Symbolic Portraits

Class Includes Lifetime Access, Online Community, 6 Video Lessons & More!

6 Lessons – $72.25 $85.00

Portland artist Betsy Walton shares her process for creating her wonderful, whimsical and thoughtful portraits. Her work is built on symbols that have special meaning to her and she guides us though a process of exploration and discovery. This is a class that is personal but also filled with great acrylic painting techniques.

Now available as a self-study class.

TEACHER: Betsy Walton

Class Description

Symbolic Portraits
Teacher: Betsy Walton
Now available as a self-study class.

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In this class we will build poetic figurative paintings with open-ended narrative elements. During the first three lessons of sketchbook explorations, I will show you my warm up ritual and walk you through some exercises around symbolism, communicating mood and emotion with abstract elements, and developing a sketch for your painting. We will also play with mixing colors and make a beautiful color swatch reference piece… and you will draw your color inspiration from this in your final painting.

In the last three lessons we will  start by preparing your wood panel and then you will take your sketch to a final acrylic painting. I will share my typical process of building the painting in many different layers, each one becoming more detailed until the image is complete.

I hope you will join me!


Detail from above painting:

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Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Connect with your intuition and explore mood visually using colors and shapes
Learn a ritual for starting your work session. Use your sketchbook and colored pencils to visually explore emotions, moods, and big themes that resonate with you.  Review the list of symbols for future lessons.

Lesson 2 – Symbols Exploration
Pick an environment, a mood, some plants and animals to explore in your sketchbook. Draw from memory or references and research the symbolic meaning of each symbol (optional).

Lesson 3 – Adding the Figure & Color Mixing
Explore figurative drawing in your sketchbook. Consider using references and/or selfies. Think about using the figure’s poses, accessories, etc.  to reinforce the mood or narrative element you wish to convey. Practice mixing colors and make a sheet of swatches for yourself.

Lesson 4 – Composition & Structure
Prepare your panel for painting by sealing it and gessoing. Add some washes for background colors; pencil in the composition.

Lesson 5 – Paint the Big Shapes
Refine your composition as you go and think about elements and placements that you want to work towards.  Make changes as you go.

Lesson 6 – Details & Finishing Touches
Continue with smaller shapes, adding layers to make things more opaque or to add texture, and work towards high level of detail for the focal points of the composition.

Betsy Walton is a contemporary artist based in Portland, Oregon. She paints vivid habitats with richly layered textures and fine details, using Holbein Acryla, a hybrid acrylic and gouache paint that provides highly saturated colors with a matte finish. Walton’s imagery is inspired by microscopic natural phenomena, like the cellular structure of plants or molecules, motherhood, the weather, mindfulness practice, and printmaking techniques.

Betsy paints using both abstract and narrative elements as a method for describing a deeper layer of experience than might be possible with a photorealistic painting or a completely abstract painting.
She enjoys pairing contrasting visual elements together, for example, washy textures with sharp-edged geometric shapes. Neutral colors with saturated color and highly refined more realistic representations against simple forms that are suggested, stylized, or planes of flat color.



Please note! All supplies are suggestions and most can be substituted with materials you have on hand. Really!

General supplies:

Prismacolor colored pencils – this is a nice set but you could buy individual pencils or get a smaller set too.

– Sketchbook

– Ruler

– One 9″x12″ (or similar) sheet of Watercolor paper

– Disposable palette paper

11″x14″ wood panel

Golden GAC 100

– white gesso

– Acrylic paints. Any brand will work but I like Holbein Acryla Gouache colors: 1-2 of each: reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues. Sepia, Titanium white

big set
small set

… and/or buy by the tube if you want particular colors. I would look at neons and pastels if you want to invest more in these paints

– Brushes for priming your panel (larger is faster, and can be stiffer than the watercolor/acrylic

– Brushes of various sizes and shapes – acrylic & watercolor brushes are good, such as these or these.
Here is the liner brush I like to use.

Nuts & Bolts

– Lessons are instantly available upon signup.

– A private Facebook group and a Padlet group (for those not on FB) will be available for you to (optionally) share your artwork and enjoy and learn from the artwork of others. You may also email your teacher directly with questions or feedback.

– You will have indefinite access to this class.