Saturday, June 13, 2009

A pastels workshop with Felicity House

Yesterday I did The Pastel Society Workshop on drawing a clothed figure at the Mall Galleries. Felicity House PS was the tutor. It was a real delight to be able to take the workshop as I've long been an admirer of Felicity's work. Below you can see Felicity giving us a mini demo about how she works on mountboard covered by a watercolour wash.

Felicity House doing a mini-demo
- working from gesture marks to focusing on the drawing, lights and darks
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Felicity is an experienced art tutor, provided good guidelines for people new to drawing the clothed figure and was extremely well prepared. She provided an overview of the materials she used (paper/supports/pastels/pastel pencils) and also brought an excellent range of books for looking at how other artists have tackled the clothed figure. One of these was Drawing Ideas of the Masters by Frederick Malins (Phaidon 1981) which is really excellent (it's a book about drawing which makes absolutely no attempt to dumb down!). I've just ordered a second hand copy from Amazon.

Here's a note of just a few of her guidelines
  • draw what you enjoy
  • don't be precious about your paper
  • there's nothing worse than not being happy with your drawing paper - find out what works for you
  • reuse paper - cover up your mistakes, turn over and start again
  • however - you always learn more from correcting a drawing than from starting again
  • use gesture lines to establish the flow through a figurative drawing
  • try a watercolour underpainting - they can really help to punch the darks
  • use the colour of the paper as part of your palette - don't cover it all up!
  • keep coming back to the drawing
As always the value of the tuition is not just in the words, it's about who's delivering them and the individualised tuition for every person - and Felicity is a very helpful and supportive tutor - particularly with those people who were having a few difficulties with he drawing the figure.

We also had an excellent model in Ellie who came up from Dorset especially for the workshop. Having a good professional model makes all the difference to any workshop which involves drawing a figure - and Ellie was really good. I also loved the way they both came with a selection of clothes and fabrics for different poses.

The west gallery of the Mall Galleries also provides an excellent space with good sightlines for workshop students. However I do think some of the people visiting the exhibition were under the impression the workshop was also part of the exhibition!

Above right is the pastel I did in the afternoon on Art Spectrum Coloursoft - but I've done the head too big!

Working with and storing pastels

We all got some useful tips from Felicity in relation to how she stores her pastels. We all turned up with our pastel travel boxes whereas she turned up with much smaller boxes and circular containers.

You can see these on the chair next to her in the photo on the right and a close-up in the photo on the right.

Felicity's working pastels kit

Apparently the small containers used to hold face cream and they have a screw top lid. They're perfect for using while you're working on a piece or to take out with you when working away from the studio.

The slightly larger boxes are as big as it gets in terms Felicity moving pastels around - she doesn't use a conventional pastel box. Both hold ground rice (I use cornmeal but it's the same effect) which is extremely effectively at keeping the pastels both cushioned and clean.

You can see thse in Product Review: Really Useful Boxes (for art media and crafts)

Felicity got her larger boxes from Staples and they come with a lid and handles. I did a bit of a search and found they're called really useful boxes and I've done a review of them and where you can get hold of them. They're a perfect size for storing and moving dry media around - and they can also stack and rack.

Pastels: More courses and workshops

There are a number of other workshops before the exhibition closes at 3pm on Sunday 21st June. You can find more details on the Pastel Society website

I can definitely recommend Felicity House as tutor. You can find details of how to do a workshop with her on the courses page of Felicity's website. Felicity teaches life drawing at the Art Institute of Bournemouth and the West Dean College in Chichester, West Sussex on a regular basis if you'd prefer a course rather than a workshop.

I went home via St James Park for a bit of a walk and to do a sketch before tackling the end of the rush hour on the tube - see Horseguards Parade and the Lake in St James Park



  1. This was fun to have a peek into your workshop. Looks like a great day and isn't it interesting to see how she carried her pastels! Those pastel boxes can get a bit heavy and her solution is really light and probably costs less.

  2. I am ENVIOUS! I would have loved to have been able to do a workshop with her. I like her work too :>)

    I carry my pastels in a wonderful set of drawers with a carrying handle from B&Q - the drawers come out and I use them just like her circular containers :>)

  3. I am ENVIOUS! I would have loved to have been able to do a workshop with her. I like her work too :>)

    I carry my pastels in a wonderful set of drawers with a carrying handle from B&Q - the drawers come out and I use them just like her circular containers :>)

  4. Oh - I want to see your B&Q box!


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