Friday, 1 March 2019

Portrait in colour pencil, step by step

The finished artwork.

This commission was from a student of mine, of both her grand children. I drew the grandson first (see here for the stages of that artwork, partly, I think, to put off the wooly hat! However, once I got to it, I realy enjoyed it. 
The next photo shows both the line drawing which I bagan with, and the first stages of the face. 

Apologies for the different 'white' paper colour in the photos. This is because some were taken in the evenings, some in the day. But they are close enough for you to see the process I use.)

I like to complete every colour and tone before moving on to the next area, and NOT do an all-over base layer. This is because I think the base layer approach, in coloured pencil, can make artworks look flat and 'samey'. For the strand of hair across the face, I gently apply the colour and carefully put the flesh colours right up to it. I don't remove areas with a rubber. The photos below show this a bit more clearly.

The wooly hat was jolly and colourful, but I left the details soft and suggestive. If I had made the hat sharp-focussed, it may have detracted from the face - and it wasn't a portrait of the hat! SO soft focus and generalities do the job better. 

Ths phone above shows the two portraits side by side. 

I use Bristol paper (but not 'extra smooth' as it is plasticy and slippery) and mostly Carna d'Ache pencils. 

For portrait workshops, and workshops in oil painting, life drawing and water colour please email for programme information. Classes are held at Belfast Academy of Realist Art, and there is a life drawing class two Friday evenings a month. 

Monday, 11 February 2019

Spring and Summer workshop timetable 2019

New dates for Spring and Summer Workshops.

April 6th & 7th - life drawing weekend with model.
This workshop will include some warm-up posed of 20 minutes, then a long pose to make the most of the time. Fully tutored, materials are provided. 10am - 5pm.
Cost £250

April 8th - 12th: Colour mixing: the Munsell Colour Method, with Paul Foxton.                      
Paul is one of only three people in the world who teach this, and he is looking forward to returning to Belfast to deliver this workshop. There are a couple of places remaining.
Cost: £600 (materials list provided)

April 22nd - 27th: Drawing and Oils workshop with Julie Douglas.
An extended version of last year's workshop, you will learn to take control of your drawing, learn how to create beautiful set-ups, paint a black and white and a full colour oil painting.
Cost: £600 (materials list provided)

July 19 - 23rd: Portfolio course suitable for college entry,
or to up the standard of your work in an intensive environment. This popular course is back due to demand! Drawing in various media, painting and colour work, project development and individual attention to enhance your skills.
Cost: £600 (materials list provided)

August 22 - 26th: Drawing and oils workshop with Julie Douglas
This workshop will improve your drawing skills using pencil, charcoal, and chalks, teach you how to create beautiful still life set-ups, and you will produce an oil painting based on one of your arrangements. This workshop is perfect for all levels of ability, and is an exellent warm-up/preparation for the oils workshop which directly follows, with Maestro John Angel.
Cost: £600 (materials list provided)

August 28th - September 5th: Oil painting like the Masters
A workshop delivered by the Maestro Michael John Angel, from the Angel Academy of Art, Florence. Details can be found here:

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Oil painting, 'Vernon', step by step

There are so many photos here that I thought I'd show you the finished painting first! (to see the preparatory stages scroll below to the previous posts). I had two weeks from starting the canvas to my deadline, and while I thought I wouldn't manage it as I was teaching during the same period, I decided to go for it. 

Vernon, fully finished oil painting. 

The initial stages are always hideous-looking. The best way to describe it is that it's an act of faith. We paint towards how it WILL look, seeing everything as part of the greater process.  I transferred a line drawing trace from my pencil drawing onto canvas, which gave me a blotchy placement guide, then did a base 'wash' layer to lay in some tones, going very lightly on the face, only on the shadow areas. This is the stage where the amount of work ahead becomes dreadfully apparent. Gulp. 

First stage, not looking pretty, but a start. 
 Next evening I put in the flesh areas, the first layer of colour. The face and hands took about two and a half hours and were done in one sitting. Colour was laid in small 'tiles', and not rushed.
First layer of flesh

Between classes next day I whacked on the first layer of the coat... still 'tiling' but with larger strokes. 

