Adam Clague Teaches How to Get Loose at NOAPS Workshop, by Dale Wolf

NOAPS Adam Clague

Artist Adam Clague

To those of us of wizened age, Adam may look young (actually at 34 he is young to have hit stride at such a high level of excellence because he paints crazy-good).  His brush just rolls across the canvas, with solid, confident strokes. You won’t find him dapping or fussing as he interprets the figure in front of him. He will tell you that at one point in his early art classes he was driven by perfection. He could do realism. It’s just that realism wasn’t what he wanted. Breaking the realism habit was hard, but now he teaches others how to do loose paintings that still impart what the figure looks like—only with a style that makes him happy and his clients even happier.

It happened here in Cincinnati when he led a class of about 11 portrait painters from the National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society.  NOAPS held their  annual meeting in the Mariemont suburb of Cincinnati and their national juried Best of America show was held at Eisele Fine Art Gallery to conclude their five-day meeting.

Adam was a major part of this show. He was the judge who had to evaluate over a hundred stunning paintings hanging at Eisele to determine the award winners.

Adam also ran NOAPS’ two and one-half day portrait workshop held at the Women’s Art Club. He opened with a prayer circle seeking wisdom and guidance for each attendee to achieve the improvement they sought, followed by a talk about his approach to painting the human figure and then a demo that illustrated his technique and talents.

NOAPS Adam & Nancy Haley

Adam with workshop participant Nancy Haley.

After Adam’s demo, the class went to work for three consecutive half-day sessions, working with live models.

Adam taught along his own “five fundamentals” of drawing:  value, color, edges, temperature, plus the big bonus—composition. With 2 model set-ups and 11 students, Adam worked to take each student to the next level, pushing for improvement over the three sessions. He studied each painting and then pointed out a few areas where the student could achieve a better capture of the model. He stressed that the drawing had to be as good as possible and sat down on each student’s chair to measure off the key distances, such as distance from tear duct to chin compared to tear duct to top of skull. These careful measurements assure that all facial elements will be in proportion to one another before color is added to the drawing.

NOAPS Adam with Michelle's Portrait   NOAPS Catherine Marchand

Pictured left to right: Adam helps with student work; Catherine Marchand working on her portrait.

Adam cautions, “Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it more of an impression of what you see. Leave the viewer with some things to figure out on their own and they will become more involved in your painting.”

As he crossed the room, his individual tutorials encompassed a breadth of painterly issues:

“Use broad brush strokes and get this edge along the cheekbone established.”

“You could use more chroma where the blood is closer to the cheeks”

“Use a bigger brush. Here, this one is just about right. Get the right value of paint on it and touch it on the face just where it is needed and pull the brush away. Don’t fuss it.”

“Roll the color along this edge. Edges are where the excitement happens”

“Establish your darkest and lightest spots and then work toward them.”

“Don’t lose those key values as you move along. They add life to the figure.”

“With a white beard, it is generally darker than you realize and it is in these areas that you establish the darker values. We need to find these darker areas to create the dimensional shapes within the beard.”

“Just a few things to consider here because your drawing is good but look at that shadow under the chin … if you get that established more strongly you will know where the bottom of the face is and that will begin to hold all the other shapes in relation to one another.”

All of Adam’s students emerged from the workshop with fresh enthusiasm and some real nuggets of wisdom.  Adam Clague is definitely an artist to watch.


Adam Clague will have an on-line course in painting available in 2019 for all levels of artists.  This on-line course can be taken at several different levels with individualized instruction, and can be done from the convenience of home.  To see more of Adam’s work, visit

Thank you to Dale Wolf, artist, author, and NOAPS member.  Dale is also a member of the Cincinnati Art Club.

Edited by Patricia Tribastone, NOAPS Blog Director

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