Wednesday, 11 May 2022

New Studio new classes!

I am delighted to announce that I am resuming my Friday Night Life drawing classes - May 27th, June 10th, June 17th, July 1st & 8th, from 6pm - 8pm with a glass of wine or tea/coffee. A lovely start to the weekend. I provide chalks, charcoals and pencils and ask students to bring their own paper. A3 and A2 is recommended. Fully tutored sessions so it doesn't matter if you have never drawn the figure before - I am there to guide.
Cost £30 per session. Numbers limited, advance booking required. 

I am also introducing a new weekly children's class on Saturday afternoons from 22nd May to the end of June. Suitable for ages 8 - 18, we will cover drawing in various media as well as painting. We will sometimes use easels, which is a great novelty for children and adds to their experience. Fully structured, fully tutored fun. I provide all materials for these sessions, and the cost is £30 per class.

SUMMER - the summer programme includes portrait drawing, two oils workshops (one to include mixing, and various oils techniques, the other to be a landscape of your choice) and water colour workshops. Dates to follow. If there is a specific subject that you would like to try please don't hesitate to let me know and I will try to accommodate you.

For more info please email

With two studio moves in 5 months, I am glad to say that I have now settled in to my new studio, which is just off the main square in Comber - it turns out that Comber is handy for everywhere, and students enjoy the village feel when they come in and out. I'm beside a bistro, a bakery, a craft shop and just along the street are many lovely shops worth browsing, as well as lots of cafes for lunch or coffee. Above we see the Tuesday morning students busy with their water colours.

Thank you again to Ken for his selfless assistance in the studio move, and for hardly laughing at all when I got stuck in the lift. Ahem.

Monday, 14 March 2022

Trees in oil, student works

The more preparation we do for our oil paintings, the more successful the outcome. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, as they say. This exercise, from a photograph I took in Belmont Park with beautiful light peeping through the trees, started as a charcoal study. Charcoal is a lovely, tonal medium which allows us to move tones around by smudging with a cloth, a sponge, our finger or a putty rubber, to give soft gentle nuances of values, in an attempt to create the right atmosphere. 

Charcoal study by Rose
The next stage is to do an underpainting in oils on the canvas of choice, beginning with a gentle layer of raw umber, diluted with Sansodor,  or odourless mineral spirits. It will look a bit like a water colour. Like the charcoal, the mix can be moved around a bit with paper towel. It is important not to let the dark areas be as dark as you want them in the finished painting. We paint on top of this layer creating a grisaille, and those subsequent layers can be dark. If we go too dark too soon then all will be too heavy. Err on the light side. 

Below we see the beginnings of the grisaille going down - this is Raw Umber,  French Ultramarine (which together will make a black) and White. You can see it, in this painting, in the lightest areas and the foreground. The whole painting will get this layer, creating a black and white painting 

Rose's completed grisaille

Louise's completed grisaille 

                   Once the grisaille is dry (in this case, the following week) colour is put on top of the grisaille. 

Louise finishing the colour on top of her grisaille 

Why so many layers? It gives you a rich and BRIGHT painting, which looks solid and substantial. 

Louise's finished painting 


Christine W's
Students enjoyed this exercise, though there was much nashing of teeth along the way too! 

For info on upcoming workshops please email

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

water colour apples and some oils, student work

Georgie's lovely artwork 
If I could put all my student's work here, I would - but you would be inundated! Here is a small selection of lovely artworks from a recent session, both from students in-studio as well as some working at home using Zoom. 
Students drew the whole of this composition, then selected their favourite section, a composition within a composition, and worked it to a finish within the time available. 
Painting by Christine McC


Working up just a section of a larger drawing means that we get a sense of completion - classes are usually just over two hours, which means it's a challenge to finish larger works. 


For info on upcoming workshops please email 


Thursday, 3 March 2022

Apples - student works

My classes are full of students with mixed experience, which is a lovely way to learn. Beginners start with a few short introductory  exercises to cover the foundations of observing, and trying new materials, then join in with the same subjects as those with more experience. 
Recently the subject was composition using apples, reflective objects and fabric. Here are some lovely examples of student studies. 
Above - lovely water colour by Heather. 

Little water colour by Glynis

The next two images show the same artwork at an early then later stage. By Jane. 

Half way stage by Jane - this shows the graphite drawing

Jane's water colour, complete. 

Below - a few photos of the progress of one artwork. It started with a drawing, part of which was shaded in graphite pencil, then painted in water colour. This was done by Rose, who is very new to water colour but clearly is getting the hang of it!

