Monday, December 31, 2012

Last post of 2012 - Two girls in t-shirts


I think this sketch was done in Park Estrella in Lisbon, Portugal, but I'm not entirely sure anymore. I do have a lot of sketches from both Paris and Lisbon, and a few from Porto as well.

Last week I was clearly out my spare bedroom of superfluous clutter - is there any other kind - and came across big folders full of drawings I'd forgotten about. Life studies, landscapes, what have you. I must have THOUSANDS of original pieces in my house at this stage. At some point I will need to catalogue all of them - sigh. Will have to take a day and start recording them. And I also have loads of sketchbooks ...

What do you do when you have so much stuff? I will simply have to google exhibiting works on paper, and then break down those works according to subject matter: life studies, nudes, landscapes, and so on. I was thinking of putting some of the smaller ones together into collections as handmade books and selling those - and of course doing a printable Blurb books version also, to record it. I don't want my work to be lost, or worse, claimed by someone else. (That nearly happened to a friend of mine years ago at art college during her foundation year - she had done a really good colour study and it was stolen, she reported the theft and the colour study piece was returned. She never found out who did it, but it was speculated that the person who nicked it was hoping to use it to get into another art college. And competition in colleges is only getting ever more intense.) But I do want people to enjoy it.

I'm also thinking about the technology available to use with my work, slide shows and what have you. How do you convert a PowerPoint presentation into a YouTube film? Something to look into, all tips from viewers and followers gratefully received.

Oh, and Happy 2013.




Thursday, December 20, 2012

On writing artist's statements

For many of my fellow art students, writing was their least favourite thing ever. I mean, there were essays that had to be produced; and theses, which caused many sleepless nights, but the most difficult was the statement that had to go with your studio work. It had to say all you needed to say, but within a hundred words, two hundred maximum.

Many of them, who when speaking were highly articulate and extremely clever at explaining their work to a tutor or visiting lecturer, would get sudden amnesia when confronted with a black computer screen. They could not write a thing. When speaking about their work, or about a particular artwork in general, they were insightful, articulate, imaginative and very thought-provoking, but when it came to writing the same thing down, they couldn't string two words together. I mean, a friend of mine who is a Mum and marvellous at explaining things to people, and a very empathic individual, says it takes her 3 days to write 500 words. I've just taken about five minutes to write about 150 words. I could have padded it out and actually spelled the numbers out, three, five hundred and one hundred and fifty. I am very lucky in that I have no trouble whatsoever with writing - but it's the lucid charting of my thoughts and distilling them into something coherent and, more importantly, relevant to the work I'm making, that's my problem. Because I can express myself so easily and fluently in writing, I tend to deviate from the point.

And now I have to make a confession: I hated my degree year thesis. I lost my train of thought early on when writing it, and was not at all happy with the end result, but it was done and I could then concentrate on my studio work. Ironically I was much happier with my diploma thesis, I still have it in my computer somewhere. But my degree thesis, I might actually go back and rewrite it. See, a huge part of the problem is that when you are in the process of making art so intensively, it's really really difficult to step back and look at it from a 'journalistic' perspective because you are so involved in making it, and have to have something for the next assessment date, and for your end-of-year show. Half the time you haven't figured out your direction yet, so how on earth can you possibly write with authority about something that hasn't yet become consolidated in your head?

Much of what we as artists create comes from our subconscious and our visceral reaction to something of the world around us, which we have to somehow turn into some kind of analytic examination in order to come up with a statement. What it - that which we are in the process of creating - is has first to be identified, and then broken into components, and examined again. And then there's the emotional reaction to what it is you discover. And you have to find the verbal language for all of this.

So how does one come from that described above, to a coherent, concise statement that provides insight into the artist's oeuvre or piece?

I think the mistake that many of my fellow students were making was thinking that they had to get the finished product - i.e. a coherent and concise distillation of the work or process or piece - the art, if you will - that works well as a statement. What they were forgetting is that for the statement to reflect the art is describes, it must be created in a similar manner to the art it describes. 

In other words, you outline, doodle, sketch, turn things around and up-side down, play with visuals and ideas, paint it, tear it up and reconstruct it, copy it over and over while changing bits as you go, figure out what's strongest about the piece, and how to use the weakest parts to enhance it, paint it, scraped away the excess paint, paint it again, put it away for three days while you focus on something else .... etc. You edit when you make work anyway, so you'll draft your statement the same way.

And as you go, you can record what you have done in writing in a journal. Or a blog. Which you can share and present to your tutors as part of your assessment - by prior arrangement, of course. (Limerick Art College was VERY into using technology to make and promote art. This was BEFORE Facebook and Twitter and all of those things. I am divided between 'oh the value of hindsight' and 'nice that the rest of the world has caught up' ;-)....) But the real usefulness of this is that at some point you can go back over it and start using it to construct your statement.

And here's where the 'journalistic' aspect comes in. You simply start by asking some open questions about what you have done so far. Your questions start with:

What
Who
Where
How
When
Why
Which

You don't have to use all of those words, and you can use each one more than once.

For example:

What am I looking at/reading/drawn to? What am I looking for, specifically? Why am I looking at this? Where am I looking? Where is this taking me? When did I stop looking at A and start looking at B? Why did I change what I was looking at? How did this affect what I have been doing/making in the studio? How am I reacting to this work? What does it make me want to do? Why do I want to do that? What direction is this taking me?

Etc.

You can also start by asking yourself 'why am I drawn to this particular subject matter?' This might actually be the crux of your work.

It might take you a few days to answer one question, or you might be able to answer several questions in one day, but as you find your answers, it's a good idea to NOTE THEM DOWN IN YOUR JOURNAL or in your blog.

Keeping a journal has several benefits: first of all, you're recording what you make and how you react to it. Second, and possibly slightly more important: you are getting valuable practice in expressing yourself in writing. This helps so much when it comes to transferring that wonderful articulate way of expressing yourself orally to black and white on paper. Plus it can also be extremely useful when it comes to writing your theses.

When you have your information, then your focus changes from recording to sifting through your notes to figure out the milestones, and what led to you produce what you have produced. You make a list of these. You think about how these fit together, if even all of these are important in the overall work, and you edit out what you feel does not really play a part in the finished work. This can take time. But it will also save you lots of time and gain you more sleep. And also, it's easier to be more objective about how you got this particular process started, six months later.

Now, I can't tell you how to put your final statement together. You have the information, you and only you are intimately acquainted with what went into creating the work. You can start with a quote from your initial source of inspiration if you wish, and follow on from that. You might need to make several versions of it before you come up with something you like - this is fine. You did the same when making your art.