                                  ...and scrubbed in some background colour (see below).

Saturday night and I had to address 'the hat', aaaargh...! Even in the drawing stage this had been a challenge, and I spent a few hours redrawing with pencil on the canvas, then layering in the pattern using raw umber before painting the lighter chunks in between the stripes. Then I slathered on some beardy tones. 

Huge palette, tiny dog..?! Faithful little Minnie keeping an eye on me.
I gave the beard a second look, and decided it looked like it had been stuck on.. So I darkened it a bit... 

 ...then decided I needed more flesh tones to work beneath it so painted more shadow-colours on top (see below). It looks like the photos are out of order, but they are not. So, I painted a beary area, then let it go by painting over it - always be prepared to remove, rethink and repaint.

I then gave the flesh (face and hand) a second (final) layer. 

Then it was Friday, so I crammed in a few hours before the Friday Night Life class, and tackled the Christmas foliage behind the head. Once I got into the swing of it, this was fairly quick, and quite satisfying/a relief to cover a large expanse of canvas.  

This pic also shows the chunky blocked-in hat.
Saturday was the Marathon day. I did 12 hours straight, with a one hour break in the middle for a cuppa tea and a chat. I painted a second layer on the coat... 

...and after dinner, which my son kindly brought to the studio for me (what a star!),

Dinner, cooked and delivered!!
 I could put the hat off no longer... 

I worked from the top, down. 
The 'secret' to working on something complex like this lies in what you're listening to. All day I'd had the BBC iPlayer in the background. I'd had the final of masterchef on, several episodes of 'The Twinstitute' (I can only have documentaries on, otherwise I can't paint!) and for the hat it was two hilarious programes by Billy Connolly, so I actually laughed my way through it! By 11pm I'd had enough and packed up. This is how it looked - all done bar the beard and the baubles on the left. 

I took Sunday off as I was tired.. And Monday was deadline day. I worked on the beard...

...darkened the background, tweaked the 'join' between beard, eyebrow and background, and completed the baubles. Just in time for the deadline! PHEW!! 

Upcoming workshops with Julie in Belfast Academy of Realist Art: Friday Night Life drawing, 1st Feb  6 - 8pm
Children's workshop, portrait workshop, pet painting workshop. 
April 8th - 12th: Paul Foxton gives his Munsell Colour Mixing workshop.

For info on all workshops please email 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Portrait next step - transferring to canvas.

This shows my artwork in progress - getting the drawing onto my canvas ready to paint. 

The finished drawing (centre) with the painted tracings on the right, and the canvas with transferred image on the left. 
The film shows some of the process. 

Up and coming workshops at Belfast Academy of Realist Art: Friday Night Life drawing (every second Friday evening), Portrait weekend, Life Drawing weekend, PET PORTRAIT weekend and the new term of weekly classes.
April 8th - 12th 2019, Paul Foxton at BARA!
For info please email

Portrait progress number 3!

After many days longer than I expected, I finished the drawing of Vernon. These photos show the progress, with the finished artwork at the bottom. 

When I started, I thought the beard was going to be the most challenging part, but I think perhaps the hat was just as 'interesting'... 

The yellow-look to the photo is because I photographed it at night. 

By the time I began working on the area around the figure I realised that the job was not nearly over, yet...!! 

The big cover-up. It is important to keep the paper clean, and the only way to enqure there are no grubby smudges is to expose only the area being worked on. It's a rest for my eyes too.  
Starting the foliage
The background tone. Yet another challenge in gentleness and even handling. 

Of course, this is only the prep for the oil painting! I had a day off before transferring the image on to canvas. See the next post!

Portrait progress number 2, in film!

Pencil is not easy to photograph so please forgive the quality. Pencil drawing by Julie Douglas

I wanted to show the progress since my last post so here is another little film. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Hair and beards! Portrait drawing prep before painting, graphite.

Sometimes I will see a wonderful face, in the street, in a shop - even singing in a choir!, and I know I'd LOVE to paint it. 