The drawing stage, with graphite shading in one area. 

First layer of washes

The completed study.Lovely job!

Below, the same subject done in oils. 

For info on workshops and weekly classes please email 

From raw materials to delicious arrangement - making the composition greater than the sum of it's parts

Composition. This is the fun part of image making, yet one which is so often completely ignored! That word 'fun' nicely segues into fundamental - composition is the fundamental ingredient that makes a painting worth creating at all, or not bothering. It need not take long. Or it might take ages. Either way,  if you fail to plan your composition, then you plan to fail. 

a multitude of apples

Early in the term, I piled the studio tables with subject matter - apples, 'shiny things' and fabrics. The students then had to take some of each, and create their own arrangement. 
selection of shiny objects
a mountain of material

The fun begins! Reflective objects give so many ways to play with colour. Patterns can look like fairground mirrors, from the grotesque to the ridiculous... 
..and popping an apple into a shiny bowl changes the colour of the interior of the bowl, and creates a 'new' tone. Delicious! 

Changing the view point offers more opportunities to change the look of the creation. And zooming in closely changes the atmosphere., making it feel more intimate. 

We must never 'blame' the objects for being 'boring' - it is down to US to make the ordinary look enticing and interesting. Playing with lighting and changing the height of the arrangement is also great. In fact, all good still life set-ups should be able to offer many different possible compositional outcomes. 

Give it a try! It'll get your creative juices flowing and deliver that 'inspiration' factor that often only arrives after you begin! 

For info on upcoming classes including weekly drawing and painting classes and the April portrait workshop, please email 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

The challenge of taking up oils, from scratch.

Oil paint is described as 'the king of all mediums' for good reason. It is unlike any other paint in consistency and performance, and it takes perseverance and a touch of determination to keep going through the initial lessons. (er, and the later lessons...) Like many things which are new to us, we can get disheartened all too easisly, and while I regularly ask students not to judge their efforts, it is difficult to do that! Many people want everything to be perfect first time. A desire which is not helped by the fact that our expectations of ourselves rise as we improve, meaning we often don't quite achieve what we want even though we are improving. The notion of perfection itself is a dubious one anyway, but the creation of an oil painting requires several (imperfect) stages, many of which are unattractive, off balance (tonally) until completion, and would often beneift from an extra layer, or two or three. Once, even though I was experienced in oils, a portrait painting just wasn't going the way I wanted it to. I could have started again, but feared just reaching a similar-but-different state of disatisfaction, so I just kept layering the first one. It took seven layers - SEVEN! And that's ok. I think it would be good to remember that the joy of painting is in the PAINTING, not the finish. If we can work it that act of painting itself is the fulfillment we seek, rather than the finish, then we would recognise more regular 'success'. It doesn't mean that we have to endure the mediocre, or not critique our work or not get frustrated, but sometimes, jeez, GETTING to the DESK is an achievment! Here are some examples of studies and work in progress from the past term.
We have used various techniques. term started with observation drawing, then on to black and white painting so students can become familiar with the texture of oil paint without the extra concerns of working in colour.
We followed this by doing the same subject in colour - so the SUBJECT is familiar, and students get to grips with colour.
Another technique we used this past term was using the underpainting layer as a proper tonal 'support' for the second colour layer. We used Raw Umber to paint the underpainting in one session, and the next week painted over it with French ultramarine to get impactful results - a time-efficient method.
The following photos show more progress shots inlcuding a charcoal drawing study,the raw umber underpainting followed by a 'Grisaille' layer, followed by colour on top.
Finally, a lovley colour painting which took a couple of sessions.
All these lovely artworks were done by students who are new to oils - they have all made an excellent start! For info on all my classes, in drawing, water colour and oils, please email

Friday, 24 December 2021

Christmas decorations, student artworks

I thought it would be fun to end the term with students painting their favourite Christmas decoration. The first image below is by Heather, who drew using coloured pencil on tinted (grey) paper. A really lovely and dramatic drawing.
The next images are in water colour, all done be students sitting at home, using Zoom to connect with the other students. I am so grateful to whoever came up with the idea of online learning. It has been a saviour over the past many months.
Above, by Christine McC, below by Cathy.
This is the subject that got the most laughs out of my students as they worked! Don't get me wrong - we have a lot of fun every time (mingled with a little torture...), but this was a different league of mirth. Gennie, who was painting on Zoom in County Clare, spent much of the morning tittering, as she painted a litle robin that she had knit for the Christmas tree. In fact, she has an entire flock!
For info on weekly drawing and painting classes please email