Monday, 17 December 2018

Hair and beards! Portrait drawing prep before painting, graphite.

Sometimes I will see a wonderful face, in the street, in a shop - even singing in a choir!, and I know I'd LOVE to paint it. 

The first time it happened,  over twenty years ago, it was a young woman with her mother, quietly browsing in a book shop in Rye, East Sussex. She had milky-white skin and very long, burnt orange wavy hair. She ALREADY looked like a painting. But I was too shy to approach her, and have regretted it ever since. So now, I just go for it, and politely compliment the person on their interesting 'head' (I notice that I tell them I like their head. Rather than 'face'), and would it be ok to draw them? So far so good, its always been a YES! 

Soft tones showing the gentle textures on the skin. 

On a recent trip to Bath and Wells, there was a lovely-looking gentleman staying in the same hotel. I mentioned my admiration of his looks to my traveling companions, and was almost immediately sorry, as they pointed him out so often I was nearly 'morto', as they say here. Just before we left, the lovely man was checking out, so it was now or never. 

"Er... excuse me, I couldn't help notice your lovely head..."

And so my new best friend is the wonderful Vernon, who was traveling with his wife and very happily sat for me. Here are some progress shots of my drawing study, and a small video. 

for scale - the drawing is on A2 paper. 

I enjoyed working on the flesh areas, but the beard is a challenge. It isn't finisehd yet, but I thought I'd share the progress so far. 
Hmm. The beard... 

Pencil is so difficult to photograph - the camera doesn't like all that white paper. So I did the video to try to show it better. 
And yes, it seems I have trouble speaking, thinking and drawing at the same time. 

More as I progress... 

Drawings by Julie Douglas, Belfast Academy of Realist Art (B.A.R.A.) 

Friday, 14 December 2018

Bravery and trust at the drawing board

Sometimes when I look at the drawings my students create, I am astonished at just how DIFFICULT the subjects are. Subjects which I set, of course! Tough. Stretching.

Suzanne B, student - a lovely set-up
But it's not only the level of trickiness which strikes me - it's the students themselves, and how brilliantly they respond when they see each week's offering... (Some hide their horror, some let it show!) Please remember that my students often have very little past experience. Some have not drawn for 30 years. Some have doodled at home without guidance, and attend out of exasperation or frustration at their lack of improvement. Some have no experience at all, but a desire. And others have attended for a little while and feel the benefit of the challenges I give them. All attend just once a week, for between two and four hours. A short time (and usually drawings are not completed in that time) - but they all improve, and accept the challenges.

Clive, student
So when I show you the work they produce, it's because I appreciate them and am proud of their achievements.  Appreciate their WORK, their frustration, their grit. And their staying power.

When I decide on a subject, it is chosen with a sense of adventure and fun. Excitement at a reflection. Pleasure at a shadow. Visual feasting, and enthusiasm for the puzzle-solving to come at each drawing board, by each student.

Recently the subject was cookie cutters. A great subject, fitting into what I would describe as the 'structural' category (as oposed to 'organic'). In other words - no hiding places! I made some ginger bread cookies too, but we decided to eat those rather than drawing them, even the crispy ones...
Alison S., using coloured pencil to beautiful effect. 
This arrangement was placed on the spotty paper, which provided the biggest challenge. If you look hard you will see part of the ginger bread cutter, and some ribbon. This took two hours of study, and while it is not finished, it is still beautiful. By student Kate.
Pat -this drawing was larger than most, around A3 sized. 
Glynis - in order to help her get less lost in the puzzle, Glynis marked R for red and Y for yellow on the stripes of her drawing. Every little helps! 
Ewa's drawing, with gorgeous warm colours reflected from red and gold paper, into the cutter. 
Teresa's drawing - Teresa is a new student and this was her first time using coloured pencil. A great start. 
A lovely water colour version. 
Alan S, lovely colourful start.
Sara's successful combination of graphite pencil and colorued pencil. 
Brigid's lovely drawing. 
 To make things more exciting, I added shiny paper into the mix. Students had a choice of silver, gold, striped or spotted paper, which introduced both colour and extra pattern to the subject. To be kind, I threw in some ribbons for extra impact. Students set up their own arrangement, inside 'cardboard corners', after experimenting with placement of colours for best effect, and got to work. Ouch!
Jim, coloured pencil with a little water added.

The best place to find shiny and patterned paper this year is..The Range! 
well done to everyone on a fantastic piece of observation drawing. 

Next up: Friday Night Life (life drawing 28th December 2019), Children's art (29th December 2018)

For info on all workshops please email