Friday, 17 June 2016

Watercolour cornflowers straight from the garden.

There is more than one way to be creative with colour, and one of my very favourite pastimes is looking after (and looking AT!) my garden. I am lucky that it is surrounded by mature trees, giving home to a multitude of birds from Magpies to Wrens and Stonechats. This is the view from my kitchen window this morning, June 2016. The garden is an abundance of greens and is a joy to behold. 

Julne 2016

But when I moved here, the main flower bed was dominated by two enormous Leyandii trees and an overgrown Rhododendron. Two men with lots of elbow grease and axes got rid of those, leaving me with a blank canvas of earth to play with. This photo below was taken in July 2012, four years ago. 
July 2012
As you can see, the ground was covered in ivy and bramble, with a lot of little tree stumps too. After I had dug and cleared those, I had a tonne of manure delivered, to give it all a nutritious treat, then the planting began. 
June 2015
By last year, the garden was a sea of Floxgloves, most of which were taller than me (and I'm 5 Foot 8!). One of the joys of gardening is the way that gardeners share their over-enthusiastic plants.  The Foxgloves were given to me by my friend Liz, so of course I think of her when I see them. In the back of the border are Buddlea and Himalayan Honeysuckle adonated by Glynis and dotted about are geraniums and more, given to me by Joanna. As well as this, I have taken cuttings of many of my own plants when I have moved house, so they become memories which go back a very long way. Many of the plants still growing now are the same ones in photographs of my children, taken in other gardens I have had. The white irises were mature in my garden in East Sussex when I moved there in 1991.. 

My son Christie in the garden in Sussex 1999

In the photo above you can see the Irises at the top left behind Christie's head in 1999 (and Christie is now 22!) and below here they are outside my window today, still going strong.
June 2016

Another plant which moves easily is the cornflower, and if there are enough to cut, I give them to my students to paint. They are lovely in watercolour, with a small amount of drawing on the leaves and straight-to-paint with the blue-purple petals. 

The exercise this time was in getting the right variety and contrast in the colour of the leaves - the back of the leaf is greyish green, and the front is a warm yellow-green. With just two hours to work, the students so really well to get so much done. 

Cornflower watercolour by Barbara, Student

Cornflower watercolour by Pat, student

Upcoming workshops - location drawing in Belfast, Portrait Drawing, Watercolour landscapes and oils. For info please email

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Watercolour Painting on Location (bliss) and birthday treats!

When the sun shines in Ireland, there is nowhere more beautiful. Luckily for us, last week my class and I decided that we would visit Mount Stewart, a large estate on the shores of the Ards Peninsula (one of my favourite places on earth), to do some watercolour painting. 

Students settled in on the lawns. 

Loction drawing and painting is good fun, though everyone was very tentative when they started today. I could tell this, because as soon as we arrived, 'someone' said they needed coffee... (a sure sign of great fear about what is to come). I did a head count, and only four were interested, so I did a demonstration painting with the promise of coffee immediately afterwards. This seemed to settle their nerves rightly enough.

There are, it is true, several factors which can make the idea of painting on location seem daunting. It feels different to not have a ceiling above us, and the lack of table is a challenge too. We stomped about while I discussed the various things to look for when choosing a subject, then stood to do my demonstration painting. I kept it simple, and produced a sketch in about 20 minutes. One of the best things about giving a demonstration is to show students what it is to be RELAXED. If we are tense, are drawing will look tense also.

Students getting ready...

The wisest amongst us chose a shady spot
The gardens are full of structure, provided by the main house as well as arbours, trimmed hedges and mature trees. we had plenty of choice.
Neill found a bench for some comfort, and Gavin was happy on the steps.

The first set of artwork, from the morning 
My demo sketches showing different possible approaches (unfinished)

I was about to add colour to this sketch when I was interrupted, for drinks!

Surprise treats!!!
Just as we were finishing up before lunch, Mark began rounding us up, shouting 'Party time!' To my absolute surprise, he and Sara had brought Prosecco and cake, to celebrate my birthday! Drinks on the lawn.. Perfect!
My afternoon watercolour, in progress 
Finished watercolour, straight to paint. Julie Douglas.  
Mark, leaving in STYLE in his fantastic  home made car!

This was just the lovliest day imaginable. Everyone enjoyed painting outside, and we look forward to doing it again soon.

