Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A landmark!

And the landmark is: Over 15,000 individuals have seen my blog, seen examples of my art. Thank you for visiting, for browsing, and most especially, for sharing.

As always, comments are welcome.

I spent a couple of hours today clearing out clutter from the cupboard at the bottom of my kitchen dresser - how many after-dinner coffee sets does any household need? - and so now have a little more room for my favourite kind of clutter: art materials. And I have a lot more bits than I realised. My late father-in-law loved to paint and he gave me lots of his materials and some of his paintings before he died, so I don't actually need to go buy much. Bedankt, Pa Patijn, hartelijk bedankt.

And now, an image:

A watercolour drawing from Estrella Park in Lisbon, simply entitled Two Girls in Black T-shirts

I still have lots more of these things to paint up. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Three paintings in a group exhibition in Dublin in the run-up to Christmas

I'm very pleased to say that I have three paintings in the above venue in Dublin for this exhibition.

The location: The Centre for Creative Practices, 15 Pembroke Street Lower, Dublin 2 - in the basement of the building.

The launch: Thursday 5th December from 6 pm. The exhibition ends on 20th December.

The three paintings are:

Cliffs of Moher: Rummaging

Archaic Rhythm


All Time, Everywhere, Anyone

I won't be able to attend the opening myself, but am hoping the friends and family will be able to go along. I saw some works by other artists, and I think it's going to be a fabulous show. I hope to get up to it during the couple of weeks it's up. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Little Book of Limerick

This is something that might be of interest, not only as a stocking filler for the time of year that's in it, but also for those who like reading up on local history.

The Little Book of Limerick, published by The History Press Ireland, was researched and written by Sharon Slater and illustrated by Gary O'Donnell, and was recently launched in Limerick city. Sharon is a local historian and runs a very successful website Limerick's Life.

More information on the book and how you can acquire it is available here.

News and a new daily blog

A few weeks ago I finally went and did something that, as an artist, I've been very nervous about doing. I went and had my eyes lasered.

Having worn corrective lenses (contact lenses and glasses) for the best part of 30 years, having clear, crisp vision as soon as I wake up in the morning is amazing. And I picked up my glasses I had been wearing and peered through the lenses, and wow. I really have found this to be amazing.

I needed to be careful for a few weeks, though, as the eyes healed up, and take eye drops and wear goggles when I go to sleep. And be careful about getting water in my eyes, that kind of thing. The fun part is getting used to reading without having to bring the book close to my fact - I now have to hold it away from me. It's quite an adjustment.

But I have been enjoying crisp outlines I haven't seen for years. The details of branches of trees, especially now with the autumn colours. The stars in the night sky. And the downside - my god, the state of my house. Filthy! Cobwebs! Clutter! But hey, I can live with it for a little longer. A VERY little longer.

And the interesting thing now is that I really CAN get to grips with using my camera, and so I have set myself a small daily task. I will now record something at noon. A small bit of daily practice. The name of the blog is simply Every Day At Noon, and it's on

Monday, October 7, 2013

Three watercolour drawings made in San Gimignano, Tuscany

I love my cats, but I do miss travelling. I enjoyed the shade in this lovely mediaeval hilltop town in Tuscany, and I'll never forget the two ladies who ran a café right beside the main entrance into the town from the bus stop - they would not let anyone use their loos without buying something, and by golly were they ever fierce about it - so His Nibs made a dash for the jacks while I ordered us coffees and a snack, and sat down for a bit. I was so glad we did - so yes, it meant paying for the drinks etc. in order to be able to use the facilities, but the floor show more than made up for it. I could try sticking in a comparison of Roman gladiators going at it till the death, but honestly, it was more like Christians going at the lions, and being forced back by insistent politeness. But those ladies were right in a way, and I would imagine their business would not be nearly as brisk without the insistence that toilets were for customers only. The floor show was free, and quite amusing, and if you like learning other languages, quite educational also. I learned expletives in Polish, Swedish and a few others. 

The huge doorways were good during the hot part of the day, you could get in out of sun and read, or have a snack. I think that as long as you didn't leave litter behind, nobody really minded you using the doorways as a picnic area.

 One older local gentleman was only DELIGHTED to hold his position for me, which he did marvellously for about 15 minutes, allowing me to get a great drawing. Whoever he is, I am very grateful. It would be nice if more people would do this, but that's life.

And then sometimes someone stands still for long enough and you like the light and have a go at capturing it ...

I've so many drawings and paintings from my travels that I'm thinking of doing a book ....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Street Festival XIV .... and a slight rant.

Another one from the Street Festival series, which I worked on again over the past couple of months. This is number 14. Two still on the go, two more finished and ready to be photographed. And I think there are a few more still to be done.

I have mixed feelings about charity events. It is a way of getting your work into the public eye, but I think those who benefit the most in terms of exposure are those who hold the event, not the artists who donate to it. I can't help feeling that artists are used to further other people's ends when it comes to such events. So I don't think I'll do another one for a while, unless there are different terms and it's organised differently. I do have an idea of how to do that .... watch this space.

