Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Little Mince Pie, Oil on Board

Mince Pie (not quite finished!), Oil on board, 5in x 5in, Julie Douglas

To all my students around the world, thank you for all the fun in the last year, the hard work, focus and concentration, the laughing and the trying again. 
I learn from you in every class. 
You are a constant source of inspiration and I am delighted to share all that I know with you.
Have a lovely Christmas. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Inspiration down town - perfect ingredients.

What has shopping got to do with painting? Well, perhaps the actual shopping part has very little, but BROWSING - that is invaluable. Just as a walk in the woods will bring visual treats, the mm and ooh and aha moments, as well as the exercise and deeper breathing, which encourage us to get back to the drawing board, the shop that tickles your fancy will have the same effect.

Luckily for me, my two best art shops have some great shops/inspiration raisers, nearby - extra reasons to get supplies in. One of them, The Flower Rooms, is brand new, and I happened upon it by accident (honest), while walking the dog. Which meant I had no money on me, probably just as well..

The front door is flanked by potted Bay trees, and inside, one room is filled with fabulous flowers (mmm, the scent), another with hearts, pixies and angels, wooden crates and galvanised buckets. It is, well... heaven.  On the edge of Holywood High Street, (the opposite end to the art shop, Art & Home) its well worth a visit. Visual and sensory delights. 
The very welcoming Kathryn Millar, from The Flower Rooms, Holywood

I discovered recently that one of my other favourites has.. doubled in size! Oh, Yes!

 Sawers, a deli round the corner from the art shop in Belfast (Bradbury Graphics), is an Aladdins cave of gourmet treats, guaranteed to cheer up even the most grumpy browser, with their jars of Devilishly Hot spices, and amazing-sounding things in the freezer.. 'Scorpion in candy', 'chocolate covered ants', 'BBQ flavoured worms'...

The Boss, Sawers

'Snake's bite' and 'Satans Sweat' sauces... 

While I'm at it, I might as well tell you about the fantastic little wool shop, 'Selections' in Carrickfergus! This place is so filled with blocks of COLOUR I wonder sometimes if I'll ever be able to leave! And the lovely staff - well, they even came outside to take a photo in daylight to help me decide what colour.. In fact, Isa wanted to teach me to crochet right there and then, so I could become one of their 'hookers'. em.. Haven't laughed so much in a wool shop, ever! Hooked is right. 

What's the common denominator here? 

All these shops are small, personal, friendly and intimate. Add to that,  colour, smells, textures, tactile, sensory enrichment, communication, interaction, engagement and enrichment. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for an art class. 

Upcoming workshops: Drawing, Oils, water colour, portrait drawing, portfolio weekends and weekly session. For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Friday, 7 December 2012

Oil painting workshop, Belfast (Charming and Enchanting)

Sometimes I have the pleasure of teaching students one-to-one. It makes for a more intense teaching session for me, and a wonderful personal experience for the student, who gets to really address specific problems they may have with their work. Recently an ex-portfolio student, Lou, came for a couple of days. She had done her first year at art college and wanted to get to grips with oil paint before going into her second year to specialise in painting at NCAD. A very good plan!

We started with a revisit to drawing, for what is painting, if it isn't drawing but with a brush? 

First morning, artwork by Louise, student
Black and white is a vital area for study, as the tonal values are as important as the actual colours we use later, so we kicked off with a large, loose (but carefully observed) pencil drawing, then the same object in oil paint. This was Lou's first time using oils, and black and white is a more user-frienly approach as mixing the paint and not letting it too thick, and finding ways to successfully lay it onto the surface is enough to contend with for starters.
SIZE, changes everything!
 Of course, being the only student means you get more lunch! 

The second day we moved on to colour mixing and trying different surfaces to paint on as well. An incredibly productive weekends work! And what was charming and enchanting? Well, Lou and me, of course!

Upcoming workshops: Intensive portfolio courses, Protrait workshops, Oil painting, Water colour workshops. All courses are fully tutored and student numbers are small. Friendly, fun and enjoyable.

For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Monday, 3 December 2012

Leaves and berries, water colour, student work

It doesn't take much to suggest a mood - a few red berries and a bit of green and we feel like it's Christmas! This weeks students enjoyed this challenge so much that I have carried it on for a second week of study. Its a tall order to try to finish a painting in a couple of hours, and its good to have extra time sometimes to take the painting through to a more finished level.

