When I opened my little sketchbook before the start of this weeks art class with Katie Comley Jones, I wrote down two things. You’re out of your comfort zone today & Try your best. I knew this week was going to be different, having only ever produced about five paintings before. I was scared, but excited. I’ve noticed this scared but excited feeling is normally where the magic happens, not just in art, but in everything! I feel it means you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Class started and we got right into it. We picked up a sheet of acrylic paper, either A2 or A3 in size, I went with A2 so it would fit in my folder :) We also gathered up a mixing pallet, some water and the three primary colours: red, blue and yellow, plus a blob of white. We were using acrylics, a limited pallet and only one brush.

Once we all had our tools ready, Katie mixed a very tasty looking orange shade. She than took her brush and covered her sheet of paper in this yummy hue, this, she said, was the paintings ground. We were than asked to repeat the process, while our paintings were drying, Katie took us through the following handout, entitled Impressionism.

It has a brief overview of the impressionist art movement, together with examples from various artists such as Monet, Degas and Pissarro. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of any of them, but I found it interesting looking at the paintings while Katie explained things to look out for, such as the basic brush strokes, the lighting and how compositional rules can be broken with impressionism, such as the cropping of the dancers heads in Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas.

My favourite was Sunrise by Claude Monet, I liked the colours and the sketchy feel of the painting. This just so happened to be the one Katie wanted us all to reproduce for ourselves, so I was excited! Week six would see us spend just under ninety minutes trying to replicate Sunrise by Claude Monet … it was time to paint!
Katie said we should start by just lightly sketching in some guidelines, such as the horizon line, the sun and any other points of interest with a pencil. With that done, I picked up my paintbrush and suddenly got hit by this feeling of  … now what do I do? Katie was busy throwing paint around her canvas, I carried on watching for a few minutes, she was still offering advice. Two of the main things I remember her saying, were

– Katie Comley Jones

I got the idea. It didn’t matter what our finished paintings looked like, just go for it :) Mixing some blues I started to slowly cover the paper. I didn’t really know what I was doing, sometimes I’d accidentally mix a colour that was so nice, I’d just throw it on my painting whether I could see it in the image or not lol I struggled mostly with trying to mix some of the darker shades. The blues I found really hard, and the black I just couldn’t mix to save my life. Katie did walk us through it, but the best I could do was a super dark purple, so that had to do.
I also struggled with detail. The whole point of this painting was to just go for it, and so for someone like me who loves detail, this was a challenge. One of my ambitions is to one day produce epic loose, free and exciting feminine inspired paintings, but that seemed like a lifetime away as I gingerly added more strokes to my paper.
I kept wanting to paint in the black ships of the foreground, but I forced myself to continue laying up the background. While I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, I was really enjoying it. It made me excited at the thought of one day being able to bring to life the visions in my head. I can’t wait, just got to get through those hundreds of paintings and hours of practice first. Doh!
Katie walked around a couple times offering feedback. We had a nice little chat about taking work in progress images of a painting like this, as at various stages it looks totally different. I intend to do that next time :) It was almost time to pack up and I had pretty much finished my painting when Katie next walked around. She said I had nice use of colours but that the little black boat at the front of the painting needed to have a lighter background for higher contrast to make it pop. Once she said that I couldn’t stop seeing it, how did I not notice that before!
She also recommended that we all walk around and view each others work. I love doing this at life drawing class, so I couldn’t wait. It was so cool seeing everyone’s paintings, they were all so drastically different. To think we were all painting the same image, and yet produced such different pieces, really cool! I wanted to take some photos, there was one that I really loved … somehow this girl had managed to make the whole scene look like it was inside a whirlpool or something, it was so cool, but I chickened out of asking if I could get a photo :( Maybe next time.
Katie Comley Jones Art Class Impressionism Painting by Artist Sophie Lawson

So with my painting finished what did I think? Well, I tried my best, I had so much fun and it’s made me super excited to paint more. I want to focus on coloured pencils first, but I may start doing a weekly painting just for pure fun until I start studying it in more detail later. The one thing I really liked about my painting, was the suns reflection in the water. That orangy colour is actually the original orange ground that we covered the paper with at the start of class :) I really like how that orange pops up all over the painting in places.

During class Katie also mentioned something I had never heard of before – optical mixing. It’s where you place a colour, say yellow, next to another, such as red, to create a colour that isn’t really there, in this case an orange. Even though that colour isn’t on the surface, the viewer will be tricked into seeing it. Madness! I love illusions like this, there are loads of them I’ve read about with regards drawing, so I can’t wait to read about the ones hidden within colour.
Next weeks class is on colour theory, a topic I studied earlier in the year, but I’ll be honest and say I need a recap! :) The bad news is I won’t be able to make next weeks class :( I’ll be up in London with my Sister instead. we’re going to be in the audience for the Celebrity Juice finale :) Katie said to start collecting paintings and photos that inspire us, to use as reference for a future painting. I immediately thought about selecting an image from one of my Inspirational Artists :) Fun times ahead!
You can find Katie Comley Jones at


Thomas Merton