Monday, 12 June 2017

Rory under the kitchen light, oil on linen, 20cm x 24cm.

Almost finished. 
This little painting is almost finished. I've put the photos in reverse order so you can see the process from the finsh, backwards.

Originally I went straight to canvas on this, but realised that there was a lot of investigation of shapes and tonal relationships, so stopped and went back to the drawing board (literally!), and spent some time drawing. In truth, if I miss this step I am always sorry. While colour is the big attraction, it is much harder to get everything right when you don't prepare.

The word 'drawing' doesn't refer to the medium - we can draw in anything, including paint. But if we take it to mean 'investigating', 'studying', 'problem solving' and 'gathering information', it is a much larger task to do all of these things on the canvas. After the drawing I did a colour studt, then returned to my canvas. I painted many layers, and managed not to be precious by painting over the whole face four times, to see what would happern. Lots 'happened'!

The lighting on the head was from more than one source - a central room light, as well as a downlighter driectly above, which created the stripes of light on the forehead and the nose. In order for these to be bright, everything else needed to be dark. I finished with the hair - a special challenge which I enjoy, even though I pretend not to! 

Next up: oils workshop, portrait workshops, childrens workshops. For info email 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Drawing in Mount Stewart House, County Down

It is always great to draw on location. Apart from the benefits of a change of environment, which keeps things fresh as an artist, it’s a wonderful way to become more familiar with the riches surrounding us. 
Even on a dull day, Mount Stewart is beautiful, and the gardens have burst forth with gusto in the past couple of weeks. 

The roof of Mount Stewart House peeping over the foliage

I was delighted to hear that the beautiful statues had been reinstated in the main hall, after the completion of the restoration of the floor, and early in the week I took some students to draw there. The staff were extremely welcoming and after a tour through the servants area, and a peep in the family Chapel, the door to the hall was opened, and we took our places before the statues. 

The private Chapel

The beautiful new floor, and a view of the statues.

My demo drawing

A demo drawing of one of the busts

Another demo drawing of a bust

 We spent the whole morning drawing, and I look forward to going back very soon to do more. 

Jeannie working away, with Ben behind the pillar!

Students drawing the bust

Friday, 2 June 2017

Portrait Painting in Florence with Cesar Santos

My painting, end of day 5. 

Attending masterclasses given by great painters is a valuable experience which can shift understanding or expand on existing knowledge. For those of us who teach much of the time, it also provides the opportunity to paint without the distraction of other commitments. 
I spent a few days in Florence last week, on a workshop given by Cesar Santos, hosted in the very lovely surroundings of The Florence Studio, owned by Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut. A spacious, bright and clean environment, I have never felt so welcomed and well cared for in any other studio. The fridge was stocked with bottled water for the students, and nibbles on the table. 
Cesar Santos giving a demonstration in The Florence Studio
Cesar is incredibly knowledgable, polite and keen to share his skills.  I was delighted, of course, that his main message was about the importance of drawing. Over the course of five days he took us through all the stages of producing a portrait in oils, from simplifying the head to getting it onto canvas, the under painting, the 1st and 2nd painting. 
My first morning's work, simplifying the form and getting to 'know' the model. 
Later the first afternoon, the drawing completed directly on the canvas.
Outside, Alex spraying fixative on our canvases to seal the pencil work. 

The under painting, very pale, looking at tonal values. 

Creeping along, day 3, '1st painting' stage. 
Cesar's palette 
more on day 3. 
Day 4, a bit more 1st stage, with some 2nd painting too. 
End of day 5. 
I met lots of lovely people, and one evening we enjoyed a tour round The Pettit Palace with Cesar as our guide. 

Class tour round The Pitti Palace 
At the end of the week, time to put Cesar in the frame! 
Most of the students at the end of the workshop. 
Here are some quotes from Cesar, taken from my notes:
‘Drawing is our attempt to understand.’

‘Painting is meaningless without drawing’.
‘Drawing has nothing to do with the materials: it is the eye. Students must strive to make the drawing excellent, try to achieve perfection, in every drawing. Keep perfecting. 100 bad drawings won’t give you a good one! Just as a poet needs to learn grammar in order to express bigger things, in art, excel in drawing first.’

For info on my workshops, email 
Next up: Oils workshop, portrait drawing workshop, children's workshop, drawing and water colour workshops.