There is now a definite feeling among artists in Ireland that, unless we are great big names and celebrities, we can live on hot air and the occasional pinch of glitter. That as human beings with real human needs, we do not exist. That we create because we love to do so, and we are a freakish sub-species that can manage without money. Wrong. Artists have bills to pay just like everyone else. Art is a business, just as much as a shop is. Artists need to buy supplies, they need to pay for Internet access and electricity, they use electronic gadgets just like everyone else. Artists have a right to be paid for their expertise, and taken seriously as businesses. A pat on the head and a 'well done' for a piece that took many hours of work and expensive materials is, well, humiliating. But this is the attitude of MANY non-artists in Ireland.

And then there are those who think that the only way to be 'successful' in the arts is to be a celebrity of sorts. Em, no. If you want to be famous, well and good, but it's not a path that everyone would choose. Most of us are happy to work away in our studios, and studying, and writing, developing a body of work of which we can be proud. That is what most artists want as the focus of attention: the work they create. Many of them, if they want THEMSELVES to have that focus, would go about it differently.

Now, if you really would LIKE to actually support an artist you know - the answer is simple. BUY A PIECE OF WORK THEY HAVE CREATED. It's often possible to negotiate a price, but seriously, don't be insulting. Don't offer one hundred Euro or dollars for a large oil painting. That wouldn't even cover the cost of the materials, never mind the time it took to make it, or indeed to develop the skills to make it. It certainly wouldn't include electricity in the studio. Ask the artist how much they would like for it, and offer no more than 20% less.

Buy one you like - you have to live with it. It doesn't have to be an original piece, many artists do reproductions of works, which can be easier on a buyer's pocket. And then DISPLAY said artwork in your office, in your home, someplace where people will see it. There will be comments. Tell people where you got it, who painted it. If you help an artist by promoting his/her work, if you return and they have sold work because you were so nice as to help them in this way, you might actually get a much better deal again the next time you go to buy work from them. I would do this for my buyers. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Roches Street Art Festival, Limerick City, September 2013

This festival goes on for 2 weeks between 12 and 24 September, the artworks will be on display in the shop windows of the street. Come and take a look ....

The charities to benefit this year are Milford Hospice and Pieta House. Please follow the links and read up on the charities you will be supporting.

Below are the paintings I am displaying, and I have been told that my paintings will be in the window of the former Limerick Animal Welfare shop, which is beside Lawless Flowers.

The two small ones Istanbul Tea House will be sold at the auction, which means that all proceeds from these will go to the charities. The other works will have a set price on them, and if these sell, 25% will go to the charities.

Sizes here are deceptive - the three on top are much larger than the four on the bottom, and prices will reflect this. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creepy ... masks, wax and styrofoam.

In my previous blog I mentioned that acrylic paint takes ages to dry on styrofoam. I was experimenting with something.

I like burning scented candles, but had a huge collection of almost burnt-out ones. I melted them down in a saucepan in the kitchen and poured the wax into the styrofoam frame around my three masks which I made almost 10 years ago now, and here is the result:

It's okay if you think it's kind of nasty. I would have to agree with you. But it was a fun experiment.

When it dried, the edges of the wax seemed to disconnect from the styrofoam frame, and I don't know why that is. Also, there was water in there too, which I had to drain off by picking the thing up and turning it over slightly. Of course when melting the wax I was curious to see what would happen if I put half a cup of water in there - it bubbled up madly and I assumed the water evaporated away, but maybe that wasn't the case. But I like how the surface of the wax is crinkly in places, like old skin or something.

I imagine I broke a few health and safety rules making this, but playing with fire is, I suppose, part and parcel of making art. One of the boys in art college enjoyed painting figures on his canvases, and then spilling turpentine on the canvas surface and lighting it up to see what would happen, and he got some very striking results. Of course, he did that out of doors in the courtyard. Not sure if he actually had permission for it. I know other artists work on a painting in the conventional way and then take a blow-torch to it.

The masks were plaster of Paris painted with acrylic, plaster of Paris, and cardboard. I wonder how it would look if I applied a little glitter ....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Street Festival XIII The Hands

The title is kind of self-explanatory. When I was taking the photos, these guys were a bit drunk and silly and very keen on showing off their rings, so I got several shots of hands, one or two I had to delete because of the, ahem, gestures, but anyway.

And being someone who gets a bit caught up in details from time to time, I decided to paint this up as an exercise, and see how the hands would turn out.

Naturally I drove myself crazy with this piece, what with hands being such an intricate subject and oil paint being so .... oil painty.

It probably won't be included in any future exhibitions, because it's not really that nice a painting, but as an exercise in painting hands, it was valuable for me. I've done lots of difficult foreshortening drawings, but not many paintings .... time is a consideration, as always.

What am I actually doing at the moment? I'm working on a 3-D piece with masks I made over 10 years ago, and thinking about a submission to a major art event, and how to present it. I'm also looking at exhibiting in Limerick city, and options for that. And I'm thinking about bringing more work to my nice friends at the Draíocht Gallery in Adare. And I'm going to send out a submission to a gallery in Dublin. And slowly building up something that might turn into a book of my own paintings .... and still thinking on stories. Always.

Oh, and I learned something new yesterday: acrylic paint does not dry very quickly on styrofoam. It takes HOURS. Pissy when you're trying to build up layers, but what can you do ....

AND, before I forget - I have four more Street Festival paintings, two of which are being painted now, and two that are finished.

Okay. Blog done now. Till the next! XXX

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I love surprises. And sometimes, when you do something a bit unusual, you get one as a result.

It started when I went shopping for face paints in Limerick city last week, I ended up buying a tin of Derwent XL Charcoal 6 - which is basically charcoal blocks in six different colours. I thought 'ooh. They'll be fun to play with.' And they were. Are. Because I'll be using them again.

I also had in the house some large sheets of coloured paper, so I took out an orange sheet and taped it to a large piece of cardboard, got the photo I wanted up on my computer screen, and away I went.

Here's the photo I worked from:

Photo of Knockfierna

And here's the drawing - so far:

I like it when a drawing takes on a life of its own. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photo, and a realisation ....

First, the realisation. If I'm to make any money at all from the art, I'm going to have to consider the reproduction route. I've been against the idea for a long time, but am rethinking it. 

I've mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I'm not crazy about going the Giclée print route, and making copies of my work, but limited edition prints can be lucrative. Plus I have been showing work on the Internet for several years now anyway. 

As for making a book of my works, that would be an interesting challenge. I don't think I'd have a problem coming up with text for any of the works, especially as so many people have had so many reactions to it. And then there's the print on demand book industry, which is a godsend to people like me. It's the marketing of such a book that could be difficult. I'm not sure how e-books would work, but I do know that I could produce something as in PDF format. One thing for sure though - I'd send nothing out without an ISBN number.  

She's just so cute, and so pretty, and I could spend hours taking pictures of either of them .... another of Tina, a lady, a ninja, a ballerina, a hunter, a gymnast, a little panther and a very pretty cat. Did I mention she's also great at killing spiders?

The only reason I'm posting a photo of my cat is because I'm spending a lot of time observing them - when they are not out doing their thing out of sight in the bushes and wooded areas near the garden - and they are incredibly active. That and I have yet to upload images of paintings from my camera .... 

Monday, July 1, 2013

One I'm finally pleased with ....

Entitled In The Pub, and from a sketch.

It took me AGES to figure out why I didn't like it. I was trying to improve the background, highlight the colours, tweak the skin tones, so again, I put it away for a bit and when I took it out I saw immediately that the background was cluttering it up - it's a small one, only 40 x 40 cm, so there really isn't room for clutter.

I've also spent the past couple of hours searching out images for the last few of the Street Party series of paintings, photographing some of the more recently finished ones, and looking over ones I had put away because I couldn't figure out what it was that was so disturbing about them. (And what was disturbing about them? That's for the next blog.) Plus I needed to find canvases I could use, and I'm still not sure if I have all of the images I want to include in this series, I think I do.

I realise also that I have access to so many images of Gay Pride parades and the various drag artists I know, that that's really going to be another series of paintings - and as I write, this is news to me also!!!! Feck!!!! Wouldn't it be interesting to get shots of them getting ready. Hm. I think part of it is my desire to explore this particular transformation .... because it's turning yourself into something you aren't, and yet something that is so you to the core. I suppose all I can do is ask nicely, and offer to make them dinner or something. And maybe give them some art in return.

So, this week, I'm going to work on two more Street Party pieces, and then leave that. Work on pictures of the cats.

I want to go out and sketch again. I recently went into an art supply shop to buy face paints, and of course came out with a few more things besides, including some rather interesting charcoals for drawing, oh boy. Now I want to go off and draw lots ....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two Still Lifes

I hadn't done any still life work in ages, and then thought, why not? Lucky for me I always have stuff around I can draw, the perks of being a clutterbug. These are two I just finished this week.

Still Life of Onions, oil on canvas, 30x30cm 

Still Life of Quince Branch, oil on canvas, 30x30cm

Tiny pieces, for me. I like to paint big, but I don't have the facilities for that. Well, I don't have them at the moment. But these are cute. 

I had a great day on Monday, got several paintings worked on, and a few finished. Need to do a tiny bit of tweaking on one more, and then it's time to go through my various collections. These consist of:

1) Paintings I think are finished - or I thought they were finished last time I worked on them. The test is in the 'fresh eye surprise'. 

2) Paintings I started but I am sure are not finished, for whatever reason. 

3) Bits of visual references, photos, sketches, ideas, etc. for paintings that have not yet been started. 

4) Drawings that are finished in their own right, but which I want to use to make something else. 

5) Paintings to be framed. I know these are finished. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Looking West to the Sleeping Giant

In my last blog I had a bit of a rant about commercial galleries and what, in my own experience, they tell artists what artists must do. A commercial gallery based in Dublin reacted, saying that it was untrue and full of clichés. 

Sorry, but I've heard "you need to stick to the same subject matter" so many times, that it kind of IS a cliché. 

I'm glad that that gallery reacted, however. I haven't every visited that particular gallery, but I did send them a disc of my work, and they sent me a friendly letter which said Thank you, but your work doesn't really fit in with our vision of the gallery'. I thought, pity, because I liked what I was seeing on their website, but c'est la vie. I'm not going to argue about their vision of their own gallery and business, because I know where they are coming from, and I totally respect it. 

I would also like to reiterate that galleries I have been to have told me that in order to sell, you need to keep to the same subject matter. The gallery that reacted, I have never been there, ever. But now I want to go visit it. Not to get into an argument with the owner - on the contrary. I want to go see what their vision of their gallery is, and ask them why they pick the work they do. I think it would be interesting, and educational - I don't mind picking up new and useful information. Or gaining new insights. By reacting to my - okay, it kind of was a rant - that particular gallery has piqued my interest. 

