Looking at Matisse

I’ve been looking at the work of Henri Matisse and particularly the way that he uses colour and pattern. I like the contrast in his paintings  – where he uses dark colour ( almost black ) to outline shapes. This still life ( below ) for example is vivid and bright but full of contrast.

 

Blue Still Life by Henri Matisse

Blue Still Life by Henri Matisse

 

 

 

I also like this one – the green vase at the centre with it’s delicate pink flowers are framed by a bold use of primary colour (red, yellow and blue) – it’s such an unusual combination. There’s lots of dark areas too on the table and in the sleeping figure.

 

Still Life by Matisse

Still Life with figure by Henri Matisse

 

 

 

I have much to learn! This landscape of mine below is influenced by elements of Matisse’s style – the strong colours and the use of pattern in the foreground to describe the gorse bushes.

 

Landscape influenced by Matisse

 

Lakeside Gorse by Deborah Watkins

December Cliffs

It has been too long since my last post and too long since I have had some time to paint. For the last month or so, my time has been completely taken up with the final stages of our gallery project, which has seen the restoration of an upstairs room in our gallery building here in Clifden. The truth is I have been doing a lot of painting in the last couple of weeks, but it has been of the interior decorating variety, involving skirting boards and architraves, new walls and old floor boards. The trouble with an old building such as ours is that when you start to clean/restore one section, the neighbouring wall or floor looks shockingly bad by comparison so you just have to keep going! Finally, finally, finally, it has come to an end and the results are worth more than the effort – I will post some photos of our new space here soon.

Today, I got back to some seascapes I started in October. This one was based on some photos I took of the cliffs at Inishturk, taken from the water – the chain you see in the foreground is from our boat. They are not very good photos in themselves but there was enough information there for me to make this painting. I am especially interested in the direction of the rock but also the inky blackness of the water as I remember it and the way the land clings onto and over the rock.

 

DSCF5629

 

 

DSCF5350

 

 

 

 

I began this painting with the texture or skeleton of the image, using some textured paste. I’ve simplified the details for dramatic effect. This was allowed to dry overnight before any colour was applied.

 

Initial work on Cliff painting

 

 

 

 

I applied a layer of colour to this straight afterwards ( but forgot to take a photo ) and the rest of the piece was worked today ( below )

 

Cliff by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I’m going to leave this to dry and return to it with a fresh eye. I think that certain elements work here but that others seem clumsy – the red and green in the middle ground for example seem a little harsh compared with the softer tones in the rest of the piece. What do you think?

 

Post Script

This morning I returned to the painting which is now completely dry to find the colours much subdued, as is often the case – below and cover image above. I’ll leave it now for a few days before deciding what to do next and move on to the next piece.

 

cliff 2

Wound

This is another painting in a series based on the sea. I used a photograph I took last year of a cliff for reference, as it is viewed from the water. It has a cleft shaped by the formation of the rock that has been deepened by the corrosive action of the sea. I begin by looking at texture and the directions in the layers of rock, so I am starting with a skeleton of the image, made in textured paste.

 

First stage of 'Wound' painting

 

 

 

Once this layer is dry, I add colour – lots of purple and grey for the cliff and tones of blue for the sky and sea.

 

Second stage of 'Wound' painting

 

 

 

 

Next I add browns, greens and yellow and just a touch of red at the heart of this cleft. I am thinking about the storms in Connemara and the destruction that took place earlier in the year. I am playing with the notion of the land as something human that can be hurt but I use the colour sparingly so that just the suggestion is there.

 

'Wound' painting with more colour

 

 

 

 

The colour settles once it has dried and I add just a few more details and another touch of red at the centre that I allow to bleed into the blue and the white paint of the sea. I decide to call the piece ‘Wound.’

 

'Wound' by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I am curious to know what people might feel about this painting? Does it make sense as an image? Please feel free to leave a comment if you feel like it.

The Edges of the Land

I’ve been working on a couple of paintings based on the Connemara coastline. I used some photos I took off the coast of Inishturk for reference. I started out with some texture in the form of paste which I applied directly onto a canvas board, in an effort to get some movement into the piece as well as surface texture. I had last winter in my mind and the destructive nature of the water which changed some parts of our coastline dramatically.

 

Textured paste on board

Textured paste on board 

 

 

 

Next some colour – new greens just purchased ( mixed with a little brown ) blue, gold and white. I left the canvas to dry overnight at this point and continued working on some other boards.

 

First layer of colour applied to painting

 First layers of colour

 

 

 

Here’s the finished piece. I’ve added more colour in the form of paint and acrylic ink. This one took only two sittings after which I felt it was ready to varnish. I developed the next two canvases a little further as you will see in the next post.

