Thursday, 18 September 2014

Oil painting workshop, Belfast - painting against the clock

Bottle and plums, Julie Douglas, oil on canvas. 
It's always a treat to be attending a workshop, as a change from teaching. But the week-long oils workshop with Matt Weigle was very busy for me, making sure Matt had everything he needed to deliver the workshop in the way he wanted, making sure the students atending were getting everything they needed, and taking many phone calls along the way regarding the upcoming Symposium weekend. Oh yes, and fitting in as much painting as possible too.

Here's how we did it. we started with drawing...

Day 1 - drawing the arrangement to a comfortable size. A3 study, Julie Douglas 
Our goal over the week was to do one drawing, one small black and white tonal study, a small colour study and a larger full colour painting. Ok then... 
I drew on A3 paper, with the shadow box at my eye level. 
We photocopied our original drawings down to the appropriate sizes for our canvas, and transferred the image as Matt showed us. It was great to get painting, and the B&W was done by the end of the ssecond day. It was very small, which really forces you to be general - this doesn't compromise accuracy, it requires clarity and contrast and balance and broader decision-making.

So small...
Finished B&W study
to give you an idea of the scale
Day three - we outined our transfer of the larger painting, so as not to lose the line during the underpainting process. 

Outlining the transferred drawing on canvas for the final (larger) painting
We did the underpainting quickly, in an hour or so, then left it to dry overnight. In the meantime, the colour study was waiting. 
Underpainting for final canvas
I was always a good bit behind everyone else, and was regretting having chosen the glass bottle, as it had a bit more detail to paint (meaning it would take longer..). By the end of day three I hadn't started my colour study.

Day four - this is where I got even busier, and I wondered if I'd not finish anything. I didn't get to sit  at my desk till after lunch, but when I returned from taking a phone call, I discovered that Matt had prepared my palette for me. How very very encouraging.
I finished the colour study by the end of the day, in time for us all to go out together for dinner. 

Hurrying UP....

Colour study, done in an afternoon approx 21cm x 12 cm

Again, to show scale
my desk, and the transfer sheets
Friday - the pressure was on, big time. We had to stop by 5 at the latest, as the walls had to be removed from the studio to make room for the Symposium on Saturday. Some students had already finished and were working on a second large painting. Sob sob... 
Nearly done...

Marathon painting, watched over by the resident skeleton.

But you know, there's nothing like a deadline... and with moments to spare, I got the painting finished. No time to celebrate though, the porters arrived on time, and we began the big clear-up for the weekend of creative delights ahead... 

Finished painting, 30cm x 22cm Julie Douglas

Upcoming workshops with Julie Douglas in Belfast: Portrait drawing, Oil painting, Drawing and water colour. For details, email

Julie's workshops are friendly, focused and fun. Fully structured courses so you know you are learning. 


  1. Lovely painting Julie, and it's great to get a glimpse of Matt's workshop.
    All the best
    PJ x

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post and sharing your journey with this painting. I am encouraged to try a black and white painting myself now. I also liked seeing your working area and paint colours. I think the final painting is stunning. Beautiful, alive and strong. Xxx

    1. Glad to have helped Shirley! I'm doing another one myself now, just finished the black and white - its a great way to practice getting the balance right as well as geting to grips with the paint itself, without worrying about the colours. When mixing black and white paint, add some burnt umber to the black as it warms it up a bit :) If you do a painting, do email it to me so I can cheer!