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I am proud to present the End of Year Show 2020 of Sophie's Art School! Our school is an online school and so our end of year show is an online event as well. Please scroll down below to enjoy the fantastic art works created by the students in the past year.  Each student was asked to submit one piece to this virtual show, and to choose one they are particularly proud of, or one that really helped them move forward. They could write a few lines about why they chose the piece, why they painted it, what challenges they overcame or how the school has helped. The results are wonderful, varied in topic but consistent in quality. 

The first year of my art school has been a very exciting journey. The art school has seen quite a few small changes throughout the year, often on the instigation of the students themselves. We have closed our public forum and made it a private, safe and friendly community for students only. We have developed our monthly workshops into something to look forward to. I felt brave enough to teach workshops in subject matter that is not my usual playing field and we all enjoyed the challenge. The year also saw new courses added to the school. The Classical Portrait Drawing course has been taken by many students as well as the Pastel for Beginners course.  The school has grown into a place full of supportive and friendly students who are all keen to paint, learn and have a laugh too. Thank you everyone for helping me make it such a great place to hang out. 

A new portrait painting course is about to open the second year of Sophie's Art School. Of course there will be new workshops as well as lots of tutorials, articles and interviews. 

Sophie's Art School End of year Show 2020 is looking fantastic. I am incredibly proud to have helped in some little way with each of these paintings, but all the credit of course goes to the artists involved. They have pushed themselves to new levels, tried out new materials and really excelled. Besides that, they are just a great bunch of people!

Enjoy the show!

Jo Brown, Jodie, pastel on paper, 25x20cm.

Jo says:

I painted this piece during the pastel course, experimenting with underpainting. I include it as my best because Jodie's owner was so delighted with it - I think I caught something of her character.

Lindy, Portrait in Pastel, pastel on paper, 40x30cm.

Linday says:

I can't believe I did it!

Sally Y, Wild Flowers and Penguin, pastel on paper, 32x40cm.

Sally says:

I painted this still life as part of the Pastel Course in Sophie's Art School. Until then I had not been particularly excited by still life. However, as soon as I started following the instructions on set up, choice of props and composition I actually had a lot of fun. I realised I had the freedom to do it in a very personal, fun way. I chose this piece because in a way it was a kind of springboard. The first of many I hope.

Rhonda Whittington, Sweet Innocence, pastel on paper, 34x22cm.

Rhonda says:

Jesus said, "Unless you become like a little child you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." When I look into a child's eyes, really look, I think about what I see there. What is there about that child that makes him/her more worthy of being in God's kingdom than me. Until I see to that depth I am not ready to start painting. In this wee girl, I see innocence and inquisitiveness. What do you see in her eyes?
Thank you, Sophie, for helping me hone my skills so that I could bring this child to life on my easel.

Henrietta Howe, Look, pastel on paper, 19x20cm.

Henrietta says:

One of my great hopes for joining Sophie's Art School was to move from just being reasonably comfortable with drawing, to being able to confidently introduce colour and values I feel that this piece brings together elements of all that I've gained from that process and what I've given to it, in terms of my own learning and perseverance. Painted as one of the weekly challenge themes, I recognise that I was able to draw on the practical techniques that I am integrating into my painting from the Pastel Place such as using different mark making, using complementary colours or choosing hard and soft edges. But, just as important for me are the 'unseen' elements such as having the confidence and spontaneity to just try, to begin to accept my own style and approach and being able to move towards focusing on what I want the painting to say, rather than just the technical aspects alone. Drawing people, and faces especially, is something I love, even though I realise that I've probably condemned myself to forever coming up against technical challenges such as capturing a likeness. But, just as when I painted this piece, the process of painting , of playing with colour and of trying to communicate something feels like the instant reward. Being able to share this with others in the Art School just enriches the process even more.

Lynda, Walk through Heather, pastel on paper, 10x14"

Lynda says:

I painted Walk through Heather for our Landscape in Pastels workshop. It was a bit of a struggle, as we had the workshop mid-lockdown for Covid, and I couldn't get any supplies delivered. I had to work with textured paper, which made layering a challenge. I was interested in trying a landscape as I had primarily done still life prior to joining Sophie's Art School. I chose this as my favourite piece as I was pleased with the result, and even more, it makes me happy as it reminds me of how much I learned in the workshop, and what a positive, supportive, and fun learning experience it was.

Christine Thomas, Wolf, pastel on paper,40x40cm. 

Christine says: 

This is my son's dog and I chose to paint her as my subject for Sophie's Pets in Pastel workshop. The challenge was to capture her likeness and all that glorious fur. Getting the length and angle of her nose was my biggest problem but I cracked it in the end with the helpful feedback and support from Sophie throughout the week. My reward came with the emotional reaction of my son when I gave it to him as a gift. He loved it! 

