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

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

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

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

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