Next up - oil painting workshop, portrait drawing, watercolour and coloured pencil workshops. For info email

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Spring is in the air.. (in the pink!)

It is my great pleasure to collect flowers from my garden to give my students to paint.  I choose subjects according to colour, form, textures, scale and variety on a week to week basis as opposed to 'flowers' or 'portraits', so this basket of Camelia flowers fit the bill nicely for a restricted watercolour painting, with no drawing at all. 

Basket of flowers straight from the garden

While the camelia was the main event, I decided it would be good to warm up with something simpler, with less complicated shapes to get the brushes flowing and relieve any potential anxiety amongst students. 
So we started with a stem of Forest Flame, which has similar colours. Students were then restricted to using only Lemon Yellow, as a base colour, and Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Rose. 

By student, Brigid

Brigid's lovely camelia 

The most important thing to remember when going straight to paint is to resist the temptation to use the brush as if it were a pencil to provide an 'outline'.  The great advantage of NOT drawing an outline in pencil is that we are looking at the entire shape from the offset, as a mass. A line won't do this but a blob of paint pushed over the surface quickly provides the shape we need. 

Trevor starting his Forest Flame 'warm up'
It is a very relaxing way to work and uses watercolour at its best.


Some students (above) added a background towards the end. 

By student Sara C

By student Jessica

Studying hard!

Trevor's Camelia

Upcoming workshops: oil painting, portrait drawing and children's art!
For information email

Friday, 1 April 2016

'Dapples at Scrabo', oil painting 11in x 14 inches on linen.

Some paintings are fast, while others take their time to brew. In this case, I started the painting a few months ago (and documented the drawing stage through to the first layer of colour here ), and had many interruptions in its progress, with commissioned works, lots of teaching sessions and writing my book. However, I did finish it, I think (..but there's always the possiblity of having another visit at some point..), and here it is. It is part of a series of light dapples. I just love light.

sunlight on skin. 

The book is nearly all written - it's about what happens in my weekly workshops, and is full of illustrations of students artworks and demonstrations on how to approach drawing and painting. I can't wait to share it with you, and I"ll keep you posted! 

Upcoming workshop: oil painting 23 & 24 April, Belfast
For info email

Friday, 25 March 2016

Out and about, drawing at The Ulster Museum Belfast

This week I took my students for a bit of location drawing at the Ulster Museum. This is a wonderful place to draw. While it is certainly a hive of activity, it's large atrium allowing sounds to echo round the building and bounce around the walls, it is (contrary to what you might expect), a welcoming environment and students have no trouble zoning out the noise (or the more curious members of the public), and focusing on drawing.

Standing, L-R, Trevor, Carolyn, Sara. Seated, Mark and myself.

It is good to work away from a desk - being outside our usual comfort zone keeps us fresh and alert and of course the amazing variety of subject matter seems to be endless, from busts to animals to pots, canons, cars, willow sculptures, shells, ceramics and treasure from ship wrecks.

Demo time

Susan, Tony, Margery and Nisa

An extra bonus is the lovely garden which is overlooked by the cafe, so we can draw the trees no matter what the weather is doing. We began with some charcoal drawing, getting a bit messy, which was a good way to warm up and settle in.

Chad -  tree in charcoal
Work by Neill, Peter, Dympna and Karen

Front - back: Chad, Peter (Beaming), Dympna, Karen, Ben, Jackie, Neill
Peter's little sketch book drawing, his first time on location. Great!
And as it was the last day or term, we had to have lunch together, of course!


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Watercolour Study: Black and white, as well as colour

This week it was watercolour in my studio, with students attempting to complete two small paintings of the same subject, in just a couple of hours. This is a tall order, but time limits are an excellent way to speed up our decision-making - often we will be much braver and just cut out the worry-time, and get on with the painting.

This is my demonstration painting - both artworks were side by side in an A4 sized Moleskine sketchbook. I did the drawing first, and then drew the 'frame' around it, and not the other way around.

I did the 'Black and White' using Payne's Gray only, diluting it with water to get the lightest tones, and never using white paint. It is possible to use white paint in water colour, but it gives all the colours  a horrible greyishness, and stops it beging transparent. The transparency is one of the most delightful features of watercolour painting, so I don't use white. I started at the aubergine stalk, in a pale tone. It is nearly imposssible to judge the first tones correctly as so much of the paper is still white - white is a loud and dominant tone, which fools our eye! So choose a tone to get going, and remember to keep going back to check the relative tones, all through the course of the painting and altering where necessary. 

The advantage of drawing the 'frame' is that it neatly encloses the image. This is a tonal study, rather than a finished artwork, and I prefer drawing a freehand line, no matter how wobbly, rather than using a ruler. The second painting, in colour, was much quicker, seeing as I'd done all the tonal working-out already!

The whole lot took a couple of hours. Below are some lovely student examples of their work in progress.

Susan C, student
Trevor, student
Carolyn, Student

Next up - Colour Pencil weekend workshop, Life Drawing workshop, OIls weekend and Watercolour Landscape workshop.
For information email

Friday, 27 November 2015

Draw In is BACK!! Michael John Angel and David Gray in Belfast 2016!

I am delighted to announce the summer workshops for July and August 2016.

Internationally renowned artists David Gray and  Maestro Michael John Angel will each lead a masterclass workshop in Oils, at Belfast School of Art.

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

David gray is an award-winning painter with a huge Youtube following. He teaches throughout America and Europe.
Magdalene,  work in progress, Michael John Angel
In order to have the best workshop possible, I invited each Master to choose what subject they would most prefer to teach. So Mr Angel is teaching painting the figure using the methods of Caravaggio, and Davd Gray is teaching Portrait Painting from a model. 

Both workshops will include demonstrations and techniques to be used each day.

Sleeping Muse, by David Gray 

For details about Mr Angel's workshop (Wed 17th - Sun 21st August 2016) please visit

For details about David Gray's workshop (Mon 25th - Sat 30th July 2016, six days), please visit

I have attended workshops with both artists, and highly recommend them as honest, knowledgable and willing to share their experience so that all attendees get the most from them. Most masterclass workshops that I have attended have had students of all levels - from those with only a small amount of experience, right up to professional artists. Without exception, everyone gains.

Some of my own students have asked why I would go to a workshop - I go because it is wonderful to have clear, uninterrupted time to devote to painting, and it is so valuable and interesting to hear each different Master's point of view. This is an enormous subject, and we'll be learning about it for ever.

Spaces are limited on these workshops, and the numbers are kept low to ensure plenty of attention. 

For info and booking email

Draw In is the title of initiatives by Julie Douglas to raise the profile of traditional drawing and painting techniques as a vehicle for improving creativity for everyone, in all walks of life. For a look back at the first Draw In, which included artists PJ Lynch, Paul Foxton, Julie Douglas and, from the grand Central Academy NY,  Colleen Barry, please visit

David Gray Masterclass 2016

The Portrait from Life

Monday  25th July - Saturday 30th July 2016, (six days) Belfast 

Nina, oil on panel, David Gray
David Gray is an award winning oil painter known for his still life and human subject paintings rendered in a style reminiscent of the French Neoclassical painters Jacque-Louis David and his student Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. 

Alla Prima portrait, David Gray

In this workshop, working from the live model David will take you step by step through the process he uses in creating his professional works. From the initial under-drawing through to final glazes, learn to build your painting in a series of layers that will help you effectively translate the observed model into an elegant and refined portrait. 

Each phase of the process will be covered in detail. Daily demos will be given and you will apply the lessons on your own canvas. Personal attention will be given to each student.  

Please join David for six days of intense study, of learning techniques and concepts for painting the portrait from life, as well as camaraderie, and hopefully a little fun, too.
Demonstration painting, David Gray

Demonstration painting, David Gray

Further Workshop Details:The workshop includes: 5 days tuition plus a one day demonstration session: six days in total. Tuition is  from 10am - 5pm daily on Mon , Tues, Wed, & Fri - Sat, with a 1 hour lunch break. In the middle of the workshop, day 4, Thursday, will be a full portrait demonstration by David, giving students time to rest and enjoy watching the entire process. Individual and group critiquesPainting demonstrations every day. Discussions on materials and techniques 
Cost: £750 to include 30 hours of instruction, tea/coffee and some materials (canvas will be provided as well as all flammable liquids so that students don't need to worry about those if flying). 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 May 2016. This is non-refundable. Payment is made upon recept of invoice. 
Minimum number of students - 10.

Not included:
Accommodation and flights, transport and all other personal costs. If the course is cancelled for any reason, a full refund will be made. 
 If traveling, it is recommended that you take out insurance to cover costs in the unlikely event of cancellation etc. 

Details of accomodation 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.