Philosophy through Art Workshop at the Dragon School

Workshop with the Dragon School post exam group, April 23rd 2013

The theme of this workshop, in my series Philosophy through Art, was the question ‘What is an Artist?’

We started by asking the question ‘What is Philosophy?’ ‘It’s about asking questions to which there aren’t really any answers….’ was one immediate response; then, in answer to ‘What is an artist?’ there were several interesting comments, which included observations on music and poetry. We talked about how all the arts are in a tradition, new generations either developing or reacting against their predecessors, and whether or not art is a language.

We then looked at a set of images of animals in art from 30,000 years BC to the present day, and the children put them in order, working in groups. All kinds of interesting topics emerged as we did this – do the arts get better – is a Stubbs horse ‘better’ than one from Lascaux? How has the artist used the material? What about the patron (if any) as opposed to having a free hand? Where does self expression come in?

Then we sat very still, relaxing completely, and everybody looked at one picture. They made a copy of it in pencil. Then a copy from memory, then one with eyes shut and lastly one with eyes shut and using the ‘other’ hand. This was a fascinating experiment in visual thinking, and it was interesting that almost everyone preferred their last drawing.

These youngsters were a treat to work with, very bright and enthusiastic.

Copy of P1110447                                                              Copy of Copy of P1110447     Copy of P1110448Copy of Copy of P1110448


The “Philosophy in Art” workshop was both highly informative and revealing. It was delivered in a very calm but authoritative manner, where the children felt empowered to offer their ideas and thoughts on a range of concepts around the history of art and the evaluation of artworks. The practical element was also excellent and really made the pupils consider their own concepts and perceptions about their own and other people’s art.

Luke Osmond, Head of Art, DragonSchool


Monoprint workshop 16th June

A full house for this session, and people did some varied and interesting work.


Two early experiments by a beginner

A combination of a free monotype with drawn image overprint

Monoprint developed from sketchbook drawing

Comparing notes

Four images developed from drawings made in the barn, a combination of free monotype and drawn print

Collograph workshop May15th 2012

Three of the students were complete beginners, but by the end of the day had produced some lovely work and were beginning to get the hang of this interesting technique.


The Print!


Plate (LHS) and resulting print


Plate from collage and string


Plate (LHS) from card cut-out and stringPlate in progress


Workshops 2012

At Bryn Morris studio and barn

Fee £40 per day,  £45 for the Feltmaking, to include materials.  10 – 4.30pm.  Bring own lunch.   Tea and coffee provided.    6-8 people.

These exciting workshops are designed both to hone drawing skills by learning to look in different ways, and to challenge and re-animate ways of using water-based paint media. We always start by drawing –  with the left hand (if normally right handed), looking at the shapes in between objects (‘negative shapes’), taking a line for a walk, drawing with eyes shut, anything to both loosen up and refine habitual ways of seeing. We start with simple line, move on to tone and finally to colour. For the two printing workshops, these drawings are used as images for making prints.

Working from initial marks, the painted image is allowed to evolve, disintegrate and re-emerge, rather than having a particular idea or motif in mind from the outset. Through sabotaging our habitual ways of working we allow the subconscious to surprise us, and the medium itself to shine without being constrained by what the picture is ‘supposed to be’. We learn to watch the unpredictable image as it emerges, and to respond to it. By experimenting like this we can really free ourselves up, and these techniques can be incorporated later into any genre such as landscape, still life or figure painting. Watercolour and gouache can be used as a precursor to the mixed media, including collage, collograph and monoprint, where this same approach is still relevant.

If there are people who have already been to one of these workshops, and need to develop their previous work, or want to do something slightly different, then the programme can be adjusted to individual needs. The negative shape drawing is, however, an essential ‘warmer up’ to any kind of painting.

I’m again doing some ‘special interest’ workshops again, (see below) where we will start with drawing and then move on to a specific project. No previous experience is necessary.

NEW for this year are Feltmaking with Carolyn Young, and Monoprinting and Collograph, both of which I have been experimenting with over the winter.

Dates for 2012:

May  Tuesday 15th  Mixed media and COLLOGRAPH. Collographic plates are made by creating a low relief surface with all manner of materials – card, string, cork, natural fibres and materials. These are stuck onto card, varnished and then used as the printing plate.

May   31st Thursday Mixed media painting

June  Saturday 16th  Mixed media and MONOPRINT Monoprinting is one of the simplest and most effective printing techniques: ink up the plate and then draw on the back of the printing paper, which is placed face down onto the plate. A marvellous range of effects can be explored.

July   Sunday 1st Watercolour Just transparent paint on white paper, but there is so much more to it than that. This most subtle of mediums requires above all a fluency achieved through constant practice, a mixture of panache and control.  As last year, we look at some of the early masters, Turner, Girtin, Bonnington, as well as contemporary practitioners. The day includes simple colour mixing, washes, glazes, resists (masking fluid, wax etc.) – and using lots of water!

July  Wendesday 18th  FELTMAKING with Carolyn Young

Carolyn has exhibited with the Pembrokeshire Craft Makers and Newport Collective, and created privately commissioned pieces. In this workshop she will demonstrate basic felt making techniques, to be developed creatively. You will take at least two pieces home and all felt making equipment and materials will be provided. Please do bring along other art materials e.g. threads, silk chiffon, textile crayons or inks.

August 31st Friday  Drawing   Some perspective drawing. Developing the ‘negative shapes’ by observing cows, sheep, trees, or the plethora of interesting objects in the barn.  5 minute drawings and longer studies, using line and tone. Using different drawing implements. Discussing the differences between drawing and painting, and looking at master drawings, old and new. Some copying if you wish.

September Wednesday 12th  COMPOSITION, including the use of collage. Composing a picture entails shape, proportion, interval, scale and the principles of composition remain the same whatever the subject. Collage allows us to move the elements around freely.

MATERIALS TO BRING Acrylic paints, brushes and coloured inks, (not too many different colours) as well as rubber ‘colour shapers’ (these can be bought from art shops) For drawing, good quality cartridge paper and SOFT pencils; for painting, offcuts of mounting card, coloured paper for gouache, canvas boards or canvases, and primed paper .White gouache for impasto; old kitchen pump sprays can be filled with diluted ink for interesting effects. For printmaking please bring sharp knife and usual paints and paper. To whet your appetite, a quick google search  will reveal many sites about monoprints and collographs.

Please contact me if you need advice.
Elizabeth Haines 01437 532 498 or

August Drawing Workshop

We started by looking at what drawing – as opposed to painting – really means. I loved Michael Ayrton’s quote “…an artist may draw to give order to his thoughts, whereas he may paint to give ease to his heart”. And Baudelaire’s “the draughtsman is the philosopher of art”.

We then explored how the different drawing tools not only affected the marks you made but the way you thought. After line drawing (negative spaces again) we went on to tonal drawing. Then several people got really stuck in to copying reproductions of drawings they liked. Others tried drawing without looking at their page, with their left hand, with their eyes shut and even drawing things you couldn’t really see…

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