Marie Lebens, Proteas in Pastel, pastel on paper, 45x34cm.

Marie says:

I selected this piece for the exhibition because it was totally my own creation. I selected the flowers from my garden, arranged the composition and then created the pastel painting. With the wonderful instruction and guidance by Sophie Ploeg throughout the Still life in Pastels workshop I experienced a real sense of achievement.

Ellen McIntosh, Grant and Walter, pastel on paper, 15.5x11.5"

Ellen says:

I chose this painting of my son in-law Grant and their dog Walter to enter in the Art Show because it was a huge challenge for me and I was so happy to complete it. I started the painting in the January 2020 Pastel Portrait Workshop in Sophie’s Art School. Walter is a rescue that has been a huge handful from the very first day. I wanted the painting to speak to the bond that has developed with much time and patience between the two of them. It was important to convey Walter’s relaxed weight leaning into Grant and their priceless facial expressions. I started using pastels September 2019 in my first pastel workshop with Sophie so I am a newcomer to the medium.. Her workshops in pastels, oils and graphite have been a complete game changer to my art life. What she conveys in five daily video lessons and encouraging daily personal feedback is priceless. Specific to this painting she helped me establish a sound value underpainting, proportions and drawing accuracy, and patience in developing the entire work in a methodical manner. She went above and beyond to critique Walter as well since really only Grant was part of the workshop. But going above and beyond is what Sophie does for each of her students. I am also enrolled in The Pastel Place, a longer course devoted to all things Pastel within Sophie’s Art School.

Barbara Ryan, Enter at your own Risk, pastel on paper, 9x12".

Barbara says:

This was done as part of the painting animals workshop. The photo reference was of my Ferret Chaos, all 1.9 pounds of her protecting the house. When ever I look at photos of my ferrets they make me smile and I can’t think of a better reason for doing a painting. She is still making me smile.

Judith Wheat, Solace, oil on canvas, 20x16".

Judith says:

This is the late Nelu with his dog Dino. I was honoured to be asked to paint them for the #PortraitsforNHSheroes initiative and decided to use them as my subject for Sophie’s Portraits in Oils Workshop in June. The advice and support I had from Sophie and all the other workshop members was invaluable in helping me attempt to do justice to this very emotional scene. The title Solace represents not just touching feeling between Nelu and his dog but also the consolation I hope this work will bring to members of Nelu's family who were unable to attend his funeral due to Covid19

Angie Noll, Alert, pastel on paper, 25x35cm.

Angie says:

This was a commissioned pet portrait, but I wanted to use the techniques I learnt in Sophie's art school to approach the subject matter in a different way from how I normally do it, so I worked the whole piece, instead of focussing on a small area at a time, getting it perfect before moving on. I focussed on shapes, big to small, instead of "an ear"  or "an eye". I enjoy Sophie's approach because I want to offer my clients something a bit different from the photograph they give me  - something that is still realistic and true to their photograph, but also with an artistic interpretation. Sophie's method of approaching any painting has been highly informative and has transformed the way I approach every subject now.

Christopher Sutcliffe, Portrait of Claire Balding, oil on paper, 10x10"

Christopher says:

I painted Claire whilst following the Sky Arts lockdown show, “Portrait Artist of the Week”. I struggled with the proportions of her chin and nose. Accuracy in features placement is the challenge for me. I am a new member so my choices were limited. I chose this piece as I completed it, after a second attempt, whilst on Sophie’s Summer Workshop of a portrait in oils. Thanks to her advice to step back from the first piece and have a think what I wanted to get out of the portrait, I could see where changes could be made.

Claire Jolivet, Cat on Couch, pastel on paper, 18x30cm.

Claire says:

This was in answer to our weekly July challenge of painting a cat. Never having painted fur before, I was keen to have a go. Also since I am at that point in the Pastel Place course, I thought it might make a reasonable values exercise, so purposely chose a composition with a limited palette. The fur was a challenge - I never thought I’d get there. But it was fun to do, and in the end, of the few pieces I’ve painted since joining the school in May, I enjoy looking at it the most. That’s probably the cat, not my beginner’s skill! Had it not been for Sophie’s excellent course, I might never have tried pastels. What a great adventure!

Karen Unruh, Mountain Bliss, pastel on paper, 8x10".

Karen says:

I recently visited these Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. They are so captivating because of the great range of greene and blues.

Shirley, Family Portrait in Pastel, pastel on paper, 20x25cm.

Shirley says:

I painted this during the Summer Portrait workshop. I am gradually painting a set of family portraits in pastels. I chose this piece because I feel that it reflects how my work is improving.
This portrait was a challenge mainly because it was the first time I'd attempted teeth. I initially created a monstrous set and was close to binning the whole thing. Then I was rescued by encouragement and advice from Sophie and other workshop members. Here is the result. I think it's a good likeness and I'm pretty happy with how the teeth turned out!

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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