But know this: as you continue making art, your statement will evolve along with your artwork. It should - after all, your statement is supposed to reflect your art, and possibly provide some insight, but certainly encourage the viewer to really look at the work.  Don't explain too much, just say enough in your statement to that the viewer has room to draw their own conclusions. As their involvement is not the same as yours, ultimately their relationship with the work will also be different. Allow for this. You want them to engage with it, and don't ever forget that while their involvement with the work is different to yours, they are interested enough in art to come look at it, and intelligent enough to form their own conclusions. Your statement can give them some of the information they need to do this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paris: the Jardins Des Plantes quarter



Well, Jardins Des Plantes was the name our DK Eyewitness Travel Guides gave to the area of Paris where the Islamic Cultural Centre was located, and the Roman Arena, and where many students in Paris have their term-time accommodation - and there were hundreds of great eateries in the area, just as good and considerably less pricey and less busy than in the neighbouring Saint Germain quarter.

I'm very pleased with this drawing because I spent ages getting the foreshortening in the leg right, and the guy, fair play to him, was very patient and didn't get up and walk away when he realised I was drawing him. Nice when people are so obliging. As I write I'm reminded of a very nice older gentleman in Porto, the city in the north of Portugal, who kept sitting as I did a quick pencil sketch with watercolour of him, he was so nice and so pleased that I gave him the finished piece, still wet - in a way I am sorry, but gosh, if I kept every single drawing of people I ever made ... I wouldn't be able to live in my house, I'd have so much paper, it would be like a tinder box.

More news: the images on Flickr.com have been liked and commented on a lot lately, which is also nice. I get the impression that people are now looking at art with intent - financial markets around the world might just be stabilising a bit, and they only need to stabilise a bit for people to go 'okay, what will I spend this money on, oh, isn't this a nice bit of art'. I'm thinking it's time to organise another solo exhibition, also with intent; this time in a city where there are loads of people and loads of parking spaces. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ancient Rome in Paris

Paris 2010: Watching the re-enactment at the Arène

Another watercolour sketch, sketched on location and painted later, this was done in Paris and the people were engrossed in watching the re-enactment of a battle between tribes from the Roman era of Paris. I don't think many people realise that Paris was already founded during the days of the ancient Roman Empire and that there were many more ancient Roman ruins in the area, but the Arène in the Jardin des Plantes quarter is the only really Roman bit left. Aside from the re-enactors, there seemed to be a lot of local kids very keen on playing football - it was a big space - and some people there to talk about why the ancient Roman arena was excavated, once it was realised during the 1800s that it was actually there. 

I love visiting Paris. I've always found the locals to be friendly, the food lovely, the atmosphere very enjoyable. It's a lovely city to wander around. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An artist whose work I found on Flickr.com: Braccio

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog on Flickr.com and some of the work I've seen there. I do have a few favourites, and London-based Braccio is one of them.

One of the things Braccio asked me to do when I contacted him about writing a blog about his work was to warn people that many of his images are of nude adults. They are indeed very solid, very fleshy, and very believable. Nothing is glorified, nothing is left to the imagination either. You have a strong sense of an artist who maintains the age-old tradition of drawing what he sees, which is the tradition that brought us photography.

Braccio gave me a little background information - he is originally from Croatia, and rather unbelievably, has never had any formal training in art. But you know he's gone and done the hard graft of working on his innate talent - his Spirited Bodies series done in conté pencil and charcoal, is masterful drawing. You can see the guy in the # 4 detail is fond of his food and his beer, and is maybe a little less active than he used to be. By contrast, his piece Ian H. in pencil is nicely considered, the musculature of the figure's back very nicely formed, even if the legs seem a little on the short side, but this could easily have been the model's own build. I think the lines in Spirited Bodies - warmup for BAC #1, with two figures, are reminiscent of the figures of Matisse, the French Modernist painter and sculptor, and in a way I think it's a pity Braccio added such strong colours, because the simplicity of the lines is not apparently. Spirited Bodies @ BAC #1, by contrast, is a simple, rough drawing done what looks like pastel, and the lines are so vivid in it that it's very easy to imagine the figures dancing, rolling around on the floor, generally being 'spirited'.

Braccio has also created many landscape and still life pieces, in pen, watercolour, pencil and pastels. These include several cityscapes and interiors in London, and charming scenes from the English countryside, and some lovely scenes from places like Turkey also. But for me, I think it's his figures .... they are unselfconscious, vivid, beautifully observed. There is also a sense of a personal relationship between each figure, or subject, and Braccio himself. They are not just 'something to draw', there is a connection. A true artist, Braccio captures and records something of the individual - not unlike Rembrandt.

Keep them coming, Braccio. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Studies of the left foot and frontal female nude standing



As an artist that likes to draw the human figure in all its glorious variety, I often find myself disgusted and dismayed at the body fascism in today's mass media. This particular model was a trained dancer and as such had a completely different take on her body to the average man or woman, and wasn't terribly bothered about getting her kit off. But it is very very difficult to find a male or female model whose body is not 'perfect', who has lumps and bumps and maybe a little extra upholstery in places ... like Lucien Freud's painting of the social worker. She was a big lady, and might not have been celebrated by fashion media, but she had a body that painters would love. I would love a model like that again - I had one such model when I lived in the Netherlands, she was fantastic because she also had the body control we needed.

My trained dancer model in the image above, in addition to being marvellous for life-drawing, also had wonderfully strong feet. I mean, you could imagine her gouging holes in slate flagstones. I started to pay attention to them during the last few sessions I worked with her, probably because I had drawn every other bit of her several times and even painted up a couple of pieces in oil on canvas. I suppose when you look at something over and over, there comes a point when you see the bits you hadn't previously taken much into consideration. I knew how strong the model's back was, I had seen the muscles working under her skin in various poses, was very familiar with how the flesh in her torso moulded around her skeleton in various sitting and standing poses, and how the light would pick up her shoulder, clavicle, breast, ribcage. But the feet are a challenge.

I suppose that I have a particular take on the matter, given that in recent years I learned that I was flat-footed to the extent that knees and other joints were more vulnerable, and as such I am very aware of the weight feet carry, and yet how delicate a structure it is. As I knew my model is a dancer, not only did I have the sense that she could gouge holes in flag floors, but that each foot was a spring that would lift her off the ground whenever she wanted.

Or maybe it's just easier to do the fleshy bits on the torso, I don't know. I'll get back to you on that one when I do more life-drawing with a different model.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

People in Paris

I was going to entitle this blog 'Scenes from Paris' but then everyone would be expecting pictures of the Eifel Tower and what have you, and I have never photographed the tower during any of my visits to Paris. In fact, the second time I went to Paris, which was in February 2003, I didn't go anywhere near the Eiffel Tower.

