Monday, 30 January 2012

Going Dotty.. Chalk pastels, drawing workshop, Belfast

A friend gave me a wonderful scarf for Christmas, red with white spots on it. As soon as I saw it, I knew it wouldn't make it as a scarf, because it had a higher destiny, to be immortalised in paint.. How I LOVE a new prop!

However, only the really Tough students took the challenge, and produced lovely pastel drawings. Well done girls! (these are some of my Thursday-Girls) Chalk pastels on water colour paper - which has a chunky groove on it and takes a lot of layering. (On the right you can see two lovey mushroom drawings by G.M. - just her second class!)

We decided that the spotty drawings, overall, had a snowy look to them - Delicious!!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Distance Learning

Teaching students through Distance Learning is a really rewarding experience for me. People from all over the globe send me artwork to crit, following exercises I have written, and it's wonderful to share their learning experience. I get such amusing letters too - I have a few students in Australia, and one in particular, Yvonne (you knew it was you!) has me in stitches with her dry self criticism, including suggesting her egg-plant was hairy (which I hadn't noticed until she mentioned it) and hitting the bottle after a particularly tough assignment..! A common thread is that students are very hard on themselves - and while this is better than being over confident, I think its always worth remembering that while the goal may be self-improvement, the point has to be the pleasure in the production. So no matter how many aches and pains, we are all happy to be learning.
Here are some fabulous pieces from some Distance Learning students of mine.

                                Charcoal Mushroom, by A.W in Holland, a multi-talented lady.

                        Peony, water colour by Y.K, Australia. This painting was done while Yvonne attended a painting workshop in Ireland. On this day, she was joined by my regular Monthly Monday students, who moan accusatorily every month that its all my fault they're 'rusty', grumble mutter moan groan.. Yvonne, who was using her trip to get to know the locals, was most dismayed at this, until after lunch, because by then, they had all settled down, ceased their worrying, and began (quietly!) producing wonderful paintings. Just like always. A double learning experience for Yvonne!

 I am always so impressed at students dedication - it is much harder to work alone at home than in a group at a class or workshop. But some people live in far away inaccessible places making distant learning a great option. Most send work on line, but one Australian student lives remotely without internet access (something which we take for granted!) so posts me her artwork. I feel so honoured that her wonderful drawings come all the way around the world for me to appreciate them.

            Fantastic Colour Pencil drawing, all the way from Australia.. By Distance Learning student N.B

And today I had an email from one student in Wales, on receipt of her crit - she said 'Hi Julie, I just quickly read through your crits and now want to leave the office and go home and paint! I can almost smell it and touch it. Can't wait for the weekend.'

Charcoal drawing, SB, student, Wales.
           Water colour pencil (above) and Pepper in Oils (below), both by G.G, County Kerry, Ireland.

I had an email enquiry recently asking about my distance learning, from a lady in Dublin called Ciara. Unfortunately, you didn't give your email address, so I can't reply - please do email me directly so I can send you information, thank you.

For information on all my courses email

Friday, 20 January 2012

What do we think of Ink?

We like it! This week my classes worked in pen, looking once more at tonal values in black and white as a vital way to understanding Colour. 

Small demo from my sketch book. 
The amazing thing about Inks are their sheen. The colour, even when laid on top of diluted black ink as it is here, is vibrant and alive. It SINGS.

Another small demo
And when you lay colour on top of neat black ink, it transforms the black into the most delicious, rich velvety dark, ever.

Below are some lovely student pieces.

A lovely page by A. Walker

W. Bukowska
K. Feeney

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Teenagers and art...

I don't often hold classes for teenagers, but when I do I LOVE them. I have such faith in this age group - they are receptive and attentive, and it's a joy to introduce them to new ways of looking, new ways of thinking and using materials they may not have tried before. 

Teenagers are open to learning, and less cautious about trying something for the first time. Small classes encourage a warm atmosphere where enthusiasm reigns supreme, and the emphasis is on moving forward, and succeeding. In a class like that, they become totally absorbed in their drawings and no one wants it to end! Including me.

                                                                Gourd in Charcoal

                                                          Boys absorbed in their drawing...

Fabulous chalk pastel


This class took place between Christmas and New Year, and the students relished the time, and so, I gather, did their parents. One mum had traveled quite a distance to drop her child off, and I suggested she sit in the other room to relax with a coffee, but she stared at me, wide eyed with excitement, 
and said Aw, no thanks,  I'm.... off to IKEA!!!

Upcoming workshops - mini portfolio weekend, Belfast
Water Colour Workshop, Life Drawing.
Email for info on dates.