On a completely different note, I found an old landscape I did YEARS ago, and did a little remedial work on it, and took a photo of it. 

It's acrylic on paper, done out of doors and just out of the wind about a mile outside of Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula. The island is known locally as The Sleeping Giant, it really does look like a man lying on his back. I was looking at this thing for YEARS and wondering what was it that was off-kilter about the painting .... and it wasn't until I had put it away for a couple of years and took it out again that I saw what the problem was, and fixed it. (Slightly angled horizon.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013


In recent years I haven't gelled well with many commercial galleries. Okay, if I'm going to be honest, I don't exactly kill myself getting out to them, and showing them work, simply because many of them want a sellable name. I'm not famous, I don't set myself up as a brand, and I certainly don't want to be a 'celebrity artist'. But the fact is that galleries are in the business of setting up and marketing a sellable brand. And in order to have a 'brand', you need to produce something that is distinctively recognisable as created by 'you'.

This is where many artists start reproducing their own work over and over again, with slight variations. They get stuck in their own formula. The gallery will take this and work on it, and use it for marketing purposes, which is fine because that is their business - but it doesn't really hide the fact that the artist is churning out the same old shite over and over again, like some kind of production line. The actual creativity is redundant.

I should qualify that I am talking about drawing and painting, specifically. And doing the same drawing and painting over and over again, with tweaking. The same face. Or faces. Gestures. Landscape. Still life. Whatever.

I suppose that most galleries have to be able to 'sell' something that's obviously by the same artist, and subject matter is the sneaky trick. Is it that much easier to convince a potential art buyer that, because this new painting by this artist is so similar to the one by the same artist that the art buyer bought last month, the buyer is getting a great deal? Surely art buyers are not that dense?

I was told that in order to be commercially successful, I would have to paint the same damn thing every time. What? was my reaction. No way. Why would I do that? Tedious, to say the least. I LIKE chopping and changing my subject matter. If I feel like doing a landscape, I'll do a landscape. If I feel like working up a nude painting from a drawing, that's what I'll do. When I want to do a crowd scene, I'll do one. And don't tell me I can't do a still life. If I feel like drawing or painting inanimate objects, I'm bloody well going to do it. And if I'm going to be inspired by a photo, or a poem, or a piece of writing, or play with wax and crayons, well, that's it.

As someone who has spent many years working on my observation and drawing skills, it's actually kind of insulting to say I have to stick to the same subject matter. There's a reason why I sit down and look and draw and paint - it's to learn and do and make. And to do and make WELL. Why shouldn't I bring a gallery a range of the work I've produced? I can do it. I have the skills.

So I'll just continue making work that pleases ME. I'm not funded by any organisation, or any gallery (the very thought! :-D) or any patron, I have nobody to answer to. I may be broke, but I'm still independent.

Sketchbook project, number 28, from 2011. Watercolour sketch.

Thursday, May 23, 2013 has changed its look ...

... and initially was a little odd, but then so was Blogger a few months ago, but we got used to it. The same features are there, but you have to search around a bit to find them.

I have to say that I like that the images show up in high resolution now. And I still go and comment on work I like, too. There are some seriously talented people out there.

And a new image, let's see ... some drawings I think.

Yes, you've seen this one before, on a previous blog. I was looking over them and decided to add a little colour. It's still called They Turned Out To Be Dutch.

This one is Bohemia Bagel I. I liked that particular café, it was popular with a lot of tourists.

This one I called Hradcanske Namesti, after the square we were all sitting in. My Czech is very limited, I know that 'hrad' means 'castle' and 'namesti' means Square, I can order two beers, say please and thank you and do you speak English ("Mluvite Anglicky?") and that's it. But many people in Prague speak English now - which is great!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Interesting .... really?

Various online dictionaries define the word 'interesting' as 'arousing curiosity or interesting, capturing and holding the attention'. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists a whole rake of 'related' words, which include 'breathtaking', 'enchanting', 'provocative', 'tantalising', 'thrilling' and 'spellbinding'; as well as a dozen or so synonyms which include 'absorbing', 'engaging', 'engrossing' and 'enthralling'.

An art piece can be all those things. I personally find Van Gogh's works to be 'captivating' - but not everyone I know feels the same. And I could stand for hours in front of Botticelli's Birth of Venus and never tire of it, ever - and I mean the original work, which is enormous. I think it's wonderful, and I love the symbolism in Greek mythology and the significance of the shell ... but that is for another blog. And I enjoy the playfulness of works by Joan Miró. Then there are own artists from Ireland - the great works of Jack Butler Yeats, whose skill at drawing horses with paint is unmatched, and whose works developed a wonderful psychic resonance as he aged. Another Irish artist who seems to tap into some kind of unseen but very much sensed otherworld is John Shinnors, whose abstracted series of The Scarecrow and The Estuary both tap into the various epistemological layers, as well as being technically interesting - oops, sorry, and you'll why I'm apologising for using that word by the time you finish reading this blog - for any artist who aspires to work in oil paint. 