But I always seem to go to Montmartre and I don't know why. I suppose it is simply my favourite part of the city to visit, and the last time we were there, Dolf and me, we stayed closer to Pigalle than Montmartre, and the Moulin Rouge was down the street. The thing about Montmartre is that loads of artists hang out there and sell their work and try to get commissions for portraits. A lot of the work I've seen there is really good, and I saw a couple that I would have liked to have been able to buy. I need a bigger house. And less clutter.

And I did a few things of my own. Sketches of people painted up. I did a lot of those in Paris, it's a city that really appreciates the more traditional approach to art. Not saying that they aren't progressive or anything, Paris does have the Pompidou Centre after all, but they have an understanding and appreciation of the craft of making art that many hifalutin' galleries seem to no longer have time for, as they are very keen to be seen as progressive.



Both of these are linked with Montmartre. When you're climbing up towards the cathedral of Sacre Coeur on top of the Butte, you can take the scenic route of the steps (at the narrow sections, watch out for the Romany kids trying to scam you. Don't stop for them. Say 'NO' and keep walking) or you can take the funicular railway. I took the steps and took my time. Ah, Paris. The city of lights, where modern art was born. And probably where it died as well. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Standing nude double in pencil with another artist in the backgroun


This is another one from the Limerick Printmakers life-drawing sessions. One of the perks of long poses is that you can often get other stuff in there too, and this I enjoyed. What would have been ever more fun would have been if I could have seen the other artist's drawing as well, and included that. But I just didn't think of it at the time.

I was looking through folders of work recorded, and thinking that surely I took more photographs of pieces last summer and where were they? Well, they hadn't been processed yet, tidied up with PhotoShop. That's another hour or so some wet and cold evening when I can't do any work either in my garden or on paintings.

I was talking with Sadbh Lyons who runs the gallery on Bedford Row in Limerick city, where three of my paintings are currently located, and once again, my painting Aventine Wedding is getting people talking. Apparently a man was looking at it and started talking about weddings and thinking about the dynamics of the people in weddings and marriages and it all got very philosophical ... he was nattering on for about 20 minutes, and she really tried to close a sale, but alas .... close but no banana, as some would say. But he might come back. With money. Here's hoping.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two photographs I took early in the morning

Not being what you'd call a technical whizzkid, I need time to come to terms with the gadgets at my disposal, so I'm getting to grips slowly but surely with my Nikon, and with a hint of PhotoShop, because, well, why not. It's there.



This one is a view of the very early morning sky from the back of my house, and I think that you will appreciate it more if you click on it to enlarge it. They say 'red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning', and there's no red here, so it was possibly a good day weather-wise later on - for the life of me I can't remember. I could have cropped, but didn't want to.


This was taken a couple of weeks later, also in my back garden - the pole in the ditch is the same pole in both photos - and again slightly doctored. I loaded this up onto the TV3 weather photographs page but I haven't seen it up there yet. I love gossamer spider webs in the early morning, so pretty. Wrecked old bird table though. I should really replace it. Ah well.

The top one I might work into a painting, but the bottom one is the thing. You do need to know when to stop.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Photography, PhotoShop and drawing

Now I know how I've gone on about how useful photography can be to an artist, as a tool to record stuff. And I've seen some wonderful artwork created through using - read 'doctoring' - a photograph using PhotoShop, by Ken Coleman to name just one artist.

But I think you need to be careful if you're going to use other people's photographs as visual references for your drawings. Why? Because if they have been photoshopped, they might have been photoshopped badly. I regularly see stuff up on Facebook about badly photoshopped images that elongate a model's body to outlandish proportions, make her legs look so skinny you couldn't imagine her standing on them without them breaking, and the classic one that has parents of teenage girls really worried, the woman of normal, natural proportions photoshopped into someone that looks like they died of starvation, or are very close to it.

It's easy to miss these things at first, especially if you don't really look closely at publications or websites in which such photos normally feature. The thing is, using PhotoShop is also something of an art form, and if you don't get it right, it can look so very wrong. Of course, you can have great fun with it and give a model an extra hand or finger, or have a crocodile leaping out of water onto a moving boat, but if you're picking photographs from magazines to work from for paintings, you'd want to take a very good look at them. Sometimes what seems 'odd' turns out to be very strange indeed.

There really is no substitute for live-drawing with a model, I think. Yes, people come in all shapes and sizes, and in different proportions, but you really appreciate it when you draw the same model several times in different poses. I suppose you could say there are 'believable parameters' when it comes to the proportions of the body, and indeed both PhotoShop and plastic surgery could challenge this, but if you want to base your drawing or painting on a real, and more to the point, believable body, then you need to work from a real and believable subject.

I suppose if you have spent many years studying the human figure in life-drawing sessions, or indeed studying anything that's based on 3-dimensional objects around you with a view to reproducing it in 2D, then you would be less likely to miss any PhotoShop-created physical anomalies and end up using your own skill in reworking the visual reference into something you're making. I think we are back to the eye, and one's own innate judgement in creating a composition that 'works'.

Taking badly photoshopped images might actually be an interesting exercise for an art project, if you're one of the people that likes to take things and turn them around and stand them on their heads - why not? One of the great things about art is that you can take something and transform it into something totally different. But that is another project, for another blog. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

New stuff to paint - The Great Unposed

So yesterday I was at the Limerick races in a roadie capacity and would have liked to have been to sketch some glamorous Ladies as it was Ladies' Day, but just got some photos of them instead. The plan is to look at the photos and see if there are any paintings in there somewhere. Maybe just one big one with all those fabulous hats and colours. There were some very stylish outfits there, and some seriously eye-catching hats. I hadn't been to any race meetings for years, I know my father brought us once, but I honestly can't even remember where that was. 

I'm after The Great Unposed. I personally HATE being in photos, I so rarely come out looking good, but I find that with posing for photos, you end up with something that looks a bit artificial, and ultimately repetitive. It doesn't really work for making paintings. I so much prefer getting people being themselves, just talking, fixing their hair, drinking or eating, on the phone ... even picking their noses, as an artist lady I met there yesterday pointed out. Not that I would ever use such a visual reference in my paintings, but photography and can does catch such unguarded moments, and can be singularly unflattering. Which I suppose is why so many people automatically try to pose and present their best/classiest/most elegant side - they are attempting to be seen in a particular way, attempting to control the visual recording. As part of The Great Unposed, I take that control away from then. 

