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 

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 
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
Next up: portrait workshops, drawing and watercolour workshops, oils weekend and children's classes. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Little Italy in Belfast - masterclasses with Michael John Angel and Jered Woznicki 2017

I am delighted to confirm two masterclasses for August 2017 in Belfast by two world renowned painters, maestro Michael John Angel, and Jered Woznicki, traveling from Florence.

Maestro giving demonstration, Belfast

The Angel Academy of Art in Florence is dedicated to the persuit of excellence in painting. Over the past couple of years I have been priviledged to become friends with maestro Michael John Angel, founder of the Angel Academy. Not only is he one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met, he is also a fantastic teacher who is passionate about sharing his knowledge and committed to ensuring that standards remain high.

He came to Belfast to deliver a workshop in 2016 and it was so successful that he asked to come back again! His 2017 workshop will be on painting using the methods of Bouguereau - August 18th - 22nd.

Student at Maestro's workshop, Belfast 2016 

This year his workshop is being followed by a second masterclass delivered by Jered Woznicki, a senior instructor at The Angel Academy. Jered is renowned for his tuition in colour mixing, he is exacting and thorough and has been described by past students as 'a full on fountain of knowledge'. Students practice each stage of the process several times and all students get individual feedback several times a day.  His workshop will be Painting the Figure from Photographs, August 24th - 28th.

Pat, Brian and Pauline at Maestro's 2016 workshop, Belfast
Belfast is not as hot as Florence in August! The venue is Crescent Arts Centre, which is located in Queen's Quarter near hotels and restaurants.

For details, description and information on Michael John Angel's workshop please click

For details on Jered Woznicki's workshop please click here

For general information email

Jered Woznicki Masterclass Workshop, Belfast 2017

Painting the Figure from Photographs                                       Thurs 24th - Mon 28th August 2017 

Jered Woznicki, Senior Painting and Drawing Instructor at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy is coming to Belfast in August 2017 to deliver a detailed workshop on Painting the Figure from Photographs.

Oil painting by Jered Woznicki

This training seminar is a condensed version of the course that Mr Woznicki teaches in Italy on Painting from the Live Model. The same classic procedure will be used and the same realistic flesh-colours will be employed during this workshop. Everyone will learn how to balance a flesh-coloured complexion in order to make their figures seem more believable and lifelike.   

Topics included in this course are: gesture, construct, articulation, the block-in of the colours, the essential balance of flesh-colours through different values, requisite planes and the finishing of the painting. Special attention will be paid to the layout, function and use of the figure-painting palette. 

Mr Woznicki will demonstrate the use of the figure-painting palette and will advise every student, individually, on how to best employ these lessons to improve their figure paintings.   
This course will provide a structure and methodology in traditional figure painting, suitable for both beginning and experienced realist artists.  Mr Woznicki is renowned for the excellence of his workshops, and early booking is recommended. A fantastic opportunity to avail of the expertise taught in The Angel Academy, but in a rather cooler climate!


Jered Woznicki is a Senior Instructor at the Angel Academy of Art, Florence. Born in Chicago, he graduated from the American Academy of Art in 1994. One of Mr Woznicki’s paintings remains in the permanent collection of the American Academy of Art alongside those of other notable graduates such as Scott Burdick and Richard Schmid. 

Jered Woznicki’s art has won many awards throughout the United States as well as in Italy. In 1999, he was awarded a medal in the prestigious Florence Biennale, an international assembly of over 500 recognized artists. In 2014, his work was collected by MEAM, the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Spain. Mr Woznicki’s paintings and drawings are to be found in private and public collections in Europe, North America and China. As well as teaching, he works on his own figural and still-life paintings.

A student painting in one of Jered's worksops

Further Workshop Details:
The workshop includes 30 hours tuition, from 10am - 5pm daily with a 1 hour lunch break. Students choose in advance one of the three artworks above to copy in the workshop. 
Individual and group critiques
Painting demonstrations by Mr Woznicki
Discussions on materials and techniques 
COST: £750 to include 30 hours of instruction, and some materials. 
A list of materials (paint and brushes) will be sent upon booking a place.

Terms & Conditions:
A 50% non-refundable deposit is required to hold your place. Full payment must be received by 1st June 2017. 
Minimum number of students - 10.

Not included:
Accommodation and flights, transport and all other personal costs.  
Fees are non refundable unless the course is cancelled for any reason. 
If traveling, it is recommended that you take out insurance to cover costs in the unlikely event of cancellation etc. 

Details of accommodation near the studio will be provided upon booking. 

For booking information and all enquiries please email 

Belfast is a vibrant city with a warm friendly atmosphere. If you are traveling for this course, you will find lots of things in the city to enjoy, in the days before or after the workshop.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Notes from the Atelier.. at The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast April 2017

2nd April was A Very Big Day. With a lot of help from some friends, I set up a display of artworks by around 50 students in The Engine Room gallery, to give their lovely drawings and paintings a public viewing of works in progress. 

My students are a modest bunch, but every few years it is very good to allow their progress to be seen and appreciated, and it was fantastic for me to share their day to launch my book,  Notes from The Atelier.

David McKnight, my editor, allowing me to show off his photo at the back of the book!
(page 255, for your  reference!) 
 The Engine Room Gallery is a huge space, with a stunning view of Belfast City Hall. We had the use of two rooms, which gave us enough space to put up 35 tables. We covered these in folders containing paintings and drawings that students had done during classes.

