Friday, 12 September 2014

Oils workshop in Belfast

It's been a very busy, very creative summer here in Belfast.

Matt Weigle's oil painting workshop continued for five days at the end of August, and all the students loved it and  learnt a lot.

Matt spent two and a half DAYS setting up the studio space, so that each shadow box had just one light source and each box was lined with black fabric. The intension was for each students still life to be as uncluttered as possible so that we could get through each stage of Matt's workshop in the time, and finish a larger painting as well. Because Matt took such care in arranging the boxes, tables, easles and lighting, all the students had to do was select their objects, then hmmm and aaaa about placing them. Much huffing and pondering... This jug or that vase... an onion or plum...?

matt showing the transfer technique

By the end of the first day we had completed our drawing. Day two involved transferring it onto two small canvases and one larger one.
Matt doing a transfer
Image transferred onto canvas, from the original drawing

Our aim after that was to put down an underpainting on the larger canvas, complete a black and white tonal study, a colour study where we were simplifying the colours (relying on the tonal study as a guide) on the smaller canvases, and later in the week, begin a second layer on top of the underpainting as a final more finished painting.

Matt helping to get the placement right on the canvas, measuring from the edges to get some form of symmetry and balance 

Matt preparing the greys

As I said, Matt had a daily requirement for us, and this helped focus us and stick to the deadlines. Here he is preparing and demoing the black and white study
Demo of black and white study

Demo painting by Matt Weigle
Caroline, Laura, Gennie, Ruth, Suzanne and Liz

So Matt would do the demo then we'd work hard to keep up. He worked much more quickly than us.. The studio was quiet (apart from the wind whistling from outside), as we concentrated.

Gennie, demonstrating the special technique of holding all your brushes at once, just in case... 

Gennie's wonderful Black and White study
One of the things Matt wanted us to do was to outline our transfer drawing with black permanent pen (this had to be permanent even if wet with turpentine), so that we wouldn't 'lose' our drawing during the underpainting. Some students were a tad sceptical about this,  feeling that we needn't go to those lengths to preserve the drawing.. However, we humoured Matt and did what he asked... 

Laura and Benedict outlining their drawings in pen
...and boy were we glad when Matt showed us the next stage.. The underpainting was very speedily done,  and the turpentine thinned the paint so much that without the black lines, all the drawing would have been completely wiped off. Ahem... 

Matt slathering thinned paint on for the underpainting 

The loose underpainting, with black pen lines clearly visible. 
Susan, Ruth and Gennie
While the underpainting dried (this took overnight) we got on with the colour study, leaving the last day and a half for the larger painting.
Susan touching up her cloth
Matt having a word with Liz's painting...
Benedict, engrossed in her painting
Matt with Ruth, and her fabulous painting 

Suzanne's work in progress - fantastic colours 
Fionnuala's colour study and final painting in progress. 
Ruths desk... YUMM
An astonishing amount of work was produced during the week. The pic below shows Gennie's weeks work - she managed two larger finished pieces, because, well... some people work pretty fast! 

Gennie's marathon production!
The studio was quiet, but we had a good chat at break times..

And on the last evening we all had dinner together, joined by Peter Cooper (on the right) who helped Matt with his 'foreign language studies'.. Matt did a great job of learning to speak Norn Irish, and can say 'Brown' and 'Bout ye' in the correct manner beautifully. However, just as Peter was encouraging Matt with some colourful additions, Benedict, from Holland, who was sitting next to me, out of the blue said the most perfect 'YOU' I've ever heard..  This is good news, for I've adopted Benedict (though I haven't told her yet, it's a surprise!) 

         Below, some of the weeks work laid out to dry.

Matt was a methodical and careful tutor, wanting everyone to get the best from themselves. His teaching was authentic and sincere - we all had a fabulous week and hope to do it all again!

Next up - Drawing Trail around Belfast's Titanic Quarter as part of EHOD
Portrait workshop

For information email

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

From a room to a studio...Oils Workshop Belfast

What does it take to transform an empty room into a studio??

... Lots of easels, stools, lights and shadow boxes, helpful porters to move them all... and, fresh from New York, Matt Weigle, to arrange them, just so!

Matt arrived a few days ahead of time to help prepare for his Oils Workshop this week. It was great watching him work so carefully to make each workspace as good as it could be, and to take him to St George's Market to choose fruit for painting. This took rather a long time, and as usual, I bought far too much because for every lovely plum I found, there was another and another...

Day 1 was the setting up of our individual objects, then blocking in the drawing. 

Matt Weigle doing the drawing demo
The view from my desk

My set up
I'll keep you posted on the progress... This week is the run up to the Draw In Symposium, and its a great way to get warmed up!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Easle-y done..!

With the Draw In Symposium coming up soon, I decided to assemble all the easles, to make sure they were in good working order.  It's one thing walking into an empty Life Room, with easles neatly stacked against the wall, but quite another to put ALL the easels up at the same time. 


Getting stuck in... 

Pretty soon, the room was gettting crowded, 

till it began to feel like a jungle.. or a sea of tall ships.. And it was apparent that there was no hope of this many people actually working in the life room at the same time - it is just so small. 

And of course, once they'd all been erected, they had to all go away again..!! I was happy to have my son to help me. 

He didn't think much of this guys muscle mass...

Peter Cooper, testing out the AV equipment. 

Judith helping with camera work. 

And chief Volunteer Lisa, attempting to make a quick getaway on my bike... 
These people have made such a difference to me in the past few weeks. My cheerleaders, my rocks, my captains. Thank you so much. 

Upcoming courses: 
Big Drawing Day at The Drawing Office, Titanic Quarter Belfast 
Drawing Trail around The Titanic Quarter for European Heritage Open Days. 
Oil Painting workshop with Matt Weigle, Figure Drawing with Colleen Barry
Draw In Symposium, 30th & 31st August 
For info email

Friday, 8 August 2014

Preparation is everything...! Clay models, and In-Between spaces.

Time is getting nearer, it's only a couple of weeks till the Draw In Symposium & workshops get underway. Much preparation has been going on behind the scenes, including regular meetings with Peter Cooper, while he perfects his clay modeling techniques, for demonstration.

The start of Frankenstein's head - lots and lots of tin foil - 10 metres, in fact! 

It's one thing to paint or draw or sculpt, but it's quite another thing to do it in public, within a tight time frame... It has been a very interesting experience for me to watch, and to help work out ways to make it all....FASTER! 
For the first meeting, Peter decided to make a Frankenstein head, and he set to work with photos and drawings next to him for guidance. The time factor hit home straight away - it took a full 25 mintues to wrap the foil around the armature, for the base of the head.. Too slow! It was also too LOUD to talk at the same time - tin foil makes a lot of noise! 

 Peter worked on, and watching the head slowly appear from the clay was fascinating.

 It took two and a half hours to reach this stage (above) - and since then, Peter has tweaked and altered, extended the head and generally fiddled about with it, and he will be showing it at the Draw In Symposium.
During the process, he decided he'd like to have a try at recreating one of PJ Lynch's illustration characters. He is very fond of PJ's young dragon, called Ignis.

An illustration from 'Ignis' by PJ Lynch

I contacted PJ, and got his permission to go ahead.. So, another night, and out with the tin foil again...

This was tricky, and much more difficult than Frankenstein (who knew..?).  By the end of the first session, he decided that there wasn't enough  neck, so he gave it not one, but two neck extensions till it looked like this... 

Coming along nicely! Seeing the careful stages involved here really shows how much work there is between the drawing and the end result. Most of the time is spent in-between. During that time it is important not to 'judge' the progress, but to evaluate and assess it. Patience, and an eye on the end goal, is paramount to creating anything.

Peter is demonstrating his techniques during the Draw In Symposium in Belfast at the end of August and is joined by PJ Lynch, Paul Foxton and many other contemporary artists, demostrating and providing hands-on workshops. For information please check out

Friday, 25 July 2014

Figure Drawing with Colleen Barry at the Grand Central Academy, NY

Well, I surprised myself by booking a trip to New York to attend a course with Colleen Barry, and had a wonderful time.

Manhattan, from the Top o' The Rockefeller Center  

Such a contrast between outside (fast, humid-hot, bright, busy and colourful) and inside the studio (dark, still, quiet, focused and concentrated) - but the balance of those things meant that neither became overwhelming.

The studio is without windows and the walls are painted black, so all light is controlled, and constant.  the model was San Diego, and he was fantastic - incredibly stationary, without being lifeless (because if we want to draw a statue, then we ought to.. well, draw a statue), and eminated a professional and elegant presence at all times. 

end of day one - figure fully blocked in. 
The workshop only ran for five days, so we were spared the strict regime followed by the full time students of Classical Drawing. Having said that, it was a race against the clock to get everything completed in the time. Fortunately, Colleen gave us a list of what to address each day, which helped keep on top of it.  Day one was blocking in the whole figure, in a much freer way than seems apparent from the drawing, to find the gesture of the pose. Having the full day for this allowed time to get it right. 
end of day two - torso
The hardest day for me, was day three, when we had to do the legs - from this angle, the legs covered a very large area for toning. 
Colleen Barry (centre) with Liz Beard. 
Colleen Barry is a gentle and knowledgeable teacher. At some point every day we had instruction on anatomy, which is a huge and interesting subject.

Daily instruction on anatomy for artists was invaluable
End of day 5, fully complete, as much as I could in the time!
Colleen Barry is coming to Belfast to teach Figure Drawing, and attending her course in NY has filled me with confidence that all particpants will have a fully rounded, enjoyable learning experience with her.

Upcoming workshops - intensive portfolio course
Big Drawing Workshop at the Drawing Office, in Belfast's Titanic Quarter

Oil Painting workshop with Matt Weigle,
Figure Drawing Workshop with Colleen Barry

Draw In - a drawing symposium on 30th & 31st August with invited artists including PJ Lynch, Peter Cooper, Paul Foxtona dn Coleen Barry.

For information on all courses email