I recently read an article in the Irish Times that discusses abstraction and how it has lost its shock value and has become rather mundane and slightly embarrassing. I'm just going to quote the last paragraph, because that is what triggered this blog: 

"Here, though, may be the irony of abstraction. It was too successful to retain its power to disturb and, in many cases, to delight. A slight air of disappointment hangs over the MoMA show: for all its wonders, too many of the once-astounding works can now be damned with that most terrible term of approbation: interesting. In the end, even the most abstract work does need what Picasso called “something” – some reference to a real or imagined, physical or spiritual world beyond itself." 
- by Fintan O'Toole, for The Irish Times

I couldn't help but notice his use of the word 'interesting' ... and couldn't help grinning wryly to myself. 

See, I don't think that Fintan O'Toole means 'tantalising', 'enthralling' or 'spellbinding'. He is using the word as every person who goes to opening nights of exhibitions has used it one time or another. It's a cop-out word. It's a form of politeness. It basically means 'I appreciate that the artist put a lot of time and effort into these works, and a lot of thought, did a lot of research, etc., but frankly the finished product doesn't do a whole lot for me. But well done. It's nicely presented. And thanks for the wine.' Well, this is what is means when spoken by someone who isn't actually an artist themselves. An artist can say an exhibition is 'interesting' and mean anything from 'spellbinding', 'enthralling', etc., through 'spiritually uplifting and ethereal' through 'very nice, I love the composition/textures/concept/process/product/colours/hues/drawing/line/wine' through 'I love the composition etc. and wish I had thought of doing it that way, kudos' through 'I wish I had thought of that first, now that cunt is going to get the glory for being the first to do it and I can't be seen to be copying him/her' through 'whatever. I want more wine. I wonder if they'll notice if I nick a bottle?' and so on. But I think generally that when an artist says an exhibition is 'interesting', like the non-artist, they are being polite - with the added consideration that as artists, they appreciate much better the industry that has gone into making the art and putting together the exhibition. 

I've made work that has been called 'interesting'. But I suppose that, given that even the greatest of the abstractionists, whose work was once considered 'ground-breaking', and 'innovative', are now considered 'interesting' in the pantheon of art history in general, I suppose I'm in good company. Or I'm damned.

Whatever. Where's the wine?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Photograph: Farm Laneway

A photograph I took of a farm laneway about half a mile away from my house.

I suppose photography suits the Irish landscape better than painting if your objective is actually recording the light before the rain sets in. I think it had been raining here 10 minutes beforehand, wouldn't surprise me, the weather in Ireland being what it is.

But would I work this into a painting? Probably not. I don't feel the need to reproduce exact image this in a paint medium, but I might take small elements from it and work them into something else in time. But as an exercise in contrasting colours, it might be fun to take the colours in the sky and work them through the rest to see what you end up with.

I say now probably not, but don't hold me to it. The more I look at it, the more I think hm ....

Watch this space. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

A potential Masters project?

In my messing around with the notion of 'punctum' as described by Susan Sontag in On Photography, I got ever so slightly sidetracked. The 'punctum' is the visual hook in any photograph that engages the viewer's interest/attention and thus influences how the individual interprets the photo, so I started looking at sketches I had made with a 'punctum' in mind, and tried to highlight said 'punctums' with colour.

Then I picked up On Photography again after 10 years, and as I was making my way through the first chapter, I couldn't help thinking that the ubiquity of photography might well now be overtaken by the ubiquity of the medium most commonly used to display it today - the Internet, and all of the communication thingies that are used, including social media. I haven't even started to explore the implications of this yet, but I'm sure memes will feature. And there goes the context ....

But anyway, I have processed some of the images I was looking at - from my visits to the wonderful city of Prague, which I hope to visit again someday. Below are a few of them. Enjoy.

Rainbow Seating near the Hrad entrance

View from Vysehrad, Prague

Jewish Quarter Café (Caesar Salad)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Old Gate Lodge near Ballingarry

I needed to work on this painting again, I just wasn't happy with it. For some reason it wasn't working for me.

I think it was the old Gate Lodge to a local big house, but I'm not sure. It's certainly picturesque, if a bit overgrown there now. Might even have been a chapel, I suppose I should ask around.

I can think of 4 derelict buildings like this in the vicinity of my own house: the old forge at the end of the road, this gate house/chapel, and another mansion that the owners have left fall into ruin simply because they didn't want to pay the taxes on it, and an old farmyard that might be habitable if it were cleaned up. I find it very sad that it's actually cheaper to build a new house than it is to restore an old house and add a new twist to it. Most new houses I see today I'd run over with a bulldozer in a heartbeat, they're that ugly. But anyway ....

This painting actually needs a box frame around it, so after I've paid a few bills I'll take it to a framers and see what they can do with it. And I'll bring it to one of two galleries for display and sale. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More on Papergirl

I just thought I'd share this, seeing as I mentioned it in my previous post: Papergirl. To provide some background to it, here is the Papergirl Wikipedia Page. And the next deadline is very soon, 15 April to be precise, and is in Estonia.

I like the idea, mainly because at the moment I'm a bit pissed off about the gallery situation. It seems that in Ireland, there are no big commercial galleries taking on work. I suppose that the habitual buyers of art are still not buying like they used to, and I can relate ... but still. Not being able to move stuff on has the knock-on effect of making you reluctant to make more work if you can't store it, and if you don't keep yourself busy and focused on your materials, you aren't keeping the art muscles flexed.

Galleries have overheads, and can pick and choose. Many have told me that they love my work, they get it, but that most buyers don't. However, one of the jobs of galleries is to EXPLAIN the work, and HELP potential buyers understand it ... this is why they get that commission.

