Drawing in colour! Students at work...

The endless variety of colours and unique shapes to play with make food the perfect subject to draw and paint. The rich dark of the aubergine below, offset against the mid toned background, looks almost like velvet. The brightness of the lemon adds extra zing! 

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 Here, students Felicity and Anne are getting to grips with chalk pastels, layering the colour bravely and building up tones in layers. For their first time using chalks, they did a brilliant job.

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 Chalk pastel and coloured pencil are both delicious ways to aid observation of colours. Their dry pigment allows you to go straight to the paper and begin noticing how colours interact when mixed together. Working on coloured paper gives for different colour relationships too. 

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Portrait in oil, stages of the process

‘Process’ is the path from the humble beginnings (possibly an idea or a thought) to a more finished end. If I had my way, art exhibitions would include not only a display of the ‘finished’ works but also much of the preparation work it took to get to there. I think this would not only enlighten people to the effort involved, but it would help them appreciate the steps required and stall the race-to-the-end which seems to be urgently demanded. There are well-trodden stages to finished artworks, and much joy to be had in lingering there. It’s not ALL about the end.

I am currently working on a small painting of my son. I love sharing the whole process involved in producing artwork, so here is the initial drawing in stages, and the colour study which I did before starting the more careful final painting.

I don’t absolutely always do a preliminary drawing - but I am always sorry if I haven’t. The drawing study is a valuable way to investigate shapes and tones and placement of the elements to be painted, as well as the place to make decisions about the atmosphere we want to achieve in the final work . Spending time preparing to paint repays tenfold, or more!

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The next stage is the colour study. I LOVE this part! In fact, my study has more detail in than is necessary, but I was enjoying it and indulged myself. Working straight to paint, I blocked in a face-shape, without worrying at all about a likeness. The point here is working out what colours, and paying attention to tonal balance too. In this painting, there is a lot of striped light on the forehead from lighting directly above. That is the challenge.

The photo above is to show you the scale - it isn't large. It took an evening to complete. 

Now I’m ready to begin the final painting!

For info on upcoming workshops please email me on julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Luck of the Irish? Gerberas, Chrysanths and Daisies: Oil painting on linen.

When I looked back to find the photos of the initial stages of this painting, I was shocked to see that I began working on it 5 months ago. Now, this doesn't mean that I've taken 5 months to compete the painting! No. In fact, it's still not quite finished, but another few hours on the background will do it.  In between bouts at the easel, I have been very busy illustrating and photographing my book, as well as doing lots of teaching.  I am trying to finish the painting in time for the book launch - I love a deadline!

The first pass 

The first pass 

I took the reference photo several years ago, just before Christmas in a florist in Lisburn. It was snowing outside, but the light caught the flowers beautifully. I don't often paint flowers - but it was painting light and colour that I was interested in, and in spite of the complex nature of the subject, I was happy to tackle it. 

This photo shows you the scale of the painting.

This photo shows you the scale of the painting.

I always enjoy the blocking-in stage - it's all to play for, and the true magnitude of the task in hand hasn't quite hit home yet... After toning the background, I did a rough layer of colour over the whole canvas. This should be as close as possible to the final colours and tones, but it acts as a good base for the final colour layer to sit upon.  I worked one flower at a time. 

Blocked in. 

Blocked in. 

I usually do my cropping at the photographing stage, but in this case I altered the composition slightly on the right hand side, removing a chrysanthemum from top right which I felt disrupted the strength of the patterns created by the tallest daisy. 

Putting in the first layer of colour, one flower at a time

Putting in the first layer of colour, one flower at a time

First pass complete

First pass complete

At this point, I went through a phase of getting paint everywhere, including my computer keyboard, which is... not helpful! So I decided to try working with gloves. I wasn't sure if I'd like it - but I do! Just about everything we use for oil painting is toxic to some degree, so it's sensible to protect the hands. 

yuck!

yuck!

I began the second layer by painting one flower at a time once more - when you know are going to have long gaps between visits to the easel, it's great to have small areas to 'complete' as you go along.  The second layer gives a richness to the painitng. Remember, oil paint is transparent, so the more layers, the more 'solid' and secure the painting will be. The background at the top is an ornamental cabbage, which currently looks like draped fabric!

Second layer on the first daisy

Second layer on the first daisy

Daisies on the left show the second layer 

Daisies on the left show the second layer 

gloved up!

gloved up!

a little crysanthemum added at the back.

a little crysanthemum added at the back.

It was somewhere between the photo above and the photo below that my camera stopped functioning. It just couldn't focus - the flower on the right, below,  is blurred.  (In reality, the flower is soft but not as soft as the photo!)  Oh no!!

Frustratingly fuzzy photo!

Frustratingly fuzzy photo!

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Above - the second layer on the flowers is complete. As you can see, the flower at the top is blurred - this, again, is the camera. For the photo below, which is the whole painting complete apart from the top background, I had to use the 'selfie' camera, so the quality isn't good, but hopefully you get the gist. 

The camera I've been using is the one in my iPhone. I consider myself VERY lucky. I used it to take every photograph in my book (over 500 shots printed), and the quality is excellent. The repair shop replaced it with a new camera, hoorah! But sadly, it still doesn't focus, which means, apparently, that it's 'a phone problem'.  I suspect that I've used up my picture allowance.

I've had the phone just 18 months. I think the time has come to buy a little digital camera again, and not rely on the phone for photographs. Gone are the days of repairing our belongings, it seems. But an 18 month life-span isn't long enough for me! This consumer is looking elsewhere... 

Next up: oil painting workshop, Belfast. For info email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

BOOK LAUNCH and display of student drawings and paintings, Sunday 2nd April, The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast. All welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Gray Portrait Workshop at Atlier Nadai France

Last week I attended a wonderful oil portrait painting workshop in south-east France at Atelier Nadai, with the amazing artist David Gray (www.davidgrayart.com).

Attending workshops is a great way to practice what we know already, as well as learn how other artists tackle the process of painting. David was generous with his knowledge, kind and funny,  and hardly told us off at all... 

The first day was drawing the face, using the traditional measuring technique, and it took us all day. By the end of the day, after a lot of sighing and groaning (in arty agony), squinting and reworking, we had transferred the image onto the canvas ready for the next day. (David did try to make it clear that in fact, HE was the only one allowed to sigh. SIGH.. By the fourth day, I had resorted to growling in frustration at my painting.) 

                                                                 My drawing, flaws and all

 

David started each day with a long demonstration before letting us loose. On the second day, we began with a colour study in the morning, and then moved on to the underpainting. Trying out a different palette of colours is always interesting, and David used a couple of colours that were new to me - I liked them (which is just as well, as I was going to be using them like it or not!). One new one was Quinacradone Violet. 

Peering at David's demo. On the right is the lovely Kyoko, who managed the studio and kept us in order...

Peering at David's demo. On the right is the lovely Kyoko, who managed the studio and kept us in order...

                                                                 My colour study, top, and the underpainting by end of day 2

                                                                 My colour study, top, and the underpainting by end of day 2

 We were in the studio for long hours, from 8am - 6.30, on average, but it was still a struggle to get everything done. David's hurry-up phrase was, "c'm-ON guys..."

The view from my easel - next to Inge, Laurette, Kristin and Jean-Michel. You can tell that David is a Proper Artist, as he's donned a smock..

The view from my easel - next to Inge, Laurette, Kristin and Jean-Michel. You can tell that David is a Proper Artist, as he's donned a smock..

  I painted the hair in less than an hour, as my taxi was coming to take me to the train station, ah ah aaaaaaah!! But, there's nothing like a deadline to make you focus and slap something down.

                                 My painting by the end of day 4

                                 My painting by the end of day 4

As my painting was still wet, and very unfinished, by the time I had to leave,  I left it in the studio to dry. I look forward to receiving it in the post so that I can do some glazing.
 

The proof of the pudding, of course, is less what is completed during the workshop, and much more about what you actually take home with you to your own studio. I have spent two days painting since I got home, on an artwork that I'd already started. And yes, I am working slightly differently, I am seeing slightly differently and I... like it.  I DO feel the benefit of taking the course and would do it again. But remember, a course like this isn't dreamy - it's hard work and not for sissies. 

Our group of Not Sissies, L-R:  Inge, Laurette, me, Nicole, Jean-Michel, Elias, Mirko, Keanu, at the back David Gray, then Kristin, Christophe and Michel Nadai. 

Our group of Not Sissies, L-R: Inge, Laurette, me, Nicole, Jean-Michel, Elias, Mirko, Keanu, at the back David Gray, then Kristin, Christophe and Michel Nadai. 

The students came from all over the place - Norway, Switzerland, South Africa, some from other parts of France, and David had travelled from Seattle. Obviously, we all take it pretty seriously! 

Atelier Nadai is evenly-lit, lovely and airy. Michel Nadai is a master craftsman, of painted murals and trompe-l'oeil (http://www.atelier-nadai.com/en_GB) and Kyoko runs the studio with an air of graceful calm. She also did an amazing job of translating everything David said, into French, as we went along. 

I know, south of France sounds lovely, but in March, the weather was baltic and wet - definitely the lower range of temperatures. But, we were there for the art and to be honest, it was pretty sunny inside the studio. 

For upcoming workshops, in Colour pencil, pastels, drawing, water colour and oils, please email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk