About my workshops

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My workshops are hands-on. Participants spend most of the time painting (or drawing). I give feedback to individual students, and sometimes switch to addressing the whole group when I think that a point will interest others as well (for instance how some famous artist would tackle your problem). There are no formal lectures.

My approach is non-directive. I explore with each person his or her style of working to see how it can be developed further. (Please bring along some examples of recent work – or high quality photographs of them – so that I can relate my input to your previous work).

Participants must supply their own paints and other materials (though easels and tables are provided). A list of materials needed is available here. A wide range of participants, ranging from beginners to established, award-winning artists, has found these workshops valuable.

Workshops usually last five days; if less, this is indicated in the title. I give most of them in my Stellenbosch studio, and some elsewhere. (Contact me if you would like to help me bring one of my workshops to your area).

Each course has a maximum of ten participants, so space  is limited.



  • “I learnt more in a week than I would normally learn in a year”
  • “Andries, thank you for your insightful, inspiring, erudite, humorous, anecdotal guidance!”
  • “Thank you for an insightful, productive, amazing, albeit challenging course.
    Thank you too for the generosity with which you share your knowledge and your very encouraging attitude and manner with your students.
    I always come away from your workshops feeling worthwhile, and with a great sense of gratitude to you and in a way, to myself. That I willingly extract myself from my regular, intense and hard paced life to focus on learning, not just the physical aspect of drawing and painting, but the knowledge you impart on all aspects of fine art, I see as an achievement and gift to myself.”
  • “Painting master Andries Gouws is unusually generous in sharing hard-won secrets of his craft; he also gives a good amount of feedback. He believes in painting from life, and he’s serious about colour – about getting it right to an insane level of perfection, with a restrained palette, without overdoing the brushwork. His spacious studio is well-stocked with rare art books that, given half a chance, he tips out for each student specifically, or he hauls up reams of reference from the internet, coming up with names I haven’t heard of and breath-taking images. He’ll steer your painting work away from your comfort rut, towards excelling inside new sets of limitations. If you want to move your painting skills up a level, book a place on one of his courses – before he inevitably reverts to focusing all of his time on his own remarkable work.”
  • “By creating boundaries to work within, Andries gently encourages your own natural process/style of painting and enhances it by bestowing his vast knowledge of the great masters, materials one uses and art. Much gratitude to him. I highly recommend a workshop with him”
  • “In its focus on hands-on painting issues it formed an excellent complement to my art studies through UNISA”
  • “It resolved the ‘hump’ of colour that has bothered me for years”
  • “What I expected was to be shaken from my comfort zone, which did indeed happen. My further expectation to learn more about mixing colour, was exceeded too. And with Andries’ succinct words my past work was a given critical look that was most encouraging. I can highly recommend this workshop.”
  • “I found your analogies using food or music very helpful. Also enjoyed your input on what makes a good or not so good painting”.




The specific focus of these workshops is the use of colour, and how that interacts with tonality (light and dark). To explore mixing colour I recommend using a very limited palette and exploiting its possibilities to the hilt. This simplifies the problem of mixing colours, thereby making it less daunting.

In these workshops we explore a few three colour palettes (plus white). Examples are: Raw sienna, magenta, viridian; Raw sienna, burnt umber, viridian. Raw sienna, indian red, indigo. Using such a limited palette initially feels like painting with one hand tied behind your back. But with time it becomes clear that even with such a confined palette an enormous range of colour possibilities remains. It also helps us to avoid garishness and discover the riches of muted colours.

If you’ve done this workshop previously, you can do another one as an advanced colour workshop devoted to limited palettes you haven’t used yet, such as

  • black/ochre/indian red
  • burnt umber/ochre/viridian
  • any three colour palette applied to a ground of wet grey paint
  • a four-colour palette consisting of yellow/cyan/magenta PLUS BLACK (the 4 colours in your colour printer).



This is basically the same as the colour workshop described above, which I give in South Africa and Australia, but now moved to the magic setting of Molyvos, a world heritage site on the Greek island of Lesbos. Douw Steyn and Frederik de Jager of The Talking Table contribute to making this experience unforgettable by presiding over fantastic conversations and dishing up their superb food. Talk to them and Andries (Hellenophiles all) about the music, culture, language, poetry, history and food of Greece, and Lesbos in particular.

For more info, click here.

To book for the Lesbos workshop email info@thetalkingtable.com





Because many of the issues here do not relate specifically to colour, this workshop includes quite a bit of drawing. (Some people even choose to stick to drawing, and not do any painting at all during this workshop).

As always, I don’t impose my own vision of how one should paint, but respond to each person’s individual way of working. 

However, we also attend to some issues which create difficulties for many people. These include:

  • Mastering tonality.
  • Capturing three dimensionality. I’ll discuss the classical approach to the volumes of the body, found for instance in most classical Greek sculpture. (Conceiving the face and body as consisting entirely of convex shapes). 
  • Common errors or problems such as:
    • Misunderstanding the shape of: the skull, eyes and eyebrows, nose, mouth; the neck and how it relates to the spine. (We tend to separate the thing named from the whole of which it is a part, perhaps because we have separate words for “nose”, “mouth”, “neck”, etc.. Another problem is the tendency to think of the front, sides and back of the head and body as flat, rather than curved surfaces which go from front to side to back without any abrupt transitions)
    • Mismatch between
    • … how one paints the hair and how one paints the rest
    • … how one paints the face and how one paints the body (or clothes)
    • … how one paints the face and body, and how one paints ‘the background’.

There will be live models (included in course fee); where possible alternating between male and female. On the first days we use a clothed model, focusing on the face (though participants need not limit themselves to the face, neck and shoulders). On the ret of the course we use a nude model.



