• Seattle, WA


There are many approaches to portraiture – we can create a likeness, or a more expressive version of the character we are portraying. We can also go deeper – finding ways of connecting with the person that are not always representative but that say as much about ourselves as they do the person we are portraying. An unearthing of the artist as well as our model or reference.

During this workshop, we will be using the fundamentals of shadow and light, colour, composition and expression to unearth and excavate a more emotional and expressive response to the face and head. We will be going further than a skin-deep approach and finding joy and expression in drawing materials and paint to unearth what is inside of us – the unique artist.

We will be working from a life model, building up lots of studies, sketches and expressive works before going on to develop these initial responses into highly expressive interpretations in paint on canvas panels for the remainder of the workshop.

The focus will be on working and reworking your portrait over and over, editing down, even destroying what has gone before to get to the heart of what you are trying to convey as an artist.

Each day will begin with a look at various master artists who will inspire us to find new pathways to expression, interpretation and unearthing the portrait and the artist within.

Please note that this is only one of the two workshops Gillian will be teaching in the US in 2018. 


Day One, April 7   6:00-8:00 pm We will meet in our lovely host, Leslie West's beautiful live/studio in the SODO district of Seattle. You will have time to set up your station and we will share some appetizers and libations as we get to know one another.

Leslie's studio

Leslie's studio

Day Two, April 8.  9:30 am Working from the model we will be working with expressive line and shadows and light to find the form and discover proportions and the planes of the head and face. We will move from quick, timed drawings and sketches to a more sustained pose in the afternoon. Lunch will be served. Class is over at 4:30 pm.

Day Three, April 9. 9:30 am Working from the model again we will begin monochrome paintings to further explore form before moving on to study ways of interpreting colour in the afternoon. Lunch will be served. Class is over at 4:30 pm.

Day Four, April 10. 9:30 For our final day working from the model we will be working from a sustained pose for the day in acrylic paints. Here we will be focusing again on form, color, composition and ways of representing the person before us into two painting foundations which we can then rework over the remaining two days of the week. Lunch will be served. Class is over at 4:30 pm

Day Five, April 11. 9:30 For the remainder of the week we will be working from the sketches and paintings we have created earlier. The focus will be on exploration and expression – finding ways to interpret our studies in innovative ways and unearth more unique explorations of what a portrait can be. Here we are no longer bound by representing the model before us but we are free to create a more personal response in our portraits. Working and reworking repeatedly and building up an expressive use of the paint using mediums to bring a richness and interesting surface and a joyful use of the materials!

By the end of the week you will have many sketches and studies and will have completed at least one or two acrylic paintings on canvas or wood panels.

Class is over at 12:30 and you will have a free afternoon to explore Seattle - Pike Place Market, Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle, or the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Lots of galleries in Pioneer Square and one of my favorite galleries, close to the SAM, Patricia Rovzar Gallery.


Day Six, April 12 9:30 continue with class, lunch will be served and that evening we will have a special group meal. 

Day Seven, April 13. 9:30 Finish up our work, lunch will be served and then we will have a show 'n tell before cleaning up the studio and packing for our journey home. Class is over at 4:00 pm.



Please note that this is only one of the two workshops Gillian will be teaching in the US in 2018. 

This Escape includes

  • Five and half days of instruction from Gillian
  • Live model for three days
  • Reception
  • Five lunches
  • Farewell Dinner
  • Some art supplies
  • Beautiful studio to create in the SoDo District
  • New Art Tribe

This trip starts and ends in Seattle, WA. 

Price is $1,600 and is limited to 12

An $800 nonrefundable deposit it due at registration. Final payment of $800 is due November 30, 2017

Price does not include airfare or hotel accommodations. There are many nearby hotels and AirBnbs. You can Uber from anywhere in Seattle to Leslie's studio. 

Airport - Seattle International Airport (SEATAC)

Supply List

This list is for guidance only so if you have close alternatives then please bring/use those.

We will provide

  • Newsprint and drawing paper for studies
  • Table easels will be provided.
  • Sheets of watercolour paper for our paint studies.

You will need to bring

  • Willow charcoal (Gillian likes Coates willow charcoal)
  • Compressed charcoal
  • Erasers (white eraser, putty eraser)
  • Painting rags
  • Painters tape
  • 2 Primed 12"x 16" canvas boards -  Bring  an extra if you are a fast painter
  • Paint brushes in various sizes. Please do not bring cheap craft brushes – they are frustrating to work with! Gillian likes Rosemary & Co. Ivory brushes or Princeton eclipse brushes. But whatever you have – bring a range of sizes that you like to work with. Filberts, flats and/or rounds. Plus a couple of 1 or 1 ½ inch bristle brushes.
  • Embossing tool or something with a dull point – you can find these in card making or craft shops.
  • Palette knives
  • Some mark making tools – such as old credit cards, or the Princeton shapers.
  • Acrylic paints. Please bring heavy body paints (Liquitex or Golden) for the main colours listed. We are working with a very limited palette to encourage us to mix your colours! But if there are a couple of colours that you would like to add this list then please do so.
  • titanium white
  • cadmium yellow
  • yellow ochre
  • cadmium red or Naphthol Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine
  • Cerulean blue
  • burnt sienna
  • burnt umber
  • paynes gray
  • Liquitex Acrylic inks – suggested colours are burnt umber and burnt sienna although feel free to add to this if you wish.
  • Acrylic retarder medium – Gillian likes Golden or Winsor and Newton
  • Golden Acrylic glazing medium
  • Paper palette – tear off paper palette. Or you can also bring a stay wet palette for storing paint overnight if you wish. Masterson makes a travel stay wet palette which is small enough and light enough for travel.
  • Something to wrap and protect your paintings in for travel home. Plastic bags or glassine paper or non-stick baking parchment.



This itinerary may change due to weather, new opportunities or the whim of the group. 


Gillian Lee Smith is a Scottish artist living in the beautiful, historic North-East coast of England. Inspiration and connection comes from individuals and communities and the marks they make on the landscape in which they reside. Coastal villages that cling to the space between land and sea. Communities of people that are forever between that place of hope and loss. And the way our own personal narratives in turn become etched on our faces and in our character.

As a teacher, Gillian is inspired to bring her love of people and place to each workshop using a wealth of techniques to make new discoveries along with her students. The author of three highly successful online courses - Unearth Gather Create, Drawn to Expression and Portraits, Your Art Your Way which explore the fundamentals of art while encouraging exploration and progression.