Friday, 24 May 2019

Why small is the new big. Mini landscapes in water colour, student work.

 I have asked weekly my students what they'd most like to tackle in class, and their requests are varied, with a few surprises... The less expected answers include 'hands', 'sheep', 'cows' and 'birds' (does anyone know of a taxi dermist?!) (for birds, not cows or sheep..!). I am trying to work through as many suggestions as I can - last week we drew hands and this week it has been landscapes, in miniature.

Catherine M
 Why miniature, I hear you wonder...? There are many good reasons for starting small. One is COMPOSITION: Staring small allows you to focus on composition, identifying key points of interest rather than trying to put everything in. Landscapes can be daunting because of the scale of them in reality, so we must be selective about what we include, and what we leave out. Paring down information by working small really helps this.
Christine W.
Another good reason for 'small' is CONTROL: With water colour, one of the biggest challenges is controlling the behaviour of water over large areas. Working small allows you to observe the behaviour of water over small areas at a time, without the stress of trying to cope with large scale. 

Another benefit is to be gained from QUANTITY - working on several, not just one little artwork, take the pressure off 'the one'. Think of each painting as a draft, preparation for the next one and the next. 
PLAY: it is so important to be grown-up about the notion of playing, and let go of the actual outcome in favour of messing about! Lets call it 'playing, with intent', or 'deliberate playing'. Remembering that the aim was to learn about simplifying, I think they have done tremendously well. 
Sara C.
 The artworks here are by several students, who bravely played, and won! All images are no taller than 4 inches (10 cm) and were from photographs I had taken of the local area. Sara, above, moved on to using coloured pencil (bottom right of image) to tackle the lovely patterns in water.
Pat F
Carolyn G

Liz C

Hilary J - this artwork is in coloured pencil, on water colour paper. 

Ciara C

Ciara C - a closer view
Ciara's artworks, above and below, are beautifully executed and have a gentle illustrative quality about them.
Ciara C
Upcoming workshops include Friday night Life Drawing (7th June), and the summer programme is available  below. To be added to Julie's mailing list to hear automatically about extra workshops, please email

NEW** Portrait drawing and painting: Mon 22 - Fri 26th July 10 - 4.15pm, from photos, and with a model. Fully tutored, cost £600. 

August 22 - 26th: Drawing and oils workshop with Julie Douglas. This workshop will improve your drawing skills using pencil, charcoal and chalks, teach you how to create beautiful still life set-ups and you will produce an oil painting based on one of your own  arrangements. This workshop is perfect for all levels of ability, and is an excellent preparation for the oils workshop which directly follows, with Maestro John Angel. (see below). Cost £600 (materials list provided)

August 28th - September 5th: Oil Painting like the Masters. A workshop delivered by the Maestro Michael John Angel, from the Angel Academy of Art, Florence. Details of this can be found here:

Monday, 13 May 2019

Boots and ballet shoes! Student's drawings from Belfast Academy of Realist Art.

Last week I decided it was drawing time, and set out a variety of boots, shoes and ballet shoes. 
The first class used charcoal, and the rest of the week students opted for graphite pencil. The results were amazing. Here are a few examples. 

Charcaol drawing by Teresa L. (size A3)
When attending a weekly class, students have the benefit of trying lots of media, which broadens perspective and changes perception. The down side is that it's only once a week! 

Pencil drawing of work boot by Christine McC.

Christine hard at work. You can see here that the drawing was A3 sized and larger than the actual boot. This gives a dramatic drawing. 

Jane's lovely drawing of a boot.
Beautiful A2 drawing by Sara C. Great use of the page. 
Sara's drawing next to the shoes - larger than life!
 Students work very hard, and hardly grumble at ALL..! But for those times when a good grumpy sentence is really necessary, I've decided that a loud turkey-gobble is the best solution. So, instead of naming all the faults in your artwork and getting more and more agitated in the process, the new best thing is to do an impression of a turkey, using the most appropriate emotion to match your frustration. Not going the way you wanted?? GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!!! I know it seems ridiculous, but it WORKS!! The frustration gets out of your mouth, without increasing your self disgust, and everyone in the room sympathises before bursting into laughter.

Alison working on her large and fabulous charcoal drawing.
Lesley's lovely drawing.

Dramatically large drawing by Pat.

You can see the pink boots in this photo - quirky!

Catherine working on her lovely drawing.

Catherine's drawing. 

A difficult angle, a pair of shoes in their box, surrounded by tissue paper. This is Glynis M's artwork. 
 I'm so proud of my students. Well done everyone.

For info about classes please email
Julie Douglas has written a manual on drawing, 'Notes from the Atelier' which contains over 32 exercises as she delivers them at her weekly classes. A hard backed book with over 500 photos and drawings by Julie and her students, it's the perfect home study or gift to yourself or your arty friend. Details here: