Friday, 21 April 2017

Notes from the Atelier.. at The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast April 2017

2nd April was A Very Big Day. With a lot of help from some friends, I set up a display of artworks by around 50 students in The Engine Room gallery, to give their lovely drawings and paintings a public viewing of works in progress. 

My students are a modest bunch, but every few years it is very good to allow their progress to be seen and appreciated, and it was fantastic for me to share their day to launch my book,  Notes from The Atelier.

David McKnight, my editor, allowing me to show off his photo at the back of the book!
(page 255, for your  reference!) 
 The Engine Room Gallery is a huge space, with a stunning view of Belfast City Hall. We had the use of two rooms, which gave us enough space to put up 35 tables. We covered these in folders containing paintings and drawings that students had done during classes.

Around half the illustrations in my book were made by my students, so some of those were mounted and displayed on long tables under the windows.
A broad sweep of one of the rooms in the gallery, before everyone arrived

All set up, raring to go...! 
Some student artworks, which were used to illustrate the book - by Sara Colhoun, Jayne McClenaghan, Ciara Clearn and Nisa Viney. 
More student artworks as in the book - Hilary Johnston, Sarah Bruce, Fernando Perez, Pat Pinlay, Nisa Viney, Alan Leacock. 

And from the book, artwork by Sara Colhoun, Alan Leacock, Sara Bruce and Emma McWilliams. 
It's one thing organising an event, but quite another not knowing how many people will turn up. I needn't have worried! The doors opened at 3, and the first visitors arrived a bit before that... 

Lisa doing a wonderful job with refreshments! In the background, Judith who made the lovely food. 
...and they kept arriving, and arriving and arriving, until the place was absolutely FULL!  I had past students who'd travelled from County Clare and Dublin, others from Ardee and Derry and my brother from London. People stayed for a long while, carefully looking through every folder, meeting students, and students meeting other students!  Gennie, from County Clare, said 'it was like meeting family'.

Fernando (centre), June (left) and Maeve (right, who came from London)
Dawn, Gennie (who travelled from County Clare!), Colin, Margery, Claire, Judith... 

Gennie and Alan catching up! 
I spy Liz, Jackie, Ainnien, Sara, Ciara, Margey, Erin, Emma, Alison...
Avril and Claire!
Christine, left, David McKnight (editor) and Barbara. 
A selection box of students at the drawing board
 David and I were kept busy manning the book stack, as many people had pre ordered and came to collect their copies. It was fantastic to see so many familiar faces - it was buzzing and happy.

Meanwhile, Judith Cowan was mingling with the crowd sharing the delicious nibbles she'd made, and Lisa and Nuala were washing and rewashing glasses to keep everyone refreshed!
Chad with Julie

Visitors taking their time to enjoy every folder - with the colourng-in table in the foreground! 
Display of Julie's paintings and drawings

Preparatory drawing next to finished painting, Julie Douglas
 For me, a very important aspect of painting is the process itself, and the preparation involved in creating something new. To this end, I displayed my sketch books as well as preparatory drawings and colour studies alongside some finished artwork - from an educational standpoint, sharing the stages of the process is almost more important than displaying the end result.  I believe also that it was the not-always-finished aspects of the students folders which everyone found so attractive. There is an honesty in the learning process which is not often celebrated. The display celebrated the act of observation in itself, and provided a platform for others to appreciate the effort and progress that each student has made.
Julie's table

You can see from these photos that I was 'saying a few words', and took the opportunity to ask everyone to play the Elephant game... 

I gave everyone a small piece of paper, which they held behind their back, then all together we ripped it into the shape of an elephant!!! Well, the looks on their faces... No cheating, no peeping, just ripping...
The serious expressions as everyone ripped out an elephant behind their back! 
This is a great (and FUN) way of getting everyone to join in, doing something creative with a surprising outcome. It involves visual memory, spacial awareness and is more tricky than you'd think!!
The concentration of ripping elephants... 
The elephant used in my book! An original ripping by Claire Bruce!
No two elephants are ever the same. Some have a hint of a camel about them, others have lost their trunk - but they are all authentic and charming and unique. I used Claire's rather wonderful elephant (above) throughout  my book.
Elephant shortbread, made by Judith Cowan
Paper elephants hanging along the window
The most tremendous Elephant Cake, made by Maria Wylie - delicious! It broke my heart to have to cut into this, but I shared it in classes the week after the opening, and it was really yummy!
Queen's Guitar Quartet, featuring my son Rory on the left
We were serenaded throughout the afternoon, with music from the lovely Queen's Guitar Quartet, and also from Manus Maguire, playing traditional Irish Fiddle. I'm so grateful.
Holywood Culture Club representatives on the left, Dermot and Tim!

 I can truly say that I have never felt so supported in all my life. The atmosphere was so loving, warm  and generous. The good feeling was tangible. Thank you everyone - to all who came, and to all who leant their artwork, thank you for making it a wonderful event. I admit that it was, at times, a little overwhelming to see SO many people - there were hundreds of you! As I look through the photographs, I see that there are so many that I didn't have a chance to speak to. Your presence was much appreciated. I hope these photos show the flavour of the afternoon, and remind you of the buzz.

David's inauguration to the Ali Cat's Motorcycle Club (for girls). 
I was really delighted that my friends in the Ali Cat's Motrocycle Club arrived for a look around just before we cleared up. A vision in pink! Kate, Ducati-rider extraordinare, in pigtails in the front row, has a painting in the book! Thanks for coming ladies, and no one got lost!

A special thanks to all who helped me. From David McKnight at my side (correcting my spelling when I signed books) and Margaret McKnight who took lots of photographs, to Nuala and Michael McCavanagh, Lisa McCausland, Ciara Clearn and Rory Douglas-Smith who helped transport all those tables, folders, props, easels, books and bottles up the lift, for hanging up the elephants and helping with the display, I am so grateful.  You made an enormous task completely manageable and seamless. To Merlynne Knott for tidying up all the bits of ripped elephant from the floor, thanks! To Maeve Huttly and Gregor Douglas, Nuala and Michael and Rory, for helping take everything back down again, to Michael for helping me park the hired van (no laughing, it was a challenge!) and for getting it out again without even a tut, to Judith Cowan for making all those lovely nibbles, Maria for the cake, and for Clifford at the gallery for being so welcoming, I thank you whole heartedly.

I really look forward to doing it again!

Photos: Margaret McKnight, Michael McCavanagh, John McDonald and Joyce McWilliam.

Julie's book, Notes from the Atelier can be found here

For workshops and weekly classes email

Next up: drawing and watercolour workshop, portrait workshop and oils. 

1 comment:

  1. Well done Julie!I had a wonderful time and think the book is great. Jackie B