I suppose I'm in a grey area. It's uncomfortable for people, sometimes. And then of course there are certain lines you cannot cross, in particular with regard to photographing children and their personal safety, which I totally understand and respect. But I LIKE getting the person glaring back at me, it doesn't happen all that often. I'm fast, and have the shutter speed on high ... so I'm not 'intruding' for more than half a second, often the people I photograph don't even realise. And then when I do go and use the visual information I get and work it into a painting, the person is usually not recognisable - though there are some exceptions in my work. 

I think the difficulty for many is that I sit on the fence between voyeurism and simple, unbiased observation. I'm not actually intruding, merely recording something and at the same time taking away the subject's control over how they look in the photo. I can't help wondering if this has to do with the fact that cameras are now so widely available to everyone, and everyone who is on Facebook and other social media posts up photographs of themselves ... often doctored with PhotoShop. And their memories of the event or situation in question. I suppose that overlaps onto the field of epistemology .... Hmmm. 

In any case, I feel that after the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martin Parr and other great 'candid' photographers, I think there is a precedent. 

And an image, let's see ... THREE images!!!! None were actively posing.


Sleeping somewhere, drawing in purple ink


Gossiping in Estrella Park, Lisbon, from 2010, pencil and watercolour paint


Woman standing, Piazza Della Signoria, Florence, from 2008, pencil and watercolour paint

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eigse Carlow 2012


Last spring I submitted some work to Eigse Carlow, not for the first time, but this time the work was accepted for the Art Festival around the town. There was a theme: Civilising the Wilderness. So I went off and thought about and came up with The Coming of Pan I and II. 





My idea was that wilderness cannot truly be civilised, but it can be interpreted, recorded and mapped. I took photos of the ditches on the road by my house, as these are teeming with wildlife all year round, and Pan's conversation with the young girl from James Stephens' novel The Crock of Gold  - a very enjoyable read - and put them together as below. The photographs I photoshopped for a stronger contrast, then attached to tracing paper so I could get the line with fine black pen. The effect is not unlike mapping something. Finally, I added the paper with the text to the bottom, and attached the whole lot to a firm backing (i.e. cardboard, which I have in abundance around my house) and sent it off. I them promptly forgot about it until they e-mailed me back and said they wanted to include among the works shown around the town. Nice.

I'll do something for next year also. 




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On research

Sometimes you have to investigate things that you don't find particularly interesting. Lately I've been thinking about all I know about a particular sport - soccer or European football - and realise I know shag-all about it. I've never been all that interested in it. I've never understood the whole tribal fan thing, the notion of following a team and attending all their games, and being uncritically supportive, and even getting drawn into fights, riots, and other unsavoury things attributed to football fans who are inclined to hooliganism.

(I don't mean to imply that being a football fan automatically means you're a football hooligan. On the contrary. I have a lot of respect for loyalty. But people who follow blindly and don't think, those people I want to kick until they wake the feck up. You were given a brain. Use it.)

 Sadly, what with the media being what it is, the nasty side of football is what is brought to my attention. Nasty messages to players on Twitter, for example. Or fans chanting things like 'you couldn't score in a brothel'. Or the bane of all sportsmen and women: allegations of taking drugs to enhance one's performance. It's very easy to forget the hours and hours of training professional sports people have put in in order to reach the level that puts them in the national teams. They pay a price for that, and okay, the salaries for some of those guys - and yes, it's only really the men, women footballers are not recognised or rewarded in the same manner - are astronomical, but still .... What they do for their art is overshadowed by what they earn for being famous, and the focus that's on them through the media. It's a sad fact. Even I've heard of David Beckham, mainly because of his very media-savvy wife Victoria, a former Spice Girl. But I don't know much about his football.

So, as part of my investigating this thing of football, for which the media has pretty deadened my enthusiasm, I think I will look into the history of the game. I mean, I've had practice in my day job researching things I normally wouldn't have heard of, or wouldn't be interested in. Sometimes you need to bypass the bright colours in the sunshine and check out what lurks in the shadows. Dig some dirt. Find out something you really didn't care to know. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pen sketch: Waiting for the flight


According to my notes, this drawing was done in a small airport (thank you Ryanair) outside of Barcelona, but not Barcelona Airport itself. Departure lounges are full of people sitting around and snoozing slightly, especially early in the morning.

The Art on the Rails in Limerick City was interesting. Prices varied from so-so to totally outrageous, the quality of the work varied also. While I didn't sell anything - and I wasn't out to sell, but just to get work seen, selling would have been a lovely bonus - I did get an invitation to hang work in one of the city centre galleries. Nice. Will go sort that out soon.

I have also been thinking about the Milk Market in Limerick, and wondering how to go about organising an art fair in there. Attempts have been made to do a weekly art fair, when a monthly one would be better in Limerick, if it's staggered with monthly art fairs in other places like Ennis, Cork, Galway, etc. And then it would be better to try and maintain a certain standard of work ... no, I think I'd leave that to the people who like doing that kind of thing! I'll just go and do what I need to do and continue to make more work.


Friday, September 14, 2012

A busy enough week

Lots on this week that I'm involved in.

First up, the 11th Roches Street Art Festival in Limerick City. I love this idea, the traders of this busy Limerick city centre street got together to hold an art festival to raise funds, and exhibit the works in the shops and shop window. 25% of the money earned from the works sold goes to Headway, the brain injury charity, and to the Milford Hospice. My paintings (landscapes all) are in Electrical Rewind and Universe of Nails.

The other thing I'm doing this week is take part in showing art on the railings of the Peoples Park in Limerick city, which is organised by the No. 1 Pery Square Hotel and Brasserie, and takes place on Sunday 16th of September from 10 am to 2 pm. I'm hoping it won't rain ... I'll probably bring 8 to 10 of the people paintings because the landscapes are in Roches Street and will hopefully help out the charities there. The people paintings tend to generate conversations, which I enjoy, and possibly some sales also. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Three more from the 2010 Sketchbook project


It's nice to look at these sketches again. That was an interesting project, and I might do another one with them, I only wish the sketchbooks were actually a lot bigger. 

While I like doing people, looking at what's in the hedgerows here is interesting. Anyone who grew up in the Ireland and in the Irish educational system was inflicted with WB Yeats; however, in later years I came to appreciate his genius. I'm not the only one, many musicians have gone and set his poems to music. Christy Moore, who is an Irish institution at this stage, did a wonderfully haunting song made from the exact poem on his album Ride On during the 1980s. I knew a band in the Netherlands called Fling that set Yeats' work The Fisherman to music, but I'm not sure how well that worked. The Fisherman is wonderful, but has a deceptively simple rhythm that is meant to be recited, I think, and not put to music.

