Sunday, 24 July 2011

Portrait Drawing workshop, Belfast UK (also in Dublin, Ireland)

Student portrait drawings, using Compressed Charcoal. (Click on images to enlarge)

in progress... H. Johnston, student 

     Surprise surprise...! Excellent, LARGE work! (5 hours) H. Johnston, student.

Three days of hard labour, and the students had stopped begging for mercy and resigned themselves to the Graft. It probably didn't help much that I was chirping about the journey towards creative excellence being always slightly uphill, so that by the time you reach the top, you're just getting the idea that the journey goes on for...ever. How delicious..

In Progress, M. Hickie, student (including charcoal on her own forehead...)

These students had never done portrait drawing before. The pieces shown here were done on the third day of the course. Leading up to this, on the first two days they had done many studies of eyes, noses, lips, and all the Bits In Between. (thanks, Alexander, for being a great model) They left feeling amazed, delighted they'd worked so large (because the scale of every artwork is important) and...Exhausted. Perfect!

Next Workshops - Water Colour, Weekly Thursdays, and an extra Portfolio Course in August. Email for full details. 
Phone - from UK 07730 560 517 from Ireland 087 1330040

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Portrait, Oil on board 8in x 10in

This is a painting of Christopher Bell, who until May was the Chorus Master for Belfast Philharmonic Choir. He is a very vital and important figure in music making and, more to the point, has a GREAT HEAD!

It was a delight to paint him. Those of you who follow this blog may notice that the only other Oils portrait I've posted was another man, Rodney, with glasses and er, not a lot of hair. Though he has a splendid moustache.. I did wonder myself if I had a thing going on, but no - I've painted folks with hair too, and I will post those at some point!

                                       Next up, 3-day portrait workshop, Belfast.
                                    Up coming - Water Colour workshop, Dublin.
                                               Intensive Portfolio Course
                                       For info email
                         Phone - from UK 07730 560 517 from Ireland 087 1330040
Please remember - copyright on portraits belongs to the sitter. Do not copy this in any way, thanks.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Twigs, Apple for the teacher, and Beauty in All Things...

This week I am doing a Portfolio Course for students wanting to go to Art College. I often ask them to bring along an object for study, but this time a student Surprised me. Y'know when you think you've seen it All? Well, Fiona brought a big smile to my face when out of her bag she produced a...Twig! WONderful!!! Now, you have to love your Twig if you're going to do drawing studies of it - its not the sort of thing you can force someone to draw, the desire has to come from Within.

                                                       Fiona's Twig.

The variety of colours (double-click the photo to see them) , textures and shape in this should not be underestimated, as well as the strong composition it makes when it splits the image area. The negative shapes are clearly as important as the positive shapes, though they are not Dominant. So I was walking the dog and saw some lichen-covered sticks and fabulous knarled stumps and brought some back, and presented them to Fiona for further study, knowing she's That Kind Of Girl.

She was delighted - but not as much as me, because she put her hand in her pocket saying, And I found this for you... And gave me an....Apple! (A manky, mis-shapen, bruised, fabulous crab apple) I have been given a few gifts, as a teacher, ranging from flowers to even a beautifully framed painting, but never an apple. Thanks!

                           Next up, Colour and Composition Workshop, Killaloe
                                               Monthly Mondays, Killaloe
                                               Portrait Workshop, Belfast.

Friday, 8 July 2011

I love Pears - oils.

Well, its no news to you that I love pears. Maybe its as basic as their resemblance to the human figure. I don't even mind Why I love pears, its enough for me to know that I do...

Three Stooges, Oil on artist panel, 8in x10in. Julie Douglas
I've had that wooden block for years, lovely to finally paint it. I'll do it again... 

These two paintings are two years apart, nearly. The first (above) is the most recent painting I've completed, and is the FIRST oil painting I've done in Oils that I would describe as Still Life. I mentioned this to my students and had a couple of enquires back as to what constitues a Still Life. Interesting. The Tate said - Essentially the subject matter of a Still Life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead... Charming. Hardly. But I wasn't referring to the Subject so much as the genre. And so, this is the first Still Life.

                                         Pear on cloth, Oil on canvas, 6in x 6in. Julie Douglas
This second painting is one of my very first oil paintings. Working on canvas is very different to smooth board, not better or worse, just...different.

