Phil Sylvester

Phil Sylvester

The Drawing Studio


Expressive Drawing and Painting Classes for Adults

Phil Sylvester’s teaching is based upon building a student’s comfort with observation, experimentation, and invention. Exercises helps students suspend the critical voice so they can build an experience base by trying things rather than by judging things. Paradoxically, the less one worries about the success of one’s work, the more work one can create and the faster one learns. Also, with the critical monkey off one’s back, learning becomes way more fun.

Drawing Studio classes are for anyone interested in drawing and painting, from absolute beginners to experienced artists searching for greater freedom and joy in their work. Because Phil’s teaching method is quite different from the typical academic approach, all students, regardless of experience, are encouraged to start with Phil’s Introduction to Drawing class.




3614 SE Division Portland Oregon 97202


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Inro to Drawing

For absolute beginners and for experienced drawers who haven't taken from Phil before. Emphasis is placed equally on seeing and expression, description and the pleasure of making. Exercises break down students’ preconceptions about how drawings come about, so that drawing becomes a matter of truly human scale exploration and experimentation, rather than the product of giant leaps of talent and inspiration. We work from photos, reproductions of other artworks, the mirror, and the human figure, using graphite, charcoal, and pen. Just as we all learn to speak, walk, and eat, I believe we are all capable of drawing. As your teacher, my job is to clear away the impediments that keep you from exploiting this natural potential.

Experienced drawers who take Intro as a prerequisite for other Drawing Studio classes will find that the class will rekindle their love of drawing and will help them work in more experimental and expressive ways.

Intermediate, The Figure

This intermediate class focuses on the figure. Students may paint or draw. There will be models nearly every session. Exercises will challenge preconceptions about how to approach the figure and will encourage experimentation and expression. Typically, Phil will present specific exercises in the first hour, while students will have more autonomy in hours two and three.

Phil’s Intro to Drawing class is a prerequisite and painters need to have taken Phil’s Intro to Painting. In hours two and three, the model is considered a resource rather than an obligation, so students who want to take a break from the figure are welcome to work from other subject matter. 

Beginning and Intermediate Painting

An introduction to acrylic paints. Just as in drawing, what slows down beginning painters is preconceptions about how paintings come about. Class exercises will suspend those preconceptions, encouraging new painters to experiment with acrylics very broadly. In the end, new painters will begin to experience the true potential of paint, rather than forcing the paint to illustrate preconceived ideas. More experienced painters are encouraged to follow or ignore the exercises, whichever serves their momentum best on a given night. Experienced painters can also work on longer term projects, one on one, with Phil. First time Drawing Studio students should take Intro to Drawing before taking Painting, regardless of previous experience.

About Phil


Phil Sylvester has been making art for over 40 years. He has exhibited drawings, paintings, sculptures, guitars, and amplifiers in the US, Canada, and Europe, and has work in collections in LA, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and London. His work has been featured in Poetry Northwest magazine and Premier Guitar magazine, on OPB’s Oregon Art Beat, and on many sites on the web. In the 1980s, he was Director of Academic Affairs at Oregon School of Design. In the 1990s he taught at Lewis and Clark College and did creativity workshops for Nike, as well as a number of other national corporations. Phil has a BA in mathematics from Reed College, a Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University, and studied at Berklee College of Music. Phil founded his own school, The Drawing Studio, in 1990.