Available Classes

Basic Techniques for Furniture Painting
Core Classes
Prerequisite: Open to all

Thursdays, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Begins April 4, 8 sessions

$650.00 plus bench fee

Required for all students, this is the foundational training for all subsequent courses at the Isabel O’Neil Studio. Students learn techniques including surface preparation, paint application, antiquing, waxing, and varnishing on practice boards and execute them on a small piece of furniture, commonly a chair or table.

By the end of the course the apprentice has rendered an expertly-painted piece of furniture, its best features carefully accented, and its surface enhanced with the patina of gentle aging. Most importantly, an awareness of the discipline of craftsmanship and a keen appreciation for detail has been fostered. 

Prerequisite: Gilding

Fridays, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Begins January 12, 5 sessions
Begins February 16, 5 sessions

$350.00 plus bench fee

Finish a piece or begin something new. This is a flexible course. Purchase five sessions which can be used throughout the ten session term. No need to attend consecutive weeks.

Class Catalog

Full List of Classes Offered
at The Isabel O’Neil Studio Workshop
Core Classes
Basic Techniques for Furniture Painting

Required for all students, this is the foundational training for all subsequent courses at the Isabel O’Neil Studio. Students learn techniques including surface preparation, paint application, antiquing, waxing, and varnishing on practice boards and execute them on a small piece of furniture, commonly a chair or table.

By the end of the course the apprentice has rendered an expertly-painted piece of furniture, its best features carefully accented, and its surface enhanced with the patina of gentle aging. Most importantly, an awareness of the discipline of craftsmanship and a keen appreciation for detail has been fostered. 


Students learn surface preparation for matte gilding and receive an introduction to gilders’ tools and techniques for laying leaf on both flat and carved surfaces. A variety of patinations are explored. Students complete a flat frame, two carved objects of their choice, and a board that is required for the Design Techniques class. Students utilize precious metal leaf, aluminum, and Dutch metal.


Students learn to develop a decorative design composition after gaining the understanding of fundamental principles of design including shape, balance, positive-negative space, and color relationships. Students learn to scale and transfer a design and develop a border pattern. Using the palette of Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808), the artisan learns to shade and practices brush stroke technique. Students complete a painted composition on a panel. 


Color theory and paint mixing using Japan pigments are explored. Students paint reference charts demonstrating chromatic intensity, tonal value, color wheel relationships, and explore a wide range of neutral hues with subtle tints. Students practice pigment mixing and gain confidence in matching or creating their own custom paint colors.


Students learn the characteristics of both water and oil-based finishes. Wet sanding and polishing techniques are demonstrated and practiced so the artisans gain confidence in finishing their work with the appropriate level of protection and polish for matte, satin, and gloss finishes.

Journeyman Classes

After completing Basic, Gilding, Varnish & Polish, Design Techniques, and Color the student proceeds to the groups of courses listed below. Within each group the classes may be taken in any order. Each group must be completed before beginning the next group.


Group II

Students learn the techniques of painting a scumble, wet and dry floats, and veining to achieve an enhanced, flowing, natural impression of several classic and much-admired natural marbles. One project is rendered in a marble finish, and a variety of sample boards are created for the student’s future reference. 


Group I

During this course, students are instructed on a range of physical and surface finish distressing techniques that give the impression of age and use. Students complete a small piece of furniture, applying their own unique design, and finish with an antique patina and wax.


Group I

Students learn a variety of glaze applications and manipulation techniques, including enriching opaque base colors to create the illusion of depth with translucent overglazes. Students create a unique and appropriate design on a small piece of their choice.


Group II

Students apply their sophisticated understanding of color and design to a casein gesso-like base to emulate 18th Century Venetian and Florentine furniture. A piece of furniture is finished with an appropriately decorative design. An additional gilded and carved piece is gracefully aged with a bloom of dusty casein to finish.


Group II

During this course, students render four small pieces: one with a European lacquer achieved through multiple glazes and a decorative pattern on its surface; an eggshell inlay to approximate a micro-mosaic with a satin-smooth finish; a 14th Century-style Negoro Nuri with a revealed black base under a worn deep red or golden lacquer; and a faux ivory objet d’art approximating a rare treasure. 


Group II

Students finish two decorative trays in this class. Motifs rendered in “Poor Man’s Gold” are shaded in a range of yellow ochre Japan Colors. A more elaborate tray is executed in 22k gold motifs and shaded with artist oils to achieve depth and detail.


Group III

Four objects are rendered in the five mineral finishes: Chinese and Florentine lapis lazuli, yellow poppy jasper, black tigerite, and golden tigerite.


Group III

Two objects are finished in the panel inlay technique typical of the tortoise motif. Two colorations are taught: tawny and amber tortoise. Techniques for creating the impression of ivory and pewter stringing finish out this course in fantasy finishes.

Advanced Classes

To enroll in advanced courses, students must successfully complete Journeyman courses or be given teacher approval to advance.


