Monday, 28 October 2013

Portrait drawing, Belfast

Yesterday I went to an untutored painting session, with a clothed model, to practice some of the things I learnt at the Grand Central Academy, New York, when I was there in August.

Clare, by Julie Douglas

Truth is I had a presentation to prepare for college - I'd done all the ground work but not yet assembled it. In the past, these preparations have gone on long into the night... So I hadn't time to do an all-day session, but decided I'd go along for the morning one anyway, and try not to feel naughty.. Imagine, using DRAWING as the best form of procrastinating!! (I recommend this. Instead of ironing and tidying up to avoid getting to your desk, use drawing to avoid the housework or any other cumbersome task..) 

It was a loft space, with plenty of room.  I chose an easel and fiddled about for ages deciding on just which spot to set it up for the best view - this involves negotiating with the person behind, lest you block their view. We got settled and the model sat down - she had chosen the outfit, and wore many layers of knecklaces. It was one pose for the whole morning, a different pose for the afternoon - if it had been one pose all day I would have got my oil paints out, but two and a half hours just isn't enough for me. So I was happy with my HB and a sharpener. 

Clare was an amazing model - I've never known anyone sit so still for so long. At her breaks, it was the students who did the most stretching, more than she did - standing at an easel is hard on the back, especially for portrait work as you can't afford to move any more than the model. By the end, I was racing to get it all finished. And I was... exhausted! I look forward to going again. 
Brilliant way to spend the morning, and the presentation was FINE! 

The only down side was the smell of turps, as one person was using oils. This was a terrible shame - there are plenty of odourless thinners available, and just for the record, all others are barred from my studio environment. By the last half hour I was feeling sick. So if you are working in a group situation, be thoughtful and use Sansodor as a thinner, and if you're not using HUGE amounts of paint, Vegetable Oil does a great, odour-free job of cleaning your brushes. 

Next up - intensive portrfolio preparation course, childrens half term art class. Belfast.  For details email

Friday, 25 October 2013

Dear Robert, you are a hero. Thanks.

Today I keep crying. It comes in unexpected little waves, catches me by surprise.

Robert Genn

Twice a week for many years I have been treated, blessed, entertained, informed and amused by the wise words of Canadian artist Robert Genn. When I check the emails, on Tuesday and Fridays I know he'll be there with a witty word or thoughtful remark. A 3 minute relevant read.

Robert's dog, Dorothy
He seems a charming fellow, he paints outside a lot, driving a little soft top with canvases propped up in the open boot, his big Airedale Dorothy sat next to him, blinking in the wind. He answers questions he's had from artists around the world, or waffles an amusing thought about painting or communicating or colour or galleries or any interesting arty thing. Intelligent, considerate, wise, dignified and respectful. As well as disrespectful, whichever he deems is appropriate at the time.

Today the email arrived, as it did to many many hundreds of others around the world, telling us that he is ill, with just a short time left to tidy his drawing board and prepare to leave the planet - rather sooner than he had intended. I had not appreciated how much I appreciate him - even though I have ALWAYS respected and admired him - until this announcement, and I suddenly realised that although I have never met him, our ethos is so incredibly alike, our attitude and thoughts so very similar, that sometimes it's as if he'd heard what I said yesterday, for here he is saying the same thing in a letter.

Robert and Dorothy

I am so grateful to Robert for all his insights and his generousity of spirit.  His observations of what makes up a life of creativity, his deepest musings on the strange and wonderful gift that a life of creativity is, have contributed to all of us more than we can ever know. I feel like I am losing a kindred spirit, an ally and someone who understands me.

Robert Genn

I particularly like this painting, which illustrates Roberts light heartedness... Driving home after painting outside, the canvas was caught by a gust of wind, whipped off the back seat of the car, and under the wheels of a passing lorry... When he retreived it, he rather liked the imprint of the tyre, felt it added a certain something to the image.. (If you look closely, you'll see it). 

If you have not read his blog, I heartily recommend that you do. I have never met Robert, yet I am in tears. How amazing that someone can have such a profound impact on another, for such wonderful, noble reasons.

Lets celebrate Robert Genn.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Unique Tutorial, a joint drawing project, accidentally on purpose.

F, 2B on Strathmore Bristol paper, vellum surface.
I had a panic email from an excellent student, having just finished her non-art degree, about to pursue her creative path.

 'Help', she cried.

 'Come for cake', I replied. 

She was on the next train. I anticipated a tutorial/chat for an hour or so, punctuated with a bit of location drawing, purely for our health. Things didn't go quite as planned.. 
Admittedly, I was just back from New York and the jet lag was, sigh, becoming part of the family (in a  'you'd not choose it, but you gotta live with it', kinda way). First stop after picking her up from the station was the art college cafe for tea. This was 10am. 

Of course, the secret weapon of tea is the chat. Once we had a sip, the tutorial was On. Her train to Dublin left at 3.30. She just made it. The tutorial lasted 5 hours and two artworks. Two amazing and unusual artworks which are truly beautiful to behold. Did we manage any location drawing? Nope. We sat in the same chairs and didn't budge, except for more tea. 

Best tutorial I ever gave. 
How's Niamh? AWESOME.
My view
Niamh's view
Guitar Oil Pastel, Strathmore Bristol Paper, Vellum surface.
My view 
Niamh's view. If you look carefully, there's a Heart in this. In fact, there are several.

Luckily for me, we worked in my pad. So I've got the drawings. But, half of them really are Niamh's. Multidisciplanary design, co creating at ground level. Delicious. (You can't tell what it is, because it's Niamh's path.) 

Jet lag has gone now, it stayed a month, longer than any visitor really should..

Up coming courses - intensive portfolio prep over half term, childrens art class,oils workshop and weekly classes. For info email