Over the summer I was lucky enough to be accepted into a portraiture masterclass at the National Gallery. Hundreds competed for the 15 places, which were awarded based on the merit of your personal statement. The class spanned three days and was run by five different tutors, including the professional artists Gandee Vasan and Alisdair Adams (who has painted for several politicians including Tony Blair). On the first day, we were taught traditional drawing techniques and tonality by sketching a live model. The styles we had previously adopted were very tight, so this was about loosening up our method. We then painted the model using grisailles underpainting (grey monochrome).

On day two, the master lesson was about the colour theory of flesh. Essentially, the flesh is not simply ‘flesh-coloured’; it is like a stew - a combination of greens, browns, blues and reds. For example, it is appropriate to mix a blue with warm colours when you are following the landscape of the face around a corner. Likewise, the ‘whites’ of the eye are not truly white, but muddy, shallow greys. Shadows are greenish, whilst highlights are warmer and browner. We also learnt that Verdaccio underpainting (green tonal painting) is the most effective way to give the face its wholeness and solidity. On the final day, we made full portraits of the model, which were then exhibited to the public in the National Gallery that evening. Overall, the masterclass was a surreal experience, and one I would recommend to anyone looking to add refinement to their artwork.