stage far easier as you can focus on colour.


Rendering – adding colour, texture and atmosphere.

  • KISS Rule! Keep it Simple Silly!
  • Make a colour palette “story board”  determining before hand which will be the key colours you wish to use.
  • Colour Palette  (complementary colours or harmonious colours) rules or not?
  • Limited palette is often better, hundreds of colours can be mixed using a few colours.  Too many colours can make MUD.
  • Use a palette knife to mix colours – less waste – less cleaning – better for you and for the environment.
  • For mixing light colours – add colour to white - avoids waste
  • For mixing dark colours – add white to dark – avoids waste
  • Black usually a no no!  It is a shallow colour, self mixed darks have more depth.  Indigo is a great alternative to black or mix your own beautiful dark.
  • Light Source (determine where it is coming from and how it will effect your painting ie. Shadows, hi-lights) Exaggerate!
  • Warm colours advance, cool colours recede
  • Understand the form in 3d so you can interpret into 2d.
  • Rendering – small/big brush strokes, palette knife, impasto, scraffito, watercolour washes etc.
  • Relax your arms and hands, let the brush flow (how are you are holding your brush – relax).
  • Use soft and hard pressure on your brush.
  • Look at your reference with half closed eyes (soft focus)!
  • Look at the tonal values, exaggerate them.
  • Start with your darks, exaggerate them – darker and areas bigger.
  • Check light source again and again
  • When painting landscapes, paint furthest point to closest this is called Progressional painting.
  • When painting other subjects, paint dark first, then mid tones, followed by lights.  Lastly reinstate the darkest darks and add the hi-lights.
  • Use liquin or other medium if the paint is too dry and not paliable.
  • Be adventurous, use forks, credit cards, tooth brushes etc
  • Do not be disappointed when you have to rub or scrape off, this is part of the process and should be seen as such


Assessing your work – near completion

  • Take a photo in colour as well as in black and white, mistakes are often obvious.
  • Look at the painting through a window
  • Use glazing techniques if you need to push areas back or forward.
  • Make a note of the colours you used in the painting.  You may need to mix up the same a week or two later and you are bound to forget unless it is noted.
  • Jot down notes of thoughts, feelings, ideas, emotions you felt while you were painting.  Reading them through before working on the painting again will help get you back into the same frame of mind.
  • Hang your painting up in your living area, live with it for a while, you will notice what tweaks and changes need to be made.
  • Take a photo of your finished painting!   And say “well done!”


Cleaning Up

  • Clean brushes - first with your rag and turps, then in warm sunlight soapie water, finally you can smooth on some hair conditioner. 
  • Turpentine must never be put down drains – it is poisonous!  Recycle it or absorb it in a cone of newspaper or egg boxes, then through away in Municipal waste.
  • Left over paint – can be covered with cling wrap and even put in the fridge or freezer.

Plotting/gridding your reference & canvas

1.   Canvas - Determine the ratio of longest to shortest side of your canvas

Eg.      Length          ÷          Width            = X

Eg.      65cm             ÷          50 cm           = 1.3

  1. Reference - You need to ensure your reference ratio is the same as the canvas. 

Determine the composition you would like (ie. keep your length alter your width or keep your width alter your length).

Now calculate what the dimensions should be of your reference

Eg.      Length (L)    ÷          X (1.3)  = Width (W).

Or       Width(W)     x          X (1.3)  = Length(L).

 Adjust either the length or the width until you are happy with the composition.

  1. Draw a grid onto your (black and white) reference using a pencil.  Begin by halving, then quartering the reference, into 16 blocks (more if necessary for detailed portraits or drawings).

4.   Using a pitt pencil, chalk or paint - draw a grid on your canvas in the same method -  dividing it into halves, then quarters etc.

(A DIY tape measure is often useful, especially when working on large canvases).

  1. Start plotting the image/s onto the canvas, roughly at first, looking at shapes, angles of lines, negative and positive shapes etc. Turn the canvas on its side or upside down to get the correct image down.
  1.  Paint the tonal values not only the lines.  Once almost complete, look at the image in a mirror and see if you are happy with it.  Keep lines loose and free.
  1. When satisfied with the image, start rubbing off visible grid with turps or a damp rag.
  1. Now you can start putting down the darkest tones in preparation for rendering                                                                         

Comments & Quotes by participants ....

  • Priveledged to be able to attend your demo this morning! You inspired me and I always want to paint after watching you!  Your colours speak to me very deep inside! ...Christine Barden
  • Few things have inspired me momre than to watch a few of these (paintings) being created - consciousness captured on canvas.  It is like climbing a mountain.  To stand on the peak and see the world at your feet and feel that in spite of all the idiocy and irrationality, people are beautiful and the world is yours to live in.  Thank you ... J Enslin
  • Thanks Jane for the really enjoyable workshop, I think you are a great teacher and I so appreciated all the information and knowledge you passed on to us all!!  As well as being a really good artist,  you are a wonderful person too and what a pleasure it was meeting you!!  .. Linda Lemon
  • Thankyou also for the great workshop Jane I learnt soooo much, had a real light bulb session!!! .... Paula Morrison
  • Just to say thanks for your great workshop I so enjoyed it !  I went and bought oils the next day....Bev
  • JJ, thank you so much for the wonderful two days we spent with you. Heather and I enjoyed them so much we outstayed our welcome! We both feel that we learnt an enormous amount at the workshop and are eager to continue painting. We are planning to get together to paint at least once a week.....   Rose Retief
  • Thanks for sharing so enthusiastically and easily !     .... by Sharon Castle