But back to the concept of Papergirl. I like that it's not curated, not gallery-focused, but very much art for everyone. I'm not about sticking two fingers at the galleries - no. I want to get my work out there. And this is one way .... it won't make me any money, but I'm not making any money on the art now anyway. But I will gain some storage space.

So I'll go off and get a few pieces and send them on. Can't hurt.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's been a while ....

It has been a big break, and I've had some stops and starts - I'm working on an acrylic piece that I'm sure will have me bald from tearing my hair out, so I'm just going to put it away for a couple of weeks. Looking at it with fresh eyes will help.

The Street Party ones are still not finished, I took a little detour to make a piece for a specific event and it felt good .... so now I'm changing direction slightly. I have a feeling I'm going back over another part of the spiral. But I will still do a few more street party pieces. They are a celebration in themselves.

I also keep finding new watercolour drawings. I have so many of the bloody things, I should really make them into a series of books. But I'm also looking at this PaperGirl idea, which is a non-curated thing and I quite like the randomness of it. It seems to be a worldwide thing, and you send your works on paper (or digital pieces to be printed out) to the exhibition location, everything sent in is displayed, then all the pieces are rolled up, put in bags and volunteers on bicycles bring them around and distribute them to people on the street. I love the idea. Of course, it's possible that some pieces will end up in the rubbish, but so what .... more art is made than can be thrown away anyway. Human beings are bottomless pits when it comes to creativity.

Nice to see I still have visitors to my page over the past month, despite my lack of activity. Thank you for that, guys.

Now for an image:

This is an oldie, called Near Eyries, and is gouache on paper. Eyries is a very small town on the Béara Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland, and the coastline is pretty spectacular. The sunsets are even more so. The great thing about Béara is that despite the affluence during the Celtic Tiger era, the roads were never widened to allow great big monstrosities of tour buses access to it; like nearby Iveragh, also known as the Ring of Kerry; so you can only drive it in a car or small bus, and if you're feeling particularly robust, you could chance it on a bike. Wear a helmet, bring rain gear. And watch out for sheep. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hitting a wall, Anglo-Saxon style

I wonder if I'm the only artist I know who goes out to my oil painting I'm currently working on, and am pleased with, and looks at it and thinks 'no, not today.'

Very frustrating, especially as I want to get ON with my Street Party series. I have had two sessions with this particular piece, both have been great, and then I go to do a third one and hit the brakes. Something in my head says 'uh uh' with downward intonation.

It is as annoying as that Anglo-Saxon expletive one doesn't use in polite company.

But slightly less annoying than those times when I swallowed that feeling, overrode the brakes and picked up the brush/knife again to work on a piece .... only to repeatedly utter the Anglo-Saxon expletive at a loud volume because, well, I messed up what had been turning into a good piece. Which I suppose has to count as some sort of consolation.

Anyway, instead of working on the painting, I went back to my computer and sat down and worked more on the story that seems to be turning into a mad ... story. I read over what I had written and  wrote another 500 words.

And what do you do when you have messed up something that had been promising? I'm working with oils and liquin, so I can pick up a rag and wipe it away, and then I just clean my brushes and walk away because the frame of mind is not quite what is required, and go do something else and try not to think of the time I have wasted. See, I have learned from those experiences.

As you do.

No images today. Sorry. But next time. I promise. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Travel, drawing and taking pictures

I know you can take a photo when you travel, and capture the memories that way, but I do like drawing. Plus it does get me talking with people I meet there who are curious about what I'm doing and that's kind of nice. 

This one is a sketch at a café in Venice, from 2008. I look at the arm on the figure on the left and think ugh - it looks more like spaghetti than a man's arm, especially in contrast to the figures in the drawing below. 

Pretty sure this is from Lisbon, near the Belem tower. I was delighted that the guy in profile did not notice me until after I had caught his foreshortened arm. 

It was brought to my attention recently that digitising everything means there is a very real risk that much information will be lost in years to come. Social networking sites are of this generation, but the question arises of what happens to someone's personal profile after they die, and what happens to their photographs. Most people don't bother making prints of photographs anymore, all images are posted online, it's much faster to share them that way. So once you die, what happens to your Facebook profile? Is it deleted? And if so, does this mean that all photographs and records relating to you are gone? 

What does this mean for historians? Archivists? Biographers? In a way I'm glad I have the physical drawings of my paintings, they are likely to survive if anything were to happen to me. Okay, so they aren't a record of a place or people in it, more my memory of the experience there, but even so. They are proof at least that I was there. In case anyone asks. 

But if the Internet were to crash tomorrow, a lot of information would be lost. Not that it's likely to be totally destroyed, it's far too useful to too many people and institutions, but even so, it would be really inconvenient. But without information, you don't exist. 

Time to do another back-up, I think. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I think I need to filter ....

Yesterday I blogged about how difficult it is to find something text-wise, something coherent and not preachy, to work into a slide show of my paintings.

I just get caught up on reading articles online, and on various topics. Today, of course, it's all about the report on the Magdalen Laundries - a very shameful part of the history of Ireland - and a bit about cyberbullying. (The temptation now is to digress and go into how my other half was accused of cyberbullying when the accuser was the bully, as the e-mails will show. But I won't.) And about women looking for men they had met but whose names they never got. And memes. Some memes are just brilliant. But it's all cotton wool as far as finding what I need is concerned.