This class looks at the fantasy techniques of Argent D’Ore and Renaissance tortoise. An imitation of the tortoise inlay work of the master cabinet maker André-Charles Boulle is taught. He created brilliant effects by layering the transparent tortoise shell over red-purple and blue-green stained woods. 


Textured materials and glazes are used to render an imitation of shark skin.


Glazing techniques are used to create facsimiles of Carnelian and Turquoise.


Curvilinear and geometric inlay designs will be rendered within all previously learned wood finishes. Additionally, zebrawood, kingwood, macassar ebony, rosewood, tulipwood, and crotch mahogany are taught. Prerequisite: Faux Bois.


Students use water-based paints to create simulations of marble and minerals inlayed into intricate geometric patterns and designs. Instruction on granite and fossiliferous finishes will also be included.  


This class teaches how to render the detailed quality, depth, and color saturation of malachite gemstones. An additional fantasy interpretation of the mineral is rendered with glazing techniques.


This class teaches imitations of ribbon and plume satinwood, olivewood, straight grain walnut, walnut burl, and bird’s eye maple.


Students learn about the European interpretation of Asian designs gilded on black, red, and Coromandel faux lacquer backgrounds.


Students learn about the European adaptations of Asian techniques including Mokume, Nashi-ji, and Golden Grain lacquer.


Practiced for centuries, this is the ultimate traditional gilded finish. Students learn the techniques for preparing a surface with gesso and clay bole. Gold is then applied and burnished with polished agate tools to achieve a surface with a warm, rich glow. 


(Occasionally Offered)


This class provides a different approach to Marquetry design by using Min-wax stains to delineate and shade the inlay.


Come explore and recreate with paint and pen the historical method of inlaying intricately embellished ivory into a rosewood base. 


Finish a piece or begin something new. This is a flexible course. Purchase five sessions which can be used throughout the ten session term. No need to attend consecutive weeks.


Using water-based interference paints, students learn blending and application techniques that yield the subtle color shifts in Tiffany’s Favrile glass. Decorative floral motifs from this specific period of art glass are also developed.


Prerequisite: Faux Minerals

The artisan is taught painting techniques to imitate “pictures in hardstone” that became popular in Florentine workshops of the Renaissance. The traditional inlay designs featured multiple-colored stones in complex floral designs or landscapes with patterned borders.


Students are taught methods and materials for creating these very practical, personal, and decorative floor coverings. Students create their own painted floorcloth in water-based materials. 


Students will acquire mastery in the manipulation of line to create designs. The proper maintenance and handling of a Rapidograph pen will be taught.


This captivating workshop is suitable for all. Participants learn the basics of creating colorful, decorative, and personalized papers for stationery, gift wraps, and other imaginative uses. This course rewards artistic experimentation.


Create the vibrant, iridescent interior of this shallow ear-shaped seashell. The concentric rings are reminders of ocean waves.


This short workshop introduces students to scumbles and veining. Practice boards will be used throughout the workshop. (This is not a curriculum class.)


Fantasy horn will be created with glazes and powders. The paint will be manipulated with a whisk to emulate the horn markings.


In this workshop learn to finish the interior of your box with an interesting paper. This technique also works for drawers.


Walnut Burl will be rendered in the manner of 18th Century artisans. At that time, the imitation of the actual wood was merely suggested and free-flowing. The resulting effects will be decorative rather than purely imitative. Plus other country graining methods will be taught.

The Guild System

One definition of guild is, “an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.” Inclusivity and cooperation are paramount to the success of the Isabel O’Neil Studio. 


The curriculum at the Studio follows the traditional European guild system, wherein master teachers share knowledge with apprentice students who follow a Journeyman sequence of classes designed to build skills, understanding, confidence, and eventually lead them to teaching. Courses meet once per week in the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms. Some courses are also offered in the summer. Students may pursue a Journeyman or Master certificate or simply enroll in workshops and electives at their leisure for the pure pleasure of painting. 


All students begin with Basic Techniques for Furniture Painting. No prior study or experience is required. With step-by-step guidance from their artisan-teacher, students are introduced to Studio methodology. At the end of this course, students will have acquired skills in surface preparation, painting, finishing, and have knowledge of professional work habits. Students walk away from this course having created an expertly-rendered piece of furniture in a custom color with accentuated features and a patination of gentle age.


After completing Basic Techniques for Furniture Painting, all other courses are required to be taken sequentially as each builds upon the skills and techniques learned in previous courses. The Basic Techniques course is followed by further foundational Core classes: Gilding, Color, Design Techniques, and Varnish & Polish. Following the Core group of classes, there are three distinct groups of Journeyman courses: I, II, and III (see Class Catalog). Within each group, classes can be taken in any order, but each group must be completed before beginning the next sequence. The classes are broken into categories of painted finishes so the student can learn the specific characteristics of each form and understand the techniques and structural purpose for the sequence of application in order to achieve the desired result. Students are then prepared to proceed to the next group. 





