Monday, 27 June 2011

Pears -Colour pencil and chalk pastels. Close-up and far-away.

I've spent the morning doing my Distance Learning crits, and am left feeling very inspired. Its a really lovely thing to receive regular images from students from all over the place, as they follow the exercises I have set, and after a few weeks, the progression in the work is so marked, the improvement is so fast. Its a joy and a privilege to watch. When Susan emailed this pear drawing, it really made my day! Look at the colours, look at the pattern! (The pattern was self-imposed, by the way - I'm Hard, but I'm not that Cruel...) 

Pear on patterned cloth, Colour Pencil by S. Baker, distance learning student in Wales.

On Saturday I had Big Drawing Day in Belfast. The students were mostly well-behaved, with hardly any chat back, and no moaning at ALL! In fact, my son said the noise was mostly Laughing, though I tried to explain that that was proably a nervous hysteria...! These two lovely chalk drawings show how much the students, who were beginners, settled in to the day. Delicious!

Pears in Chalk Pastel, by M. Scott, student 

Pears in Chalk Pastel, by R. Burnside, student
To see more Pears, go to the search box at the top right of this page and type Praise of Pears. 

I called this post Close-up and Far-away because the Drawing day was in Belfast, close up, and Susan is in Wales, far away. Distance is nothing! 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bad Language - seeing Red! Tomatoes on cloth, Oil 8in x 10in

The way we speak and the limitations of our language, seriously hinders our progression in both our willingness to Observe as well as in our ability to understand or recognise the colours we See. This time, I'm referring to Colour, and the limited number of words we have to describe the endless, ENDLESS, colour we see all around us, everywhere, every day.

Tomatoes on Cloth - my first painting on Board, (as opposed to canvas) a few months ago. Oils 8in x 10 in. Not the best pic, but you get the idea. (note the bits of 'Red' in the 'White' cloth) 

Take Red, for example. If you imagine in your mind what Red looks like, everyone will have a different red in mind. If I say maroon, or burgundy or cerise, or crimson or scarlet, that focuses your imagination a bit more - but not much. If I say think of a  Red-Head - the variety of different reds goes from deep coppery-red to light bright gold... How about a Red Pepper? Red Onion? Red Tomaoto? Pomegranate? Rose? Which one is red? And which PART of each thing is the reddest red? Our Language, our lack of labels for colours,  seriously restricts our ability, or our Desire to really Look, and then See, it blocks our mind to the concept of colours within each colour-label. But really, deep down, we KNOW - its just that language has so over simplified it, that we forget. We do know how many colours are mixed together to produce other colours. For example. if you have ever ordered paint and watched it being mixed up, there is a huge tub of white, and the machine drops in small amounts of other colours - a squirt of yellow, a smigde of red and maybe a droplet of black, then lid on, and the tub goes into the Shaker Machine and is juggled to death (yup, I LOVE that..), and your new peachy-plumy-paint is ready...

                     This is  a photo of a real apple - I LOVE this! I was about to eat it, when I spotted the reflections, and gave it a polish - reflections top AND bottom,  how DELICIOUS. But, er, what colour is it....?? Don't say R**..!

Here's your quick-dictionary... Hue: Another word for Colour 
Value: how light or dark a colour is
Saturation: NOT light or dark, but pale or weak, and pure or strong. 
Confused? That's ok, all you have to do is LOOK!

Next up - Big Drawing Day in Belfast (and I'm making LUNCH!!)
Email for info.
Also - my weekly classes continue through most of summer, and I have had some local teenagers join in. Great time to get some drawing in now that school is done.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Citrus, water colour - not bitter, just a little t'art. Moleskine.

                                 Water colour in Moleskine sketch book. Julie Douglas.

This week's class painted quartered citrus, which was challenging in both the drawing and colour. The shapes have to be right, and there are so many shades of colour, as well as the light making some of the flesh semi-transparent - perfect subject for the qualities of water colour paint. The students only grumble was about the wonderful lemon smell - the only thing lacking was the G&T... Here are a couple of lovely student examples.

