Portrait painting from a photograph


In this online course we will use direct observation to build your portraiture skills. Portraits in the AGO Collection will also inspire unique approaches. We’ll explore painting elements such as gesture, composition and colour and experiment with a range of acrylic painting techniques to develop an awareness of line, volume and form to create your own portraits.

Every season, we offer projects inspired by artworks in the AGO Collection, including new acquisitions as well as special exhibitions where indicated. Instructors also develop personalized approaches to their teaching techniques focused on student interests and needs. Students are encouraged to discuss their learning goals with their instructor.

Terms and Conditions of Participation in Online Courses.

Please review the Terms & Conditions for course experience optimization. 

Participants must be 18 or older. 


Members Price
Public Price

Members Save on courses! Not a member? Join Today.


Thursdays, - | 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm (4 weeks)


Week 1: Introduction to course and materials. Blind continuous contour drawings; anatomy of the head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and body; monochrome painting using transparent and opaque paint.

Week 2: Colour theory review. Discussion of components of colour (hue, value, chroma); colour portrait - based on shared image. 

Week 3: Colour portrait beginning with a complimentary colour underpainting - based on a shared image.

Week 4: Portrait using glazing to increase depth in shadows and expand tonal range - based on shared image.


Acrylic paint: Any brand of your choice (for example Amsterdam standard series, 120 ml). Essential colours: ultramarine blue, primary yellow, primary red, titanium white, and burnt umber. 

Acrylic medium (not gel). Gloss or matte. 8 or 16 oz.

Brushes for acrylic paint: Long Handle, Hog hair or synthetic fibres, Filbert shape is ideal. 

  • Small Long Handle #2 or #3 (approximately ¼ inch width)  
  • Medium Long Handle #4 - #6 
  • Large Long Handle #10 - #12 (approximately ½ - ¾ inch width)
  • And 1 large flat 2 inch chip/utility/house painters brush

Surfaces: Choose a surface for the duration of the course

Option 1: Canson XL Mixed Media Pad 11 x 14 inch or 18 x 24 inch. Each sheet students will need to prime with gesso (student gesso, 16 oz.). 

OR Option 2: 4 stretched canvases or canvas panels 11 x 14 inch or 18 x 24 inch. 

OR Option 3: Canson Canva-paper pad 16 x 20 inch.

  • Palette: A flat stiff surface covered with wax paper or aluminum foil, a disposable palette pad, foam or plastic plates or trays (white is ideal).
  • Painting rag: cotton cloth, or paper towel
  • Water container: 450ml-750ml vessel that you will not use to drink from.
  • Pencil and scrap paper

These are the recommended materials for this course. All sizes are approximate. On your first day of class, your instructor may recommend additional optional materials. Our Instructor’s will do their best to accommodate alternative materials whenever possible. 




Art Education Policies - courses


Please read the following policies when you prepare your registration to AGO Education courses and camps.

  • Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis and is limited to space restrictions.
  • Advance registration is recommended for all programs.
  • Registration is confirmed only upon receipt of payment.
  • All registration is subject to availability.
  • All programs, prices and instructors are subject to change without notice.
  • The AGO has the right to remove students from classes. (remove if they are disruptive).

Withdrawals and Refunds


  • Refunds are available in full 5 days before the start of the first class, minus a $15 administration fee.
  • For all courses a withdrawal is allowed before the start of the second class, minus a $50 administration fee.
  • Withdrawals after the start of the second class are non-refundable.
  • One day workshops are non-refundable. 
  • Absence does not constitute a withdrawal.
  • Courses are not transferable.
  • Withdrawal requests must be done by email through the Contact Centre at contactus@ago.ca.

Cancellation of Classes

  • To ensure that we are able to run your preferred classes, we recommend that you enroll at least two weeks prior to the commencement of the program.
  • In the event of course cancellation, registrants will be notified 3 days prior to the scheduled commencement of the course and a full refund will be given.


The AGO is committed to providing a welcoming and accessible destination and workplace. We embrace the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity to serve our visitors, staff and volunteers, and our community at large.

Read about our Commitment to Accessibility, our Customer Service Policies for visitors with disabilities, and our Multi-Year Accessibility Plan.

Please let us know how we may assist you.


In consideration of those in the Gallery School who may have allergies and chemical sensitivities, please refrain from wearing cologne, perfume or other scented products.

Photography, Motion Picture, and Video Consent

Your registration ticket constitutes acknowledgement of willingness to appear in promotional photographs, motion pictures and videos taken in public areas of the Gallery and releases the Art Gallery of Ontario from liability resulting from use of such photographs, motion pictures or videos

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.