Monday, 15 June 2020

Maestro John Angel, new online portrait workshop, August 2020 in association with BARA

I'm delighted to announce that the workshop which I had planned with Maestro John Angel WILL go ahead this summer, in spite of the global lockdown and lack of international travel.

Rather than taking place in my studio, we have worked together to create a fantastic new online programme, made up of beautifully edited demonstration videos, which will be shared with participants throughout the workshop, and Maestro will attend through Zoom every day, answering questions and doing more demonstrations where needed.

The subject is portraiture. Over the two weeks, the programme will allow you to complete at least three portraits, under Maestro's guidance. The first is using the Grisaille technique, the second and third are in colour. All reference material will be provided in advance, along with handout notes. You will be working from photographic reference selected by Maestro, and not painting master-copies.

Maestro will be in his studio in Florence, and the Zoom meetings will be hosted by me, in Belfast. To date (since lockdown took effect here), I have held 72 classes on Zoom, and am now very familiar with it as a platform. It is fantastic - but I have opted for mostly pre-recorded video demonstrations, rather than live demos, just in case anything goes wrong with anyone's internet during class.

Please watch the video below and get in touch if you would like to book. Details on fees etc at the bottom of this blog.

Michael John Angel painting St John
Mr Angel is highly regarded as one of the foremost figurative painters,  and his paintings and portraits hang in both public and private collections worldwide. Mr. Angel has taught workshops at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, in addition to lecturing at the Florentine campuses of several American universities and various private schools. From 1982 to 1988 he was the Director of the National Portrait Academy in Toronto, Canada, and from 1992 - 1995 the Assistant Director of the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.  As an ARC living master, Mr. Angel is considered one of the most inspiring and successful teachers in classical and traditional art today.

Mr Angel, teaching
Michael John Angel, known to his students as 'Maestro', is the founder and Director of the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. 

Further Workshop Details:Each day is a 6-hour class plus an hour lunch break. The exact timings will be confirmed once students express interest. This is due to the multitude of timezones across the world. Mr Angel will be available LIVE during class times (in the same way that he would be in a normal shared studio environment)Individual and group critiques - question and answer sessions live on Zoom, co-ordinated by Julie Douglas. Painting demonstrations by Mr AngelDiscussions on materials and techniques COST: £1350 - this is the same price as last year's workshop, in spite of the huge volume additional work involved in producing the several hours of excellent quality video demonstrations. Videos are available to students to download and keep as a reference aid. 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 15th July 2020Minimum number of students - 15.Fees are non refundable unless the course is cancelled for any reason. 

I personally feel really honoured to have had the opportunity to create and present this workshop with Maestro. He is tirelessly professional, enthusiastic, and cooperative, and endlessly generous with his knowledge. It is a privilege for me to be able deliver this workshop, particularly during the current travel and gathering restrictions in place due to COVID-19. 

Oil painting workshop with Julie Douglas 13th - 17th July 2020

This popular weeklong workshop covers all aspects of setting up, prepping and completing an oil painting, using a couple of different methods. We will work using still life subjects,so you can set up our own arrangement, draw it, do a grisaille then move on to colour. These are lovely process when taken in small manageable stages.

Student Marie beginning to apply paint, after completing previous studies
Marie's painting
We will look at colour mixing...
 We will spend some time on colour mixing, so you discover how many colours you have available even when using a restricted palette.
Lovely finished painting from last year's workshop, by student Gennie

This photo of lovely student work shows the drawing, black and white ('grisaille')painting and transferred drawing on the canvas ready for painting. by student, May.
May's finished little painting - lovely! 
 This is a five day workshop, with the option for those who wish to include it, a look at colour mixing for skin tones and a small portrait study.

My portrait painting of Jonny. 
Having spent the past three months teaching exclusively online, I am delighted that some students are returning to the studio to work. With all workshpaces at least 2 metres apart, I am constantly grateful that my studio is large enough to accommodate this. However, for the time being, I will continue to offer classes online as well as in the studio. The workshop will include demonstrations, as well as video demos for those on Zoom. 

