Friday, 31 August 2012

Wish you were here... well, Kiss me Quick!

It seems the days of getting postcards from abroad are over, because the thing I keep getting from my students from their holidays are Emails, full of their holiday-drawings, oooooOOOOOoooh!

First up was Matthew, who sent me a drawing of a trawler, which impressed me a lot as up to now he's worked mostly on still life - meaning subjects which are small. Matthew, as my Monthly Monday group well knows, is very well behaved, never a moan, always takes the (substantial) challenge given, and always says Thank You Julie, unlike SOME.. But of course, I have no Pets in my class (apart from the dog), I love you all equally... Matt drives from the midlands to County Clare for my class, and we often see each other on the way there. Once though, he was patiently waiting at the venue when I arrived and I was apologizing as I'd missed the exit on the motorway, somehow... He smiled and said, Yes I saw you. You missed the exit because you were so busy... overtaking me!'. Well oops!!

Trawler, by Matt C, student

Then, there's Jayne..who if I didn't know better I would suspect was attending an art holiday, she's produced so many lovely pieces of work. (Possibly a consequence of holidaying in the British Isles, all those damp evenings!) Two studies of a gigantic water wheel, and flowers too. Fabulous.

Water Wheel by Jayne McC, student

And then, Orla. Recently she sent some drawings including this one of amazing shadows - a delicious subject matter, I love this.
Glasses and shadows, by Orla F, student

One of the intriguing things for me is that none of the students have chosen a Chocolate Box theme, but have been attracted to interesting, personal, difficult, complex subjects. Well done folks, you're obviously hooked.

Next up - Oil painting workshop, portrait drawing workshop and weekly classes in Belfast, including Illustration. For info email

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Portrait in Oils - all about hair

I have just finished a portrait commission, which was a little bit unusual as it didn't include the sitters face... The model is a professional pianist, and she loved the depth in the image - so the focus is on her, but we see what she is looking at. Compositionally it  is very striking, with the figure taking up less than half the area of the painting, and the large strip of piano-black being challenged by the even larger strip of music-white, with out of focus multi-colours in the furthest background.

For me, it was good to get to play with hair, as well as dolloping large amounts of colour at the top, and resisting the temptation to make the shapes look like something recognisable. The whole thing looks very Painty - slightly thicker application of paint than I often use, so that it doesn't look so like a photograph.

Up and coming - Oils weekend, and a two day portrait workshop. 
email for info. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Something for the weekend.. Hydrangeas, water colour.

Recently my classes have been painting flowers. I have a built-in resistance to giving flowers as subject matter as they are so much more difficult than other subjects, but this resistance is softened by a desire to use seasonal subjects if I can. Even though most things are available all year round, there's something that feels Right about using things in the right season. So the other day I 'liberated' a few fabulous hydrangea flowers that were overhanging the pavement to be gloriously immortalized in water colour by my students.

by Geraldine B, student
 They did a wonderful job, and had fun using sponges to mess about with the middle section, which is often compicated in a lacecap hydrangea flower. If the drawing is sound, and the painting careful on the petals, then the middle section is a lovely foil when it's dealt with in a loose, playful and experimental manner.

Jeannie, student, getting busy with the sponge... 
Some students have chosen to spend a second session completing their painting - after all, the idea of doing a finished painting in a couple of hours is rather ridiculous!

by Jayne McC, who wins the prize for getting the most done in the time! Here, you can see how the careful painting of the petals acts as a good foil to the loose application of the sponge. 
So, nothing better for a weekend than a bit of messing about with paint. This weekend I have a Drawing and Watercolour workshop in Belfast.

For programme info, email

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Portfolio course...

I had a lovely group of students on my portfolio course, as always, made up of people from Belfast, France and all around Ireland. They worked very hard (see below how they sweat and suffer)...

....with some students working on their knees, whatever next? 

Bryan, gasping.. 
They perked up when I took them on a trip to the bakery for cake, and the sweet shop - purely for reference material, of course... But the thing they all loved most was playing with Play Dough! - duh! 

Ciara helping Emma with her.. specs. 
Five days of that, then on up to a local festival with my friend Kieran, to do some arty things with the children... 

Here's Kieran with his first customer - moments later he could hardly be seen for the swarm of kids wanting to make snails..

Boys working studiously at my table - spot the beautifully packed crayons boxes... 
Young Oscar drawing a fabulous peacock. 

AND, it stayed dry!! 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Shedding, some light.

When I first left college, many moons ago, I acquired a habit which at the time I couldn't explain. When I had a big commission to do, instead of getting started, I would spend half a day cleaning the house. I know, mad. People around me couldn't understand it, and I wasn't at all sure about it myself either, but it seemed to get me prepared, mentally, and focused me into the right head space, so I just got on with it (and hey, the bathroom was sparkling..). This evolved over the years and usually I'm content to completely clear my desk (often a gigantic task..) before starting a new work.

But this weekend I really surpassed myself, and had such fun doing it..  I am holding a portfolio course. There is much to prepare for this intensive course (not least my supply of  hula hoops) - props, materials and projects, all to be squeezed into the car and transported to the venue.

just about room for the dog
Luckily, I have A Plan... Firstly, tart up some of the props and throw away the unused ones... Some of the white-painted objects were looking a bit grubby so I gave them another coat, and hung them in the garden to dry, and decided they looked rather like...well, Art.

Then, on the morning I traveled, time to attack the props boxes themselves. These are all stored in The Shed. I have a room at the back of my garage which I call The Shed - I think rooms are defined by what we call them. This room houses an extra fridge and the washing machine, but Utility is the wrong name for it. It's a bit rough - old lino on the floor, half-painted walls, pipes everywhere, and lining one wall above the Belfast sink there are wonderfully makeshift shelves full of the previous occupants bits and bobs.. Truly, A Shed.

Can you tell that I love a hardware shop?
I love the Silvo tin. The sweet tins are filled with screws, obviously. 
The props boxes are filled with the broadest imaginable array of potential drawing fodder, from shoes to car parts, plus some 'stuff', and sorting through them provided me with the most delicious cleansing experience,  getting rid of so much extra clutter that I totally emptied two boxes.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that moments later I found myself getting stuck in to clearing the shed as well! FanTAStic! I struggled and heaved until I got the broken old Singer sewing machine out, (which was taken to the dump, in spite of its highly drawable iron legs.. but I couldn't bring myself to throw away the '50's instruction manual with its wonderful illustrations and strange sounding, provocative words and titles like Blinding Plackets, To Oil the Bobbin Winder, French Fold, Shirr, Zipper Foot, Oiling the Ruffler, and even, perish the thought, The Blind Stitcher..). In no time I'd also hauled a half-broken chest of drawers out too, which my son happily axed to shreds. And lo, such new space! A couple of trips to the dump, then I drive across Ireland to County Clare... 
The Girls... 
I reckon you can tell a lot about someone, by looking in their shed. And you know that thing of everyone being in the kitchen at parties? They have it so wrong... Best place is.. the SHED!

Upcoming courses - water colour, portrait drawing and art for teenagers.
email for info