Thursday, 24 January 2013

Drawing back from the edge.

Cloth in pencil, by Julie Douglas. Moleskine sketch book
Last term I started my Masters-Mistress at college
Studying Multidisciplinary Design means that all students come from different disciplines, and we each carve our own individual path to our personal goals, although we attend workshops together. The advantages of this varied group of students is incredible - we have huge skills between us and are constantly helping each other with things, as it seems the easiest and most obvious way forward.
In fact, Collaboration seems to be the only way, both in the creative workplace and in any business setting where the business hopes to expand or even just to survive. Puts a whole new perspective on the phrase 'I know a man who Can'.

The work is stretching and rewarding but absorbs hours like a sponge. So to do the Masters I knew that something in my routine would have to 'give'. And that something was time at my drawing board.


Now, to a certain degree this is FINE, particularly as I made that decision. Creativity has many forms. However, I have got so much college work done that I can now get back to the desk. Which is so much easier to say than to Do. The next discipline, then, is to actually get to the desk (and not because its covered in paper and files). The Habit has to be carefully reformed. Or perhaps less carefully and more CONSCIOUSLY.

My desk is in a sunroom at the back of the house, and at this time of year, its a fridge. So, any old table will do. The next mental hurdle (for it's all in the mind), is Time. My artworks are demanding of time and effort (What? Did you think it was easy?! There's a good reason for all those corny sayings like 'Suffer for your art'.. ) and so, like preparing for the marathon, small steps of preparation are needed. But they may not be what you expect them to be. Here's my list of kick-starter steps

1. A commitment to another person.

2. A commitment to yourself.

3. A determination to not give up (it takes a lot of self motivation to be self motivated...)

4. Forgiveness

5. Praise

6. Acknowledgement

7, 8, 9, 10. Humour.

11. A mantra to say in your head.. Mine is 'stay in your chair, stay in your chair..' - if I get up, the spell is broken.

So, here comes the sketch book, oh joy.

Mushroom on tinted card, colour pencil & pastel pencil, Julie Douglas
its also important NOT to be Tidy (if tidying is a way of avoiding sitting to work). Draw amidst the chaos and Order will appear.

The best way to stop myself knitting was to draw it.... 
Cable pattern, pen, by Julie Douglas
Pen is a good idea too, as rubbing out isn't an option - Draw on regardless.

Sometimes, a doodle turns into a drawing - usually, as in the case below, on the back of something else..
Although this is rough, each drawing is leading into the next, until the finger-tips drawing, which begins to look more confident. Tip - don't judge your work, just draw ON.

And soon, a new Habit emerges...

Friday, 18 January 2013

Hands in pen, Glass in Colour pencil and Pastel

So far this month my classes have been using pencil and pen, and next week we'll get back to some water colour. I decided to tackle two difficult subjects in one session - hands (which are not the easiest thing to draw, but better than feet!) and glass. In fact, nothing is easier or more difficult to draw than anything else, it is our perception that makes it seem that way. So, to make it more intense, we did hands in pen - no going back, only adding more!

Helena, student

Geraldine and Nisa, students
There was a mixed reaction when I said 'pen', but my students are so very well behaved that they just gulped and... JUMPED RIGHT IN! Excellent. I'll take more photos to add.
Linda A, student

Working like this for an hour, realizing that you can alter and change and 'correct' by adding more lines, not by rubbing out, simultaneously 'loosens' any anxieties you might have about tackling this subject (just the opposite of what you might expect) and gets you in the right frame of mind to move on to chalk pastels for a large study of glass. I am often asked how to draw glass, particularly by Distance Learning students. The answer is to place the glass into an environment of Colour. For this study I put the glasses onto a CD, two apparently colourless objects, but we ended up with the most amazing rainbow! (although you can't tell from the photos, none of the colours in the drawings were 'invented' - this is what we could see in the CD).

June and Helena, Students

Nisa and Geraldine

Jayne and Deirdre, students (work in progress)
I was so pleased that everyone believed what was in front of them. The studies were a mix of pastel with colour pencil - I discovered that colour pencil will actually 'smudge' along with pastel, in a way that it doesn't when used alone.

Next up: Portrait workshop, Intensive Portfolio Weekend, Children's classes.
For info email:

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Busy holidays. Step by step oil painting

So I had two weeks off college, but that doesn't quite equate to two weeks OFF. No. I did some classes, got up to date with my Distance Learning crits, did The Christmas, got back to my drawing board and finished the tiny Mince Pie. I notice its taking a really long time to dry, for all the size of it. White paint is the culprit - slows the drying process. I put my thumb on the front of the star yesterday to 'make sure' it was dry to varnish, but no, oops - hope the thumbprint doesn't show through..!

stage 1
The first stage always looks terrible so I try to do this in the afternoon or evening, so its dry for the next day to crack on with the colour and more steady observation. This is on board, so needed 3 layers of paint.
blocking in more thickly
Working so small meant I was inclined to occassionally put my finger onto a wet patch. I ended up holding it in my hand to paint. It was lovely to be painting again - remembering the delicious sliding and slipping of different pigments, and nudging the paint around.

big for a mince pie, small for a painting!
The biggest thing to remember with this kind of painting is that more observation is needed with each layer - working from general to specific.

All done, albeit it a loose study, and I feel more human again, after a long absence from Painting. 
and also, between walks, I did a LOT of... knitting! The best things ever are these fingerless arm-length mitts, which keep my arms warm when I'm sitting drawing, very quick to knit.

Upcoming workshops: Portrait workshop (Dublin)
Oils, Water colour landscape and Portfolio Preparation and childrens drawing, Belfast.
For info email

Christmas Snowmen 'Awards', and Angels

I know it's not Christmas any more, but we haven't quite reached the 'Twelfth Day', so just time to share the Snowman series that is evolving. I got some lovely cards, and the Best Original Artwork this year was from 9 year old Jack Flanagan, the son of a student of mine in Killaloe, of his drawing of...

Jack Flanagan, aged 9, Killaloe

Then there was my 'Best Card from a Student', which cheered me so much. On the envelope (which was left quietly in the kitchen for me to find later), written very large, was the word 'Teacher'.  This, from a student who is no younger than myself, but obviously just as young at heart!

This Happy Snowman below is my favourite of all time, for its lovely drawing, and perfect words.

When I was putting the decorations on the Christmas Tree, this fellow was once again waiting for his place. This snowman was made some time ago by my eldest son. Many of the ornaments on my tree are things the children made when they were very small - semi-shapeless 'lumps' covered in glitter, angels made from pasta etc. I wouldn't dream of putting them on a seperate tree - they all go on with the grown-up decorations, just where they should be.

Hand made by Christie

And these gorgeous Angels were made for me by Krystina Pomeroy, a lovely gift when she stayed with me during a workshop. They are made from old clothes pegs and are 'Domestic Goddess Angels', obviously.
The Baking Angel, cleaning Angel and Shopping Angel, by artist Krystina Pomeroy

These acts of thoughtfulness, and the hand of maker, particularly in these small things, are what Christmas is to me (as well as all the singing!).

Upcoming workshops: Portfolio Preparation, Oil painting workshops, Water colour, Portrait workshop (Dublin), monthly Childrens Drawing Classes
for info email