 Water colour by  A. Walker, student. Wonderful composition. (we decided that it looks like a gin glass! Though she said that was subconscious..) 

 This one shows the gentle layering process, the best part water colour. If you click to enalarge this, you will see the painting is a fine example of colour-observation (notice that each part of the top lime is a different colour, for example) and even though its not finished, there is enough information for us to understand the tonal values over all. By A-M Ramsay-Baggs, student.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Connecting with art and Love. Cows, Colour Pencil on Bristol Board.

Cows in colour pencil, first stage - I draw everything in line first, click to enlarge. 

I love colour, I love shape, I love texture, I love Looking. Looking becomes a way of appreciating the complexity in simplicity. Looking becomes a vehicle for understanding, and Understanding becomes a vehicle for Communicating. And I believe that drawing (mark-making in all forms) is, above all other things, a vehicle for communication. As important as speaking, touch, feeling or writing. It is Seeing, and then the giving of what you have seen, to others. How is that anything but Love? 

a bit more....

In a previous post, I mentioned Love as being an important ingredient in making imagery. In a way, students perhaps need to have experienced some of this to know what I mean. I use lots of little phrases when I'm teaching, all of which are relevant at the time, and one of them is Feel The LOVE. This is usually aimed at my portfolio students, who need to learn quickly about the commitment and effort they have to find, and their experience with me is faster and more intense than on my other courses. Submersive. When I mention love, they know that it means they have to put more of All of themselves into their artwork. It means relax a little bit more, go with it a lot more, focus on it totally and fall in love with it. It means sticking with it when it feels difficult and keeping on when its nearly there, but not quite there yet. It might mean hold your breath more. Concentrate. It means being really careful with it.  Gentle with it. Honest. Then time stops and the relationship between artist and artwork REALLY begins. And it shows in the work. So the next time you're in a gallery or museum, when you look at a beautiful painting and really connect in some way with it, when you are drawn in to it and feel some kind of awe or thrill, if you feel humble or even amusement, know that what you have connected to is the love that the artist put there. And what an honour that is. An honour for the artist. And an honour for the viewer who has entered their world. 

Killanena Cows out for a Walk. (Or, as they say in Belfast, Ha-ou Na-ou Bra-oon Ca-oo.)
Colour pencil on Bristol Board, 15in x 8in. 

I had an email from an old friend recently, a guy I went to college with many years ago, who finally twigged that much of my chat was about my dog in the woods. He asked, Do you ever do any WORK? This really made me smile. Who says that I can't have my office in the woods? Have you seen how many shades of GREEN there are in there?? (I'll talk about Green in another post...)  I HAVE to go to the woods, because... I love the woods! (I love colour, I love shape, I love texture...)

 I heard a lovely quote from Kahlil Gibran recently (brought to my attention by artist Robert Genn, who is a very wise owl indeed) - 'Work is love made visible.' 
You can see it all the time. 

Next up - Big Drawing, Belfast
Monthly Monday Killaloe
Water colour workshop, oils workshop and Portfolio Course.
Also, distance learning new module. Email for info

Saturday, 11 June 2011

St George's Farmers Market, Belfast

I've been thinking about it for ages, and when a friend said she was looking after another friends stall, I decided that was the nudge I'd been waiting for, and that I'd try to get a stall at St George's Market in Belfast. In order to do this, I spent the previous day trimming and slicing demonstration paintings and artworks, arranging them in portfolios. Sounds like nothing, but it was er...messy..  Then up at 6am (yes, THAT is why I'd put it off..)  to queue and hope for a table. I was 16th in the queue, and wasn't overly hopeful, but oh joy, by 8.15 I was given a space half way between my friend, who was busy by then, arranging hats and scarves on her stall, and my favourite veg stall. 

