Friday, 10 November 2017

water colour daisies, demonstration in class

Last week in class I asked students to do small drawings of daisies, then spend most of the session playing with the background. 

This timy painting started as a line drawing, then background added, with the flowers having a light wash of colours at the end. 

'Playing', when we are adults, can be very tricky!! We are accostomed to expect exact rules, or at least definite consequences, so that playing can seem...a waste of time (horror! The reason we 'work' is to fascilitate our 'play'). But playing within a small set of boundaries feels less open-ended, so in this session, the boundaries were to create a dark background, with dots of wet-on-wet in a paler colour, just to 'see what happens'. What could possibly go wrong?!

The full set, showing how small the paintings are.

I did a few examples in a small Moleskine sketch book, leaving them at various stages of completion - it is important to have a reference of early stages of work, otherwise we can forget how we started (a down-side of watching someone else work ).

This shows the detailed line drawing, and I painted the background first.
 So rather than producing one painting, I did several. Mostly I drew the flowers, and painted the background first. Working in this way means that you haven't spent ages on the details, which can make you less willing to risk getting messy! Risk is GOOD!
In this example, some of the petals have a wash of colour before I began the background
 Another good reason for doing the background first is that it gets rid of the white paper. White is not our friend!! It is loud and attention-seeking, and the soner we paint over it, the sooner we can make correct value decisions in the rest of the painting.
Petals first, background second

No drawing at all - straight to paint, working outwards from the centre of the flower
Workingstraight to paint is liberating and worth trying - the key is to 'blob' colour onto the page, then push is around, as opposed to doing a line-drawing with the brush.

Working across two pages keeps it light hearted and not prescious
It was good fun - playing is to be advised when learning to paint, but playing with boundaries is the best of all.

My drawing and painting instruction book, Notes from The Atelier, has now got over 40 five-star reviews on Amazon! Available on Amazon, or directly from me (a bit cheaper!). A lovely christmas present for the arty person in your life.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A lovely bit of homework! Student water colours.

I don't actually set work for my students to complete at home, but sometimes - particularly if they have missed a session - someone will put in a bit of time at their own drawing board. It is very rewarding for me to see the results.
Brigid's painting - amazing!!
The painting above, by Brigid, was started during a class,  and she took the leaf home and finished it. I think it's totally beautiful.

Lovely colours and composition by Liz 
Notice how the colour-restrictions were noted on the side of the page - it's always worth doing exercises with a restricted number of colours. Not only does it give the painting a lovely unified feeling, it also helps you understand the range of colours at your disposal.
Another lovely design by Pauline

A lovely spread of studies by Dawn. They look real! 
Notice lots of colour 'tiles' on the left page of Dawn's lovely book (above), testing the mixes before putting them onto the drawing. The dark red leaf on the left page is the actual leaf, but all the others are Dawn's paintings.

 The painting above and below is by Sara, who worked in this at home. The photo above shows that Sara did a wonderful job of getting the leaves just about same-size as the original (the real leaf is on the paper at the top). This photo shows the first layer, a 'wash' of lemon yellow.

Sara's lovely artwork

 Above - the finished artwork, totally delicious. Below, the leaf itself didn't last so long!!!

My book, Notes from The Atelier, has now got over 40 five-star reviews on Amazon! Available on Amazon, or directly from me (a bit cheaper!).

Friday, 27 October 2017

Toadstools and mushrooms, pen and coloured pencil on tinted paper, students work.

So, I'd been watching a very impressive clump of toadstools as it grew in the garden, waiting for it to reach a suitable size to dig up for my students to draw. This week, it made the grade....

 ...and I got out the spade. It was a pretty slimey, slithery-topped variety but the individual stems came away happily enough, giving folks a selection to choose from.

A toadstool platter...
 Add a box of delicious coloured pencils, and oh joy of joys!!

Caran d'Ache, my brand of choice
Ailbhe's lovely study
Everyone worked on tinted card - 'white' is not a supportive surface to draw on. It is harsh on the eyes and offers a too-stong contrast, in many instances. The darker tone of the grey card gives a different, warmer effect and while it means that colours don't behave the way they would on white paper, we can quickly work out the differences and enjoy the experience.

Clive's work, next to the toadstools. 

We began by drawing in pen - again, this is not as scary as it sounds ('what, no rubber???)! The pen doesn't feel too dark going onto the tinted tone, and once a line is there, it simply....stays there! 
It's actually liberating, not restricting. 

A closer look at Clive's drawings

Alison's drawing showing lovely colour blending.
As the week went on, the toadstools began to wilt, so I introduced some large field mushrooms, which offer a different range of colours. We might, at first glance, assume that there is no colour in a mushroom... (tsk!!), but a closer look reveals soft yellows, pinks and even blues.  And, as Paul noted, there's a lot of mushroom-colour as well!! 
The Thursday morning class! Yummy!
You can see from the photos how effective the pen is, in conjunction with the coloured pencil. The pen gives a strength of dark and helps the drawing to look confident.

Bernadette's lovely artwork - first time using coloured pencil!

Suzanne's lovely drawing
Adding a bit of soft white to the background area can help add drama to the finish.

Glynis's triumph!

David's artwork is a joy of compositional delight, making full use of the paper colour

Ken's lovely artwork - first time using coloured pencil and a great start.
There were even more lovely drawings, but not all my photos come out so well, so I have selected only a few. A great subject, an interesting way of using the mediums, and lovely results. 

Ewa's stunning drawing. 

Next up: Children's class, portrait workshop and oils weekend. For info email

My book, Notes from The Atelier, has now got 40 five-star reviews on Amazon! Available on Amazon, or directly from me (a bit cheaper!).

Monday, 23 October 2017

Autumn term delights

I try to put off collecting leaves for my students to paint because the season lasts quite a few weeks, and there could always be someting more... However, the wonderful Rheus tree outside my window was so magnificent with yellows, greens and oranges  early in Autumn, that I couldn't resist.

Dramatic colour on the front... 
Delicious even on the back! 

The simplicity of the shapes also made it a great subject as we wouldn't have to spend a great deal of time on the drawing aspect, allowing plenty of time to 'draw with our brushes' instead.

Roisin at work
 With water colour, it is important to identify the palest colour first, and lay a wash down as a good base for all other colours to rest on. Effectively, we are painting with stained water, and the darker colours go on last. With these leaves, we used Lemon Yellow as the base colour. you can see this in Roisin's painting (above) and Tony's painting (below).

Tony's lovely study - this was his first ever water colour painting!

Once the initial 'wash' is down, the job of choosing additional layers begins. I restricted the palette to just Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Permanent Sap green and, for much further down the line, Permanent Rose.
Carolyn's study
 Restricting the palette is a wonderful way of beginning to understand the colours you are using, and help you realise that mixing a small number of different colours in a variety of quantities, gives you enormous scope and a wide range of options.
Jim's painting

Ben, who used water soluble coloured pencil, on a branch of Virginia Creeper
 I introduce 'red' late in the process because the red pigments not olny stain the water we paint wih, but they also quickly stain the paper too. This means that it is often impossible to change your mind and remove it. (One of the myths about water colour is that it is 'fixed'. This isn't true - adding more water to your paper and hitting it with kitchen paper will remove any colour if you have changed your mind - apart from the reds. Undertnading this simply means that we use reds with more caution, and always have the kitchen paper handy!)

Liz, a wonderful first painting

Upcoming workshops: Portrait drawing, Oils weekend, Children's half term workshop. For info please email

Notes from the Atelier - Julie's drawing and painting manual is available in local book shops and on her website

It is also on on Amazon Prime - check out the reviews!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Apple a day...?

The consolation for it being the end of summer, is the start of a new term. With a mixture of new students and some who have attended for a while but who will be feeling rather rusty, it is a challenge to decide how to start everyone off, so that all are working on the same subject and feel equally challenged.
A little drawing in my moleskine to get the ball rolling.

So I returned to the power of Three. Choosing a small, uncomplicated object (an apple), and creating three versions in different media is a lovely way to get back into the swing of things - a bit of focus without the stress of making one 'perfect' image, but a page of study.

Glad to be at the drawing board!
 Here are some lovely student examples, and the term is started!
Sara C

Carolyn G

Jim H 

My youngest student, Sumathy, aged 8, from a summer workshop, showing her lovely artwork! 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Drawing in colour! Students at work...

The endless variety of colours and unique shapes to play with make food the perfect subject to draw and paint. The rich dark of the aubergine below, offset against the mid toned background, looks almost like velvet. The brightness of the lemon adds extra zing! 

Felicity adding some background whie to set off the image.

 Here, students Felicity and Anne are getting to grips with chalk pastels, layering the colour bravely and building up tones in layers. For their first time using chalks, they did a brilliant job.

Anne getting busy tidying up using white chalk. 

 Chalk pastel and coloured pencil are both delicious ways to aid observation of colours. Their dry pigment allows you to go straight to the paper and begin noticing how colours interact when mixed together. Working on coloured paper gives for different colour relationships too.

Delicious coloured pencils and pastels.