Observation, Abstraction & Invention: Still Life & Figure Painting

Nancy Gruskin


This class is open to painters working in both oils and water-based media. If you’re looking to try something new, I highly recommend acrylic gouache. It is a relatively inexpensive, opaque, water-based paint that looks and behaves much like traditional gouache, with the added bonus of being water-resistant when it dries. As a result, you can work quickly and new layers of paint will not re-wet older layers of paint. More information on acrylic gouache is listed below.


Oil and Acrylic Paint: You could easily get away with four tubes of paint—a red, a yellow, a blue, and white. If, however, you’d like to expand your palette, please have the following colors on hand:

a cool red (Alizarin Crimson or Quinacridone Crimson)

a warm red (Cadmium Red Light)

a cool yellow (Cadmium Lemon Yellow)

a warm yellow (Cadmium Yellow Deep)

a cool blue (Ultramarine Blue)

a warm blue (Cerulean Blue)

titanium white

Optional (useful if you’re working in acrylics and need convenience colors for mixing):

one or two greens for mixing neutrals, darks/blacks, and skin tones (I use Cadmium Green Yellow and Cadmium Green Deep or Viridian)

a purple for mixing grays, browns and blacks (e.g., Dioxazine Violet)

an orange for mixing grays, browns and blacks (e.g., Cadmium Orange)

Acrylic Gouache: There are two readily available brands of acrylic gouache paint. Holbein Acryla Gouache, which comes in 20 ml and 40 ml tubes, can be purchased online from Blick, Artist & Craftsman Supply, and Vermont Art Supply. Vermont Art Supply is the only source I know of that sells the full range of colors in 40 ml tubes. The other common brand is Turner Acryl Gouache, which is available online from Jerry’s Artarama. Turner has the advantage of coming in 100 ml tubes, as well as 20 ml and 40 ml tubes. Please bring the same colors as listed above (I’ve included the brand name for each, as they often differ from traditional oil & acrylic color names):

a white (Holbein “Titanium” or Turner “White”)

a warm red (Holbein “Scarlet” or Turner “Permanent Scarlet”)

a cool red (Holbein “Crimson” or Turner “Permanent Red”)

a warm yellow (Holbein “Deep Yellow” or Turner “Permanent Yellow Deep”)

a cool yellow (Holbein “Lemon Yellow” or Turner “Permanent Lemon”)

a warm blue (Holbein “Cerulean Blue” or Turner “Sky Blue”)

a cool blue (Holbein “Ultramarine Deep” or Turner “Ultramarine”)

an orange (Holbein “Orange” or Turner “Permanent Orange”)

a purple (Holbein “Deep Violet” or Turner “Mixing Violet”)

one or two greens (Holbein “Light Green” or Holbein “Leaf Green” and/or Holbein “Deep Green” or “Viridian”/Tuner “Permanent Green Light” and/or Turner “Permanent Green Deep”)


I recommend flats as well as one round (if working in acrylic gouache, you can use watercolor brushes or brushes made for acrylics/oils; nice to experiment with both). For all media, bring large size brushes—#10s, #12s, and #16s. Large brushes—perhaps larger than you think appropriate for the size of the painting surface—force you to simplify forms and shapes. We’ll be doing at least one exercise with a large brush, which I will supply.

Painting Surfaces:

We will be painting on paper. Watercolor paper or mixed media paper is fine for water-based media. For oil painting, you’ll want to pre-prime your paper or purchase Arches Oil Paper. Watercolor paper typically comes in two surfaces—hot press (very smooth) and cold press (a toothier, rougher surface). Fabriano makes a “soft finish” that is somewhere between hot press and cold press. It’s really a personal preference. I suggest bringing one pad of paper in the 11” x 14” or larger range (of at least 15 pages). If you like to work large, feel free to bring sheets of watercolor paper, which are typically 22” x 30”and can be torn to any size. We will also be making some collages. I will bring (non-archival) colored construction paper for this exercise and card stock for a gluing surface. Some students, however, prefer to bring their own hand-painted paper and/or patterned papers. I will leave that decision up to you.

Other Items:

A palette knife (if part of your current painting method)

Painter’s tape/drafting tape (for taping your paper to a drawing board)

All-purpose masking tape

Disposable palette paper or Reynolds freezer paper

Drawing supplies: (please include a small set of colored drawing supplies—could be crayons, pastels, markers, colored pencils, etc.)

For oil painters: Please bring a jar to hold your odorless Turpenoid and a jar with a lid for pouring your used Turpenoid into at the end of each session. For mediums, please use walnut or linseed oil. You may also want to bring gloves and a brush cup for cleaning the brushes.


A bottle of white glue or a glue stick (for collage work)

Paper towels (if you’re coming from out of town and don’t want to take up precious space in your luggage, paper towels can be purchased for $1/roll at Warehouse 521 or at a nearby Staples and Walmart)*

*If you’re traveling by plane, you are welcome to ship your supplies ahead of time. The mailing address is Warehouse 521, 521 Heather Place, Nashville, TN 37204.

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All workshops that are currently full have waiting lists available.  Please fill out waiting list form or email jeanie at warehouse521@gmail.com to be added to a list. A deposit is not needed to be placed on the waiting list, only when a spot comes available.