Sunday, 30 June 2019

Our daily breadsticks.. Pastel drawings BARA students

I was looking through an old A6 sized sketch book recently and found a little drawing of a plaited loaf.  And I thought aha, great subject..!! The drawing was done during a class, MANY years ago. When my children were small, I dond't have time for major painting projects, and the Sketch Book became the life saver - even though the maximum time I had was around 10 minutes during a class, it was enough to help me feel connected. With myself.

Little sketch book study, Julie Douglas 
So I bought lots and LOTS of part-baked loaves and rolls - the kitchen smelled fabulous!
Baskets of bread for the studio

The 'table of choices', from patterned cloth to croissants, seeded rolls, hot cross buns, jam and knives and spoons... 
The first challenge for the students was in setting up their arrangements. It's best to start with lots of options, then narrow it down to just three or four elements. The results were lovely.  They had a choice of tinted papers to work on - it is good to not work on a white surface all the time.
Cathy's pastel study 
Two sessions of work in this chalk study by Christine McC
Pat's oil pastel drawing 
Pat treid her hand at chalk pastels AND oil pastels. The image below is the chalk study - it has a softer look to it than the oil. However, the advantage of oil is a different intensity of tonal values. Note her brave composition, with the knife pointing out towards the viewer.

Pat's start in chalk pastel 

Catherine working on her pastel drawing

Carlo's chalk drawing. Nice and jammy.
A lovely chalk study by Rose-Jane
Upcoming workshops include portrait workshop 22 - 26 July, Oils workshop 22 - 26 August
Life drawing Friday 19th July 6pm, and a weekend session on life Drawing from Friday evening 27 July -  Saturday 27th July. 
For more info plesae email

Friday, 28 June 2019

All wrapped up - fabric drawings in pastel

Often used as a backdrop to a painting, cloth makes a wonderful subject in it's own right too.
I set up four options for my students - two were large white sheets wrapped around poles and secured with a knot, a tailor's mannequin with a cloth secured by rope and a shop window 'torso' wrapped in a table cloth. All needed the help of good lighting to make the shadows stronger and the highlights brighter, giving the extra contrasts needed to take a subject from bland to brilliant!

Catherine M, a lovely study in chalk pastel - and in just one session! 
While this is certainly a complicated subject, which really allows you to feel the brain cogs whirring as you try to fathom a starting place,  it's apparent lack of focal point and apparent lack of beauty means there is no distraction. It forces each artist to select a point that interests them - a particular fold, or a series of shadows, for example - and their attention to that allows the rest of the drawing to grow.
Full use of the page by Marie. This was her first session, and she plans to do more next week. 
 The results were amazing. Many students opted to continue their drawing for a second session.
Alison's work coming on well, with Paul hard at work in the background. 

My demo

Great drawing by Christine, who spent two sessions on this stufy

Lesley beside her lovely artwork

Lesley showing her maximum-pastel-holding technique!! 

Brigid's drawing, next to the subject

Brigid's drawing - a lot of work in just one session,

Chalk pastel by David, on larger paper.

Rose-Jane's lovely drawing, pastel

Christine McC - a huge amount achieved in just one session! 

Sandra's lovely drawing. You can just see which part of the arrangement she is studying, near the rope on the mannequin. 

Hilary, during her second session at the subject. Lovely use of composition. 
I feel so lucky to have such a great studio space. The hard floor makes clearing up so easy after using dusty chalks. It's much more challenging to use chalks and charcoal at home, unless you don't mind having multi coloured skirting boards..!

Upcoming workshops: portrait workshop July 22 - 26, Oil workshop August 22 - 26,
Life drawing sessions Friday 19 July 6pm,  Fri 26 (6 pm) & Sat 27th July (10 - 4pm).

For info please email

Friday, 21 June 2019

Arty Hen Party!

A couple of weeks ago these lovely ladies spent a morning laughing while doing some drawing and painting, as part of their Hen Do. What a great fun way to spend time time getting to know each other! 

 We started in the easels room, with a bit of charcoal, drawing pears and plums. I stood up to do a demonstration for them, when suddenly they all burst into song, and they did a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday for me, awk!! After the demo, the ladies got over their initial nerves, rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in - with excellent results!

Bride at work!
After tea and cake we moved into the other room for a bit of watercolour painting, and as you can see, they all did a brilliant job. 

The full line up! Brilliant bananas!

Bride (sporting a new BARA apron!), bridesmaids and bananas! 
The studio is perfect for groups wanting to spend time learning a new skill, be it co workers, family or friends. A warm creative environment with space for up to 16 people at a time.

For programme info on upcoming workshops, please email

Friday, 14 June 2019

Going for gold - Oil portrait with time lapse!

I have been doing a lot of portraits recently, and have really enjoyed painting many lovely people. 

It's a real honour to spend time with the sitters. In my recent works, none had been painted before nor modeled previously and they all found it relaxing (well, the pressure was all on me, of course!). 

This painting is of my handsome friend Jonny. He was very happy for me to experiment with backgrounds. I started with plain grey, but felt that his head is so striking that I could be bolder. 

So, I painted a dark purple over the grey, then began leaf! Not the easiest of things to work with, but worth the effort for the amazing dramatic effect. 

This is the painting so far. I have yet to complete the hair and all those stripes on the shirt. The gold is, I think, looks quite contemporary.

Upcoming workshops with Julie in Belfast:
Life Drawing July 19th & 26th
Portrait workshop July 22 - 26th. 
For information please email