Oil painting submissions to Watts Atelier course
Submissions to Phase 1 Portrait and Figure Drawings

I’ve been wanting to improve my painting skills for a while now and haven’t found books that useful. After spending a one year subscription to New Masters Academy (review to come), I thought I would turn to the well respected Watts Atelier. Here are my thoughts after almost 2 months.

Watts Atelier of the Arts

The Watts Atelier is a well known Art Training Centre, based in Southern California and was established by the very talented Artist, Jeff Watts. It is where Stan Prokopenko studied (check out the Proko Anatomy course here). 

The Online Painting Course

The painting course is split into five pathways:

  • Portrait
  • Figure
  • Still life
  • Gouache
  • Landscape

Each pathway currently has between one and four phases comprised of a few lessons within each phase. 

The Art Lessons

The lessons so far involve watching a video of Jeff create a painting while discussing his views on art and the techniques he is using. He also tends to go off on tangents with his thoughts too (and seems to have dinner repeating on him in quite a lot of the lessons). You can also download a workbook for each lesson with brief notes and reference images (which are not the best quality and I have ended up adjusting them in a photo editing app). At the end of each lesson, you upload your artwork and wait for it to be graded. The lessons take more time and become more in-depth the further through you go and I imagine it complete the whole painting phase (at the speed I can work with a 2 year old in the house) would take a couple of years!

Portrait Painting

My main interest in the course is the portrait section. The first phase involves drawing and painting from reference photos of a skull, the Asaro head and a plaster cast in 3 different positions (profile, three quarter and front) and in 3 different ways of monochrome painting. The top image shows some of my artwork submissions. There’s a lot of burnt umber oil paintings in these courses – I am looking forward to working with the Zorn palette in the next portrait phase.

Preview of the Watts Atelier Portrait Painting Phase 1 course

Lesson Grading and Feedback

You can view any lesson at any time but you have to pass each lesson before you can submit artwork for the next lesson. This can take longer than I would like. I have sometimes waited over two weeks but they try to keep it to less than 10 days. Luckily I have passed everything so far but I imagine as I enter the next phases there will be some repeating lessons.

The main reason I thought I would try the Watts Atelier Online Programme was the feedback you receive on your work. The comments I have received have been excellent - far more detailed than I expected and very useful. I have received very decent, chunky paragraphs of information to help me improve where needed.

Online Course Summary

The course structure works well for me and I am glad I have chosen it to study from. It is intensive and slow building - don’t expect to be doing full colour detailed portrait paintings for a long, long time. In my opinion, this is a good thing and it will really help build muscle memory and skills as you go through the course. The feedback a great reason to choose the course.


  • Great feedback about paintings
  • A well structured art course that will (and already has) greatly improve my art skills
  • You can speed up the videos to watch them quicker (and make Jeff sound like Mickey Mouse).


  • Feedback for art submissions can take a while
  • Some of the reference images for the painting lessons could be better

I recommend the painting course but I’ll update my thoughts once I am further along. 

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