About Me

Art and Wine

A Fine time at ‘Art and Wine’
Earlier this week I had a fine old time channeling my inner artist at a workshop organised by my friend and neighbour, Aly Harte. Aly is a successful artist, blogger, mum, fitness enthusiast and all round ‘good egg’ who, along with many of my other lovely friends, has been a great support to me while I have been recovering from surgery. She has also encouraged me in writing this blog and in finding my own creative inspiration, so I was excited to see her in action and support this event.

The participants show off their artwork

The evening was organised by Aly in conjunction with Q Radio as part of the Q Radiothon to raise funds for cancer charities, a cause particularly close to her heart after the recent loss of her cousin.

I’ve been meaning to attend one of Aly’s workshops for long time but, you know how it is? Life gets in the way. I’d love to say that it was just the thought of assisting a worthy cause that swung it for me this time but (although I’m delighted to be contributing) I have to be completely honest and say that it was the food and wine on offer that grabbed my attention. Picking up painting tips and having a bit of craic whilst being brought snacks and alcohol- what’s not to love?! In the end I was driving but it certainly didn’t dim my enthusiasm for the experience.

It has been more than two decades since my A-level art days and aside from the odd drawing of Peppa Pig or a potato print of a dinosaur, I haven’t really been called upon to flex my creative muscles much since. It was with a little bit of trepidation then that I went along to Goodness Rocks cafe on the Saintfield Road in Belfast for the Art and Wine workshop. I needn’t have worried though as there were lots of people in a similar boat to me. In fact, there was a great mix of people there with varying abilities. Some had been to previous workshops with Aly, some were complete novices and there were others, like me, who had had a passion for art in their younger years but hadn’t lifted a paint brush or pencil in many moons.


Artist Aly Harte chats to my table mate Arlene at the beginning of the workshop

I took a seat beside a lovely lady called Arlene who told me that one of her reasons for attending was to support the cancer charities, having battled cancer herself. It was a reminder of the real goal of the evening and Aly kicked off the event by thanking us all for coming and letting us know that the £750 raised from ticket sales would be going to Q Radio’s campaign to help a number of cancer and end of life charities working in Northern Ireland. Cate from Q Radio added her thanks, everyone who wasn’t driving grabbed a glass of wine and it was time to get to work.


Aly demonstrates mark-making with pastels

We kicked off with a simple lesson in the correct way to hold and use your pencil by drawing circles and figures of 8. Aly explained that this was to get our minds focused on the task in hand and build ‘muscle memory’ before we got stuck in to the messy business of working with pastels. Tying in with the theme of Aly’s upcoming exhibition at Canvas Galleries in Stranmillis, we each had a small pink flower in front of us from which to take our inspiration. After a quick demonstration by Aly of how we might form an outline and use contrasting colours, we began to draw. My table companion was a little hesitant at first, having never used pastels and not wishing to make a mess of herself or her creation but, we encouraged each other along. Within just a few minutes, we each managed to create an approximation of the little bloom in front of us on the table.

My effort in pastels

Having whetted my appetite with pastels, I was itching to get on to the next part of the workshop, which was painting with acrylics. The wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen were a temporary distraction though as Cathy, Dave and the team at Goodness Rocks served us all with really delicious nibbles (my personal favourite was the beef meatballs with spicy beans) and everyone’s wine glasses were topped up.
Bellies full we were on to the main event- it was time to get painting. We were reminded of the three primary colours, shown how to mix paint to create different tones and encouraged by Aly not to be afraid to get the paint onto the canvas. Demonstrating how to use a pallet knife (like spreading butter) and various grades of paint brushes, Aly of course made it look easy and, as I took up my own pallet knife, I was determined to be bold and just ‘go for it,’ as instructed. There was a large plant at the front of the room which we were to paint a study of and it was fascinating to see the wide variety of interpretations across the different tables.

Some of the other participants photograph the flowers and Aly’s work to provide inspiration for their paintings

was bold, I did ‘go for it’ and, not to blow my own trumpet, I must say that I am pretty pleased with the results. A couple of people even asked me if I was a ‘real’ artist too! Having never touched a pallet knife in my life and never having worked with acrylics I think my effort will be worthy of a place somewhere on the wall when we finally finish our mammoth restoration project which you can read about here.

My final artwork in acrylics

Hopefully the other attendees were equally satisfied with their creations. It seemed like no time till each one disappeared into the night carefully balancing their still-wet masterpieces on a sheet of brown paper. As I was Aly’s taxi for the evening, I stayed behind to help gather up easels, clear away paints and discuss the success of the event.
I knew I would learn some new skills and enjoy the craic but I had genuinely forgotten the joy engaged in the simple pleasure of creating an image on a blank piece of paper. I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed rediscovering the sheer satisfaction of that creative process.




If, like me you would love to pick up a craft or lift a paintbrush but you never quite seem to get round to it, going to a workshop is a great way to reignite a latent creative passion. Aly will be hosting her next workshops in June and I can heartily recommend booking your spot when places become available. You can sign up for news on when dates are released at www.alyharte.com You’d best be quick though as you’ll need to get behind me in the queue!

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