Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Welcome to my etsy shop!

Welcome to my brand new online shop with!
I am very excited to be part of the etsy community of makers and artists at last and I invite you to browse my paintings and shop at your leisure. Click on the link in the sidebar opposite to go straight there.

I will shortly provide more easy links to etsy from here and visa versa to make it all a bit smoother. I am experiencing a very sharp learning curve here folks so bear with me!!

Here's a sample below of what you will find in the shop.

This painting is of a scene just outside Clifden. I was standing on a hill near Clifden castle looking down at a little outcrop of trees near the water. The ground in front of the trees was waterlogged and reflected all kinds of shapes and colours which I deepened for effect here. I allowed the paint to bleed which became part of the piece and for me it resembles both the trees and the reflection of the land on the other side of the bay.
I love to receive your comments so don't be shy and let me know what you think..

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Inspiration - Blanket Bog

One of the most characteristic features of the landscape in Connemara is it's blanket bogs. It is called a blanket bog because from a distance it appears to hug the ground like a blanket. It was formed in wet, upland areas where there was a lot of rainfall around 2500BC. This happened when farmers cleared the land of forest so it could be used for pasture. They chose the higher ground where the forests there were not so thick. However, when the trees were removed, the soil became waterlogged and more acidic due to the rain. By around 500BC, at the end of the Bronze age, the farmers were forced to clear the forests lower down as the land became unusable. Heather and thick grasses were able to grow in the upland areas but their debris did not decompose and so a layer of organic material or peat began to build up.
People began to cut the peat ( called turf when cut ) and use it for fuel in the 17th century. This activity continues to day and there is much debate about methods of harvesting and conservation of our bog lands for the future. However, small scale cultivation has been going on here in Connemara for centuries and has kept the population supplied with fuel for the long Winters. This must also be something worth protecting. As anyone who has ever visited this part of the world will know, there is nothing quite like the warm and seductive smell of a turf fire!
The appearance of the bog changes from season to season. In Autumn, the grasses and heathers turn from gold into a bright orange which creates the effect of a burning landscape. Spring brings new growth in the form of bright luminous green shoots. In between these seasons the bog appears on a spectrum that is sometimes awash with the pink and purple of heathers and sometimes black and dark like the moors of a Bronte novel.
I took these photos of the bog below, near Clifden. This one is on the road to Roundstone. The cut bog in the foreground has filled with water.

This next photo was taken on the Clifden to Letterfrack road and shows the waterlogged ground with stacks of turf drying out in the back ground.

We celebrate the bog annually through music and art in a week long festival which takes place in the nearby village of Letterfrack. It is an excellently organised schedule of events based around our boglands. I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Bog week art exhibition for several years and for me it is always a welcome opportunity to return to this subject.
This next photo is of a painting I did last year for the exhibition. It is very small ( about 3" x 4" ) and it is done on a thick bamboo paper.

I really enjoyed working with a dark range of colours here. In life the water on the bog surface reflects the the sky between the clouds, which is sometimes a startling blue. This is not conveyed very well in my photos above but I have used this effect here and in many other of my paintings. The blanket bog is so much a part of the beauty of this area and it is a subject that I will keep returning to in my work.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Is it finished?

This is a question I ask myself at some point with every painting. Sometimes it is easy to decide that yes, I have done enough and I should stop now. Sometimes it is not so easy.
Usually, I will allow myself to 'sleep on it' for a while and see the painting afresh when I look at it first thing in the morning, for example.
Occasionally, G will look over my shoulder and say - 'don't touch that, put your brushes down, it's done'. One such time, I was incredulous that this was his opinion when I had thought that I was only getting started! (Btw, G is a full-time painter and gallery owner so I do put good stock in his opinions).
The thing to be avoided at all costs is overworking a painting and so the quality that I am always striving for myself is a freshness of touch. I believe that this comes with practice and confidence although it is by no means guaranteed every time, no matter how well practiced and confident one might feel! The viewer is always entitled to disagree with the results in any case and I do like to get the opinion of others. So, in this vein, I present to you the hen painting I started last week. This first photo was taken at an in between stage - I was reluctant to do much with the hen figure here and just added a little to the background.

This is the finished painting below taken from two angles. I've used a 4 x 4 " canvas which is almost 1. 5" deep. I am enjoying working on these little blocks because straight away, the painting becomes a solid thing. I continue the background loosely around the edges, shown in the last photograph to really maximize the character of the painting as an object.

The question remains however, is it finished? I think so in this case but what do you think?

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Hello Saturday!
I plan to update my blog most days Monday through to Friday from now on BUT I am breaking that rule today as I've only just got my blog engine started and it wants to keep running..
This brings me to our two hens, 'Lily' and 'Gertrude' - my three daughters settled on these names after much debate and discussion. We bought them two years ago this Summer and they are one hundred per cent part of the family now. Apart from being great company - they sit at our back door and they follow me around outside - they provide us with one egg each every day, almost without fail.

I really enjoy watching them mooch around our back garden and I love the shapes that their bodies make when they are scratching and foraging. I especially like their tail feathers when they bend over as they look like old fashioned bloomers! I have done lots of hen paintings since they arrived. Here's one I've started recently below..

I'm going to finish this one over the week end and I'll post up the results next week. I like the freshness that it has at this stage so I hope that I don't lose that by overworking it. We'll see...

Friday, 24 February 2012


This is Clifden, the town where I live. It's known as the capital of Connemara and we are right on the edge of the West coast of Ireland.  It is a glorious place to live and work, surrounded by dramatic mountains and beautiful coastline.

( photo by Bert Kaufmann)

I took this next photo, just outside the town on the coast. I often go for walks along here with my family and I used this picture as a reference for the painting below.

I mostly use acrylic paint and ink in my paintings. When I use them together, the colours bleed in to each other which can create interesting effects. You can see this in the top right hand corner of this painting. This effect particularly harks me back to the glazes of my old ceramic career. I decided to apply the paint in different ways in this piece also, thick in some areas and almost washed out in others to give the painting surface some diversity. What do you think?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Welcome to my blog!

I have been thinking (and talking) about this blog and my soon to open on line shop with since Christmas. It is now almost the end of February and I am very excited to be here at last!
My plan is to share my thoughts about living and working in Connemara in relation to my paintings and the things that I draw my inspiration from.
It's a big learning curve for me so I hope that the blog will develop as I go along and that some of you will stay with me.

This is my most recent painting and the one that I have used in my banner. It is based on a part of the coastline near Cleggan which is about seven miles away. The photo underneath is one I used for reference while painting.

I use photographs to help me make decisions about composition, particularly with the landscapes. I also use them as a starting point for colour choices. The work then takes on a life of its own and my intention thereafter is to evoke the atmosphere of the place, the weather and what it felt like to be there that day. I try to conjure this up in my head when I have my paints ready in front of me. This was a beautiful dry day (unusual in February!) but there was unease in the air and the promise of a rain storm. The afternoon closed in to the evening during the short time that I spent there.