By Jean R, student
Work in progress, by Thomas McC, student

Work in progress, Thomas R, student
Teresa, demonstrating the art of colour-testing around the edges! Completed over two sessions

Nisa, a stunning painting, completed over two sessions

Next up, Portfolio course, portrait workshop, water colour workshop and oils workshop.
Email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk for info

Friday, 23 November 2012

Drawing on location, Giant Deer, Belfast

I took one of my classes to the Ulster Museum this week to do some drawing. The aim was to tackle a subject which was much larger than usual - so what better than the giant deer, with its incredibly long antlers..?

A3 cartridge paper, 2B and 4B pencil,  by Julie Douglas

After doing the bulk of the drawing I decided that I really had to continue over onto the other page - only later to realise it was actually the front cover of the pad. Never mind! It really does have a great impact on the composition, using the wide format to extend the drawing.

Opening the pad, doubling the width.

When doing a demonstration, there's always that moment where you wonder if everything will turn out ok, as working with an audience is a rather different affair. But, nothing like a bit of pressure to keep ones focus! As you can see, the antlers are REALLY BIG!

 Quote of the day from Hilary... I'd given her some suggestions as to what to look for in her drawing, and shortly afterwards she gave a big sigh and started rubbing out. She looked at me and said, 'You're not always right, but you're never wrong'!  That'll do!

Next up - Portrait Workshop with lovely Mama Kaz modelling (who won't be quite as static as the deer) (and her antlers are much smaller as well).

Sunday, 18 November 2012


I have always said that I have the best job in the world. (and only SOMETIMES have I said it through gritted teeth!) One of the surprising and delightful perks is getting paintings sent to me, from my regular weekly students, out of the blue, when they've been doing a bit of artwork at home.

Sometimes I'll get a text of a drawing or some sculpture, or an email of paintings. Always, its a joy, for knowing students are happy enough to practise what they've started in class, and feel confident enough to share it with me, is a great compliment. Thanks guys!

This week I got two water colours, pears from Thomas and a tree from Paul and last week, some face studies from Andy. A bit of practise at home goes a long way.

Upcoming courses - Big Drawing Workshop and
Portrait Drawing Workshop. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey.. Oil Painting in Black and White

Black and white tonal studies, but without using black - a very good way to begin understanding about mixing Oil paint, without the stress of exact colour matching.

This week my weekly students tried their hands with Oil Paint - most had never used it and were very excited at the prospect (I know, it's lovely to be so easily pleased!). Many brought their old clothes ready for the Big Mess, though I think most of the mess was on my hands, not theirs.

Apart from Sarah, who did a beautiful print on her.. er, arm! And one or two others, now I think about it, who slathered a good bit over their own noses!

Now my work room is festoooned with little black and white paintings, hanging up to dry. Delicious!

Upcoming workshops - Portrait Drawing Day with model, 25th November,
Big Drawing Day, Dublin 2nd December. For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Friday, 9 November 2012

How to find the right teacher for you.

Learning is a very personal experience, though many students regard it as something of a group activity, certainly a competition, and often anticipate a degree of personal failure along the way. An expectation of failure is in opposition to our make up, and a good teacher will help you find ways to succeed - help you to find ways to expect to succeed.

Therefore, an important element in everyones learning experience is the teacher you choose. (I appreciate that in a college situation you may not have any option, but outside of that environment, we get to select whose class we join). This is a very basic fact that SO MANY people ignore. If we want to buy a chair, for example, we don't go out and buy ANY chair, we are selective.  Or if you were looking for classical guitar lessons, you'd not want to sign up with someone who only teaches Rock guitar. The same should happen when looking for a teacher. (and while the language we use may encourage you to think you are looking for a Class, what you are really seeking is a Teacher. The Class is all the other folks who are also looking for a Teacher.)

Here are some questions to ask yourself, as a Learner.
In advance of enroling - does this person appear interested in my learning, or are they keen to sweep me along with something I am not interested in doing?
Is the teacher asking any useful and relevant questions about ME?
Is the teacher guiding me in a positive way before I enrol?
Is this class structured in any way?

Once you begin attending a class -
Do I feel comfortable and nurtured?
Have I learnt anything that I didn't know already?
Do I feel important in the group?
Do I feel welcome?
Do I understand what I am being told? Do I feel that it is ok to ASK, if I don't understand?
Does the teacher care?
Am I being praised - in other words, is any notice being taken of any improvements I am making?
Is this enjoyable?

What to avoid like the plague..
EVERYTHING that makes you feel uncomfortable. Everyone's interpretation of this will be different. Personally, I can't bear sarcasm from a teacher, or any language that humlitates of discomforts a student.  No one should be laughed at or humiliated in any way. This will seriously hinder any possibility of the student learning anything.
Avoid the teacher who can't answer your questions. If you aren't progressing, don't assume it is because you are hopeless, ask for help. If it doesn't come, ask why that is.

And when you have FOUND the right teacher for you, make sure you always book your seat in advance, and then tell everyone you know - for they may be looking for them too!

Currently, I am a student as well as a teacher, and its an interesting and valuable experience. The tutors are fantastic and I am so grateful. We can all recognize the teacher who gives way beyond what is expected and it is good practice to acknowledge their gifts as we go along. A great teacher GIVES, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to recharge THEIR batteries, by thanking them.

Three cheers for the great givers out there. Thanks.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Portfolio, water colour and presentation. (student work)

Recently my dear friend and long-loyal student Gennie mentioned that all her artwork was lying loose in a folder, looking a bit neglected. So I offered to assemble it all nicely in a portfolio to both preserve it, and make it easier to view. (The 'portfolio' in this case was a folder with clear sleeves bound together like a large book.)
There are so many good reasons to do this. Firstly, changing the setting of the artwork means that you, the artist, see it freshly. Your memory of it as a work in progress fades, compared to the more arms-length view you will have now - this means you see it more the way others see it. (ie without the emotion or pain of the production!)

Secondly, the way artwork is arranged in relation to other images impacts how we read it. Often, seemingly disparate subjects now appear to have a connection. The appparently radom become neatly flowing. Its not so much improving what you have made, but giving it a context, and a clear, clean way in which to look at it. 
Also, the personality of the artist begins to emerge, in a new and sometimes surprising way. Perhaps the strongest compositions were of subjects that particularly apealed to the artist. Perhaps a painting that was not liked so much at the time of painting will now take on a new resonance.

And any device which does that, as well as preserving it cleanly, has got to be a good thing. 

For students applying to college, presentation can actually make or break the work, harsh as that may seem. There is an art in producing, and another in presenting. Putting artwork together like this can take from two hours to a whole day. 
(Apologies for the poor photographs of such lovely work - these were taken in fading light, on my on-the-blink camera. Tomorrow, new camera!) 

Up coming workshop: Portrait workshop, Belfast.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Water Colour, toadstools - two stages

So what do you do when you look outside and the garden is full of fun guys?? You go and dig them up and bring them inside for painting, of course!

These proved to be the perfect subject for painting without drawing - effectively drawing with the paintbrush. The process means painting with a quiet beginning, building up in layers of tone to a stronger finished result.
And while it is a full colour study, in fact the muted tones of the toadstools are really very similar, meaning the exercise is more a careful exploration of tones, and not of colour.

Stage 1 - a gentle, free-flowing layer blocking in large swathes of shapes, then beginning to pick out darker tones to start attending to the balance of light and dark.

Final stage - added extra layers of tones everywhere, and more fine detail in some parts, but allowed many places to remain loose.
This was painted during two class sessions. I will put some student work up in the next post.

Upcoming workshop - Water Colour, skies and landscape, Sunday 28th October
Portfolio Course
Portrait Workshop

For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The art of traveling, Chocolate Tiffin & Portfolio Course

The world is defintely getting smaller. When I lived in the west of Ireland, the locals thought that no one would be interested in ART... But by the time students started coming for courses, you'd have thought it was the neighbours idea in the first place that I do something arty -  they treated me with a warm indulgence, a sideways tilted head, a smile, and a 'Would you believe it...?' and eventually, 'Why wouldn't they come for The Art?'.

Well, yes! I began traveling myself a few years ago to teach around the country, on the basis that those who lived further away were always saying they wished they could do courses more often. But I discovered that if I did a course in Dublin, it was as likley to be attended by students from Mullingar as Dublin. I held one in Co Leitrim in the spring, and one of the students came up from Dublin...! And another in Dublin, where a student flew over from Kerry..!

Autumn light, Strangford Lough

Now it is so easy to get around, the roads are amazing. But so, indeed, are the flights. I have students regularly popping over from the UK.

Last year I had a boy from Switzerland on a portfolio course, and a girl from China, and this year another from France. So, now that I am back at college myself studying for my Masters, I am doing a little less traveling, based on the knowledge that the venue is NOT important, but the teaching and the course IS. And, as anyone who has been to a weekend workshop when I'm at home knows, I do a good lunch too!

I'm doing a Portfolio Course during the half term break, and am delighted that it will be at home. Its so easy to get here.  If I teach at home, my props supply is endless. If I travel, there's only so much I can get in the car. I am including drawing on location, and illustration elements as well as sketch book studies and all the usual course content. AND... I'm making chocolate tiffiin, to help concentrate the mind! (Hard work deserves chocloate rewards). Students are well looked after, with full tuition, from breakfast to bed! Phew!