St George's is a covered market, a great structure in itself (I can feel a drawing project coming on....) and its got a wonderful atmosphere. It has a rhythm to it, its alive, and buzzes with energy. But at the same time, it's relaxed, sort of easy with itself. The smells are of spicy food, paella, coffee, the sounds of a band playing blues, the visual feasts of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, cakes, jams, fish (oh... the FISH) as well as plants and Crafts. And finally, there was moi aussi. The clientelle are relaxed and enjoy mooching from stall to stall, the ambiance is...chill. Fascinating to people-watch from the other side of the stalls..!! And I was next to Melanie (on Facebook as Mk Vintageusa) who introduced my son to the choicest foody delights on the Market, and was a font of knowledge, thanks! 


I met so many interesting people, and my throat was sore from the laughing and chat, my cheeks hot from blushing at the compliments (thank you!). And thanks to my students who popped in to say hello. 

It was really good to take my paintings out of the studio, give them a little airing - many many people are interested in art but not interested in Galleries...  

I have to recommend the Red Eye coffee - when I bought the first one it looked a bit small, but the cheery lady who passed it over to me grinned and said 'That'll keep you lit'. Boy, it did! 

Ann-Marie and I, two mad hatters. 

Next up, weekly classes resume in Belfast, morning and evening.
Big Drawing Day, Belfast
Portfolio Course, Co Clare.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Big Girls Shoes, Oil Painting 8in x 8in, canvas

Sexy Shoes, Julie Douglas oils 8in x 10in canvas. 

One of the nicest things about being a girl right now, has got to be The Shoes. When I bought the ones above, my children were...well, disgusted. But they're Boys. I wore them once, and I'm not sorry I gave it a Go. But as they made me over 6 ft tall, I felt like a lighthouse surrounded by small ships. And I had to wear different ones to drive, so it was a bit of a palaver. And, ok, Walking was a bit of a challenge too now I think about it. But they seriouly lift my spirits every time I see them. And THAT'S what its all about. Big shoes aren't about Big Shoes. They're about Fun. 

Never has such a simple subject matter  brought so many smiles to so many faces. Its not an easy subject by any means, so I wait till students are really ready to tackle it. The first time I set the studio up with a crowd of shiny high heels, I'd planned something else but had a Difficult Day and decided last minute that I need cheering up. When students arrived, it was Love at first sight, the joy in the air was tangible. And after some little gasps, their first words were OoooooOOOOOooooh! They loved it so much we kept it for two weeks, and I decided I had to paint some too. Here are a few lovely drawings and paintings, by students in both Killaloe, Co Clare, and Belfast. (and they work from life, by the way, not photographs!) 

Water Colour by S. McGinty, student. Killaloe

Water Colour, G. McGuire, Student. Killaloe

Drawing, P. Finlay Student. Belfast

Drawing by A. Walker Student, Belfast.

Drawing by A-M Ramsay-Baggs, student. Belfast

(We do paint boys shoes too by the way...) 

Next Up - two day water clour Workshop, Dublin Ireland
Oil painting workshop, Belfast. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pomegranates for Ann-Marie, Oils 6in x 6in on Canvas.

Yes, I finally got the canvas out and dared to have another go. Its many months since I painted on canvas, and the memories came flooding back. How to try to deal with the lumps and ridges of the canvas itself,  but how gorgeous that the colours are thick and true in just one layer, and I can apply more paint while its wet and its not transparent, and the lovely springyness as the surface bounces under the brush. Much quicker - I did this in about 6 hours. Well, maybe 7, over two days. It gives me a looser finish, and sometimes, that feels good. For the change. A bit of Letting Go never hurt anyone. Not the best photo in the world, as its still wet.

I'd like to say many happy returns to my twin brother Brucie (we're below in the photo, he's the one having the good idea...) (no, we're not identical. Don't be SILLY. I'm 5ft 9 btw, its just that Bruce is even taller), and my lovely friends Toni in Tunbridge Wells and Ann-Marie in Holywood who also share this birthday. I painted the pomegranates for A-M - I was going to paint apples, but when I found the pomegranates and they looked like apples with Crowns, well, that swung it.  To all my Gemini friends, and there are so so many of you, epecially Jode in America, Frances in London, Nuala in Belfast and countless more. And Adrian in Santa Barbara - even though you're on the cusp, being on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini has got to be good. Happy birthdays!

New programme of summer courses available now, email for info