 

Margin painting finished

Finished paining

September Beginnings and Endings

Cover image ‘Sheep in Errislannan’ by Marianne Chayet

(This piece was written for the next issue of the Connemara Journal which will be available in early September. My three children have returned to school and I am looking forward to returning to painting and writing with renewed energy. I will post again soon.)

 

Summer is over – bright pink heathers have dulled and roadside montbretia looks a little battered after recent rain but there is a lushness still to the land and the evenings hold on to the light. It is not uncommon to view September as a time of endings; the end of summer, the end of the holidays, time to weed out plant pots or finish a garden project before the cold weather sets in.

I’ve always thought of September as a time of beginnings – the start of a new school year, time to investigate a new course of study perhaps or take up some exercise. The month of September seems to me to hold a promise of newness and renewal in a more definitive way than the beginning of the calendar year. I loved the smell of new books and pencils as a child and I looked forward to packing my bag for the return to school – I was especially thrilled if I had some new art supplies or if I’d been successful in obtaining a much coveted fluffy pencil case from the local newsagents!

 

 

Maam Cross Landscape with sheep by Alan Kenny

‘Maam Cross Landscape with Sheep’ by Alan Kenny

 

 

 

It is the landscape that reminds me that there are no beginnings or endings. I love to watch the land at this time of year in an effort to grasp those imperceptible changes, the quiet movement from heathery sweet colour into the deep golden hues of Autumn. It is almost impossible to capture the transformation as grasses and plants evolve so fluently and so exquisitely, yet we see them once they are changed. As humans we like to compartmentalise our lives into tidy segments and of course we need this in order to manage our activities but I find it oddly comforting to realise that there are no divisions, only the quiet reassuring passage of time. Ideally this can prompt us into action to make the most of each day but it can also allow us to realise the importance and significance of smaller moments as we salute another September and endeavour to make our own imprint on the world.

 

Kaleidoscope of Autumn by Diana Pivovarova

‘Kaleidoscope of Autumn’ by Diana Pivovarova 

 

Original paintings available at the Lavelle Art Gallery, Clifden ( www.lavelleartgallery.ie ) Our brand new website is under construction but will be going live very soon – stay tuned!

Jon Crocker – Soul Paintings

Cover image ‘Tommy of Connemara’ by Jon Crocker

 

Just a couple of notes on this piece – I wrote it for the August issue of the Connemara Journal which will be available soon. Also, we are working on a new website for our gallery which will go live in the next week or so – I will signpost this when it happens on this blog.

 

We are fortunate to meet artists from all around the world who find their way into our gallery (Lavelle Art Gallery) in Clifden for one reason or another. Each year we look at new creations, talk to artists and decide whether or not we can work together and whether the paintings or drawings will compliment the art that we already have. Occasionally the artwork is of such a high caliber that a decision scarcely needs to be made. This happened recently when Jon Crocker brought his water colours into us. Originally from Colorado, Jon relocated to Dublin after losing his wife and daughter to illness. He now divides his time between the United States and Ireland, which has become a second home.

Figurative work of a high standard is notoriously difficult to find and it must have a degree of technical sufficiency in order for it to work on any level. Jon’s portraits in water colour are not only technically brilliant and sensitively handled, they reach towards that intangible quality that makes each human being an individual. The likenesses that Jon creates are more than physical, he captures something else – an insight into identity that might be described as a spark or as Jon himself explains ‘the true essence’ or ‘soul’ of a person.

Jon has two paintings that stand out straight away – the first entitled ‘Tommy of Connemara’ and the second of a well known man from Dublin city called ‘Shamus.’

 

Shamus by Jon Crocker

Shamus’ by Jon Crocker

 

 

 

These portraits are both of well known characters, people that we have come to associate with a place, perhaps without even knowing that person by name. This led me to think about what it is that makes up the fabric of a town – it’s people yes but who are these people? Are they the leaders, organisers, business people? Are they simply inhabitants? Or is a place also defined by those who are just out of sight – the characters that we might see every day or once a week, perhaps on the same street or outside a certain building. We might have spoken or we might just have shared a nod or a smile. Tommy is one such character and we felt a small measure of how well this man is regarded when we posted an image of this portrait on our gallery facebook page. It was ‘liked’ instantly, warmly commented on multiple times and shared in a manner that we have not witnessed since we set up the page several years ago. This unprecedented reaction is also credit to Jon’s talent and we are more than delighted to be representing his work at the Lavelle Gallery. Jon produces prints of his original water colours at affordable prices as well as his one of a kind paintings, so people may enjoy his work with minimum investment.

It is worth noting that Jon is also a very fine landscape painter as exemplified by his painting of the old curragh at the shore ‘Molly Sea.’