For more information, please eamil 

Also upcoming, 3 day portrait workshop:

3 day workshop in Portrait drawing with Julie Douglas July 10-12th 2020

I am holding two workshops in July,  first in portrait drawing (10 - 12th July)  and then Oil Painting (13th - 17th July)

In the portrait workshop we will look at how to measure the face, using a variety of approaches to help dispell preconceptions and help you understand the face as part of the head itself.

'scaffolding' to get proportions... 

We will use dry media, including pencil, charcoal and compressed (grey) charcoal. 
 There will be daily demonstrations and all reference materials (photographs of BARA models) will be sent to students via email.

Step one, two and three in the process, from block-in to tones. 
Student artwork from last year's workshops
Student drawing of Mr Paul O'Styrene. A very obliging model! 
How to deal with hair...  (Prep drawing of Rachel, by JD) 

Having spent the past three months teaching exclusively online, I am delighted that some students are returning to the studio to work. With all workshpaces at least 2 metres apart, I am constantly grateful that my studio is large enough to accommodate this. However, for the time being, I will continue to offer classes online as well as in the studio. However, ZOOM is rather tiring, so class length will be shortened to accommodate this, but students will get some homework to do!!!

Finished prep drawing for 'Vernon', graphite, by JD

For more information please email

Also upcoming, five day oils workshop:

Friday, 12 June 2020

Drawing larger than life - Graphite portrait study, Liam Long.

In November I visited Castle Howard with a friend, Robert. A slightly long suffering friend who has had to endure my habit of approaching strangers on more than one occassion... I spotted a long and lean and lovely young man, one of the waiters in the cafe, and immediately wanted to draw him. What to do? The only thing to do was to ask him. Me: 'er, I'm sorry Robert, but I've just noticed...'  Robert, sighing: 'AGAIN???'
So I approached the young man, asked and luckily he said... ok!

At the beginning of March, I had a week away in a little cottage with my friend Claire, for our annual arty lock-in, with no distractions and nothing to do but draw, paint, walk, knit and listen to Audible. Fantastic. So I got a good start on the tall project. I decided that as he was such a tall fellow, it would be most impactful to draw him life size. But it ended up a bit taller than that. Lets just say, the paper itself is 7.5 foot tall. Ahem. It's the largest drawing I've ever done.

The long piece of paper, which had to be rolled carefully back on itself at the bottom. 
It was a bit of a workout, firstly for my arms, with lots of stretching. 

I mapped everything out in line first, using HB graphite pencil. 

I started at the top, standing on a step, and worked downward. 

This (above)  is as far as I got during the stay in the cottage. 
Back in the studio, having transported the paper carefully rolled up in a box.

Once the face was completed, the shirt-challenge was on. All I can say is, it would have taken even longer if he'd been wearing a pattern, so I'm grateful for the white shirt!

By 23 March, this is as far as I'd got as by now I was drawing in between classes. That day, he was rolled up again and taken home, as  this was the start of lockdown. 

I worked for the next four weeks at home, doing all my classes online with accompanying demonstration videos. This meant I had little or time time to continue drawing. Then, cramped in the smaller rooms at home, I decided to move back to the studio, and Zoom, alone, from there. The space was bliss.  On a practical level, by the time I reached the top of the trousers, the top half of the paper was going to have to hang over the top of my easel, which I wasn't overly happy about. So I spread the paper out on the table, and worked like that. Side-saddle. Not comfy. 

 By the time I reached the feet, side-saddle just wasn't working for me - I couldnt get a good enough overview of what I was doing. So I propped the bottom of the sheet of paper over a table-top drawing board, and harmony was restored. 

Liam doing an impression of a fairground mirror... 

The final strokes were put on on June 4th, meaning the artwork was on the go for three months.Though I hardly got anything done on it during April and half of May. 

Pencil is incredibly difficult to photograph. The next two photos don't do the drawing any justice at all, but they give you the scale if nothing else. 

Here is the full length artwork, pinned in the only place tall enough to hang it. 
Here's me, to give you the scale. 
I intend to do a full size oil painting of Liam Long, so will move on to a colour study next... 