Around half the illustrations in my book were made by my students, so some of those were mounted and displayed on long tables under the windows.
A broad sweep of one of the rooms in the gallery, before everyone arrived

All set up, raring to go...! 
Some student artworks, which were used to illustrate the book - by Sara Colhoun, Jayne McClenaghan, Ciara Clearn and Nisa Viney. 
More student artworks as in the book - Hilary Johnston, Sarah Bruce, Fernando Perez, Pat Pinlay, Nisa Viney, Alan Leacock. 

And from the book, artwork by Sara Colhoun, Alan Leacock, Sara Bruce and Emma McWilliams. 
It's one thing organising an event, but quite another not knowing how many people will turn up. I needn't have worried! The doors opened at 3, and the first visitors arrived a bit before that... 

Lisa doing a wonderful job with refreshments! In the background, Judith who made the lovely food. 
...and they kept arriving, and arriving and arriving, until the place was absolutely FULL!  I had past students who'd travelled from County Clare and Dublin, others from Ardee and Derry and my brother from London. People stayed for a long while, carefully looking through every folder, meeting students, and students meeting other students!  Gennie, from County Clare, said 'it was like meeting family'.

Fernando (centre), June (left) and Maeve (right, who came from London)
Dawn, Gennie (who travelled from County Clare!), Colin, Margery, Claire, Judith... 

Gennie and Alan catching up! 
I spy Liz, Jackie, Ainnien, Sara, Ciara, Margey, Erin, Emma, Alison...
Avril and Claire!
Christine, left, David McKnight (editor) and Barbara. 
A selection box of students at the drawing board
 David and I were kept busy manning the book stack, as many people had pre ordered and came to collect their copies. It was fantastic to see so many familiar faces - it was buzzing and happy.

Meanwhile, Judith Cowan was mingling with the crowd sharing the delicious nibbles she'd made, and Lisa and Nuala were washing and rewashing glasses to keep everyone refreshed!
Chad with Julie

Visitors taking their time to enjoy every folder - with the colourng-in table in the foreground! 
Display of Julie's paintings and drawings

Preparatory drawing next to finished painting, Julie Douglas
 For me, a very important aspect of painting is the process itself, and the preparation involved in creating something new. To this end, I displayed my sketch books as well as preparatory drawings and colour studies alongside some finished artwork - from an educational standpoint, sharing the stages of the process is almost more important than displaying the end result.  I believe also that it was the not-always-finished aspects of the students folders which everyone found so attractive. There is an honesty in the learning process which is not often celebrated. The display celebrated the act of observation in itself, and provided a platform for others to appreciate the effort and progress that each student has made.
Julie's table

You can see from these photos that I was 'saying a few words', and took the opportunity to ask everyone to play the Elephant game... 

I gave everyone a small piece of paper, which they held behind their back, then all together we ripped it into the shape of an elephant!!! Well, the looks on their faces... No cheating, no peeping, just ripping...
The serious expressions as everyone ripped out an elephant behind their back! 
This is a great (and FUN) way of getting everyone to join in, doing something creative with a surprising outcome. It involves visual memory, spacial awareness and is more tricky than you'd think!!
The concentration of ripping elephants... 
The elephant used in my book! An original ripping by Claire Bruce!
No two elephants are ever the same. Some have a hint of a camel about them, others have lost their trunk - but they are all authentic and charming and unique. I used Claire's rather wonderful elephant (above) throughout  my book.
Elephant shortbread, made by Judith Cowan
Paper elephants hanging along the window
The most tremendous Elephant Cake, made by Maria Wylie - delicious! It broke my heart to have to cut into this, but I shared it in classes the week after the opening, and it was really yummy!
Queen's Guitar Quartet, featuring my son Rory on the left
We were serenaded throughout the afternoon, with music from the lovely Queen's Guitar Quartet, and also from Manus Maguire, playing traditional Irish Fiddle. I'm so grateful.
Holywood Culture Club representatives on the left, Dermot and Tim!

 I can truly say that I have never felt so supported in all my life. The atmosphere was so loving, warm  and generous. The good feeling was tangible. Thank you everyone - to all who came, and to all who leant their artwork, thank you for making it a wonderful event. I admit that it was, at times, a little overwhelming to see SO many people - there were hundreds of you! As I look through the photographs, I see that there are so many that I didn't have a chance to speak to. Your presence was much appreciated. I hope these photos show the flavour of the afternoon, and remind you of the buzz.

David's inauguration to the Ali Cat's Motorcycle Club (for girls). 
I was really delighted that my friends in the Ali Cat's Motrocycle Club arrived for a look around just before we cleared up. A vision in pink! Kate, Ducati-rider extraordinare, in pigtails in the front row, has a painting in the book! Thanks for coming ladies, and no one got lost!

A special thanks to all who helped me. From David McKnight at my side (correcting my spelling when I signed books) and Margaret McKnight who took lots of photographs, to Nuala and Michael McCavanagh, Lisa McCausland, Ciara Clearn and Rory Douglas-Smith who helped transport all those tables, folders, props, easels, books and bottles up the lift, for hanging up the elephants and helping with the display, I am so grateful.  You made an enormous task completely manageable and seamless. To Merlynne Knott for tidying up all the bits of ripped elephant from the floor, thanks! To Maeve Huttly and Gregor Douglas, Nuala and Michael and Rory, for helping take everything back down again, to Michael for helping me park the hired van (no laughing, it was a challenge!) and for getting it out again without even a tut, to Judith Cowan for making all those lovely nibbles, Maria for the cake, and for Clifford at the gallery for being so welcoming, I thank you whole heartedly.

I really look forward to doing it again!

Photos: Margaret McKnight, Michael McCavanagh, John McDonald and Joyce McWilliam.

Julie's book, Notes from the Atelier can be found here

For workshops and weekly classes email

Next up: drawing and watercolour workshop, portrait workshop and oils.