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. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Trees, three oil paintings on canvas and board

I only ever used to work on one painting at a time. But some of my 'treescapes' of dappled light in the woods have become even more complex and a bit...sore. Or perhaps less sore and more akin to working out a complicated puzzle which frazzles my brain even more than usual. Not in a bad way, but intense all the same.

So I decided to try working on more than one at a time, and on different scales (from 'small' to 'less small'!). Well, 'decided' is perhaps over glorifying it. Of the paintings above, I started the top one a couple of years ago, painting a thin underpainting on canvas at the same time as an underpainting on the painting on the left. The left one is on board and has had three layers applied now, with gaps of many months while I worked on other things (including writing my book!). Of the three paintings, it is nearest completion - it is coming along but needs a few more days. I started the one on the right a month ago, and have spent a few days on it and igonored the other two. It is on canvas and is about a third of the way through. The one at the back received the darker layer on Monday - it had been consciously ignored because I didn't 'like' it. Now that I've given it another bit of colour  I like it better than previously, but I'm still not sure about it...  It's  early days and I won't quit.

Of all the subject matter that I paint, there is something about greens, trees and sparkles of light that really attracts me. I love painting people and skin, but the woods haunts me. It is much more challenging than painting people. I guess we all love a challenge.

Has working on several at once been an improvement? I'm not sure.  Is it better to be undecided and unsatisfied with three at once? It does take the pressure off each one individually, and perhaps gives a feeling of a more rounded approach from my side of the palette. It perhaps also encourages more freedom and variety in the working process itself.

In other words, I think that the outcomes will be different and more developed than if I had completed one at a time. So I think that must be a good thing...

Can you tell that I'm slightly procrastinating? I think it's time I went back to my easel...

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Bags packed, ready to go!

With a hall full of canvases, multipacks of wet wipes, kitchen rolls, sketch books, tape, scissors, liquin, linseed oil, OMS, tea towels, dust pan and brush... It can only mean one thing - masterclass time!

Canvases, a new lamp...
Students are decending upon Belfast to attend the Oils workshop with 'maestro' Michael  John Angel, who arrived from Florence this afternoon in a heavy shower of rain - hopefully a pleasant change from the heat wave in Italy. I am delighted that he has returned for a second year - we are honoured to welcome him.
Gloves, medium, paint... 
 It's amazing how much you can fit into a Golf - my student Mark did a wonderful job of squeezing 20 Ikea stools in as well as drawing boards, all the canvases and miscellaneous Others.

We spent the afternoon preparing the studio, and it's all set. For the next five days Mr Angel will guide students through the techniques of Bouguereaux - everyone is very excited and can't wait to get started! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Rory under the kitchen light, oil on linen, 20cm x 24cm.

Almost finished. 
This little painting is almost finished. I've put the photos in reverse order so you can see the process from the finsh, backwards.

Originally I went straight to canvas on this, but realised that there was a lot of investigation of shapes and tonal relationships, so stopped and went back to the drawing board (literally!), and spent some time drawing. In truth, if I miss this step I am always sorry. While colour is the big attraction, it is much harder to get everything right when you don't prepare.

The word 'drawing' doesn't refer to the medium - we can draw in anything, including paint. But if we take it to mean 'investigating', 'studying', 'problem solving' and 'gathering information', it is a much larger task to do all of these things on the canvas. After the drawing I did a colour studt, then returned to my canvas. I painted many layers, and managed not to be precious by painting over the whole face four times, to see what would happern. Lots 'happened'!

The lighting on the head was from more than one source - a central room light, as well as a downlighter driectly above, which created the stripes of light on the forehead and the nose. In order for these to be bright, everything else needed to be dark. I finished with the hair - a special challenge which I enjoy, even though I pretend not to! 

Next up: oils workshop, portrait workshops, childrens workshops. For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Drawing in Mount Stewart House, County Down

It is always great to draw on location. Apart from the benefits of a change of environment, which keeps things fresh as an artist, it’s a wonderful way to become more familiar with the riches surrounding us. 
Even on a dull day, Mount Stewart is beautiful, and the gardens have burst forth with gusto in the past couple of weeks. 

The roof of Mount Stewart House peeping over the foliage

I was delighted to hear that the beautiful statues had been reinstated in the main hall, after the completion of the restoration of the floor, and early in the week I took some students to draw there. The staff were extremely welcoming and after a tour through the servants area, and a peep in the family Chapel, the door to the hall was opened, and we took our places before the statues. 

The private Chapel

The beautiful new floor, and a view of the statues.

My demo drawing

A demo drawing of one of the busts

Another demo drawing of a bust

 We spent the whole morning drawing, and I look forward to going back very soon to do more. 

Jeannie working away, with Ben behind the pillar!

Students drawing the bust

Friday, 2 June 2017

Portrait Painting in Florence with Cesar Santos

My painting, end of day 5. 

Attending masterclasses given by great painters is a valuable experience which can shift understanding or expand on existing knowledge. For those of us who teach much of the time, it also provides the opportunity to paint without the distraction of other commitments. 
I spent a few days in Florence last week, on a workshop given by Cesar Santos, hosted in the very lovely surroundings of The Florence Studio, owned by Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut. A spacious, bright and clean environment, I have never felt so welcomed and well cared for in any other studio. The fridge was stocked with bottled water for the students, and nibbles on the table. 
Cesar Santos giving a demonstration in The Florence Studio
Cesar is incredibly knowledgable, polite and keen to share his skills.  I was delighted, of course, that his main message was about the importance of drawing. Over the course of five days he took us through all the stages of producing a portrait in oils, from simplifying the head to getting it onto canvas, the under painting, the 1st and 2nd painting. 
My first morning's work, simplifying the form and getting to 'know' the model. 
Later the first afternoon, the drawing completed directly on the canvas.
Outside, Alex spraying fixative on our canvases to seal the pencil work. 

The under painting, very pale, looking at tonal values. 

Creeping along, day 3, '1st painting' stage. 
Cesar's palette 
more on day 3. 
Day 4, a bit more 1st stage, with some 2nd painting too. 
End of day 5. 
I met lots of lovely people, and one evening we enjoyed a tour round The Pettit Palace with Cesar as our guide. 

Class tour round The Pitti Palace 
At the end of the week, time to put Cesar in the frame! 
Most of the students at the end of the workshop. 
Here are some quotes from Cesar, taken from my notes:
‘Drawing is our attempt to understand.’

‘Painting is meaningless without drawing’.
‘Drawing has nothing to do with the materials: it is the eye. Students must strive to make the drawing excellent, try to achieve perfection, in every drawing. Keep perfecting. 100 bad drawings won’t give you a good one! Just as a poet needs to learn grammar in order to express bigger things, in art, excel in drawing first.’

For info on my workshops, email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk 
Next up: Oils workshop, portrait drawing workshop, children's workshop, drawing and water colour workshops. 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Portrait in Oil, stages of the process

‘Process’ is the path from the humble beginnings (possibly an idea or a thought) to a more finished end. If I had my way, art exhibitions would include not only a display of the ‘finished’ works but also much of the preparation work it took to get to there. I think this would not only enlighten people to the effort involved, but it would help them appreciate the steps required and stall the race-to-the-end which seems to be urgently demanded. There are well-trodden stages to finished artworks, and much joy to be had in lingering there. It’s not ALL about the end. 

The drawing

I am currently working on a small painting of my son. I love sharing the whole process involved in producing artwork, so here is the initial drawing in stages, and the colour study which I did before starting the more careful final painting. 

I don’t absolutely always do a preliminary drawing - but I am always sorry if I haven’t. The drawing study is a valuable way to investigate shapes and tones and placement of the elements to be painted, as well as the place to make decisions about the atmosphere we want to achieve in the final work . Spending time preparing to paint repays tenfold, or more! 

The next stage is the colour study. I LOVE this part! In fact, my study has more detail in than is necessary, but I was enjoying it and indulged myself. Working straight to paint, I blocked in a face-shape, without worrying at all about a likeness. The point here is working out what colours, and paying attention to tonal balance too. In this painting, there is a lot of striped light on the forehead from lighting directly above. That is the challenge. 

Blocking in the main points, on a spare piece of linen. Not precious!

This photo show the scale of the painting - it's small!


Now I’m ready to begin the final painting! 
For info on upcoming workshops please email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk
Next up: portrait workshops, drawing and watercolour workshops, oils weekend and children's classes.