Joan Eardley workshop

When I was first a student in Edinburgh in 1991, I vividly remember finding the gallery of Modern Art by accident after a trek over the water of Leith, and being even more excited by a painting inside, a painting by Joan Eardley.

It was sort of realistic and abstract at once, so expressive, so energetic. It was to inspire me and many of my contemporaries at Edinburgh college of Art.

As it happens, this exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh is currently celebrating her life and coincides with our workshop.

Field grasses
Winter Catterline

It has been a pleasure to rekindle a fascination with this wonderful and inspiring Artist, a pioneer who paved the way for generations of women. Her all too brief life was crammed full with expressive, gestural, meaningful work which spoke to the viewer in a language of its own. She was a hero in an RAF suit, on a motorbike living a dual life from the glitz of London, a prizewinning headlining artist- to a virtual hermit on Scotland’s East Coast in a humble stone cottage with virtually no amenities. Nothing but the fresh air and powerful weather, the rough coastline and dramatic light for company and inspiration.

Boats on the Shore

.Joan Eardley
Her Life and work.

Eardley used Abstraction in a painterly way, wrestling with gestural speed, aggressive colour , quick brushstrokes and environmental additions such as sweet wrappers, boat paint, string and grass.
Eardley battled chaotic weather, snowstorms, gale force winds, and torrential rain wearing her trademark uniform of fishermen’s jackets and old flying suits and her easel was held in place with thick ropes and boulders.
Her thick, textural layered oil paintings picked up sand and seed and grass as her brushes swept each canvas .
Eardley painted children from Glasgow slums, bleak seascapes,  village fishermen,  in a run down part of Glasgow and Catterline on the coast near Aberdeen. 
“She painted as a bird sings – not unknowingly but not self consciously “
Eardley had a few close friends and relationships and was respected in the art world by her fellow artists .

Abstract art
“Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.”
Wassily Kandinsky
This can be slight, partial or complete

Our workshop aimed to use and refine our own language of shape, line, gestures, marks and colours.


Two minute marks

The language of symbols
Demonstration and practice in monotone, simplifying shapes and lines and contours

Resources and ideas

Session practice

Quick colour sketches. limiting colours or gestures
A demonstration of paint techniques and materials including printing, stencilling and impasto.
We looked at shaped in composition rectangles, circles, lines, curves, journeys around the space.
Few Quick ideas working out ideas and choose one.
OI pastel over a first primed colour layer and for contours, add ghesso.

Hard at work

Suggested Materials;

Large brushes, scrapers, paper, pastels, Sticks, Cotton buds and sticks,
Strings, Canvas ,Paint ,Glaze, Sand, , Pva ,Pots, Brushes
,Card pieces, Scrapers, bubble wrap, water pots, charcoal, ink…

Spot the Guillemots- Jan
Teacher !
Excellent students
Honorary member of class Heather

Mighty Blencathra

Devil’s Peak or Saddleback what is

in a name?

A great day, thanks everyone! x


  1. Absolutely brilliant liz
    What a productive workshop – all your students were truly inspired
    I shall endeavour to start playing with shapes and paint effects

    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely brilliant liz
    What a productive workshop – all your students were truly inspired
    I shall endeavour to start playing with shapes and paint effects

    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

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