The page below is a pencil drawing of a whitethorn branch with the autumnal berries. You can easily make out what the poem on the right is: The Song of Wandering Aonghus by William Butler Yeats. 





This image below is from a couple of months later. We were experiencing the worst winter in Ireland in many, many years. Because the climate in Ireland is pretty mild as a result of our location in the middle of the Gulf Stream, we don't generally get very cold and snowy winters. But 2010 - 2011 was the exception. I was housebound for three weeks, could not go anywhere. And our pipes froze, but thankfully the central heating continued to work. On the cold, bright days, it was lovely - I went out walking with my camera several times and got some pictures like the ones below, which I used as part of this Sketchbook Project.

The top photo has a layer of tracing paper over it and that shape and lines of the plant are simply traced in fine black pen. One of the things the whole sketchbook thing does is bring you back to the line, and what you can do with the line. That is one advantage of working in a small format. 




This piece is simply the very cropped photograph of a corrugated metal roof covered in snow printed out on ordinary cartridge paper, and then the text printed on it again from a Microsoft Word file. You can see the reference to where I got the text on the lower right-hand side. Not a sketch in the traditional sense, but it does everything a traditional sketch does, it outlines something, provides just enough information to get one started on something else. And it reflected the general mindset of the people living on the road where I live at the time, which, after the first couple of days of that weather, was basically 'how much longer is this going to last?'


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pencil sketch of a girl in profile


I was in Florence, Italy, when I did this on the Piazza Della Signora, as I recall I was chatting with another charming lady from ... one of the countries of South America and her son who was studying in Italy and they were travelling around. I can't really remember where she said she was from, might have been Mexico. Nevertheless, I think this sketch took less than 10 minutes, the subject got up to move on through the city.

 I'm not tempted to add colour to this, I think it's fine the way it is. I didn't have a lot of time to do much while she was there, and I added the cross-hatching on the cheek after she had moved away and left it. I liked her very strong profile, her features. She was possibly another tourist.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Graffiti, Marcel Duchamp, and the eternal question

Graffiti has been around for as long as humans have been able to hold a bit of burnt stick and leave a mark on something.

Now while it might not be pretty, or indeed as 'acceptable' in comparison with the likes of the Great Masters, it's still a form of human expression. And as a form of human expression, it's valid. But is it art?

Over the past century, we have been presented with found objects which were given another name, and were told - TOLD!! - this is art because the guy who found it and decided it was art was an artist. The most notorious example of this was Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, which was basically a urinal, or a pot for a man to piss in. He was adopted by the Americans who were mad keen to develop something that future generations would refer to as a culture - sorry, but we are just going to have to take rock music to be the Great American art form of the 20th century, because, well, they jumped on the notion of taking a pot for a man to piss in and calling it art .... hello?

Me, I'm convinced that Duchamp was having a laugh, and, if you'll pardon my use of the expression here, taking the piss in a major way. Because he WAS a highly prolific painter and printmaker, and involved in many other art movements, including Surrealism. But he is most remembered for taking a urinal and calling it art.

And because he has gone down in Art History as having challenged the preconceived notions of what is art, those of us who have gone any way down the academic route of studying art have to take him seriously.

Apparently.

And then there's the other end of the spectrum. There's graffiti. It's living people, using materials to make an image. Some of it is hideous, it has to be said, but there are also beautiful works around. I think that the main objection is because this is on streets and on buildings and therefore considered to be a form of vandalism. That's all very well, if you consider vandalism to be taking a grey and rather boring building and adding colour, life, lines, thoughts - human expression, if you will - to it. And isn't that what art is about, human expression? Colour? Life? Thoughts? Dreams? Making a mark?

Academia tells us we have to accept a urinal renamed a fountain as art - eh, no we don't. Like said, it boils down to taking the piss (and no, as long as people persist in that kind of bullshit, I will persist in flogging that particular dead horse). Yet graffiti, the ultimately urban form of human expression, is not art, but vandalism?

It's a flawed argument. If you take Marcel Duchamp and his Fountain, and how it confronts the accepted notion of What Is Art, then how can you turn around and say 'Oh yeah, and those kids with their spraycans and colour and thoughts and ideas and youth and life and questions and search for answers, what they do is vandalism, defacement of public property, and NOT ART'?

You're barking up the wrong tree. The thing is, calling art 'a form of human expression' is only scratching the surface, there are many, many definitions. One of the functions of art has been to teach, another to confront. Both Duchamp's works and the Graffitists do this. Usually not in that order, however. Think about it.

This leads me to this particular question: Not even artists who have studied for years can definitively say what 'art' is; therefore how and why do officials of municipal councils, who do NOT have any artistic qualification whatsoever, think that THEY are in a position to define what 'art' is, and to state categorically that Graffiti is not art?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Post Rose Fashion Show and Netherlands versus Brazil, 2010

I nearly forgot to come and check my stats here today, simply because I am WRECKED from being down in Tralee last night at the Rose of Tralee Festival Fashion Show. My other half Dolf was the photographer for the Holman-Lee Agency in Limerick, who provided the models for the show. There were some pretty spectacular items on show also, only proof that tough economic times only spur on amazing creativity.

But I still have to do some work on the day job today, no rest for the wicked. But before I do, an image ....



Or indeed, two of them, from the watercolour drawings series I drew in Porto and painted back home in Ireland. I'm not a fan of soccer or football or whatever it's called, but whatever gets people sitting down and focused on something so they don't notice me drawing them is good.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why do people buy art?

What with all this talk about how to invest one's money, especially if one has the kind of money lying around to invest in whatever one chooses, and when there are racehorses, fast cars, jewellery, property, antiques, and all kinds of other must-haves available to the discerning buyer, why would one buy art?

Just to convolute things a bit further, I am lumping older paintings in with antiques - not because I think they are old and dated, but because like a piece of antique furniture, such paintings are art objects of historical value. In this post, the 'art' that I'm talking about people buying is the contemporary stuff.

Now I recently heard that an acquaintance of mine Conor Harrington is starting to do really well, and I have to say Fair Play Conor, because I had heard that the tutors in the art college in Limerick did NOT like his work and were highly critical of it. At the time it was not too far away from Street Art, which of course is now extremely popular, thanks to the likes of Banksy. Goes to show, really, doesn't it?

But while Conor Harrington's work could rightly be considered an 'investment', and given that he is still reasonably young and his oeuvre is still in a state of flux, a shrewd observer of contemporary art movements with the cash to do so might well buy up some pieces. But there's the other side to why people buy art - because they like it.