(Permission was given by all parents before these photos were used)

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Last week I was delighted to be asked if I would contribute to an article in The Irish Times, by Roisin Ingle, who is, in my opinion, an angel. The main theme was on ways to improve on the year ahead and my subject was creativity - what does it mean and how might everyone get started. 
We talked for an hour and a half, and had only begun to get going... then Roisin had to get just 400 words out of it!!  My gist was - everyone is creative, no matter what you've been told. So lets.... DO IT!! The article is below if you are interested. Ken Robinson is an Education genius, whose book The Element is well worth reading, and for giving to your teenage children. 

A little bit of active creativity will put a spark in your step
FIVE YEARS AGO Sir Ken Robinson delivered an 18-minute TED talk on how schools are responsible for killing creativity. To date it has been downloaded almost eight million times.
His argument that we are all born with vast natural creativity and talent which our educational institutions tend to stifle resonated deeply with people. Friends tipped each other off about the talk, parents showed it to their children, and companies screened it.
The notion that nurturing your creative side in 2012 should be limited to so-called arty types is nonsense. According to experts in the field, not tapping into this part of ourselves is tantamount to self-neglect.
For those who already regularly flex their creative muscles, this is obvious. But for people who don’t, suddenly attempting to be creative can feel awkward. If you are stuck for ideas, ask yourself this question: “What can I do that is just for me, that is enjoyable, that will take all my attention and keep me focused for five minutes or five hours?” Nurturing your creative side could mean anything from making pastry to cutting the grass. Whatever the answer turns out to be, enjoy.
Belfast-based art teacher Julie Douglas meets a lot people through her work and says the biggest block to creativity is “negative self-perception”. In her classes, especially among beginners, she hears a lot of stories around how people view themselves creatively: my sister was the arty one; I was told I couldn’t draw; my drawings were the ones the teacher held up in class to show everyone how not to do it. According to Douglas, negative past experiences colour our own perception of our ability and “they are always wrong”.
“Once students treat themselves more kindly and give up thinking they should somehow be able to do it automatically then they begin to amaze themselves by how much they can do. That’s how creativity works.”
Douglas believes anybody can paint well. “I believe less in natural talent than in skill and the art of learning. The best artists and teachers describe themselves as still learning. We are always wanting to try something new and learn from it.”
“[Creativity] works best when you have no expectations, when there is no end product in mind. Watch a small child who has been given a crayon and a piece of paper. They have no idea where the next line is going to go, they are just engrossed in the act of connecting hand to crayon, crayon to paper. That’s creativity.”
In a supermarket or in a queue for the train, Douglas says she can pick out people who are not nurturing their creative side. “It’s as though their light has gone out or they are missing their sparkle. We are a creative species. If we stick to a treadmill of work or duty, ignoring the natural want in us to be creative we can become unfulfilled and depressed . . . being engrossed in something you enjoy brings meaning to our lives and answers a need within us all.”
Recently, Douglas has been painting a lot of cakes and tarts, simply because of how attractive they look. When she emailed the images to students the response was immediate and warm.
“Why am I painting tarts?” she asks, before answering her own question. “Because they make people feel good. No better reason.” RI

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Portfolio Course

Size MATTERS. Some drawings work better small, others insist on being huge. Chalks and oil pastels work so well when you go Big. 
B. Houlihan, student - this wonderful drawing is of a tiny beech nut, which is sitting on the top of her page! Delicious!! 

Long days, and working late into the evening mean students really bond with each other and reach new levels in their drawing ability. 

But of course, it's dirty work... Amazingly, the artwork was spotlessly clean! 

Honestly, some students let their teacher walk all OVER them. But not me. I just have to have a little lie down now and again..!!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Seasonal water colours in Killaloe, student work.

As much as possible I keep my class subjects Seasonal, which gives the year a lovely flow, in colour as well as form.
 Work in progress by D. Rowsome and W. Stark, students, in Killaloe on the Monthly Monday drawing and painting class.
M. Conran, student, work in progress.

Red is a challenging colour to use in water colour, so I bought some Pointsettias and went to Ikea specially to get some lanterns, for lovely muted relfections. Deirdre took one look at them and said, I'm not doing THOSE...' Sigh. However, Matt took a deep breath, raised his eyebrows and said, Whatever you say Julie... There now, how lovely!!

 O. Flanagan tackling ribbon in colour pencil. (Never too many pencils...) 

 I have also been trying out new venues, so its a bit of an art mystery trail for my regular students, but it keeps things fresh! Last month we met in an Italian deli, in their reading room, which was cozy. And very...Italian!!