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Carolyn Corlett

Carolyn has been teaching painting in Dorset for 16 years and has worked as a professional artist since 1992. She holds a Foundation Degree (FdA) in Fine Art with distinction from the University of West England and a BA(Hons) in Painting from the Open College of Arts.

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  Thoughts from Carolyn’s oil painting workshops 

Many people take up painting for relaxation, which is funny as I see varying levels of stress in the class, when things are not working out! One thing that is definite is that painting is all consuming. Life problems and stresses are pushed out completely from the mind during the creative process.


There are very few things in modern life (not on prescription!) that can do that. There have been numerous times I have forgotten to pick up my children from school, because I have become so immersed in a painting. This complete escape is for me is the reason to paint. Not to produce a picture worthy of a frame at the end, but to feed the soul with the creative process and get a busy, over active mind completely absorbed in something pure.


An artist friend once asked how long I had been painting, and then after my reply asked, “...and how long since you started seeing”? I often think of this question when teaching. I find we all hesitate and falter at the same hurdles. Much of what I teach is how to turn off the all knowing part of the brain which dominates most of our interpretation of the world around us, and turn on the part of the brain which interprets pure electrical impulses form the eyes. The classic left brain/ right brain struggle. How to truly see in observational painting. I teach techniques to achieve this. A simple one is to turn the canvas and the reference upside down. The dominant brain gives up at this point and allows us to see our subject as it truly is. Sometimes it’s just a case of being aware of the traps. Know that, if left unchecked, you will paint those grasses evenly spaced, and the head of that distant figure too large! After 30 years of painting I still have consciously make head smaller and randomise my grasses!


Fear rears its head often in the studio. Students are worried about having their work judged, not by other members of the class but by those helpful partners at home! This stops students working on the canvas as a whole, and, instead, making sure ‘that bit looks ok before I take it home’! Students are too often concerned with the end result while they are painting. My father, a professional artist for over 30 years used to say “they’re not waiting for this at the Tate you know!” I believe every piece should be viewed as practise then the pressure for it to fulfil our expectations, is reduced. Students can then enjoy the process, and invariable when this happens, the end result exceeds expectation.

Other things taught in my classes are merely technical short cuts to achieve certain colours and effects. Over 25 years I have developed a bag of tricks, through trial and error. They are techniques that I am able to share so that my students have a short cut to success. Some of them involve which colours to use, others involve simple steps to achieve a look, for example reflections. They are tried and tested and are able to be adapted to suit whatever subject the student is painting.

Some of my students have never exhibited before, and this is the reason for mounting the exhibition. Again, fear is the culprit, and like anything in life, it’s usually never as bad as we

expect. So, my first timers are exhibiting with some experienced exhibitors and I hope this will raise their self confidence and help them to value their skill as artists.


If you are interested in a course that we don't offer, please get in touch, and we will try to add it to our offering

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