I think I'm going to have to go back to books I've read, with quotes I can use. I must look into how long copyright lasts with writers, I know I can use Jane Austen's works, but I'd like to use other writers too.

Part of the problem is that I am a) aware that other people, potential viewers, have different experiences to me, and therefore different knowledge and memories, and this does add an edge to the thing, because b) they might not 'see' what I want them to see; c) I'm not even sure myself what I 'want' them to see; d) I want to take the 'want' out of the equation completely.

And then I am reminded that my work is not considered 'commercial'.

Well, it isn't commercial, in the sense that it isn't the average chocolate-box cover type of art. Nor do I go for pretty, saccharine pictures of children - I actually find that kind of thing creepy and disturbing, unless they are one's own children and the paintings also commemorate a particular family event.

Nor do I really like doing paintings of things like musicians, at a particular point I realised that this is a saturated market. The last painting of musicians I ever made is in a former convent in the town I grew up in.

I occasionally do a landscape study, it's a nice exercise. I'd like to do more still lifes, they are always fun too. I've seen some wonderful still life pieces on various art websites.

Oops. I didn't mean to get into a self-indulgent rant. I was only actually taking a break from painting, to let the acrylic paint dry. No, with regard to my slide-show projects, I think I'll go back to literature. For now.

And speaking of still life studies, here are some from my 2001 sketchbook. I was very big into ultramarine at the time ... and salads, as it happens.

Tomato section, gouache

Pumpkin, gouache

Pumpkin, pencils

Tomatoes and a blue plate, gouache

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New media, new approach, new challenge

I had this idea to put together a slide show that would incorporate my paintings with a verbalised train of thought going through it, sort of like a monologue in a play. Only it's driving me nuts.

I can't stand what I come up with. It just sounds like a rehash of the artist's statement .... or else preachy and frankly all boring and snooze-inducing.

Now I'm thinking, well, could I incorporate something else into there, like a story?

The problem is I'm so inundated with thoughts at the minute, that I'm finding it hard to sort them all out into something that would work. The irony is that this is what my body of work of painting is actually about - each painting is a snapshot of a moment that's NOT posed, but observed, and cutting out everything around it. Putting them back together is like repopulating a stage full of players - oh hello Mr Shakespeare, I thought you'd make an appearance.

I'm not sure that this will work. But I'd like to try it because it might be a way of getting works shown in art galleries in other countries without actually having to go to the expense of sending works there - I don't want to spend money I don't have.

But I suppose all I can do is keep making notes and sifting through the thoughts and seeing if something coherent yet interesting that people can relate to comes up.

In the meantime I'll just keep on working on paintings and writing that novel.

And here's a watercolour drawing I did in Paris on our last day there. Good times. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Randomness ... photos, drawings and legendary rain

This is Charlie. He is a ginger tomcat and aged about a year and a half. He's hilarious. This is a really lucky one-of-a-kind shot I got of him playing with a pink cat boa in a cardboard box. See, I'm starting to get the hang of this camera ....

This is from the Sketchbook project I did a couple of years ago. I'm kind of interested in restoration. This watercolour piece is a detail of a building very near my house. Which kind of leads me to this one:

This is a pencil sketch I did in about 2001 or 2002, or Curraghchase House, in County Limerick. It's a beautiful ruined manor set in parkland, and is currently owned by the Irish state. I personally find it very sad that such a lovely building would be allowed to rot, but there you go. Like many of the great Irish houses, there are literary associations. Read the link to find out more.

Yes, this is a random kind of posting. But it's the first day of spring, and there's even - gasp - sunshine. For those of you in very warm countries, please bear with me - where I live, in Ireland, we get more rain than sunshine. We get a lot of rain all year round. The weather is a constant topic of conversation. And then when we go to other parts of the world, where rain is unusual, and sunshine prevalent, we get funny looks when we say 'isn't it a lovely day?' When the thermometer hits 20 degrees Celsius, people in Ireland tend to go on about how 'hot' it is.

I'm really pleased that my first spring flowers are coming out of the ground, my little crocuses. Always nice to see. It also means that I need to get moving on other things in my garden, so I have some work to do outside this afternoon - hopefully the legendary rain will hold off.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Portrait studies of two musician friends

I love going through old portfolios, it's one of the dangers of tidying rooms out :-). I was going through an old one I'd forgotten about and I came across these two portrait studies from 2002.

Ger playing the guitar, pencil drawing, 2002

Mike playing the fiddle, pencil drawing, 2002

These gentlemen are in fact musicians and play in sessions in a small town in County Limerick every Friday night. They liked the trad music, but I think were old R'n'B at heart ... Good times.

I will probably bring these drawings to the place where they would like to play, and see if the owner would like them.

I did a lot of sketches of musicians in pencil and biro in sketchbooks, which was fun for a while, and challenging.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The creative process

I was very tempted to write that as The Creative Process, give it a grand title, but I'm not sure that the process is so special that it deserves a grand title. Creativity is an everyday thing in human beings, from finding a novel solution using basic items like a hammer and nail to throwing together a couple of ingredients and coming up with a tasty and healthy meal.

I'm writing a novel. It's a story that was inspired by another book I worked on for another writer, which I partly translated from Dutch into English, and partly proofread/edited. It's also somewhat influenced by my one trip to Sicily, various other books I've read and films I've seen, and my own experiences in research, journalism and art. And of course all the wonderful creative people I know. But I can't do what many writers seem to be able to do - and maybe this is because I am new to writing something so long and so complicated - but I can't just sit and write it all out. I hit a wall last week, and couldn't figure out how to get past it for a few days. So I had to let it sit on the backburner, as it were.

The same has happened to me in painting - I could see that something wasn't right with a composition or whatever, but what? It would drive me NUTS ... so I would have to just go away from it for a few minutes, and then walk back to it. Often I'd see it then, but there were times when I didn't see it for ages. I'm talking weeks, even months, here. If you have an issue with a technical aspect of a piece, you can often go online and find several solutions through Google. But sometimes I can't see where the issue is ... and it might be a matter of a line in the wrong place. And then it's when you step right back, and get a new perspective, then you see it.

It helps me to go off and do something different for a while. Another artist I know, when confronted with a wall or a composition that won't sit right, she gets up and does some housework, sweeping and tidying and sorting things out, and focuses on that, while her subconscious mulls over the image she's making. Me, I tidy too, or walk, or go out and weed my garden. I've heard it said that intense physical activity that makes you work up a sweat cures all kinds of mental and emotional issues - and I can recommend an hour of chopping wood with an axe for any angst-ridden teenager, although many would question the wisdom of leaving a young person alone with an axe, but however - including mild depression. All I know is, in my experience, the physical activity can release a blockage, and then there's the double satisfaction of achieving something practical in the process, like clearing weeds away from the vegetable patch, sweeping up dead leaves, digging compost and manure into a raised bed. Triple score: unblock the mind, get a particular job done, and get a rush of endorphins in the process.

Purple ink drawings: Various studies of a female nude. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3 seated female nudes very popular on

I suppose it's all about finding the right group on, but when I posted the image above in one particular group on, I was suddenly invited to submit it to several different groups, which is nice.

It was a long pose done in a life-drawing group in Groningen, the Netherlands, and because it was so long, I decided to relocate a few times as I was doing it, and change the medium. Interesting result, I think.

I've found some really good artists on, people who would not get a look-in in a conventional art gallery environment. I have already blogged about Braccio, who is based in London, and there are a few others whose work I've admired and who I will be blogging about at some stage. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why do I paint?

I suppose I picked up a brush when I was a child, as you do. But people liked what they saw, and my mother encouraged it. And somebody entered one of my paintings into the Texaco Art Competition back in the early 1970s, and it won a prize. I got a big box of poster paints, and I don't really remember this, but apparently it was a biggish deal among the cousins, so much so that one of them was jealous enough to steal the paints and hide them. But we laugh about that now. Kids, eh?

I kept it up because it was my thing. I liked it, like the privacy element of it, the fact that people could interpret it if they wished. However, I didn't like that I was constantly challenged to explain myself. Why get into painting when there were so many other 'artistic' endeavours I could get into? Many relatives are musicians and singers, my own father was a wonderful singer and had enjoyed some success as an actor. He loved language, could quote many different poets and writers, simply because he loved the pictures their words created. But he was also self-taught, and I was too, as a painter for many years. And as a writer to some degree.

I had wanted to study art, but in my naivety I thought I'd be a shoe-in into the art college. Of course I got nowhere near the place, except as a visitor. But I liked languages, found them easy to learn. The actual university course was tough, however. You had to sit down, put your fingers in your ears, and concentrate. History, literature, contemporary trends. What made it interesting was the fact that the Iron Curtain was slowly crumbling, and cracks appearing in the political regime of the USSR. We had studied works by writers who had grown up in the shadow of the Wall, so we could easily imagine we felt their joy at the end of that era. And then later, when I was studying art and the critical context in which late 20th century art was created, I had the edge over my fellow students. I was familiar with the historical and social context. I had lived in Germany when this enormous change was taking place.

Nevertheless, enormous change is always taking place. In 1991 I underwent a personal change and went back to painting, ended a few friendships which had turned out to be shallow and one-sided, and made new friendships which have lasted. And I went and bought my first set of oil pastels, and tentatively started using them. My first piece I still have, I will never sell it, it's called This Rhythm. I was very proud to have finished a piece after 4 years of doing nothing but absent-minded doodles on the corners of papers I was supposed to be writing. I started an evening course in drawing and painting, and realised I wanted to concentrate on the human figure. So when I moved to the Netherlands a few years later, I found a place where I could do live-drawing with models of all shapes and sizes and it was great. I also did some portraiture, but that never really took with me. The body reveals more of the subject than the face, I feel.

I had an impressive body of work built up when I applied to study at art college as a mature student, so I went straight into the Painting Department. Bob Baker, the head of the Fine Art Department in Limerick Art College at the time, told me that I was two weeks late for the deadline to apply for Painting, but they gave me an interview anyway. I got in, and had to adjust to the fact that I was among people who were really, really good - hard, when you're used to being the one person in the room who is very good at drawing. It knocked any narcissistic tendencies I might have been developing on the head. I had to really focus and it was very difficult, but incredibly rewarding. I loved it and would do it again if I could.

So why do I paint? Because I can. And I love the challenge of it. And I still do the human figure. And other subjects too - no point in staying in your comfort zone.

Painting of a Skull Mask I made, acrylic on paper, from 2002.