Foundations I

Learn expressive portraiture through a variety of mediums

Foundations is about materials; dry, wet, soft and rough. We sometimes forget that it’s the tactile experience that once gave us the joy to create. This course lets you get (re)acquainted with charcoal, pastel, paint and mediums through a series of portraits that express what you want to say.

This course now is self-paced! That means you can start immediately after completing your purchase. Support and feedback is available through the private Facebook group. See you there!

Would you like to...

Did you ever really take the time to see how a certain material feels? In your hand, on your paper, under the pressure of your finger? Very often, we jump straight to the practical application of a material; how to create values, how to mix or blend. But what about getting to know your material first?

This course is about just that: exploring materials and how you feel about them. Playing around with them, until you get an idea. Being a portrait lover, that is usually the idea that comes to my mind. I’d like to take you along the process of the portraits that I created, with these materials. To show you how you can apply them, and what possibilities there are for you.

project one / exploring charcoal
project one / exploring charcoal
project one / exploring charcoal
project two / exploring pastel
project two / exploring pastel
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project three / exploring acrylic paint
project three / exploring acrylic paint
project four / exploring mixed media
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Next slide

You may think: “but I don’t know how to create portraits?!”. And that’s fine. (although I can very much relate to your question!) This course is not about learning to create the perfect portrait. It’s about learning to get comfortable with a variety of materials through the process of creating a portrait.

You can learn in many different ways; by painting an apple, a still life, a landscape. But you’re here, and that means that you and I probably share a love for the human face. I believe learning anything through the thing you love most, is a much more rewarding and fulfilling process, and I hope you will join me!

Much love,


In this course you'll find...

What other students are saying...

Sharon Sieben@sharon.sieben
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Sabra's courses are, without a doubt, the best!!! Her methods of teaching are stimulating, well thought out and can apply to whatever painting projects I create. I paint figurative and portrait subjects and often go back to a lesson when I want to repeat a project using a different palette. Really looking forward to the next lesson!!!
Josephine Coyle@josephined.coyle
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Sabra is gifted artistically and an excellent communicator - she covers each project in depth imparting much information and consequently one's abilities and understanding of each medium used grows as does one's confidence. An excellent support system is also available. I highly recommend this Course and so look forward to Sabra's next one.
Stacie Tiongson
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Foundations 1 is a terrific class! With Sabra's easy-going teaching style and generous approach to each medium studied you will come away with a true foundation to begin or enhance your portrait work. After finishing Foundations, I immediately enrolled in Sabra's other courses to continue my journey!
Amy Johnson@kathyreed25
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I have to say, Sabra Awlad Issa, that this course absolutely exceeded my expectations! The formatting of your site and the documents are the Most Well Done EVER! Wow! So very clean, well-organized, and full of everything that we could possibly need! Thank you for the Incredible Work you've done for this course! 💗 I love your videos without music! Thank you for that too! ❤. Really stellar instruction! The projects were more challenging than I am used to, but I expected this to be an advanced-level course. You really made yourself available to everyone's questions too. I think that the limited class size made that possible. Getting specific 1:1 feedback and help was AMAZING! Like no other course! It absolutely helped me improve the quality of my artwork. I will repeat the entire course because there is so much information and great instruction. I do not consider myself an advanced student, but with your help, Sabra, I feel like I can get there! The rest is up to me by Practicing! Thank you SO Much! xo
Marie-Rose Wijts@marierose.wijts
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My Background is "energetic drawing", with which you intuitively tap into the subconscious.

I started with “FOUNDATIONS” to get more knowledge of different materials. That promise was amply fulfilled, but for me this course offered so much more. I learned to look at faces, shadows, colors, postures in a new way. I learned many new techniques to sketch and draw portraits! Theory and practice are nicely balanced.

Sabra is a fantastic teacher with a great sense of humour. She takes you step by step through the process through the many videos, which are extremely inspiring to watch. In addition, you will receive feedback and tips from the teacher and fellow students in a private Facebook group. Super nice. “FOUNDATIONS" gives a lot of quality for little money, but above all a lot of fun. Thanks Sabra!
Kerstin Sager@kerstin.sager.3
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The decision for Foundations was made in a flash. I admire Sabra's art and her very personal style. And I was rewarded.

Sabra has thought of everything in this course down to the smallest detail that could be helpful to a learner. A perfectly prepared course. You immediately notice how much work has gone into it.

Even with some experience as a portrait painter, this course has helped me. My portraits have since gained depth and expression - at least that’s what I think 😉.

Also the togetherness in the course was great, inspiring - accompanied by Sabra's understanding and thoughtful moderation.
Rone Prinz@roneprinz
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Sabra has such a gentle honest way of teaching. She has a way of taking you with her on these lesson journeys. I learned so much and gained trust in myself to keep going because of this. I am very picky about teachers but Highly recommend anything she might offer. You won't be disappointed!!
Nancy Niles@nancy.niles.718
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Foundations is my second class with Sabra. The course materials and videos were excellent. Everything was explained in a clear and supportive manner. I found the pace of the lessons showed each step thoroughly. The course improved my understanding of portrait painting, especially how to layer with acrylics.
Randy Etty@randy.etty
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This course lived up to my expectations and more! The website is wonderful and works very good. The videos are all you need. Clear and very well created. I would recommend every beginning artist but also the more experienced artists to do this course. Art is an endless journey!! Have fun!!!
Jeanne Elliott@jeanne.elliott.100
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I can not recommend this course highly enough! It was FABULOUS!!! Foundations was so well organized with a thorough review of each different material before a step by step discussion of using it in the various projects. I was honestly intimidated by the projects when I saw each one, but following the steps and working along with Sabra, I was extremely pleased with the outcomes I achieved! I really learned a lot and it was freeing for me as I tend to be a 'tight' painter and these projects helped me loosen up. Sabra's engaging and humorous commentary was perfect as it helped reduce the stress of trying these challenging projects. PLEASE do yourself a favor and take this course if it appeals to you on any level!!! You will NOT be disappointed!
Gery Hoeven@gery.hoeven
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I loved learning to make a portrait more beautiful in very special ways and with different materials.

This was not my first course with Sabra. I like her way of teaching, quiet and relaxed. Easy for me to concentrate on the lessons.

Don't hesitate to follow this course, it's professional and an enrichement. Oh and I admire her work!!


What are the projects in this course about?

exploration & preliminary work

For the first six weeks, we will learn a new art material every week: charcoal, pastel and acrylic paint. In week 7 and 8 these materials will come together in our mixed media project. 

Every project starts with some preliminary work. In these videos I will show you how you can use your material in different ways. It’s highly recommended that you try this out for yourself, as it is the most low-key way to get to know a material!

In other videos I will usually do several sketches of the reference photo and explain a bit about any difficulties we might run into.

project one / exploring charcoal
project two / exploring pastel
project three / exploring acrylic paint
project four / exploring mixed media
Previous slide
Next slide
project one / exploring charcoal
project two / exploring pastel
project three / exploring acrylic paint
project four / exploring mixed media
Previous slide
Next slide

creating portraits

After our preliminary work, we’re ready to start creating a portrait! All my portraits are recorded in real-time; nothing is cut out or sped up, so you can see everything I do. All portraits lessons are divided into topics for each video, so it’s easy to navigate and see where you are.

In Chapter 1, we will create a portrait using only willow charcoal and water. That’s it! To get the most out of our material, we’ll experiment with textures, different ways of blending and losing some features into abstract shapes.

Chapter 2 is about pastel! With a balanced palette and some water, we’ll start shaping our portrait out of the darker layers. A different approach, but one you’ll find interesting!

We’ll pick up our paint tubes in Chapter 3, as we explore the possibilities of acrylic paint. Our palette is limited, to make sure you can focus on your brush work.

Chapter 4 are all about bringing it together, as we’re free to mix our materials in this mixed media project.

During all of your learning process you have access to support in the private Facebook group!

Are you ready to join me?

The self-paced course of ‘Foundations I’ is available right now, and you can study at your own pace! Support and feedback is always available in my private Facebook group.

your curriculum

What will this course look like?

Chapter 1


The course is open from the moment you complete your purchase! You will be notified by email and can access our first project; our charcoal portrait. If you have Facebook, you can request an invite to the group. Let’s get started!

Each portrait starts with some preliminary work and exercises. These videos will introduce your to the materials, and also the reference photo. If you like to improve on your angles and facial features, these videos are great for you! I usually recommend working on preliminary work for one week, and on the project in the second week.

Chapter 2


Our second project is about pastel, and you will learn all about soft pastels and how to use them. Don’t forget to watch the preliminary work videos! They’re here to help you get started.

We will explore a lot of interesting topics in the next chapter; choosing colours, ways to blend and we’ll also work with both dry pastel and add a little water!