Prep for chocolate tiffin... mmmm

For info, email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Next up Water colour workshop, Belfast

Monday, 15 October 2012

Portrait workshop and Afternoon Tea

Yesterday I had a lovely portrait drawing workshop, with Mama Kaz modeling. Students started working using a mirror (we all get used to it after the initial horror!) and drawing themselves, which gets some of the initial hard-peering dealt with before moving on to observe the model.

Kaz was a little animated, but at least managed not to get the guitar out to serenade everyone while they were actually drawing!

Student drawing, by S. Foster - wonderful first portrait studies. 

I usually provide lunch when I hold a workshop at home, but seeing Kaz was singing on stage the night before, I started a bit later. So instead of lunch, I made Afternoon Tea!

Sandra, bless her, said it was... 'better than The Merchant'. Well, how delightful!! But I made so much food, that I ended up taking a cake round to the neighbours, and delivering a box of chocolate tiffin to Auntie Edith down the road! Apparently this week is Chocolate Week, and she's a bit partial.

Next up - intensive portfolio course
Water Colour workshop Belfast - Skies, trees and landscape.
For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Day trip!! Drawing in the Ulster Museum, trees in charcoal

I do love a drawing day out. It's great to change the location for classes sometimes, though students are very afraid at the beginning... The atmosphere is very relaxed and user-friendly at the museum, and the attendants were very helpful and earmarked all their best stools for my students..! I got there early and walked around the whole museum, gasping at the range of possible subjects, chose a couple and went back downstairs to meet the group. It was the famous Thursday-Girls! 

From the back, Hilary, Deirdre, Glynis, Geraldine, Linda, Jennifer and Helena

But as soon as I looked out the window and saw the gorgeous pine trees - it was a clear bright day, with lovely light  - that was it, all museum artifacts abadoned, it HAD to be the trees. (Any suggestion that this was because the trees were visable from the cafe is just viscious rumour) Which of course meant I didn't need all those stools the nice attendants had set aside for me.. 

Jennifer's lovely drawing in progress

Helena's sketch book

Linda and Geraldines work in progress
I went on my bike and was really glad as the traffic was terrible and parking around the museum is... er,well, its great if you're on your bike as there are lots of railings. 

I did a demo drawing but most of it was smudged out on the way home on my bike, never mind! (I must have been cycling too fast..) It was a great experience, and we managed to hear a talk about Kenneth Shoesmith's water colours which are on show for a few months. Worth a visit. We'll be back soon to make better use of the amazing artifacts (and the stools).

Next up: Portrait drawing workshop, and intensive portfolio preparation course. 
For info, Email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Pages from my sketch book (water colour painting without drawing, sunflowers)

The sketch book is so personal to each person, there isn't a 'right way' to do it. It can be a place for thought-free doodling, for collecting material from day to day experience, for gathering useful reference material for a specific project, or a visual diary of thoughts, and problem solving. Or none of these things.

Sunflowers - Top:demo - painting without drawing first, bottom sunflower, colour pencil. These are much smaller than they look on here! 

Having started a lovely moleskine book ages ago, I have now filled it to capacity and am feeling bereft - repeatedly going back to the same book (or books) creates a kind of comfort, a safe-place for mark-making and I look forward to getting my new book. Though, when I open it, that blank newness can feel very stark... 
a little bit of messing with sponges
Up coming courses - Oils, Water Colour, Portrait and Portfolio Courses. Dublin days too.
for info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Portrait Drawing ( - suffering for our Art and Home!)

Photo by Trish Semple www.takephotography.co.uk

Friday night was Culture Night in many cities across Europe and it was lovely to invited to take part. Emma from Art and Home, the most wonderful Art suppliers and framers, asked me if I would do 'something' and in a moment of weakness I agreed to sit in the window doing some drawing. What was I thinking...?? Luckily I had a moment of inspiration, and suggested that Mama Kaz might  model for me (safety in numbers..). (I mentioned her in a recent post, and though it would be good to get some practice in before the workshop.. Er, in public. Sheesh... )

Mama Kaz has a great face, and we started off nicely, calm and poised, even. But of course, it takes a long time to do a drawing (mine took an hour and a half) and all sitters get a little restless at some point, but as she was due to sing on stage, we decided to soldier on without a break. But, uh-oh, she spots a camera... 

.... and the messing Begins.. (oh joy!)

I haven't laughed so much for ages. But, we managed to regain composure for a while.. 

Photo by Mary Lappin
....but before long, the guitar comes out. I mean, please... how's a girl to draw when the model is rocking in her seat...?!

Photo by Emma Bond, Art and Home, Holywood Co Down

A really enjoyable experience, and I look forward to painting Mama Kaz soon. She is modeling for two portrait workshops, and they will be fantastic.

Art and Home, http://www.artandhomeweb.com/