Classes are ongoing, with weekly classes, online distance learning classes and workshops with accompanying video demonstrations. For info on all workshops please email

July: two workshops at BARA - portrait workshop and an oils workshop
August: two week workshop with Maestro John Angel via zoom and video demonstrations. For info please simply email

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Drawing our way through lockdown at BARA and videos on Vimeo

Well. Lockdown has been BUSY! I had grand plans of completing a large full length portrait drawing which I had started in the beginning of March. I rolled it up and brought it home, along with all the materials, paper and canvas that I thought I'd need for teaching and painting over the following weeks. Not a chance!! First, the portrait is over 7 feet tall. Which is taller than my ceiling. But as it turned out, size was the least of it. Where was the TIME?? 

Lockdown arrived during my Spring term, and a small number of students had decided to stay at home from mid March (a week earlier than the start of lockdown). In order for them to be included in the weekly class, I did a very rough video outlining what we'd be doing in the studio that week. Little did I know that that was The Start Of Something. I'd decided that, while all my classes immediately transferred onto Zoom, that might not be enough. What if the internet couldn't cope? What if students who live in the countryside have trouble with their connections? 

My Saturday morning Zoom class, which includes students from Ulster, Ireland, Egypt and Dubai!

So I made the obvious decision - all demonstrations would have to be made in advance, recorded and sent to students, so that if the internet was poor on the day of their class, they could see what to do, how to do it, and use What's App to send progress shots during their class. 

Has it worked? You bet it has! 

Has it been time consuming? Completely. 

But, I couldn't do it on my own. My son, who is furloughed and isolating in my house, became Chief Editor. A post he didn't choose, but is resigned to! He's very good at it. 
I now have a large collection of videos on Vimeo, freely available to all. So far, we've done over 20 videos. You can find them here:

After 4 weeks, I decided to go back to my studio, which allows me space to do some drawing. After 11 weeks, with an hour here and an afternoon there, in between filming and Zooming, I finished the portrait drawing. Not 11 weeks of drawing, I hasten to add! 

And the students...? They've been AMAZING. They've worked harder than ever, frequently staying at their drawing boards long after the class is over, and cheering each other on over Whats App. It's been a rewarding experience, and many have said that the drawing and painting has helped them focus and think about nothing, except their art. Which is just the ticket, in uncertain times. 

For upcoming workshops, both live and on Zoom (with full instructional videos) please email

For new class information watch here:

Portrait workshop 13 - 17 July
Oils workshop 20 - 24 July

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Bring Julie to your home! New BARA Distance Learning Programme

This morning's lovely drawing class, home from homes. 

Bring Julie to your home!! Distance Learning from BARA. 

Julie Douglas is resuming her very popular drawing and painting Distance Learning programme to enable personal growth and development while working from home.

Click the link below for Julie's video to tell you all about it.

This week she began teaching her regular weekly students from home and has decided, after many requests, to extend the sessions to make them available for new students too.
Using a combination of full tutorial videos, notes, AND weekly online classes, Julie will guide you through a fulfilling and rewarding creative experience. Julie has helped thousands of students to improve their drawing and painting through her user-friendly and positive approach.

Having taught for a few years with London Art College, Juile is well equipped to teaching students at a distance.

Feedback from the online classroom includes -
Paul: 'that was so uplifting this morning, thank you'
Kate: 'Julie this morning was fantastic. A real soul-lifting experience in a very challenging time. Thank you for your efforts'

Student numbers will be strictly limited – please apply quickly to ensure your place, and to buy art materials from the list while you still can.


Monday, 3 February 2020

Book review by Katherine Tyrrell, of Notes for the Atelier

I was delighted to read Katherine Tyrrell's review of my book. Katherine writes one of the most popular art blogs in the UK, and I have worked with her in the past, and was pleased to see her at the filming of Sky Portrait Artist of the Year in Battersea Arts Centre. (She was very encouraging there - it's amazing the difference it makes to a stressfull experience when you see a face you know, and they say nice things!!)

A spread from the book

If you would like to read her review, you will find it here.

Another spread from the book

Sunday, 2 February 2020

BBC4 Life Drawing Feb 4th

This coming Tuesday I am delighted that my studio will be part of the first live nation-wide life drawing session, on BBC4 with Lachlan Goudie.