Of course, it may well also be because they like the artist - I recall Conor Harrington to be friendly and likeable type of person. But when you buy a painting for your house, you have to live with it. You have to be sure you like it. It will become part of your living space. In three generations time it might well be an antique. People might even ask 'was that a contemporary of Banksy?'

In the current tense economic times, it's only the really wealthy that can spend a lot of money on art. The rest of us are a little more preoccupied with paying day-to-day bills, but that's life. When I show works, I don't sell very much, but people take some time to walk around the pieces, think about them, and sometimes go back to one or two of them and look again and think some more. This I like to see. If they feel like chatting about the work, I'll chat with them. I've been told that many art lovers with less money to spend at the moment are NOT going into see new work in galleries, because they feel they would be tempted to spend money they need for other things - I can relate to that. Times are tight, and you want your kids to be educated and prepared for all eventualities.

But when things are better economically, I know that I will hear from some people again, because I could see how they connected with something in my work. Does my work have any art historical value? I honestly don't care either way. People LIKE it. I don't promote it aggressively through galleries, but I do get the odd inquiry. They like it. And when they have the money to spend on it, they will come.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Flickr.com

I really like www.flickr.com. I've had an account there for the past few years, and it's great for seeing other people's work and sharing your own.

But you have to put time into it. You have to upload your images, caption them, and find groups you can put them into. Some groups have a lot of traffic, some don't. Some take on members by invitation only, others you can just join. And there are also 'safety' issues also, concerning nudity, each group has rules about that. But all groups have interesting images, and if you are like me and geographically isolated, it's a great way of seeing what other people are doing, and entering into a dialogue with them.

Obviously, with the Internet you have to be careful. Pretty much every comment I have ever seen has been something along the lines of 'good composition' or 'great colours' or 'great energy in this image' - I cannot remember seeing any comments along the lines of 'you should take up sport because you can't paint for shite' or perhaps the more moderate and constructive 'I like this but I think you could do better'. Obviously if you don't know the artist and their work personally, you can't really say this online. The Internet only allows you to see the potential of something, and let's face it, when looking at someone else's work every artist DOES think something along the lines of 'if I was making that painting I'd do it this way, with this colour, and not that one', for example - even though very few of us will ever actually admit to this. But because you don't know the person, you don't know how they take constructive criticism - and some people are very sensitive, and also very young, and the Internet is really the only showcase they might have for their work. So you really do need to think before you say anything.

I tend to say things along the line of 'Great use of the medium' - because they have used the paint, pigment, camera, whatever in a creative manner. Sometimes I might add a suggestion: 'Have you considered seeing how you'd get on with oils/watercolours/inks?' I'm very mindful of the fact that when it comes to art, most of the teaching that is done is actually the teaching of the self, the exploration each artist does with the media he or she works with. It's very important and very empowering. I'm also aware that artists need to make themselves problems in order to find a solution or breakthrough. Also important and empowering. And I am also totally cognisant of the fact that there are jealous, petty little bitches out there who would use the anonymity of the Internet to try and tear at a sensitive artist's already shaky self-esteem. (I will just interject here with a mini rant: people who do that are cowardly, gutless FAILURES before they themselves ever take up a paintbrush, pencil or camera. That's my take on those. Done.)

Given the fact that there are MILLIONS  of images uploaded to Flickr.com every day, and the page design pushes the edges of one image right up against the edges of another, it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what we as artists produce. And it's also very difficult to pick ones you like to comment on them - me, I simply react to the first one that catches my eye. (And then I look at the ones around it, and I usually comment on several in a group. Like I said, there's a lot of super work out there. And it's very easy to miss.) There just isn't time to nitpick the ones you don't like, and most of us are not of that mindset anyway.

But it's important to comment. If you comment on someone's work, you make their day. You NOTICED it, for a start. And they will often react by going and looking at your works you've uploaded, and commenting on one or two of those, and possibly making you a contact, and maybe even inviting you to join a particular group. And there may be some dialogue between you - I've been invited to visit an artist in their studio in Tuscany, which is just lovely. (Haven't done it yet. But might.)

There may come a time when I am so taken with an image that I will ask for a print of it, or if it's a photo, I might ask if I could use it as part of a painting. I'd always ask, though. Copyright issues, see. Most people have no problem, but businesses are different.

And when I make a comment, I add a link to this blog. Why not? Who says geographic isolation is a reason not to share my work with the world? :-)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paddy's Day, Limerick city

Paddy's Day Parade, Limerick City, 41x41 cm, oil on canvas.


I love the movement of crowds, the dynamic between people, and all the colour and conversations you overhear. I haven't looked at this painting in a while, not since I did more work on it a few months ago. Nice contrasts!

This was St Patrick's Day, or Paddy's Day, in Limerick city. It was one of those rare sunny days, everyone was delighted, there were even a few brave people in summer clothes - mad! I remember this particular parade had lots of floats advertising local businesses, and was disappointed that there weren't any wild and colourful costumes and cool stuff like that. Sponsorship .... or lack thereof, I suppose. The building in the background in the Arthur's Quay shopping centre.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And we're back!

Well, the push-through was good. I have since done another landscape piece on paper like that one, and also had the brainwave to do TWO sheets at the same time with a second bit of carbon paper, so I have a drawing I can work on with watercolour paint. :-)

And today I went out to the shed with a canvas and new brushes and worked on a little painting I started a few months back and FINISHED IT - yay! Had good light today so I could see it much better. And I started two new ones, haha! So I will be posting some more images over the next few days.

Lately I've come across the painter Marc Chagall a lot, I liked his works in college, so I might do some more investigation into this artist and his work. Apparently he was a Russian Jew from a tradition in which painting the human figure was frowned upon, they didn't like the whole figurative representation, something to do with God being the only one who should get a shot at making versions of humans. Or something weird like that.

Now off to my garden to do some digging and weeding. Apparently we are in for a few days of summer in Ireland, so I won't be spending much time behind the computer for the rest of the week. Hopefully.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Part of the push through: doing something outside of your comfort zone.

So yesterday I made a start on the push through, just to experiment with something. I wanted to see how I would do with carbon paper.

So got me some paper clips, the image I wanted to transfer and the paper I wanted to transfer it on to ....


And I got a biro and got to work, and the first check was exciting ...


... and as those were fiddly lines, I should at this juncture point out that a) this is the leaving of the comfort zone for this one that likes doing big oil paints with loose brush strokes and b) it took fecking forever .... but here was what I ended up with:


I was very pleased as I've wanted to work with this particular image for ages, it's a photo of the hedgerow on the road where I live, taken in autumn when the ash is regrowing.

