Sunday, 23 September 2012

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

Photo by Trish Semple

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,

Monday, 17 September 2012

Masters, Mistress of the Arts, College and Portfolios

It's that time of year again, where students are heading to college. All the hard work preparing the portfolios is a distant memory, and its time to get in there... To all of you, I wish you well.  Remember that you got the place because you are so worthy. And if you want to do something, know that you CAN, you just have to get on with it.

Well, today was MY first day at college too.. I'm (finally) doing my Masters (MFA) in Multidisciplinary Design - a very exciting and stimulating time ahead, hopefully. Though I have to admit I have trouble with the masculinity of the title. I understand the value of being the Master of your discipline, but as the undergraduate is called a Bachelor (as opposed to an Apprentice...), then perhaps the girls ought to be Mistresses? Though I appreciate that this might be a little awkward at polite gatherings, when you say you're at college studying for your Mistress...

Here's me in my new school uniform outside college...

I'm delighted to say that one of the first people I bumped into (not literally), was Brendan, a mature student of mine, who is starting his Bachelors  in the building across the road. I am responsible for helping Brendan focus his efforts enough to get a place at college and Brendan is responsible for me accidentally applying for my course. So we're in this thing together...

My thoughts are with all of you starting at colleges all over the place - work hard, and don't get overwhelmed. And remember, if you don't understand something, ask them to tell you again...! And folks, regarding that word 'Portfolio'... for my interview I scooped up examples of everything I've been doing for the past while. So the portfolio was a case to carry my work in. That's all it is. Its not about the portfolio, its about the You that's in it.

Next up - weekly classes in Drawing and Painting, Belfast
Portrait workshops with Mama Kaz modelling
Water colour and Oils workshops
Drawing for college students, Dublin.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Mama KAZ! Up coming Portrait workshops, Belfast

Last weekend was the first East Belfast Arts Festival and I went along to the most splendid marquee I've ever seen (it was like a cathedral on the inside, honest) and the music was amazing. Not only was Van Morrison on his very best-behaviour-fantastic, all the bands were fabulous. My favourite was the first on stage, the amazingly wonderful Mama Kaz Band. I took one look at Kaz and said to my friend, wow, SHE'D be fanTASTIC to draw wouldn't she...?? So, imagine how good it felt when I asked her later if she'd consider sitting for a class and she said YES, and that she'd bring her guitar and PLAY for us if I liked...? Well, I nearly fainted... I like!

Here she was on stage... Presence, Passionate and Powerful - and totally drawable.

Photo by Gerry McNally

...and here's a link to her blog

Many students have been asking for another portrait session and in this, I'll include the figure as well (wearing stage gear) (that's Kaz...not me). It's fully tutored and numbers are small, so this is perfect for all levels of ability, and A level students too, and those at college who are feeling drawing-starved. I have two dates, October 14th and November 25th, both Sunday afternoons.
Wouldn't this be a fantastic addition to your Portfolio for college..?

If you'd like to come along to the fully tutored workshop, with live music!, email

Friday, 7 September 2012

Bright and bold tomatoes and kiwi, oil pastels

Last week I bought another bike (not so pretty as my Pashley, but LIGHT!) and when I told the owner of the shop (Bike Dock, Ravenhill Road) that I teach drawing, he offered me a supply of art materials that he had lying at the back of his warehouse, free..! At a price like that, I couldn't refuse. The box included lots of Oil Pastels, in a brand I'd not heard of before, called Guitar. The box looks pretty vintage (and I do love a nice box - especially when the instructions are on the lid), and the pastels themselves are the best I've ever used. 


They were fairly soft to use, not at all scratchy, and blended well by layering, by painting with turps (in a similar way to using water with water-soluble pencils) and even by vigourously rubbing with the finger - which was incredibly satifying!

As with all chunky mediums, the trick with using oil pastels is to work large. VERY large.

Top left is my demo drawing, surrounded by students trials.
You can see from the photos that the drawings are much larger than the actual tomatoes and kiwis. Working to this scale offers real challenges to students, but gives plenty of room to manipulate the colour. Oil pastels are, like colour pencils, an underrated medium, but they are excellent for changing our work process and keeping out of our comfort zone... (yes, yes, I can hear you all asking, WHAT comfort zone...?!), including NOT working delicately, but using Elbow Grease instead.

Kiwi by student John McI.

Jeannie F. 

Thomas McC
Thomas R and Jean R. 
Ruth T.
Ciara C. 

Marks out of ten for Guitar Oil Pastels? Ten, hoorah!

For info on courses in drawing, water colour, oils, portraiture and portfolio preparation, email