Last week's life class at BARA

Drawing the human form is a very centering experience (after all, we are drawing that most familiar of things - ourselves) and I think everyone should try it. More than once!

Details of the programme are here

It's a pilot programme, to encourage people to get their paper and pencils out at home and join in, following the live model on the screen.

Try to tune in!

Next workshops at BARA this Friday 7th February 6 - 8 pm portrait drawing and
Saturday 8th February Portrait drawing 10.30 - 5pm

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Sky Portrait artist of the year - the movie!!

This link takes you to the Sky Portrait website, and gives you a series of 2 minute films of all artists doing their paintings.

SKY Portrait Artist of the year, 2020 - the filming

My finished portrait of actor/director Noel Clarke
This was the most stressful painting experience I have ever had, and it was exhausting, thrilling and, in a strange way, exciting all at the same time. Having done so much prep, all I wanted to do on the day was get ON with it, and found it difficult, at times, to even speak to the camera as I was so focussed. I felt nervous but ready - and didn't want to let my team down. SEVEN of my students flew from belfast to London to support me and watch the proceedings, and my brother and his partner also came, so I felt well supported. 
The Team...Margery, Sara, me and Catherine - the night before, like as if it was all a blast... They did, to be fair, text me at 6am to make sure I was up and ready for filming.. 
The venue, Battersea Arts Centre, was excellent, with consistent lighting and lots of space. There were cameras everywhere, with each artist easel having it's own camera in front and behind. 
Sara next to my self portrait
It was the first time that noel Clarke had sat for a portrait, and he was anxious in case he didn't do a good job. He needn't have worried - he was fantastic at sitting still and he was lovely to paint.
The first marks, literally! I always begin by using my hand-span as a guage for the head.
When I did my practice paintings, I worked sometimes from the model, and sometimes from my phone - I found that my phone was quicker, and that if I started from life, the camera wouldn't 'see' the same angle that I did, so it needed to be one or the other. If someone is going to sit still for four hours for me to paint them, then it's the least I could do to work from life. Most other artist, I understand, didn't do this. Great pity. On the other hand, this was less a paint-a-thon and more of a race, so whatever is the quickest! So I put my fastest-music in my headphones (ABBA! Not even joking!) and got started. 
The drawing, directly onto the canvas to save me the time of transferring it. I forgot my fixative spray, so was a tad nervous about painting over this... gulp. But nothing ventured... If I had drawn on a large pad, or larger canvas, I might well have NOT painted, but continued drawing.
The nerve wracking bit - adding paint on top of a perfectly fine drawing... will I 'lose' it...?? No going back now! (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tyrrell) 

Some of the camera crew - this was my view! 
Hard enough as it was to paint in such public circumstances, the worst bit was being taken outside at regular intervals to 'talk to the camera' - nightmare! I don't even like having my photograph taken, so this was torture. Though the crew were all absolutely fantastic and lovely. 

The fabulous Tai-Shan Scheirenberg
Joan Bakewell!

In the centre, 'the team' a bit star struck with Stephen Mangan. Far left is Gregor and Maeve, come to cheer me on, thanks! 
The quietest time was during the lunch break, when the hall emptied. Many of us continued painting, glad of the uniterrupted time to get as much done as possible. Even so, it was a marathon right up to the last minute. I didn't walk around the hall at any point - on the far side from my space all the self portrait were on the wall, but I didn't want to see ANY! (no room for nerves!)

Just seeing this photo brings it all back to me - it was getting busy by now! (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tyrrell)

Battery recharging!! 
With about 10 minutes remaining, I could hear one of the producers whispering to the artist next to me, asking 'what could possibly go wrong?', and I knew that she'd be asking me next. My goodness, there were so many potential answers to that question, mostly of the non-arty variety... and when she DID whisper, Julie, Julie what could go wrong?, I just hadn't the time to stop painting and said 'I have no words', and ignored her! Oops!!! It was a relief when we were told to put the brushes down..
and... it's all over. 

I was sorry not to get through to the next round, but I so enjoyed the experience. And, I'd do it again!!