And then I got a very fine brush and some Indian ink and spent another twitchy hour being fiddly, but the result is very dramatic:


Bit smudged in places, and the ink needs to dry in this photo, but I will scan it properly after I clean off the smudges and add it to the collection. Want to do more like this. Might put them together in a handmade book ...  hmm.





Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Close Encounters at the Milk Market - was asked to share this.


Aliens set to land at Milkmarket this weekend

Steven Spielberg’s science fiction masterpiece ‘Close Encounters of the Third’ is the second screening at the ‘Movies At The Market’ slot this Saturday August 4th at Limerick ’s Milkmarket.

The film from 1977 details the strange occurrences that beset a number of ordinary people who are drawn to a mountain in Wyoming and faced with the most profound experience of their lives. Richard Dreyfus is blue collar worker Roy Neary, troubled by a range of strange UFO phenomena and then seemingly compelled to travel hundreds of miles to the mountain.  Despite a government cover-up on a massive scale, he is urged onwards to his goal.

The movie ‘Close Encounter’s…’ itself will begin strictly a 10 p.m. on Saturday night and is presented on widescreen. Gates are open at 9 p.m. and patrons are advised to come early for this special event and sample the atmosphere with some of market units open to sell food and drink. Those attending are reminded that the Milkmarket is essentially an open area and are advised to dress warmly, with regard to the Irish summer.

Ticket Information:
Tickets are available on the evening for each screening and priced at €7 for individuals and €20 for a group of four. Tickets are also available in advance at the ‘Movies’ stall at the market during Milkmarket opening hours.
Online booking is throughwww.milkmarketlimerick.ie

Cross-legged and mesmerised, and 11,000 plus unique visitors.

Well, I'm pleased to say I have had just over 11,000 unique new visitors to my blog, and lots of people have also come back for more, and so I'm looking through my jpg files for a nice image to post up. 


So I've found a biro drawing I did a few years ago, which got nicely crumpled in some drawer or other, haha. It's another one of those ones with the subject engrossed in something and completely unaware of being observed. This was someone watching a film, I think.

I love fast drawing, and biro is fun, because you can't erase it, all lines must contribute to the drawing ... not that I bother erasing lines anymore anyway.

As for the big push-through mentioned in yesterday's blog, it's on :-).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The fundamentals: making work, pushing through

If you're prone to going through periods where you're so inundated with great ideas that it's hard to actually find a place to begin, then you and I are on the same wavelength.

It's the 'push through' you have to do, and nobody can do it for you. You can't sit around and wait for the Muse to strike, she has to be hunted down. You have to get yourself sorted, get your materials ready and just get stuck in. It's the bit between 'I want to go paint' and the getting stuck in that I get a bit unstuck.

Distractions sneak in. There's a phone call I have to take, an e-mail I have to answer. Laundry to be hung out to dry, lawns to be mowed before the rain comes back. Text work that must be done by end of business today. So by the time I get back to the Muse, she's off on a cigarette break and I'm being asked what's for dinner.

But if you don't push through all this, you don't get work made. And if you don't make work, you've no paintings to show for it.

Over the past couple of years I've become a bit lazy when it comes to making large oils on canvas, simply because I have about 50 large unsold canvases in my house, owing to the very difficult economic situation in Ireland and Europe generally. I wasn't selling them fast enough to justify churning them out. I have over a dozen that have not been seen outside of County Limerick, but I have posted them online so people still see them, but the actual paintings are in my possession. I stopped painting so many oils, invested in good quality watercolour paper and started doing my watercolour drawings, and got myself a camera.

However, I feel the yen to do more large oils, so I've started the push through by sizing and priming a couple of canvases, and even if I don't use oil paint on them, there's always acrylic paint. The canvases will be dry and ready to use tomorrow.

I also want to play with some black and white drawings, so I have made inquiries about where to get carbon paper, to transfer lines onto watercolour paper. That's my little jaunt in the car this evening.

And there's a box of small paintings, mostly oils, that I have started but cannot consider finished - yet. Every few weeks I take them out and look at them. And then the phone rings, or there's an e-mail. But enough excuses.

My list of projects I want to work on - and not all of them are exclusively painting or drawing - continues to grow, and if I am to make headway I need to push through. So I am rolling up my sleeves ..... More about this tomorrow. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Art and the Internet

It used to be that art was in special 'art' places - galleries and institutions, and possibly high-brow eateries or corporate buildings, that its very presence gave a certain 'cachet' to a gaff. This was before there was such a thing as the Internet.

Social networking sites, which mimic the very human and very ancient 'word of mouth', have revolutionised the whole visual world. Why describe an event when you can post up a photo or video of it. Similarly, why not share the art you create? 

The beauty of social networking sites is that you can put up a link to pretty much anything - photography sharing sites such as Flickr.com, Pinterest, etc.; specialist art sites like DeviantArt, Art Fortune, FASO, etc. - and share it, and in this way invite people to see it. 

It's easy to forget that you're not sharing the art as in the art object, but I don't think that matters anymore. If people can look at the image of the art object in a manner that's comfortable, they aren't bothered that the actual dimensions of the art object in question - the painting or sculpture or installation - might appear very different to how they are shown in the photographs. If you can access the work whenever you like, who needs to actually go out and buy a print, never mind an original piece. 

However, the downside of this is obvious: you can't always appreciate the impact of the piece either. An immediate example is the work of Modernist painter Mark Rothko. His abstract works were simply huge blocks of colour on enormous canvases - not much when you describe them in words, and certainly not really that exciting when reduced to fit on a computer screen. However, the actual paintings are massive things that take up entire walls of museums and suck the viewer right in. They are meant to disassociate you from your 'real' surroundings and transport you to a spiritual realm through contemplating the works - which would take considerable imagination if you are looking at such a piece on a computer screen. 

I am sure that there are artists out there who are exploring this notion and will come up with an installation that examines this idea of 'experiencing' art using a computer/the Internet. I know that the technology is available to experience the likes of Rothko on the scale at which he is meant to be experienced, but given financial and technical limitations on the part of most art affectionados, I think that such installations would - ironically - be limited to subsidised contemporary art galleries or spaces with the money to throw at projects such as these. But then again, people are extraordinarily resourceful ...

I like using the Internet to share my images. You can do it for free, if you wish - all it takes is time to promote your work. And I love the thought that, with very little effort on my part, I can make it possible for people anywhere in the world to see work I've created. Most of them are happy with seeing the images, but I have received a few requests for prices for the actual paintings or drawings. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

A little one .... Tournafulla Christmas Concert.

 Oil on canvas, 40x40 cm.