Students who have completed the Journeyman course sequence may prepare for a Journeyman Certificate under the guidance of a selected mentor. A selection of completed pieces from the Journeyman classes that meet Studio standards and have been approved by the applicant’s teachers are prepared for the following year’s Fall Vernissage, the Studio’s annual student exhibition. 

An applicant must also complete an independent project and have been a teacher’s assistant in two courses, preferably in training to teach. This assures the Studio’s continued lineage. The Journeyman Certificate thereby distinguishes an artisan who has completed the academic requirements of a sequence of courses, produced a body of exceptional work, and who is committed to the traditions of the Isabel O’Neil Studio. Upon successful completion of these requirements, the student is awarded the Isabel O’Neil Studio Journeyman silver medallion.





Artisans who have completed every course offered by the Studio over a period of several years are invited to apply for a Master Certificate. Students must excel in their coursework and have served in a volunteer capacity as an assistant and teacher, support the Studio in other volunteer capacities, and create a new finish and its presentation under the guidance of a Studio mentor. Students display their independent project featuring their unique finish at the annual Fall Vernissage exhibit, where they are awarded the Isabel O’Neil Studio Master gold medallion.




Our teachers

The Studio’s founder and namesake, Isabel O’Neil, was foremost a dedicated teacher. She wrote extensively on the value of teaching. Many of our beloved Master teachers today once knew and studied under Isabel, assimilating the ethos and respect for the art and the skills necessary to execute expertly-painted finishes.


Master teachers began as apprentices and progressed through a full Journeyman curriculum, eventually developing their own unique finishes. The Studio is now cultivating a second and third generation of teachers who are enthusiastic and dedicated to continuing the lineage in the tradition of the European guild system.


How do I register?
You may register through the website, by email or over the phone.
When do I pay?
Full tuition payment is required to register for the Basic Techniques for Furniture Painting class. A 50% deposit is required for all other classes. The tuition balance is due the first day of class.
Are there additional costs for supplies?
Depending on the class, a bench fee may be charged to cover the cost of paint and consumables. Additional fees for specific brushes and tools will vary by course, but diminish significantly after the initial purchase of brushes for Basic and Gilding courses. As students progress in the curriculum, they purchase fewer brushes and tools as they acquire their own inventory and stock their own personal brush bag. Some classes require that students bring their own chosen objects to paint. This is detailed in the class directives upon registration.
How do I pay?
Accepted forms of payment are check, Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
What is the Studio Cancellation Policy?
To receive a full tuition refund, cancellations must be received 15 days prior to the first class session. Cancellations with less than 15 days notice will result in a forfeiture of the deposit or the student may transfer to another class. Transfer requests made with less than 15 days notice will be subject to a $75 fee; no refunds will be made on transferred deposits. In the event that the Studio must cancel a course, students may transfer to another available course or receive a refund. The Studio reserves the right to cancel any class for which there is insufficient enrollment, modify course offerings and class size, and limit enrollment to those it believes capable of completing the course satisfactorily.
May I take a class out of sequence?
We don’t advise students to take classes out of order as the classes build upon skills learned in previous courses. The Class Catalog notes a few classes that may be taken out of sequence.
Do I need an artistic background to be successful in the program?
Each painted finish is broken down into a series of elemental steps that anyone can follow to achieve success. The steps do not require artistic ability. Gradually a student will learn to see the work through discerning eyes and observe opportunities for personal expression. This is when craft transforms into art.
Will the Studio be closed for holidays?
Classes will be scheduled around common holidays.
Do you offer scholarships?
Yes, a limited number of scholarships are offered each year. Please call or email the Studio to inquire.
What should I bring to the first class?
Upon registration a student will receive the class directive with instructions. This will include information about required supplies and the objects students will be required to bring to the first class. The Studio sells required brushes on site and for most classes, students can receive consumables for a modest bench fee. The teacher reserves the right to approve or reject objects to be painted based on their size or suitability for the course. An artist’s smock or apron and comfortable shoes are strongly encouraged. Please keep in mind that students will be working with paints that can stain clothing.
Is work required outside of class time?
Some classes require small homework commitments.
What if I must miss a class?
Students may speak with their teacher to discuss individual needs; accommodations will be made upon the teacher’s discretion.
What are the class sizes?
Classes will be limited in size, with most classes capped at six students.
May I reach out to the instructor during the program?
Most instructors make themselves available to students throughout the term for student questions. This is at the individual teacher’s discretion.
What kind of paints are used?
Traditional formulas used oil-based paints. We use both oil and water-based paints at the Studio but are transitioning more of our finishes to water-based formulas.
Can a student enroll in the program and choose not to progress to a Journeyman or Master Certificate?
Yes. Individuals are encouraged to enroll for the sheer pleasure of painting and learning something new at their own pace.