Virgil Elliott and Rita Romero

Virgil Elliott signing his book for me.

This last weekend I had the great pleasure of participating in Virgil Elliott’s portrait painting workshop in his art studio. It was a great opportunity to study with an artist who has been described as a “living master”.  Luckily, he lives in Penngrove, California, just north of San Francisco.  I was looking forward to improving my skills as both a portrait artist and in oil painting.

This man wrote the book on traditional oil painting -literally. Virgil was kind enough to sign my copy of his book Traditional Oil Painting: Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present. The book is an expertly written volume of classic art, with detailed descriptions of the techniques used by masters such as Rembrandt, Titian, etc. It’s a beautiful book, as well as a useful reference for artists or art aficionados.

His portrait painting workshop is the first one that I’ve ever heard of that emphasizes painting without solvents. We used only linseed oil to thin the paint, and canola oil to clean the brushes (followed by soap and water). This was certainly a revelation for me, and I was thrilled to get away from the fumes of turpentine.

During the three day workshop, we were also treated to a close up examination of several of his paintings, some of which appear in his book. Virgil described his painting process for each one, which was a worth the price of the workshop alone.

If you are interested in improving your painting, look for one of his workshops. You can check his website and blog at: