Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Creative Buzz

 The Paper Elephant Exercise (photograph by David Bell)

“Drawing is a gateway to creativity.” 
Julie Douglas

Last weekend I had the honour and privilege of being invited to take part in Draw-In, a Drawing Symposium in the Belfast College of Art.  I was really excited at the idea of meeting such an impressive group of artists, but I was also a teeny bit daunted. It’s only recently that I’ve started to put the word ‘artist’ beside my name, and all the invited artists were jaw-droppingly talented and very accomplished. Real artists! To add to my mounting fears, I would also have to speak to the large crowd of art lovers and students who were coming along to the event.

Me with the wonderful Julie Douglas!
I needn’t have worried. Julie Douglas, the organiser and a brilliant artist herself, is one of those people who immediately puts everyone at ease with her mega-watt smile and warm personality.

Julie calls herself as a ‘Creative Experience Navigator’and her students describe her as "Different, Delicious and Refreshing." She really is!!
The day began with a really great exercise. Everyone was given a piece of paper and told to stand up. We then had a minute to tear out the shape of an elephant, behind our backs and NO peeking. The results were unpredictable and quite funny- try it! It's not as easy as it sounds!

My paintings and sketchbooks were on display too

The art-lovers and students were great- really encouraging, asking just the right questions and showing a genuine interest in the creative process.  Two of the artists, Colleen Barry and Matt Weigel, had flown over from the States to attend the Symposium, and also to give workshops in classical realism. Their work is superb, and the results from the workshops were quite impressive.

Peter Cooper, ‘the animated animator’, kept us all entertained whilst he created (and acted out) one of his creatures, a pot-bellied man eater. I loved his dragons. To add to the experience, we were all given sculpey to knead and pull into shapes whilst we listened and watched. Some of these audience creations were incredible. 

Master and model... the great PJ Lynch and Rory, Julie's son
PJ Lynch has long been an art hero of mine. He is the most wonderful illustrator and his books have charmed and delighted a whole generation of children and parents, myself included. PJ did a portrait demonstration in oils, and managed to complete it in an hour whilst answering a barrage of questions about his techniques from the audience. You can see more photographs of the day on his blog here

The master at work!
I really enjoyed talking to PJ and found him incredibly inspiring, so much so, that I am going to throw caution to the wind and join him on one of his portrait workshops in a few week’s time. I’m looking forward to the challenge of painting an unfamiliar subject in a new medium with huge brushes! 

A selection of PJ's sketches and books

Aidan McGrath had some fantastic photographs that I had to look really closely at, because they looked just like finely detailed paintings. I also brought up the incredibly inspiring sketchbooks of Susan Sex, one of Ireland’s best known botanical artists.

Paul's talk was captivating
However,  I think it was the talk given by Paul Foxton than resonated the most with me. Paul is one of those gently spoken souls who has a wonderfully philosophical approach to art. He is deeply interested in the cultures of the Far East. He showed us some of his techniques and spoke so eloquently about the sensitivity of charcoal, that I wanted to rush out and start drawing in charcoal there and then. He encouraged everyone to develop an art habit, even if it was simply a matter of ensuring that you sat down at your table and opened your sketchbook every day. 
His blog learning-to-see is equally motivating and well written. It’s definitely worth checking out.

“Every time we immerse ourselves completely in an act of creation (no matter how insignificant it might seem) we have arrived. Every time we do that, we transform ourselves a little more: we find more peace, develop our focus and attention a little more, become stronger in ourselves.”
 -Paul Foxton

At the end of the day, once the crowds had gone home, the artists all went for a meal together. The conversation was brilliant, exciting, motivating and interesting. There was a creative buzz in the air- I caught it, put it in my pocket and took it home.

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”

― Emily Dickinson


  1. we have to stop using 'artist' as a title or a noun and start using it as a verb.......cause really it is
    the act of making ......makes us artists

    1. Interesting thought. I agree that it's the act of making art... but then what do you say when asked for a job description? Art maker? Ha, I can be a Creative Buzz Catcher!

  2. Sounds like a fabulous experience! Thanks for introducing me to all of these wonderful artists (although I do remember you talking about Susan Sex before). It makes my head spin to try to imagine taking part in something like this...rubbing shoulders with such accomplished artists--but I am sure you fit right in! Are you going to tell us what you talked about? Did you do a demo? I am dying to hear more!

  3. It was brilliant, but I really have no idea what I talked about. I wasn't given time to prepare, or get cold feet! No demo for me either... to be honest, it was such a full and fulfilling day, that there wasn't a moment to spare. I loved watching the demos though

  4. Great blog entry Shevaun. Thanks so much for you kind remarks about my work. It was such a treat to see your originals too.
    It brings back a lot of great memories from a very exciting weekend. Julie is such an extraordinary person to make events like this happen.
    Looking forward to painting with you at the portrait workshop
    Best regards PJ

    1. Hi PJ! It was a brilliant weekend.. Belfast is wonderful. I think we're going to have to keep dropping hints to Julie about next year. I'm really excited about the portrait class... it will be great to try something new and also to catch up with all your news.

  5. Just caught up with your blog now Shevaun, what a great day,inspiring day full of talent.and like minded people. Wow, the barn owl looks amazing all framed up! Wonderful xxxx

    1. Thanks Claire. Liam Slattery does my framing- he's excellent. I'm delighted with the Spice one too. You would have really enjoyed this weekend too.


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