Julie Cassels: Pen and Ink, Wildlife – what fun it was!

Wednesday 15th February:

Julia lived in Africa for ten years and her feeling for the colours and forms she loved to study there are very clear in her work and what she enthused us with during our workshop day.

Her freely-moving forms that she seemed to make so easily were a challenge to most of us but she was so encouraging that having a go with a freer style was exciting.

The workshop started with charcoal drawings of elephants – left hand, right hand, upside down, each task designed to free us up and prepare for ink and paint.  Elephant paintings in just two colours (ultramarine blue and raw sienna) were next. Julia gave us a detailed demonstration: a light pencil drawing and then a raw sienna washed-in background followed by drawing with the brush laden with lots of thin paint to mark in darker areas.  These marks were drawn out and then added to with tones in between and lots of white paper left. 






In the afternoon it was ostriches – fantastic fluffy birds with interesting   shapes and long
awkward legs.  Again we learned from a demonstration: ink was used to almost scratch in marks where the darker areas were, and then, when it was dry, more colours were laid, thin at first, building up to show the whole shape with movement and feathers but resisting the fiddly tweaking that we as amateurs tend to do.

I found the day inspiring and encouraging and left with a positive plan to work on what I had learned – it is never too late to keep on learning.
by Sandra Smith-Gordon


For sketching:

charcoal sticks, – thin and/or thick.

soft pencils – eg: 2b, 4b, or 6b

graphite stick (if you have one)

rubber or putty rubber


sketchbook: I prefer to use a large Daler Rowney spiral bound one as you can fold it right round, or a pad of flip chart paper from a good stationers.

watercolour paper: 140lb or 200lb, not or rough, A3 if possible in a pad. If single sheets bring a board to tape them to.


Sable paint brushes: (Nos. 6, 8, 12 and 16 or 18 are useful sizes, – ie: one larger and one smaller, I tend to use a No. 8 and 16)

Hake: if you have one for laying washes

Rigger: If you have one for trees, grasses, rigging, feathers etc. Either a sable, or a ProArt one works just as well.

Paints: (Suggested colours)

Warms: Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Cadmium red, Ultramarine BlueBurnt Sienna, and Vandyke Brown (warmer than sepia, useful for strong darks)  

Cools: Winsor Lemon or Auroelin, Alizarin Crimson, Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue and Pthalo Turquoise

Extras: These are optional, but my prefered extras are:- Sap Green, Brown Madder, Indian Yellow,

Ink: Black Indian Ink from Winsor & Newton ( It comes in a 14ml box with black spider illustration) – Not an acrylic ink.

Important Utensils:

  • water pot
  • mixing pallet (a plastic ice-tray is quite useful, or a white plate)
  • masking tape, elastic bands and  bulldog clips (only if you have them)
  • kitchen roll or rag
  • sponge
  • cling film for wrapping over the pallet
  • scalpel or blade

 Julia    Cassels:    When I moved to Kenya to work with the Maasai in the heart of the Rift Valley in my early 20’s, I found the wonderous rhythms, shapes, and colours totally captivating. This sparked a love for Africa and its wildlife that is forever present in my work.

Although specialising in watercolour, I often introduce inks, graphite or charcoal to gain a natural fluidity. I would like to think my work reflects a true and intimate understanding of my subjects,  capturing their very essence with a certain spontaneity.

We spent many years living and working in Zambia then Tanzania, before  returning to England 12 years ago. I now paint, sculpt and run courses & workshops from my studio in Hampshire.  I exhibit widely, with my work found in many collections worldwide, and have been lucky enough to have been short-listed for the David Shepherd Wildlife of the Year Exhibition for the last four years running.

Alongside my regular exhibition work, I also lead painting trips to Zambia for Art Safari Ltd., and to Spain for Arbuthnott Holidays.  http://www.juliacassels.com

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