About the Academy


The Realist Academy Walton Hall was established due to a demand for a traditional academic approach to drawing and painting in the North West.

At present the school will be teaching the fundamentals of Portrait Drawing and Painting. The Academy offers a number of different approaches both traditional and modern. We aim to create a balanced technique of careful time-tested methods from both the traditional and Illustration schools. RAW provides amateur and professional artists with an opportunity to perfect their skills. Through a practical understanding of the materials and methods taught, students will cultivate the means to describe reality with an articulate visual language.

Louis Smith is the principle teacher, he is a classically trained portrait painter, studying in Florence for three years. He has been shortlisted for a number of art prizes such as the BP Portrait Award and Threadneedle Prize, read more…

The Academic Process


The Academic approach is a simple logical step by step process. Anybody can learn it, the only difference is vision, some people have a stronger desire to realise their vision which means they are willing to do what it takes until they get what they want.
Being good at art is not a god given gift. It takes constant repetition to become a natural. Something overlooked by many artists wanting to jump straight into expressing themselves which tends to end up with some frustrated results. The course may seem long-winded but in the end the results are worth it.

Why we are different


Most mainstream art courses taught in adult or higher education believe in contemporary art methods which encourages self learning.
Contemporary art theory believes the path to meaningful art somehow arises naturally from within the human spirit and any influence from the outside will somehow contaminate the purity of the inner process. All that is necessary is to encourage the force from within and the rest will take care of itself.
The Traditional Method believes that by building on the knowledge that came before us, the artist is able to develop a profound understanding of the visual world and use that knowledge to express themselves in any direction they choose.
The question is how strong is the persons inner creativity if it is crushed by knowledge.

Why the Academy


The principles taught on this course are the foundation of traditional art techniques. Even if you just learn the basics, you will see an improvement in your work.
Whether you are a beginner or experienced artist you may have gleamed your skills from a variety of different sources. The danger is that you may have learned some bad habits and could be making the same mistakes for years to come.
Having the right tuition is key to acquiring the right habits that will result with a confident approach in the future.


The Course

This is  a structured course designed to teach you the skills you will need to take on the challenges of portrait painting.
The course runs over a 2 year period, during which you’ll attend 36 day classes per year, 12 classes per term, 1 class per week with 4 hours independent study if you can afford the time.
This is quite an intensive course, designed to work around family and work commitments. It requires 30 minutes to be set aside everyday to practice the assignments.

We will help you to develop some new healthy working habits that will keep you heading in the right direction towards your artistic goals. If you apply yourself throughout this course and practice the exercises in each lesson you will have the confidence to take on the visual challenges that a portrait artist faces.

Group and Independent Study

The beauty of  learning in a school environment is that it’s a place to connect with your peers, to share ideas and support each others efforts. Everybody has a wealth of knowledge to share and I personally have had some invaluable information passed on from my students.

At some point artists will be working in their own time, so its important to encourage independent study from the start of the course. Self-reliance is key to building up the confidence to producing your work. The techniques taught in each class require constant practice until they become second nature.

Practical exercise lie at the heart of the course, every two weeks you’ll be presented with a new concept demonstrated by Louis Smith who has a hands on approach and the knowledge to help out anybody in difficulty.
At the start of every lesson students will receive feed back on the previous weeks homework helping the student with any areas that need to be worked on.


Every artist has a vision. The course offers the technical skills to realise your creative potential. It all starts with improving your drawing skills which is essential to your progress as a portrait painter. As a technical painting school we use a variety of resources proven from both traditional and modern methods. Hopefully you will take them on board but at the end of the day it’s what works for you and what your’re willing to pursue as part of your ongoing personal development.


Painting takes courage, the fear of making mistakes can be a debilitating affliction when we put too much pressure on ourselves to get it right. Perfectionism will crush any enjoyment you have for painting.
Tight photo realistic painting is not what we are teaching its more about suggestion, less is more. We want to encourage a fluid, loose way of working which will help people find the results they are looking for.


This may sound counter intuitive but in order to express ourselves we need discipline. The discipline to practice these techniques until they become second nature. Do you think Jimmy Hendrix just picked up a guitar and expressed himself with complete abandon? It took years of practice to get to that point.

Master Copy

One of the quickest ways to develop your own style is to imitate other artists. Emulating the vocabulary they used to describe the features of the face helps to develop our own individual expression. By the end of the course you will have the tools and resources to continue on your own with the confidence to approach a portrait painting with a mixture of bravado and sensitivity.

I found the tutor (Louis Smith) to be a brilliant teacher; this, on the basis that he clearly explained the methods he taught (most were backed up by live painting demonstrations or an example). Throughout the course I had numerous questions and thoughts, all of which he never failed to fulfil. He also gave time to each student throughout the course offering expertise and recommendations.

K S Bell

Louis is a highly talented artist who is willing to teach anyone the techniques and processes of how to create amazing portraits. With his help I was amazed at what I could achieve and know that this was down to Louis’s expert guidance and that I couldn’t have done it without it.

David Ashton