Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Field trip! Castle Espie Wetland Centre, County Down.

Hmm... Bag packed with pencil case, paper towels, sketch book, palette and hot water bottle? It can only mean one thing - FIELD TRIP!!
It's a good idea to get out and about during the term so that students don't get too used to working at a table. Variety is important, and it helps keep the bravery levels up!

My two little sketch book demos. 

Ben and Roisin settling in.
This time we went to the lovely Castle Espie Wetland Centre, which faces onto Strangford Lough. Even in February it was beautiful. 

 Left to right - Lorraine, Jackie, Ailbhe and Ben

Luckily for us, they have recently built new hides, and we chose the Lime Kiln not only for it's stunning views, but also with the hope that it might be less freezing! As you can see from these photos, it is wall to wall windows, making it perfect for drawing and painting. 

Roisin, Lorraine (bundled up in her coat against the cold), Jackie, Ben

It's important to travel as light as possible when working on location. A fold-up palette is ideal, as is a hard backed sketch book. Mine had thick watercolour paper, so I could splosh plently of water around without it buckling. Another important factor in deciding where to spent time, is proximity to coffee. it gets very cold sitting or standing still, and the thought of a hot drink at the end is very important! 

The weather was overcast and dull, but we could see enough to give us a first try at landscape work. The key to mastering landscape is.... practise. We worked quickly, with a time limit so as not to become either worried or overly attached to any painitng. This was the first time painting outside for the students. 
No table? No problem!
Although the day was lacking in light, at least it meant the colours remained consistent. It didn't start raining until we were nearly finished, and shortly there was no visibility at all.

Ben, deep in concentration
By this time everyone had done two paintings, got over their huffs and carried on (well done folks!) and were ready for coffee and warmth. We walked past lots of small ponds, trees and birds on theway back, so it'll be great to return  in the warmer weather for another try. 

Lovely work by the students. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Hot off the press! My book is ready for pre-order!!!

After working on it for the last 18 months, I am delighted to tell you that I have finishing writing, illustrating and designing my instructional book, ’Notes from the Atelier’.

I have attached a link below which will give you a preview!


If the above link to the preview does not work for you, please use this one:

The book is a collection of 32 of my weekly drawing and painting workshops, providing a programme of exercises designed to build skills cumulatively using a variety of media, strategies and subjects.

Guiding students through the steps required to develop a new way of seeing the world, the fully illustrated book provides an accurate reflection of lessons from the studio. Fresh, practical advice on the creative process, to empower students to enjoy the learning experience and to draw and paint better than ever before. With over 245 pages, and a foreword by artist PJ Lynch, the book is packed  with over 500 illustrations and photographs. The artwork was done by me and over 50 of my students.

I am self-publishing the book and have just sent the artworks to an excellent printer, with a view to a book launch in March 2017. 

 At this stage, I need to decide how many books to print, so I need an indication of your interest please.  I am taking pre orders, as I have to inform the printer in the next week or so. If you would like a copy, please email me as soon as possible. The cost for pre-order is £35 per book (Plus post and packaging where applicable. To give you a guide, postage costs approx £5 to UK, £13 to Ireland, £20 to USA. At pre order stage you will only be charged for the book, and postage charges will be invoiced after printing). 

Everyone who orders a book will be invited to the launch to collect it. The launch will include a display of artwork of my current students. If you would like to purchase at the pre order price, here is the link:


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. My email is julie@juliedouglas.co.uk 

Julie Douglas

Friday, 25 November 2016

Foiled! Student watercolour paintings.

This week at the drawing board was all about colour and pattern. Having put everyone through their paces last week by asking them to draw a packet of crisps (which, as you might imagine, gathered a 'mixed' response, but lovely drawings nonetheless..!), I decided that the natural way to capitalise on the lessons learnt from that was this setup of a lemon and orange set on tin foil.

OUCH? Well, not really... 


Tin foil can appear to be colourless and boring - but when we crinkle it just a little and put something bright on top - voila! Colour and pattern heaven! 


We began with a careful line drawing,  using the fruits as a safe anchor-point from which to connect the maze of patterns. You can see from margery's drawing below that the amount of observation and concentration required was rather like solving a complicated puzzle.
Margery's drawing 
Adding colour brought relief and an element of clarity. 
Margery's artwork after a couple of hours painting. 
While the fruits were painted first, the artworks were transformed with the addition blues. I hesitate to say that the blue acted as an excellent foil for the warmth of the yellow and orange, but it did so you will excuse the pun!  

Colin - this is only the fourth watercolour that Colin has done. Amazing! 


The results were a triumph of colour and the paintings are joyful! While everyone 'suffered' at various stages in this exercise, a lot was learnt and some were even keen to try the subject again! None of the paintings were completed due to time restraints, but they still look great. 



 I'm very proud of how hard my students work, and am grateful for the trust they put in me when they walk in the door and see what awaits every week. I thanked them during the class yesterday, and Pat's little voice said... 'Resistance is futile' !!!!! 

Next up: Drawing worshop Belfast, Children's workshop, Watercolour weekend. For information email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Seasonal watercolours - little apples and gourds in my Moleskine book

I held a watercolour workshop yesterday, and it just happened that all the students who attended are regular weekly students of mine. My familiarity with their past experience meant that I was able to increase the pressure on them (aw!), knowing they would rise to the challenge, and also gave me the opportunity to sit with them and do a little bit of painting myself, in between demonstrations. In a workshop situation, this is Luxury Personified!

The table, showing my artwork next to the cake stand.

The students painted a lovely seasonal still life of yellow and orange Gerbera flowers with gourds and berries, and I decided to paint the remaining gourds which had been on display on a cake stand. I love gourds, and I also love the cake stand! The top and bottom plate have white spots, the middle plate has stripes.

Autumn colours in the garden, while I was setting the table for lunch.

I drew the objects freely and loosely - partly because I didn't have time to be overly careful (with more than half an eye on my students needs), and partly because I love being relaxed about watercolours. Of all mediums, I find watercolours the most instant and user friendly.

This is as far as I got during the workshop
 The Moleskine paper was fairly heavy, but it did absorb the pigment as I went along, requiring many more layers than I had intended. By the end of the workshop, I had about half of it completed, but the light had gone and I put it away till the next day.

A little while painting the following morning
 I painted for an hour or so, until I could resist the bright crisp day (and the dog, begging) no longer, donned my wooly hat and headed to the shore at Holywood. It was very cold but very beautiful.

White sails from Holywood shore

Across Belfast Lough from Holywood

Finished artwork. 
I spent another hour on the painting -the best bit was mixing the colour for the plate - a lovely mix of Lemon Yellow and Cerulean Blue with a touch of French Ultramarine here and there. 
I enjoyed working in the sketch book - it feels like a free space, and I may do an oil painting of the subject now that I've done this little study. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

The virtue of a block of days.

While many people make the most of attending a regular weekly class, it's another thing altogether if you can make time to do a workshop for two or three days in a row. It's amazing how much can be crammed in, with each exercise building on the previous one in a way which compounds learning, makes it easier to remember and pushes your skills up a notch or three. Another advantage of having a few days is that we can try a variety of drawing methods, from smaller detailed studies to larger, more free drawing using the whole arm. 

Recently I held a three day drawing workshop, which included working in pencil, charcoal and coloured pastels. 

Gavin's apples in charcoal - at A2 size, there was plenty of dramatic impact. 
Although we had used the whole arm to draw in pencil, when I introduced charcoal, things got a lot bigger! Charcoal is a great medium - it is faster than pencil, and allows us to deal almost immediately with the mass area of the subject, as opposed to the linear qualities of pencils. 

Mary working on her lovely charcoal drawing. 

Dawn's initial loose block-in. This is the end of the 'linear' stage with charcoal. After this, everything is about tone and lines are eliminated.

From charcoal we moved on to coloured pastels, using seasonal gourds to help understand form and tones. As you can see, the scale remained large - a case of the medium dictating proportion. 

Gavin's drawing

Mary's drawing

On the third day, we decided to venture into Oils, which was an unexplored medium for the students. 
We kept it simple and manageable by doing lots of mixing exercises before launching into a small black and white study. 

Mary and Gavin, getting to grips with oils 
 As you can see from the photos, I was pleased to be able to provide some of my sons old school shirts to keep the clothes clean. Recycling at its best! 

Next up, Watercolour weekend Belfast!

For information please email julie@juliedouglas.co.uk 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

David Gray's Belfast Workshop, part 2!

...David's workshop ran for 6 days. With two models sitting all week, this meant we had a three day pose for each model, allowing us the opportunity to try two different painting techniques with plenty of time to complete both of them. Often, students assume that there is one 'correct' process to successsful painting, but in fact there are many ways to work so it is invaluable to try more than one approach. Yes, this can appear to be confusing - but my best advice would be not to rush ahead, but instead, do today's work today and let the process unravel... There is, eventually, a logic to it!

Our models were Monty and Rory, who both worked tirelessly and with good cheer. It was very warm at times  (yes, even Belfast can get warm!) which is always a challenge for models, but a fan at the feet helped them cool down. David's second demonstration was of Rory.

First demo of the second pose 
David is generous with every aspect of his painting skills, encouraging questions at appropriate times, and showing the intensity of focus required. He also emphasised the benefits of good observation drawing skills, describing them as fundamental to good painting.

David's initial soft block-in

Still part of the first demo of Rory, David adds a little more information but keeping everything soft

The end of the first demo, more details added and it is beginning to look like Rory.
Of course, watching a demonstration is all very well, but it is time at each easel which really counts. Demonstrations could last for up to an hour, but 'catching up' at the easel took longer. Each session was intense - full concentration required at all times!

Our turn to catch up! Note the fan at Rory's feet 

Dermot chats to David about his artwork

The next demo

David's demonstration painting progresses
 For this second painting, we did not begin with a grisaille, but instead worked straight into colour. This was not quicker, but just different. David promoted the process of painting using small 'tiles', taking care to mindfully mix a fresh colour for each tile. This makes for careful slow progress, using what he described as 'drawing eyes' to seek the colours required. Large sweeps of generalised colours were discouraged.

Work in progress

Bill, nick and Dermot

Nick and Dermot working on their paintings of Monty

Sari working hard

David's demonstration. He covered all aspects of the process, even though there was not time for him to complete is own work
Toward the end of day 6 - don't be fooled by those cheery faces, we were getting very tired!
By the afternoon of the final day, everyone was tired. Personally, when I"m tired I begin dropping things, so decided at around 3pm that before I dropped anything, I would call it a day. I packed my paints away and then got a bit of a second wind, so got them out again and almost immediately picked the wrong colour off my palette by mistake and put a blob of white where it shouldn't have been! I took the hint and packed up all over again - but all around me tell-take signs of fatigue were appearing. First,  there was a screech as someone sat on their palette (!), then a student's canvas fell of the easel to the floor, then a couple of brushes flew out of someones hand across the room... Ah yes, there is always a time to stop!

The full group, including David Gray at the back left, and models Rory and Monty sitting on the foor. 
 In true style, the evening was rounded off with refreshments, because hard work is thirsy work! It was a rewarding and highly enjoyable workshop -  a lot of ground was covered, with just the right amounts of frustration, enlightenment and success. Gathering of knowledge is a life long process and it was fantastic to have such an international gathering of creative folk in Belfast.

Thanks to everyone for participating so whole heartedly, and to David Gray for his professionalism and true dedication.
Janetta proving that painting is thirsty work!
Finally, the next day Mark 'didn't-we-all-do-well' McDonald brought his trailer back and helped me take everything away again - easels, chairs, stages, fans, kitchen sink.  Thanks Mark, you're my left hand man!
Who's idea was ths anyway...??! This is what pooped looks like!