Our palette is limited so you won’t get overwhelmed with a load of colour all at once. 😉


acrylic paint

In this chapter we will pick up our paint tubes. No worries ok? You’ve already ‘painted’ a bit with pastel, and this is no different. We will start off with exploring the profile view; looking at a face from the side. Maybe this feels a little tricky, but I’ve created a step-by-step video to help guide you through it!

Don’t be afraid to talk about any art related topic or question you have in the Facebook group!

Chapter 4

Mixed media

Ready to let go of limitations? Mixed media is the place to go when you don’t want to choose, and just get creating. You can mix and match as much as you like. Or follow along with what I do. It’s up to you!

Two weeks for a portraits allows you to experiment more. Maybe even botch a few attempts. 😉 Mixed media is about learning how things play together, so don’t hold back and let me know if you need help!


The great thing about joining a self-paced course is that you can work and learn when it suits you, and still have access to support whenever you need it. In our private Facebook group, you can post your work-in-progress, your questions or concerns and of course your final works. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance at any point, it’s what I’m here for. I usually check the Facebook group every day to answer any questions.


Do I need to purchase new materials to join this course?

You don’t want to join a course, only to find out you have to purchase a fortune worth of supplies. Most of the materials used in my projects are basic supplies. They’re also available in almost every country in the world. For every project, I will also give you suggestions on what to replace them with, if you don’t have them. So no need to worry about major expenses! Download the supply list on the right to see what I suggest for this course.

exclusive content

A growing library for students

As a student of my art school, you will automatically have access to a collection of free lessons and resources, intended to help you with the foundations of art and to expand on the current course you are taking. The Student Library started in 2021 and is ever expanding! And best of all, it will be free to students who have joined “Foundations I” here!

a selection of what you'll find here

Are you ready to join me in this course?

"Foundations I"

€ 149,-

Frequently asked questions

When you register for any of my online courses, you can login to you account here my website. From your account, you can access any course you’ve purchased. No need to get up or go out! 🙂 

Your account and courses are private; that means only you can access them. You can access your available lessons any time that suits you. That also goes for lesson information, supply lists and reference photos. It’s all well organized in your course environment.

Some of my courses have a specific start date. On that date, I will open the course and provide you with the lesson for that week. If you’ve signed up for a course that hasn’t started yet, I will send you an email when it starts and you can log in!

A self-paced course is open for registration throughout the year. When you sign up, you get immediate access to all the lessons in that course. You can go ahead and start right away! Track your progress by marking your lessons complete after finishing. You can work at your own pace whenever it’s convenient for you, there’s no set schedule. You can come back any time and resume or repeat lessons. If you have any questions, you can send me a message or post in my Facebook group. I don’t provide in-depth feedback on self-paced courses but I’m always around to help!

A live course start at a specific date and runs for a number of weeks. When you sign up, I will keep you informed through my mailing list. When we start, I will send you another email. You can log in and view the first available lessons. Every week a new lesson in provided until we’ve finished the course. After finishing the course, all lessons and content will remain available to you. So no worries if you fall behind or skip a week! You can go back, catch up or repeat lessons whenever you want! During the weeks that the course runs, I’ll be available daily in the private Facebook group for that course. You can interact with me and other students that are in the course!

Yes, you can download all videos and materials for private use!

Yes, this course is design specifically to help you understand the foundations of drawing the face. We’ll be dealing with some difficult angles but I will explain it to you in a way that allows you to follow exactly what I’m doing. There are several drawing guides that you can print out, to help you no matter your level.

You can always access this course by logging in at my website. In the navigation menu, go to “My account” and you will see your courses there.

During a live course I will provide feedback on your work if you ask for it in the Facebook group. I will be present daily for the duration of the course. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can also email me. 

When you do a self-paced course, you may ask any questions or share work in my general Facebook group. There are a lot of nice people there and I will be there often to reply or answer questions.

Only for courses that haven’t started yet. Because all my courses are downloadable, I cannot grant refunds on courses that have started or are self-paced and thus immediately available.

No, not at this point. 

No, not at all! If you have any questions during a live course, you can also email me for feedback.

Lifetime access means that the courses you’ve purchased will be available to you on this website for as long as the course is for sale and I’m in business. Should that time ever end, I will inform you and give you plenty of time to download videos and materials that you want to keep.

You can contact me using the form on this page. You can also send me a message on Facebook or Instagram.

Ask me anything!

If you can’t find the answer to your question in the FAQ on the left, please let me know! I’ll try to get back to you within a day. You can also contact me on social media if you prefer that.

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