Friday, 27 June 2014

Nature sketch book exchange project, Holywood stones.

And so, the sketch books are still going around the world, with each one taking on it's own character as we fill the pages, slowly slowly. 
So far, I have been doing things which grow, but I do so love stones. And they ARE natural..

Unfinished ring of stones, 18cm x 16cm showing the process involved. Julie Douglas 
 Some subjects really lend themselves to water colour, and stones - in spite of their solidity, which seems so at odds with the wateriness of water colour -  certainly work well.

More stones, 17cm x 13 cm, water colour, Julie Douglas
There's something about the blobby quality of working wet into wet, the unexpected random happenings of the paint as it moves before drying is very like the uneven patterns on stones. The difference between the first two photos, above, is that the top one is unfinished (so you can see how it is started), the bottom one has had more layers added once the wet-on-wet has dried, giving a crisper edge. The next images were for the sketch book project. 

 I went for a walk on the shore to find stones for painting. Beaches all have their own characteristic stones - some beaches turn up smooth rounded stones, some, like East Sussex have stones with enormous holes in the middle. Holywood stones are characteristically small and nobbly, like chunks of nougat (see above). So it takes a good bit of staring and patience to find vareity and interest. But, once you find one, there's another, and ooh - there's another. Pretty soon my pockets were full, and the coat was too heavy to wear!

A variety of shapes and sizes.. Julie Douglas

When I worked in the first couple of sketch books, ones which belong to other artists, I stuck a piece of my preferred water colour paper onto the pages, as I don't like the paper of the book itself. But this time, I just got stuck in, using the book itself. I had to use a lot more water than usual as the paper is so smooth and wants to absorb the pigment. I did the paintings while my students painted their own stones beside me. I have to admit, some of them were shapeless blobs for a good while (the stones, not my students!!), but when it's someone else's book, you have to just keep on working till it begins to look better.. Shadows vary according to the time of day I did each stone. 

I was happy to include one little heart-stone from my mammoth collection... 

Upcoming courses: Portrait drawing, intensive portfolio preparation, oils workshops. 
Later this summer - 23rd August, BIG DRAWING DAY at The Drawing Office, Titanic Quarter Belfast
Draw In - drawing symposium with some amazing visiting artists including PJ Lynch, Paul Foxton, Katherine Tyrrell and Colleen Barry (NY).

For info email

Friday, 13 June 2014

Pink, makes the boys wink..! Peonies, water colour without drawing.

Going straight to paint with water colour is a refreshing and liberating experience. I find it relaxing. And if you are relaxed when painting, it shows in the outcome.

Sketch book studies for demonstration, Julie Douglas

In a class situation, going staight to paint means students spend the whole session painting, giving them not only a better chance of completing their artwork, but a fuller opportunity to try different techniques - more playing and experimenting.
This week I wanted my students to paint with a colour restriction. Limiting the range of colours is a great way to discover new tones and mixes, and it is also a good way to ensure the image holds together well.
I was seduced by some lovely peonies, which were a perfect subject for colour restricting.

The two paintings below show the starting points, and neither were taken any further. 
This shows how pale the first layer is. Red pigment not only stains the water, but also the page so a light start makes it easier to change your mind. 
The colours we used were Permanent Sap Green and Lemon Yellow for the stem, Permanent Rose for the flower. Later in the process students were allowed to try (I say TRY) Alizarim Crimson and French Ultramarine on the petals, if they needed it. 

This painting shows a build up of the second layer of tones, on top of a dried base-shape. 

The two images below show the beginning and end of one flower. This one I didn't use such a pale mix to start, as the final colours were so strong.

Julie Douglas

Julie Douglas

Upcoming workshop: Figure drawing, portrait drawing, Water colour for location, beginners drawing and portfolio courses. 

I am holding a drawing class in The Drawing Offices, in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. 
For details on all courses email