Thursday, 18 September 2014

Oil painting workshop, Belfast - painting against the clock

Bottle and plums, Julie Douglas, oil on canvas. 
It's always a treat to be attending a workshop, as a change from teaching. But the week-long oils workshop with Matt Weigle was very busy for me, making sure Matt had everything he needed to deliver the workshop in the way he wanted, making sure the students atending were getting everything they needed, and taking many phone calls along the way regarding the upcoming Symposium weekend. Oh yes, and fitting in as much painting as possible too.

Here's how we did it. we started with drawing...

Day 1 - drawing the arrangement to a comfortable size. A3 study, Julie Douglas 
Our goal over the week was to do one drawing, one small black and white tonal study, a small colour study and a larger full colour painting. Ok then... 
I drew on A3 paper, with the shadow box at my eye level. 
We photocopied our original drawings down to the appropriate sizes for our canvas, and transferred the image as Matt showed us. It was great to get painting, and the B&W was done by the end of the ssecond day. It was very small, which really forces you to be general - this doesn't compromise accuracy, it requires clarity and contrast and balance and broader decision-making.

So small...
Finished B&W study
to give you an idea of the scale
Day three - we outined our transfer of the larger painting, so as not to lose the line during the underpainting process. 

Outlining the transferred drawing on canvas for the final (larger) painting
We did the underpainting quickly, in an hour or so, then left it to dry overnight. In the meantime, the colour study was waiting. 
Underpainting for final canvas
I was always a good bit behind everyone else, and was regretting having chosen the glass bottle, as it had a bit more detail to paint (meaning it would take longer..). By the end of day three I hadn't started my colour study.

Day four - this is where I got even busier, and I wondered if I'd not finish anything. I didn't get to sit  at my desk till after lunch, but when I returned from taking a phone call, I discovered that Matt had prepared my palette for me. How very very encouraging.
I finished the colour study by the end of the day, in time for us all to go out together for dinner. 

Hurrying UP....

Colour study, done in an afternoon approx 21cm x 12 cm

Again, to show scale
my desk, and the transfer sheets
Friday - the pressure was on, big time. We had to stop by 5 at the latest, as the walls had to be removed from the studio to make room for the Symposium on Saturday. Some students had already finished and were working on a second large painting. Sob sob... 
Nearly done...

Marathon painting, watched over by the resident skeleton.

But you know, there's nothing like a deadline... and with moments to spare, I got the painting finished. No time to celebrate though, the porters arrived on time, and we began the big clear-up for the weekend of creative delights ahead... 

Finished painting, 30cm x 22cm Julie Douglas

Upcoming workshops with Julie Douglas in Belfast: Portrait drawing, Oil painting, Drawing and water colour. For details, email

Julie's workshops are friendly, focused and fun. Fully structured courses so you know you are learning. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Oils workshop in Belfast

It's been a very busy, very creative summer here in Belfast.

Matt Weigle's oil painting workshop continued for five days at the end of August, and all the students loved it and  learnt a lot.

Matt spent two and a half DAYS setting up the studio space, so that each shadow box had just one light source and each box was lined with black fabric. The intension was for each students still life to be as uncluttered as possible so that we could get through each stage of Matt's workshop in the time, and finish a larger painting as well. Because Matt took such care in arranging the boxes, tables, easles and lighting, all the students had to do was select their objects, then hmmm and aaaa about placing them. Much huffing and pondering... This jug or that vase... an onion or plum...?

matt showing the transfer technique

By the end of the first day we had completed our drawing. Day two involved transferring it onto two small canvases and one larger one.
Matt doing a transfer
Image transferred onto canvas, from the original drawing

Our aim after that was to put down an underpainting on the larger canvas, complete a black and white tonal study, a colour study where we were simplifying the colours (relying on the tonal study as a guide) on the smaller canvases, and later in the week, begin a second layer on top of the underpainting as a final more finished painting.

Matt helping to get the placement right on the canvas, measuring from the edges to get some form of symmetry and balance 

Matt preparing the greys

As I said, Matt had a daily requirement for us, and this helped focus us and stick to the deadlines. Here he is preparing and demoing the black and white study
Demo of black and white study

Demo painting by Matt Weigle
Caroline, Laura, Gennie, Ruth, Suzanne and Liz

So Matt would do the demo then we'd work hard to keep up. He worked much more quickly than us.. The studio was quiet (apart from the wind whistling from outside), as we concentrated.

Gennie, demonstrating the special technique of holding all your brushes at once, just in case... 

Gennie's wonderful Black and White study
One of the things Matt wanted us to do was to outline our transfer drawing with black permanent pen (this had to be permanent even if wet with turpentine), so that we wouldn't 'lose' our drawing during the underpainting. Some students were a tad sceptical about this,  feeling that we needn't go to those lengths to preserve the drawing.. However, we humoured Matt and did what he asked... 

Laura and Benedict outlining their drawings in pen
...and boy were we glad when Matt showed us the next stage.. The underpainting was very speedily done,  and the turpentine thinned the paint so much that without the black lines, all the drawing would have been completely wiped off. Ahem... 

Matt slathering thinned paint on for the underpainting 

The loose underpainting, with black pen lines clearly visible. 
Susan, Ruth and Gennie
While the underpainting dried (this took overnight) we got on with the colour study, leaving the last day and a half for the larger painting.
Susan touching up her cloth
Matt having a word with Liz's painting...
Benedict, engrossed in her painting
Matt with Ruth, and her fabulous painting 

Suzanne's work in progress - fantastic colours 
Fionnuala's colour study and final painting in progress. 
Ruths desk... YUMM
An astonishing amount of work was produced during the week. The pic below shows Gennie's weeks work - she managed two larger finished pieces, because, well... some people work pretty fast! 

Gennie's marathon production!
The studio was quiet, but we had a good chat at break times..

And on the last evening we all had dinner together, joined by Peter Cooper (on the right) who helped Matt with his 'foreign language studies'.. Matt did a great job of learning to speak Norn Irish, and can say 'Brown' and 'Bout ye' in the correct manner beautifully. However, just as Peter was encouraging Matt with some colourful additions, Benedict, from Holland, who was sitting next to me, out of the blue said the most perfect 'YOU' I've ever heard..  This is good news, for I've adopted Benedict (though I haven't told her yet, it's a surprise!) 

         Below, some of the weeks work laid out to dry.

Matt was a methodical and careful tutor, wanting everyone to get the best from themselves. His teaching was authentic and sincere - we all had a fabulous week and hope to do it all again!

Next up - Drawing Trail around Belfast's Titanic Quarter as part of EHOD
Portrait workshop

For information email