Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Draw in Symposium, Belfast, 2014 - an Extraordinary Experience

The last weekend in August 2014 was very special, for many many people. The Draw In Symposium was an incredible two days of open hearted sharing, with artists from many disciplines coming together to share their experiences, to swap stories and ideas, providing a lively, passionate, authentic creative experience for students of all ages and from all backgrounds. The place was buzzing, and everyone who was there was changed in some way.

L-R: Colleen Barry (from the Grand Central Academy, New York), Matt Weigle (also from GCA, NY) Aidan McGrath (architect and photographer, Belfast), Paul Foxton (artist, London), Peter Cooper (animator, Belfast), PJLynch (illustrator, Dublin), Shevaun Doherty (botanical artist, Dublin) and me, wth an L-plate,  introducing everyone to the sessions ahead. 

And while, in my teaching, I have regularly witnessed individual students having AHA moments of understanding, watched the great relief some experience in truly understanding something they thought was beyond them, and seen many people joyfully uplifted through their own progress, I have never seen it happen to so many people at once. It was humbling and hard to describe.

Me introducing Paul Foxton

I think it was the most profound, moving, inspiring and fast moving weekend of my LIFE. Such an incredible experience, so much knowledge shared. Amazing.
But it was so much fun too. Energetic and delicious!

PJ Lynch giving his portrait demonstration. 

Big screen was so helpful behind PJ Lynch. my son modelled for him 

Peter Cooper encouraging students to view his sculptures. 

Believe it or not, Paul Foxton is in the middle of this crowd, doing his demonstration. 
Paul Foxton
Shevaun Doherty, talking us through her wonderful botanic paintings, in the gallery. 

A bit of audience participation, playing with clay during Peter Cooper's demonstration

One of my figure drawing workshops

 On the first day we began with a panel discussion where the artists answered the questions I asked, each of them describing the relevance of Drawing within their own practice. This  gave the audience a glimpse into the practicalities and nitty gritty of creative development. We had demonstrations in Creature Sculpting by Peter Cooper, oil portraiture by PJ Lynch, Studio Practice with Paul Foxton, talks by Colleen Barry and Shevaun Doherty. In between all of this, students peered at the drawings and sketch books and roughs on display in the gallery.

My wonderful volunteers, Pamela, Katy, Rory, Niamh, Liz, Lisa (chief whip) and Judith. I couldn't have done it without them, they were fantastic. 

On the second day, PJLynch, Paul Foxton and I gave workshops (in portrait drawing, Studio Practice and Figure Drawing) and this was a marathon for the students AND us! I worked out that over 300 pieces of artwork were generated that day - that's a lot of drawing.

It was an extravaganza. And I look forward to doing it again!

PJ Lynch portrait workshop

Some lovely student drawings

By the end of the weekend, my volunteers were a bit the worse for wear... 

Here is just some of the lovely feedback I recieved from students:

From G.M. - A really talented and inspiring bunch of people - all gathered by you and infected by your enthusiasm. Well done on it all. The organisation, balance of presentations and goodwill engendered was fantastic.

From R.K - I just wanted to let you know what I thought of the weekend symposium which you organised. My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and we came home fired up and even more enthusiastic to get cracking to find out if we can do it! I felt as if the whole course was set up for me alone, as you made it all "do-able". I loved the artists, so cleverly selected and I would love to have heard more and more and more about their practice. 
PJ Lynch was so fantastic and I could have stayed with the portraiture all day but then I felt the same about the figure drawing.

Most of all I feel affirmed and a little more confident (something I have spent my life giving others in teaching). I don't know how long that will last but I am determined to give myself a chance now that I have given up teaching.

I loved the course, the tutors, the people, the art of course and the craic. You were a breath of fresh air to listen to and see in action.

From J.F. - Well I absolutely loved the course and was really pleased I got to take part in it. I was there for the weekend only. My highlights were

  • Colleen Barry's talk - I felt privileged to be in the same room as her. 
  • P.J.s Workshop - Thoroughly enjoyed this and was very happy with my portrait. I'm a member of Illustrator's Ireland, as is PJ and I was feeling trepidation about doing his workshop. I draw cartoon people while he creates masterpieces so I was feeling a bit mortified but he was great and I really learned a lot.
  • Your workshop and I'm not just saying that :)  I feel like my drawing is very stiff so your workshop was EXACTLY what I need to loosen up and look at things differently - inside edges instead of outlines. 
            So thank you again for the opportunity Julie, I left feeling really inspired.

Paul Foxton made comments about it on his blog here

Photos are here on PJLynch's Facebook page


More photos here on Paul Foxton's Facebook page:


  1. Hi Julie,
    It's great to see all those photos and to remember what a buzzing, exciting event you put together. There really was something inspirational in the air in Belfast that weekend. PJx

  2. thanks PJ, I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon. J x