On the Shoulders of Giants – Online

With Alex Fowler NEAC

Artists like art. Is there anything more enjoyable than wandering around a gallery, such as the National Gallery in London? Absolutely there is…why stop there? Have you ever looked at a masterpiece and thought, “I couldn’t do that”. Well, you can, by standing on the shoulders of giants.

In this course Alex will teach you a method of transcribing which will allow you to capture the beauty in great art of the past, and in the process come to an understanding of the fundamentals of painting. This will lift your own work to a new level. It is a revelation.

  • Tutor, Alex Fowler NEAC
  • 27 February, 6, 13, 20 March 2023
  • £160/course
  • 10.00 – 12.00, and a crit at 4.00pm
  • Class is delivered by ZOOM with a dedicated WhatsApp group
  • The class will be recorded so you can replay it whilst you paint in the afternoon.

Painters from Delacroix, through Cézanne to Matisse, and their contemporaries, understood that copying from the Old Masters was the most effective way to develop as a painter. David Hockney made Variations to explore his own interests. Below is ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, by Claude Lorraine, and an example of David Hockney’s work from it, intensifying the colour.

What to expect on this Course

You will be working from paintings by Poussin and then Monet because they are both masters of colour, but in different ways. Alex will approach each painting with some information about the artist and where this piece of work fits on a timeline. This will be followed by a demonstration and direction.

Use this opportunity to observe, and learn how to make this acquired knowledge work for you.

As you make your own version in the afternoon you will learn about the mechanics of a painting by studying it closely. The intention is not to copy the appearance but to transcribe in your own voice. In this way we can experience the works of a giant as if we were making it ourselves in our own time and our own method. The giants have done the hard work and made the decisions before you – your task is to explore what they have done and enjoy the discoveries.

By studying paintings closely you can fully experience the work, and learn how great paintings were put together.

It is quite easy to download copies of the paintings in question. Please make sure you have done this before the lesson starts. The links are below:



Nicolas Poussin, Adoration of the Golden Calf

The first two weeks you will be looking at the Poussin. Everyone will select a cropped section (see examples below) so it doesn’t take too long. Once you have done one section, if you have time and are feeling bold, there is no reason why you can’t work across the whole painting.

Drawing, Design and Composition

The approach you will be encouraged to follow will start with drawing. By focusing on the rhythms of the shapes you will achieve more accurate proportions. You will see how the painting is pieced together on an abstract level as a composition. This method of drawing is a great tool in learning to draw anything accurately.

Colour: Mixing and Understanding

As you move into colour you will break the image down into simplified, manageable shapes of colours. Exploring how those colours relate to each other, and can be adjusted in that relationship, will give you an experience of how colour can be tuned like notes in music. You will learn how colour relationships carry the painting.

You will learn a method of colour mixing that can be applied to painting any subject

Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat Series

The second two weeks will be working from paintings in Monet’s Stacks of Wheat series.

With Monet where the forms are less complex we will take on the whole painting working in paint over two weeks so we can work in layers to stalk the marvellous harmonies of colours Monet achieves. 

You will explore the variations within the series by making small sketches of a few of the paintings. The series shows different light effects in varying weather, at different times of day, achieved through simplified arrangements of colour.


Specific materials don’t matter too much although a good range of colour would be necessary. Alex suggest you gather all the materials you would need to work in whatever media you are most happy to use. Alex recommends a large palette and palette knife for mixing.

Alex will be working in oil and drawing with pencils. If you’d like a recommended list we can provide it.