Sunday, 1 November 2020

NEW! A new six day online Still Life workshop with Maestro M John Angel

Dates: the first two weekends in December, Dec 4, 5, 6 and Dec 11, 12, 13th 10am - 4pm. 

Stop the presses! A new six day online Still Life Workshop with Maestro M John Angel. 

Photo: set up by student at AAA under Maestro's teaching

After the success of our first online Zoom workshop in portrait painting, I am delighted to tell you about our next project. Over two weekends, Maestro is giving a brand new workshop in still life painting. Using live demonstrations (as well as a couple of pre recorded videos relevant to the processes), this workshop will guide you from the beginning through to completion of a still life, with reference materials provided. You will be able to choose from a photographic reference or to work from a master painting (both options will be provided and sent to you upon booking). 

Painting by student at AAA under Maestro's teaching
Painting by student at AAA under Maestro's teaching

Painting by student at AAA under Maestro's teaching

The Zoom platform has proved excellent for teaching. Maestro is with the students for the entire duration of each day, answering questions and giving constant feedback to every student. It is a much more hands-on experience than being in the studio - counter intuitive, I know, but it's true!

Student working on Zoom, tuning in from Dubai, summer 2020 - Maestro's view!

Online student, tuning in from Canada,  seen from Maestro's viewpoint, summer 2020

Maestro will guide you through all the steps and stages of creating a painting, in a way which will empower you and improve your confidence and understanding. 

The workshop is fascililtated by Julie Douglas at Belfast Academy of Realist Art. Julie and Mr Angel have worked together on five workshops to date. Julie's teaching background enhances the students experiencce on the workshop as she provides notes from each day (live) and helps ensure the course runs smoothly. If you have not tried an online workshop, I encourage you to try this one. Julie has taught over 100 classes online - intense, student-centred and focussed. 

For more details please email

Cost £810.

Materials list and image options (which are NOT the same as those illustrated above, but are just as delicious) will be provided. 

Here is some feedback from students on the previous Zoom workshop:

A unique opportunity to paint with the best....Florence came to Belfast!
The recent Portrait course with Michael John Angel provided learning with the Maestro over live online sessions, while access to recorded demos allowed you to view and work at your own pace. This allowed for a comfortable mix of progress and ability levels. There was also access to personal review and critique when ready. 
The partnership with Julie Douglas and BARA meant excellent ongoing support to help participants get the most from the experience. The course provided the chance to become part of a network of dedicated artists learning from each other under world class tuition. 
Margery Lavery, Ireland

Maestro’s Zoom workshop was a real treat , better than my experience at the Angel academy,  to have Maestro sitting there available for Q&A throughout the workshop, not having to look over someone else’s shoulder, it has been amazing!!! Not to mention the recording of the videos and well prepared notes.  Can’t say enough good things about it.🙏🙏🙏 - Wendy, Hong Kong

I’ll certainly give you a testimony- it was the best course ever - Judy, Ireland

I really enjoyed the zoom course.  I was very nervous and anxious about it, but John is always reassuring and I got more from it than being in the studio.  I had more time and space to receive and digest the information. Lesley, London

I have been both fortunate and privileged to come under the tutelage of John Micheal Angel for 3 workshops to date. 
The third workshop came in the now popular Zoom format.
All 3 courses were wonderfully hosted and organised by Julie Douglas of B.A.R.A. 
The last course ( Zoom) was  supported by daily emails, brief concise pre demonstration videos and regular individual critiques throughout. 
I found this final course to be invaluable in my journey as a struggling artist - knowing that I can refer to the ‘Technique videos‘ all of which are  expertly demonstrated by the great Maestro himself. 
I would strongly recommend this course to artists of all levels . Tess, Ireland

I am a student at the Angel Art Academy and am going through the Diploma program.  I completed 2 terms there (working only in pencil and charcoal) when Covid-19 struck and I had to head home.  I enrolled for the online Portraiture class with Maestro having never painted before and I was very happy with the progress I made in such a short time.  Maestro’s step-by-step videos were very detailed and easy to follow.  In class we got one-on-one attention and Maestro gave instant expert critique.  in some cases online was better as there was little or no distraction and I gave 100% focus to my work. Bhajan, Australia

I just wanted to write a few words about our Portrait painting workshop via Zoom in August.
Maestro’s class was very organized with the preview of video demonstrations then live painting and helpful discussions.  Most crits were done off camera unless the student showed the work to all of us.
I would take another portrait painting class from you both in a heart beat.
Thanks again.
Sandra, California

I recently attended a Zoom Workshop with Maestro Michael John Angel via the Belfast Academy,   Maestro is an excellent instructor and his expertise, and knowledge is communicated well and actually enhanced by online instruction.  The videos and real time commentary and feedback enabled students to learn a lot. The Zoom Workshop was close to in person classes. It was very easy to watch Maestro work close up in the excellent recordings produced by the Belfast Academy. - Carol Rooney
Alberta, Canada

Taking a portrait class with amazing Mr. John Angel was an unforgettable experience. I have learned so much in a short period of time that would need years of practice and processing. Also the organization of the class was very good. You are in constant direct contact with the teacher himself.  I would definitely recommend this course. Janis, Dubai

Pet portrait workshop Sat 28th & Sun 29th November

Coloured pencil artwork, Julie Douglas 

We love drawing and painting our pets! Whether it's a kitten, a camel or a canary, this workshop will help you get the little darlings down on paper! Two days of drawing, using graphite or coloured pencils, we will go through the steps you need to create a likeness and understand the best way to deal with hair (or feathers!). 

Early stages in the coloured pencil process

We all need something to look forward to - lets look forward to drawing our animal friends.  We will work from your own reference photo, or if you would like to use one of mine, that is fine. Suitable for all levels of experience.

So much colour in 'white'!

So much colour in 'black'!

Timings: 10.30 - 4.30 on Saturday, 1pm - 7pm on Sunday. Cost £190. Materials list provided. 

This workshop is (currently) available as socially distanced in-studio as well as on Zoom.

Julie Douglas is an award winning coloured pencil artist, with awards from the Association of Illustrators, UK and the American Color Pencil Society. 

For more info or booking please email

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Portrait workshop 6 - 8th November 2020 with Julie Douglas

I am very pleased to be running this workshop again - it is a popular and very rewarding class. 

Over three intense sessions in one weekend,this workshop takes you through the steps you need to create convincing portraits, including how to measure, studying the features,  and how to get a likeness. All reference material is provided, and the workshop is both in-studio as well as on Zoom. If you wish you may use your own photo on the third day. We will use graphite, and if you wish, coloured pencils. 

This little video below outlines the content of my portrait workshop.

Friday 6th NOvember, 6 - 9.30pm, Saturday 7th 3 - 7pm, Sun 8th 3 - 8pm. 

If you'd like more info, or to book, please email

Monday, 5 October 2020

Autumn at BARA

I like to start the academic year with a bit of drawing, lest students have become a tad rusty during the break! Once we have that in the bag, the subjects are as seasonal as possible - which is always a treat in the autumn. I have a particular favourite hedge beside the sea, which has an incredible crop of rose hips - a gorgeous subject, particularly once the excess leaves are trimmed, revealing the plump hips. Currently, Covid-19 is still lurking, so to help socially distancing in the studio, I make a (silent!) demonstration movie for each week. Some studenst attend using Zoom, so the video is great for that, and it also provides a great reference tool for students afterwards too. Here is the demo for painting rose hips: Below - a lovely coloured pencil study by Liz McM, who joined the class via Zoom.
Below - more lovely student examples, using water colour.
Weekly classes are running all through autumn, with availability on a couple of classes. For info email All classes are available in-studio (socially distanced) as well as on Zoom.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Working remotely during Lockdown

A week before we went into Lockdown in March 2020, some of my students decided they would work from home, a 'just in case' mechanism. So that they didn't miss out on their class, I did my first, very rough, demonstration video, by attaching my phone (camera) to a little chair placed on the table above my work.
The challenge for me was to choose a subject that was accessible to everyone (so I couldn't simply delve into my boxes of props and suggest something whacky or unusual, sigh...) So I nipped down to Lidl, and got a few bunches of irises, in the hope that the few absent students could do the same.
It is really important to think beyond the subject itself, and consider the set-up. This means the environment around the subject. In the next photo, the iris is in a jar simply placed on a table. It is all clutter, the visual lines of the iris being distrupted by the background of the room. Not good to work from - too much going on!
A very simple solution is to put a piece of card (or a cardboard corner/shadow box behind it to give a clean background, allowing you to see the iris nicely. Below - a buff coloured card behind the flowers...
And below, white card behind the flowers. There isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' colour, it is up to you what colour and what tonal value you prefer.
In this exercise, I asked that students concentrate on the flowers, but I did love the patterns and reflections within the vase. The results were wonderful, both in-studio and from those working remotely. I particularly value colour 'tiles' on the page, as well as little trial studies - this is the correct way to approach any and every subject, rather than jumping in expecting to creat something 'finished' in one sitting. The first sitting (even if you only intend to DO one sitting) will always be the trial run, the study, the play and the what-if. If you regard it as such, you will learn, and enjoy it. Photo below - a lovely study page by a student, who worked from home using the demo video for help.
And below, a sketch book page from a student working in-studio.
For info on upcoming classes and workshops both in-studio and online, please email