Okay, sorry for mentioning the dreaded C word in July. I apologise. Last year someone mentioned it in my hearing in September and I nearly had a canary. But I wanted to post up a painting I hadn't shown yet ...

I love going to communities like Tournafulla - which, if you're interested, is in a valley in the hills of West Limerick, and not far from Newcastle West. It's very pretty. It's one of those places that you find when you make a wrong turn, and go off the main road, and are looking for someplace else ...

We got to know some people from there through the Irish traditional music, my other half Dolf Patijn includes among his many talents considerable skill as a musician and in particular the bodhrán. I loved getting random shots of the people there, and have used them for many paintings.

I think that some evening soon, if we ever get another day of summer here in Ireland, I will take the car and go for a drive up there, and get some shots of the landscape - there is one particular place with a stunning view of the northern slopes of the Ballyhoura Mountains, and you can see a bit of the Galtee Mountains too


When the rain clears and you can actually see it, you realise why so many think Ireland is pretty, and why the landscape was such an inspiration to writers like Walter Macken. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I was asked to share this: Movies in the Milk Market, Limerick.


Classic film ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ at the Milkmarket

With cinema screen and cinema sound, Gene Kelly’s musical ‘Singin in the Rain’ is presented at Limerick ’s Milkmarket in a special showing as part of the Movies at the Market slot on Saturday July 28th. This is the first of two late evening presentations.

From 1952 ‘Singin in the Rain’ looks at the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’ and how the stars of the silent screen dealt with the issues. Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen and Debbie Reynolds light up the screen with fantastic songs and dance moves – all done with a generous helping of humour and a great heap of technicolour to boot. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ has to be seen at least once on the big screen.

Screenings on each night will begin at 9 p.m. before the main feature at 10 p.m., with local archive footage from Limerick Film Archive and film shorts made by teenagers from recent winners at Limerick ’s national competition The Fresh Film Festival. So patrons are advised to come early for this special event. Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ screens on the following Saturday August the 4th, as the main feature.

Ticket Information:
Tickets are available on the evening for each screening and priced at €7 for individuals and €20 for a group of four.
Tickets will also be available in advance at  the ‘Movies’ stall at the market during Milkmarket opening hours from Friday 20th July.
Secure online booking for each film: through
and/or

Parking
Located next to the Milkmarket, patrons may park at the Cornmarket Square Car Park from 6pm to midnight at a maximum cost of €3.

Ends

Movies At The Market is presented by Nenagh Arts Centre in association with the Milkmarket, Limerick . Additional screening footage from The Fresh Film Festival and The Limerick Film Archive.

For further details contact:

Brendan Maher
Manager

Nenagh Arts Centre
Town Hall,
Banba Square,
Nenagh, Co. Tipperary
Ireland
Ph. +353 (0)67 34400


Monday, July 16, 2012

Galleries, both online and offline

I have just updated my Studio on Art Fortune, all you need to do enter my name in the Search field and click on my name under Studio when it comes up. You'll have seen the images before, but maybe not the comments.

Also, I had an interesting time at the art galleries in Dublin city centre last Friday. I managed to get to six different ones in a couple of hours, just to get a feel of the places and of the activity in them.

My first stop was the Gallery at Number 6, South Anne Street, Dublin 2. It was a beautiful space, with beautiful work, and I spent a few minutes looking around before getting into conversation with the lady working there. I had never heard of this place, and was astonished at the quality of the work on display, and the variety. There were some truly INCREDIBLE still life pieces there, paintings that were astonishingly photorealistic, and some wonderful expressive pieces of various styles, also three-dimensional. It really is a treasure trove and I was wondering how I hadn't heard of it before. Apparently they have been getting work done on their website and it isn't quite finished yet, and but they are indeed on Facebook. This gallery is in a prime location, smack-bang in the middle of the city centre, and just up the street from the Gotham Café, so really there's no excuse not to pop in and look around.

The next place I went to was the Solomon Gallery, which is all one level, but the works were really cleverly hung. Your eye was taken by this superb painting of a boathouse - for the life of me I can't remember the name of the artist - hanging in the middle at the rear of the premises. And you noticed other works after that, but that painting definitely had pride of place. Sounds weird, but it shimmered, the subject matter was very mundane, but there was something slightly otherworldly about it. I noticed many sculptures also, and I wasn't the only visitor, there were two ladies present who seemed very interested in some of the sculptures. What I also noticed was that the lady working there was tipping away on her computer and took a phone call while I was there - so there was lots of activity going on also, and they have a Facebook presence.

After that I walked through the Westbury Mall and found the Balla Bán Art Gallery in there. The first thing I thought was that for such a tiny gallery - it's literally 3 metres by one and a half metres at the most - it has a HUGE Facebook presence. Seriously, you're not going to be bringing massive busloads of tours to this place, but then you don't need to. At the time of writing their website seems to be down, but their Facebook page never sleeps ... They do a lot of limited edition prints of original drawings and paintings, which is a nice way of building up an inexpensive collection. I had a nice chat with Lucie Pacovská, who was working there at the time.

Then it was over to Jorgensen Fine Art on Hibernian Way. I liked the paintings very much, but I was particularly taken with a fantastic cast bronze sculpture of a deer (I think) with this huge curling horns - that must have been a difficult one of cast, but it was stunning. The artist really caught the spirit and energy of the animal, and I wish I could remember the artist's name. They seemed to be in the process of hanging odd pieces, but I didn't ask or engage in conversation because they seemed busy - she was tapping away at the computer and answering the phone, he was doing the hanging and arranging of the works. But I would like to talk to them at some point. I liked the space and the vibe in the place.

My next stop was Sol Art, and these guys I have been in touch with before because they used to do these touring exhibitions around Ireland, in which they'd set up an Art Fair of local artworks in one of the hotels close to or in the main cities, and I showed with them in the Radisson Blu just outside of Limerick City. Their premises in Dublin is one of these magnificent Georgian buildings with high ceilings, ornate fireplaces, amazing decorative plaster (stucco?) work on the ceilings, this alone has a certain wow factor to it, and it is a great setting for art. The rooms are huge, I'd nearly fit my entire house (admittedly mine is not a large house) into one of them. Upstairs there was another exhibition space where some photography was shown, and while I'm a huge admirer of photography, I'm not sure that this was the best setting, as you really need works with a certain va-va-voom wow factor to compete with the rooms in the building. (I'm pretty sure my paintings could do this - well, the big ones, anyway.) Sol Art also have a Facebook page, and the work there was varied and interesting.

I hadn't done this in a while, gone into a gallery, so it was something of a sensory saturation (try saying that 3 times really fast) for me, and now I'm itching to pick up a paintbrush.