In Painting People, acclaimed Australian artists Clifton Pugh, William Dargie, William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Jon Molvig and Andrew Sibley discuss their approach to portraiture, providing an insight into the unique challenges that face a portrait painter. Director Tim Burstall explores Australian portraiture from early colonial days until the 1960s through examples of their work. The film also examines the work of other eminent painters such as Augustus Earle, Sir John Longstaff, George Lambert and Max Meldrum. Painting People covers the establishment of the Archibald Prize and the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne and discusses the subjects of portraits. Painter Margaret Olley appears in the film as a sitter for a portrait and Clifton Pugh reflects on the difficulties facing his wife, Marlene, as a painter and mother.