Friday, 25 May 2018

Little tonal studies in oil, student works (and an unfortunate story...)

Pow, standing beside his evening's work 
When you are new to oils, it's really useful to begin with some mixing exercises - there is no pressure to produce 'a picture', and the emphasis is on understanding the medium. 

Brigid at the easel - at top is the tonal sphere and she is doing lovely 'tiles' on the jug. 
 Some of my students hadn't done oils before, and those who had were feeling a bit rusty, so we spent some time mixing greys, and laying them out to create a sphere. It's harder than it may look!

Caroline mapping out the jug 
There was just enough time at the end to begin a small canvas of a white jug, which we will complete at a future date.
Alison - this is the only record of her lovely tonal sphere... 
Luckily, students left their jug-canvases at the studio to dry, but took the spheres home. Well, MOST students took them home... Poor Alison sent me this message the next morning...

I put my picture on the bonnet last night while I opened the car, thinking 'mustn't forget and leave it there... of course not, i was only going to be a few seconds, even I couldn't forget it in that time!'.  Guess where it is now?? No, I dont know either ... somewhere between Dundonald and Belfast I guess!


For info on workshops please email

Belfast Academy of Realist Art,
Tullycarnet Primary School, Kings Road
Belfast BT5 7EH

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Lilies, compresed charcoal

Students hard at work, studying tonal values.
 It was great to get into the easel room in my studio for the first time, and give students a chance to work on larger subjects, with the option of standing up. It's good to vary the way we approach drawing and painting, and everyone enjoyed the new space. Each easel has it's own book case, to store materials and bags, and this will double up as excellent shelving for still life subjects in future.
Paul's drawing coming along nicely
 For this session, students drew a large cluster of lilies, working out how to tackle a complex arrangement, using tones to help define areas, and avoiding too many lines.
A lovely study by Clive

Ben adding some finishing touches

Brigid's lovely drawing, completed over two sessions
After much huffing and puffing, wonderful results were achieved - it's amazing the difference a background makes too. Students worked on a light-tone neuetral paper, and the aim was to cover the entire surface with chalk, as the colour itself wasn't particularly attractive. Getting the right tonal value behind the flower set off the subject dramatically.
Some students were having a little trouble getting onto their high stool, but luckily Mark found a baby-stool to help Sara reach her easel!
Sara's lovely drawing - worth the climb!
Pam bonding with Minnie. Every studio needs a dog!  
Margery spent two sessions developing her drawing, which was wonderful
Pow's lovely artwork 
Barbara's artwork, which ended up dramatic and powerful. 
I am having an Open Studio on Friday 15th June. Everyone is welcome.

For info on up coming workshops please email

Friday, 4 May 2018

New Studio, new classes!

I'm thrilled to be able to share that I have moved into new studio space, in what until recently was a Primary School, and am shaping it up into a spacious, comfortable contemporary atelier environment. I found it at the beginning of April, and in three very busy weeks, with the help of lots of student volunteers, have made it feel like home.

The walk-in film was made after a couple of weeks, so things have moved a little further since, but it gives you an idea..! 

 The photos below show how the rooms were three weeks ago - huge, and looking like a primary school class room. Large, with potential...

 But much work to be done. I started by removing everything from the walls, including hundreds of staples... and started painting.

 After several days working on it, the heavy brigade arrived - my volunteer students, armed with tool boxes, and scrubbing brushes.
 Glynis, Mark and me in the middle, Miss Rubber-Gloves. 

Merlynne and I painting. By now, the task seemed never-ending.. 

Ben, with roller
Rory, strong and helpful

Lost count of the number of trips to Ikea... 

Alan assembling a table, and his family and Rory tackling the chairs

Jim, modelling this year's best overalls... 

After the furntiture was all assembled...

My turn, to get the curtains ready to block the south facing sunlight during classes
 So, it's not finished yet - the easels room (which now includes a piano!) has yet to be painted, but I will keep going until all is done!
Students tt work in the easels room - Paul and Alison


Brigid and Julie

Jackie, Robert, Mark, Sara, Gllynis

Every studio needs a friendly dog. Pam tickling Minnie 
A morning class in the drawing room. 

Thursday night class, hard at work
Ann, Kate, Jim using water colour
I am so grateful to all the volunteers, and may call on you again...!!

There will be two studio open evenings in June, and everyone is invited. I will keep you posted.

All my classes are now at the new venue and I now have space and easels to offer life drawing sessions. For details of upcoming workshops please email