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