In this workshop you can work in whichever way you want, on new or existing paintings, to enlist my help in addressing whatever problems or issues you wish.

The constraints of my colour workshops don’t apply here – I don’t insist on

  • a three colour palette
  • working from life
  • working in a representational way
  • a small scale for your paintings.
  • working in oils, you don’t even have to paint.

(though all these options are also available if you want to use them).

Instead, you use the workshop to continue a work-in-progress painting, or a project you already have in mind.

  • If you feel stuck, we can try various strategies to get you unstuck.
  • If something bothers you in your painting[s], we can try and pinpoint what it is, discuss it, and then look for solutions.
  • We’ll discuss glazes and cropping as two useful strategies to save a work – plus the question of when it is best to abandon a work altogether.
  • (Optional) If you can notify me in advance what you want to work on, what issues you want to address, etc., I’ll be in a better position to advise you how to prepare and what to bring with you to the workshop.
  • If you use photographs, it is safest to bring very good colour prints or hi-res, high quality digital photographs on a laptop or tablet (such as an iPad).



In its focus on abstraction, this workshop differs from most of my other workshops, which involve working figuratively, and from observation.

  • This is not because of any dogma that observation is the only route to good art, but mainly as a way to learn, and because I think one can always do a lot worse than working from observation.
  • In the past I was an abstract artist myself. I abandoned it, because it didn’t work for me – not because I think it is wrong (for everybody)

In the practical side of this workshop you will work on abstract paintings, continuing the sort of work you were already making, or in response to assignments formulated by me. (You will always be able to choose between more than one assignment).

  • This practical work will be interspersed and intertwined with discussions to help us get clear about what one is doing when one makes abstract art, with all its possibilities and pitfalls.
  • I think that it is easier to be good naïve figurative painter than a good naïve abstract painter. So in abstract art it is more important to have a clear idea of what you are doing.
  • We discuss many examples of abstract painting, to see what we can learn from the successes and failures of others.
  • We also look at the reasons people started making abstract art, as well as some abstract artists’ reasons for returning to figurative work.
  • One argument for abstract art was that the great art of the past was actually made great not by what it depicted, but by its ‘purely formal qualities’ of line, shape, etc. “Painting has always essentially just been a distribution of lines, colours and shapes on a plane, and abstract art just abandons the pretence that it is anything else, so that the artist and viewer can occupy themselves with the essence of painting, unencumbered by extraneous things such as subject matter”.
  • Our perceptual system is made to pick out things that interest us (such as dangers, things to eat, people to befriend or court, spaces to walk through, etc.). In an abstract artwork these sources of interest tend to be absent. What lessons can we draw from this?
  • Is meaning possible in abstract art, and if so, how? What are the limitations on meaning?
  • Abstract art is also sometimes compared with music, which moves us and conveys meaning even when lyrics or a descriptive title are absent. How convincing or useful is this comparison?
  • How does abstraction relate to beautiful/interesting things which do not depict anything, such as architecture, pottery, furniture, book design?
  • We discuss ways to move beyond the predictable patterns into which much abstract art by inexperienced artists falls.
  • I will make quite a lot of the contrast between what I’ll call ‘constrained’ and ‘free form’ abstraction (there are a lot of intermediate forms). In the former the parameters within which the painting will fall, are strictly defined. An example is Mondrian. He made many paintings which obey the following parameters (which I obviously only mention as examples):
    • Colour: Black, white, yellow, blue, red.
    • Line: Straight lines only; either vertical or horizontal.
    • Execution: machinelike – edges are sharp; optical and tactile texture is avoided.
      (The constraints can also relate to the process, such as Pollock making paintings by swinging paint tins with holes in them above the canvas, or other artists letting certain choices be ruled by chance).
  • Typical examples of ‘free form’ abstraction are Kandinsky, many abstract expressionist paintings (USA; Cobra group), Arikha in his abstract period.
  • If free form abstraction doesn’t work well for you, perhaps a more constrained form of abstraction will. (And vice versa).

I invite you to bring along (printed, or in digital format) ten images of abstract art that you really like (and five of abstract art you dislike).

For this workshop feel free to bring along and use whatever media you prefer: any drawing tool; painting using any type of paint; collage, etc.



In response to numerous requests I will now be offering a 5 day workshop entirely devoted to composition – too big an issue on its own to fit into any of my other workshops as a component.

There is no one right way to approach composition. In the workshop we

  • discuss famous art works that demonstrate a number of different approaches to – or aspects of – composition, and
  • try out a number of such approaches ourselves.

We cover topics such as the following:

  • Verticals and horizontals, versus diagonals.
  • Straight lines vs. everything else
  • Euclidean shapes (squares, circles, triangles, etc., as well as regular Western fonts) vs fractal shapes (clouds, mountains, waves, as well as Chinese characters made with a brush)
  • Using a small number of shapes/objects, in which shape is more important than rhythm, vs. complex compositions in which rhythm is more important than shape.
  • Static versus dynamic compositions.
  • Symmetry, asymmetry and almost-symmetry.
  • Pictorial depth versus an emphasis on the two dimensionality of the surface.
  • Modular composition, for instance one based on the golden ratio.
  • Using chance as a compositional device.
  • Cropping as a compositional device (applied to either existing paintings of yours, or to photographs)
  • Differences between the process of composition for figurative and abstract painting.
  • The virtues of not thinking in terms of composition at all!

I will send out information to participants about what to bring along as topics for compositions (this could be drawings, photographs, painted sketches, etc.) and what materials to bring along. (I will supply some of the material myself). It will be a great advantage if you can bring a laptop or tablet to work on.



Dates of upcoming workshops, & registration form

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