Portrait in oils, a workshop with Cesar Santos, Florence

Attending masterclasses is a valuable experience which can shift understanding or expand on existing knowledge. For those of us who teach much of the time, it also provides the opportunity to paint without the distraction of other commitments.

My painting by the end of the workshop. 

My painting by the end of the workshop. 

I spent a few days in Florence last week, on a workshop given by Cesar Santos, hosted in the very lovely surroundings of The Florence Studio, owned by Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut. A spacious, bright and clean environment, I have never felt so welcomed and well cared for in any other studio. The fridge was stocked with bottled water for the students, and nibbles on the table.

Most of the students, with Cesar, at the end of the week. 

Most of the students, with Cesar, at the end of the week. 

Cesar is incredibly knowledgable, polite and keen to share his skills.  I was delighted, of course, that his main message was about drawing, and he took us through all the stages, from simplifying the head, to getting it onto canvas, under painting, 1st and 2nd painting.

First morning, my drawing, simplifying the form and getting to 'know' the model. 

First morning, my drawing, simplifying the form and getting to 'know' the model. 

Later day 1, the drawing completed directly on the canvas. 

Later day 1, the drawing completed directly on the canvas. 

Day 2, the under painting - this layer is to establich tones, not colours. 

Day 2, the under painting - this layer is to establich tones, not colours. 

Cesar's palette

Cesar's palette

The '1st painting, day 3, to opaquely apply colour using broad strokes and the biggest brush we could bear... 

The '1st painting, day 3, to opaquely apply colour using broad strokes and the biggest brush we could bear... 

One of Cesar's demonstrations. 

One of Cesar's demonstrations. 

More of the 1st Stage. 

More of the 1st Stage. 

I met lots of lovely people, and one evening we enjoyed a tour round The Pettit Palace with Cesar as our guide.

Cesar guiding us through the Pitti Palce examining old master paintings. 

Cesar guiding us through the Pitti Palce examining old master paintings. 

Day 4, more of the 1st Painting, with some 2nd Painting (a thinly applied layer) as well. 

Day 4, more of the 1st Painting, with some 2nd Painting (a thinly applied layer) as well. 

Here are some quotes from Cesar, taken from my notes:

‘Drawing is our attempt to understand.’

‘Painting is meaningless without drawing’.

‘Drawing has nothing to do with the materials: it is the eye. Students must strive to make the drawing excellent, try to achieve perfection, in every drawing. Keep perfecting. 100 bad drawings won’t give you a good one! Just as a poet needs to learn grammar in order to express bigger things, in art, excel in drawing first.’

Frank and Maurice in the studio. 

Frank and Maurice in the studio. 

A bit of fun at the end of the week - Cesar Santos, framed!

A bit of fun at the end of the week - Cesar Santos, framed!

Cheers! 

Cheers! 

For information on my workshops in Belfast, email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

next up: Workshops in Oils, portrait, water colour and a drawing and painting session for children.

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!

Drawing4.jpg

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

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