Copyright for these images belong to Julie Douglas. Please do not print or copy these in any way, or you will be visted by plagues and unable to sleep properly. Aw. Instead, go to the shop and buy a wee bag of...PEARS, and look how lovely they are, in the flesh.

For course programme and information, email

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Water colour Lillies - students, painting without drawing.

There are many ways of using water colour, and occasionally I ask my students to go straight to paint, without a pencil drawing underneath. This rarely goes down well, till they've got started, then the advantages of not being able to rub out begin to kick in. 

by Pat Finlay, student, Belfast.

Certainly, with a complicated subject like this, it would have been difficult to draw AND paint it in one two hour session, and while none of these paintings were completed, the aims were achieved. All are A3 size. 

By Hilary Johnston, student, Belfast

The aim was to Look more carefully, to understand the Whole as well as the smaller sections, to paint in tonal groupings rather than draw in a linear fashion and to make visual connections instantly, one section to another. The other aim was to get the information down and make it work. 

By Jean Reid, student, Belfast

All these students have been having lessons for only a short time. This is a VERY challenging exercise. They did brilliantly, with hardly any moaning (I think they were in shock...). 

By Brendan McKinley, student, Belfast

This ingenius piece of kit was made by Hilary and I've put my order in early for Christmas...  She took a box of Ferrero Rocher, DUTIFULLY munched her way through the contents (how we suffer for our art), made little dividers out of mounting card, and hey presto, the perfect storage for her water colours. 

If you would like programme information on my courses, please email for all the dates. Upcoming courses include Water Colour, Oil painting, Drawing, Portrait drawing and Portfolio preparation. I also run a Distance Learning programme which covers Drawing, Water colour, oils and Colour & composition. I hold weekly classes in Belfast and weekend courses all over Ireland. 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Moleskine Sketch Book - and the art of visual note taking. Part 1.

                                        I love my Moleskine Sketch Book.
I love the weight of it in my hand. I love the hard back. I love the rounded edges to the pages. I love the thickness of the paper.  I love the shape of the pages, and the wide format when using the double spread. I REALLY love the long format when I turn it round. I love the elastic strap that holds it closed. I love the little flap at the back - like a miniature filing system, just in case you pick up a post card you like at a gallery.. Or maybe to put your train ticket in when you're drawing on location..? The Moleskine book has a sense of history, of romance and nostalgia, and demands a loyalty from the owner which it is impossible not to supply.

 My book was given to me by my friend Ger, with the terrible words, I want to see that filled. Uh-oh. There's nothing worse than a Blank Page, and a whole book of them? Oh yikes. Add an INSTRUCTION to that mix and the gloom descends... Nevertheless, my instruction was clear. I naively thought (to myself) I'd fill it by Christmas. Luckily, I didn't specify which Christmas that might be. So far, there have been two since she gave it to me, but they come around..

Pages from my Moleskine book, Onion and Garlic, cross-hatching in pen. Julie Douglas

This doesn't mean that filling the book has become a chore - far from it. The Moleskine paper is suitable for pencil, and any dry media, pen, ink and water colour, and it is thick and creamy. Its a luxury to use, so instead of using it for every little drawing or thumb-nail I need to work on, I choose to use it when I want the feel of that lovely paper. The result is a slow progression through the pages so that it has become a diary and a precious place of observation. A series of studies, some time consuming (the pages above took a couple of hours), some very quick. It has become, and is still becoming, a record of time, notations of seasons, a set of individual observations. When I look at a drawing I can remember where I was when I did it, and sometimes even what was on the radio at the time. I recall the room, the people I was with, many many details.

Little Pumpkin, Water Colour, Julie Douglas
By half way into a book, a rhythm is set, a personality has formed and the impression is that subjects or themes were decided from the offset, but they rarely are. By the end of the book it will look like a Complete Thing in itself, as if I achieved what I set out to do. It will look complete, like the sum of a journey. But that's not the way these things are done. They evolve,  if things aren't forced. If we go with the flow, relax and follow our own intuition, in retrospect the steps will look like there had been a path. But there was not. Instead, there was an easy Flow. The end of the book doesn't mean its finished. It only means that I ran out of paper. And need a new book.

Heels. Pen, Julie Douglas

Next Up - Portfolio Course, Oils, Water Colour, Drawing, Portrait workshop, EVERYTHING!
Email for info.