Friday, 28 August 2020

Summer online workshops at BARA

This year, 2020, has been exceptionally busy at BARA. All classes and workshops have been online since March when we went into Lockdown, and even once restrictions were eased, classes have remained mostly online. 

From one of the firsst demo videos - very important to check your bottoms! 

Also from first video - also important to drink plenty of tea!

Classes are live, but with pre recorded demonstration videos - I am mindful that not everyone has good internet connection, even in this day and age, and my worry was that doing live demonstrations only might exclude some students. 

The pre recorded videos have been incredibly succesful and really popular, not least because they can be viewed many times. It does, of course, increase my workload, and that of my son Rory who has edited every one of them. However, it's great to be able to be useful in this way and keep all my students feeling connected to one another. 

Film making, a job for all the family... Rory editing 

Lulu 'helping' 

Sky Portrait Artist of The Year asked me to make a two minute film of how lockdown was impacting my creative practice, so here it is!

For info on upcoming classes, some in-studio, many online, please email 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

The great advantage of a Retreat

At least once a year my friend Claire and I go away to a cottage for a few days to restore our batteries, by painting and drawing, knitting, and in Claire's case a bit of creative writing. We also listen to as many Audiobooks and Tedtalks as we can cram in. It sometimes seems extreme to have to go away to really get away, but it does remove us from local distractions, and allows us to concentrate on whatever project has been calling us the most. I recommend it! This year we went a mere 50 minutes from town, to the bottom of the Ards Peninsuala - who says we have to go FAR to find beauty and solitude?! The photo below shows our view, across Strangrod Lough to the snow-topped Mourne Mountains.
Below - walking on the shoreline when the tide was out. Freezing cold, but glorious.
Below - the distinctive white pillars and red gates, catching the winter sunlight.
Bleow - a little painting by Claire. Often we both do small paintings of the area we are staying in. It means we can have a relatively high output, which is refreshing and fun. It's good to cover a small canvas, then move on.
The photo above shows the same lovely LITTLE painting by Claire, next to two LARGE panels that I worked on while we were way. Last year we went to County Cavan,where I workd on a wedding present for my friends... This photo shows the prep study, with the finished artwork beneath.
I also finished a portrait commission..
..and a couple of little local landscapes, from the hedgerow near the cottage. Size around 6 inches x 4 inches, oil.
AND I finished my knitting! Hoorah!
And the year before we had a blisteringly hot week in County Waterford. Below - Minnie enjoying a boat trip...!
Above - the start of a little painting of Nendrum Monastic Site. below - a makeshift easel, using stacked up furntiure..
Below - the finished little painting. Oil on panel approx 8 in x 1 0 in
The best fun was driving through the lanes trying to locate the field of hay bales that we could see from our cottage. Below oil n Canvas approx 10in x 10 in
We found it eventually! Below - oil on canvas approx 14in x 10in
Working away from home means you have no other distractions, and setting aside the time, for either a specific project or the chance to go with the creative flow, gives personal space and a structure which is sometimes just what's needed to get back to your Self. For info on workshops, both in-studio and online, please email

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Oil painting workshop

My weekly classes cover all aspects of drawing and painting, from pencil to charcoal water colour and oils. But it is lovely to have a longer stretch in one medium, so the oil painting week was a pleasure. 

We covered light, painting a sphere to get into incremental variations of tones and painted an egg as an introduction to painting a head (the oils week came on the heals of a portrait workshop, so I carried the theme on a little).  

Demos of the sphere and the egg, looking at light and turning the form. 

Demo in mixing flesh colours, using the planes of the head.

Various demos from the week including a colour study for a portrait. 

Julie B, working on Planes of the head. 

Caroline working on Planes of the head. 

Caroline's oil painting, great job!

Marie's lovely oil study
For info on upcoming workshops including all workshops available on the online Zoom platform, please email