The first time it happened,  over twenty years ago, it was a young woman with her mother, quietly browsing in a book shop in Rye, East Sussex. She had milky-white skin and very long, burnt orange wavy hair. She ALREADY looked like a painting. But I was too shy to approach her, and have regretted it ever since. So now, I just go for it, and politely compliment the person on their interesting 'head' (I notice that I tell them I like their head. Rather than 'face'), and would it be ok to draw them? So far so good, its always been a YES! 

Soft tones showing the gentle textures on the skin. 

On a recent trip to Bath and Wells, there was a lovely-looking gentleman staying in the same hotel. I mentioned my admiration of his looks to my traveling companions, and was almost immediately sorry, as they pointed him out so often I was nearly 'morto', as they say here. Just before we left, the lovely man was checking out, so it was now or never. 

"Er... excuse me, I couldn't help notice your lovely head..."

And so my new best friend is the wonderful Vernon, who was traveling with his wife and very happily sat for me. Here are some progress shots of my drawing study, and a small video. 

for scale - the drawing is on A2 paper. 

I enjoyed working on the flesh areas, but the beard is a challenge. It isn't finisehd yet, but I thought I'd share the progress so far. 
Hmm. The beard... 

Pencil is so difficult to photograph - the camera doesn't like all that white paper. So I did the video to try to show it better. 
And yes, it seems I have trouble speaking, thinking and drawing at the same time. 

More as I progress... 

Drawings by Julie Douglas, Belfast Academy of Realist Art (B.A.R.A.) 

Friday, 14 December 2018

Bravery and trust at the drawing board

Sometimes when I look at the drawings my students create, I am astonished at just how DIFFICULT the subjects are. Subjects which I set, of course! Tough. Stretching.

Suzanne B, student - a lovely set-up
But it's not only the level of trickiness which strikes me - it's the students themselves, and how brilliantly they respond when they see each week's offering... (Some hide their horror, some let it show!) Please remember that my students often have very little past experience. Some have not drawn for 30 years. Some have doodled at home without guidance, and attend out of exasperation or frustration at their lack of improvement. Some have no experience at all, but a desire. And others have attended for a little while and feel the benefit of the challenges I give them. All attend just once a week, for between two and four hours. A short time (and usually drawings are not completed in that time) - but they all improve, and accept the challenges.

Clive, student
So when I show you the work they produce, it's because I appreciate them and am proud of their achievements.  Appreciate their WORK, their frustration, their grit. And their staying power.

When I decide on a subject, it is chosen with a sense of adventure and fun. Excitement at a reflection. Pleasure at a shadow. Visual feasting, and enthusiasm for the puzzle-solving to come at each drawing board, by each student.

Recently the subject was cookie cutters. A great subject, fitting into what I would describe as the 'structural' category (as oposed to 'organic'). In other words - no hiding places! I made some ginger bread cookies too, but we decided to eat those rather than drawing them, even the crispy ones...
Alison S., using coloured pencil to beautiful effect. 
This arrangement was placed on the spotty paper, which provided the biggest challenge. If you look hard you will see part of the ginger bread cutter, and some ribbon. This took two hours of study, and while it is not finished, it is still beautiful. By student Kate.
Pat -this drawing was larger than most, around A3 sized. 
Glynis - in order to help her get less lost in the puzzle, Glynis marked R for red and Y for yellow on the stripes of her drawing. Every little helps! 
Ewa's drawing, with gorgeous warm colours reflected from red and gold paper, into the cutter. 
Teresa's drawing - Teresa is a new student and this was her first time using coloured pencil. A great start. 
A lovely water colour version. 
Alan S, lovely colourful start.
Sara's successful combination of graphite pencil and colorued pencil. 
Brigid's lovely drawing. 
 To make things more exciting, I added shiny paper into the mix. Students had a choice of silver, gold, striped or spotted paper, which introduced both colour and extra pattern to the subject. To be kind, I threw in some ribbons for extra impact. Students set up their own arrangement, inside 'cardboard corners', after experimenting with placement of colours for best effect, and got to work. Ouch!
Jim, coloured pencil with a little water added.

The best place to find shiny and patterned paper this year is..The Range! 
well done to everyone on a fantastic piece of observation drawing. 

Next up: Friday Night Life (life drawing 28th December 2019), Children's art (29th December 2018)

For info on all workshops please email