 

Molly Sea by Jon Crocker

‘Molly Sea’ by Jon Crocker

 

 

You can read more about Jon and his work on his website at crockerfinearts.com or at the gallery website lavelleartgallery.ie or drop into the gallery to see them for yourself.

We join Jon in taking the opportunity to send Tommy Heffernan our good wishes as he is unwell at the moment.

Delphi Valley

It’s been too long since my last post as I’ve been caught up in the busyness of life and children. I’m returning with a short post  about a couple of new paintings I’ve just started. These are based on the Delphi valley, which must be one of  the most spectacular views here on the edges of Connemara and County Mayo. I’m working on a couple of canvases at the same time, alternating between the two. This one ( above ) is 10″ x 9.5″  – I’ve kept the palette quite cool so far with lots of blue and green. The second piece below is 10.5″ x 7.5″ and I’ve warmed this one up with some pink.

 

Delphi Valley with pink road, first stage.

 

 

 

I love this shade of pink – I think it’s everywhere at this time of year, not like this of course but you can see it in a haze over the grasses if you squint your eyes.

I’ll take more photos as these paintings progress and post about them again soon.

Sound of the Sea

 

I started a couple of small seascapes last week and instead of working from photographs as I usually do, I painted these from memory with the idea of making images that reflect the darker aspects of the sea, the power and the wildness of it.

I used small canvas boards – ( 6″ x 5″ ) and a combination of acrylic paint and ink. I used a deep red colour on the lower half of the board to give the sea blues more depth and interest. Here’s how the first piece started.

 

First stage of sea painting

 

 

 

 

I allowed the paint to dry before continuing. When I looked at it again, it seemed very dull and in need of more paint and colour. I also wanted to inject some movement into the central part of the painting. I started by adding red to the mountains in the distance and I used large brushes to create a wave in the centre of the piece, adding just a little yellow to take the eye down into the depths of the water. The whole thing was worked quite quickly, the idea being to give it a sense of movement and energy. Here’s the finished piece again below.

 

Finished sea painting

 

 

 

I worked this second seascape at the same time – I find it satisfying to pursue one idea in a few slightly different directions so there similarities. I’ve called this one ‘Sound of the Sea.’

 

First stage of 'Sound of the Sea'

 

 

 

 

Once again, I felt it needed more colour and definition – I worked over the mountains and sky and I darkened the sea, using red highlights this time to draw the eye inwards.

 

Finished painting - 'Sound of the Sea"

Getting some Perspective

I’ve been busy for the last few weeks, doing lots of writing and not very much painting. I’ve been involved in a poetry workshop for over a year now and it’s been great. Writing has slipped into my life so quietly and unexpectedly that I find myself wondering what I did with my time before the workshops. Possibly more painting but life is always a juggling act – for me it’s a question of balance and trying to find just enough time for everything to keep some kind of equilibrium.

At the moment I am writing a business plan for our gallery as we are hoping to develop what we are doing in a new direction. It’s a different kind of writing of course but it is also exciting and I hope that I will be able to share more about that in a few months time.

For now I am going to talk about this painting. I came across it recently while sorting through my desk. I remember working on it about six months ago and leaving it aside as I was unsure whether or not it was finished. Clearly some part of me believed it was not, as it lay quietly unnoticed for all this time. When I found it, I wondered why, because it does seem finished to me now! There are blocks of colour on the right – the pink and green that might seem flat and unresolved compared to the more subtly applied colour to the left, but this gives the piece interest and balance which is something easily lost if the whole surface is treated in the same way.
The negatives seem outweighed by the positives  – there is atmosphere, something moody around that hazy purple, the way the light diffuses in the distance and those stripes of red, pink and green do work even though they are incongruous with the rest of the piece.

 

Purple Hill

 

 

 

It reminds me how useful and important it is to take some perspective on a painting  – a little distance and time have allowed me to see the piece as if for the first time, so it is easier to make a judgement.

I realise how true this is of writing and yes, so many other aspects in life – it has just taken six months and an old painting to help me remember.

Cut Bog

This painting is slightly more abstract than the previous two. The focus is a uniform well like shape in the foreground in which a pool of water reflects the blue sky. I have simplified a lot of the other shapes – the mountains and the patterns in the land and I’ve been bold with colour.

This is how the painting started – looking back, I think there is a good argument to say I should have stopped here and it’s not the first time I have thought this about my work.

 

Cut bog - first stage

 

 

 

 

Here’s the next stage. I’ve added some darker colour to create more contrast and I’ve started working on the grasses to the side of the pool using large brushes and lots of paint.

 

Cut bog , stage two

 

 

 

 

This is how it continues, more work on the grasses and I’ve brought back some of the blue in the pool.

 

Cut Bog - stage three

 

 

 

 

Here’s the finished piece. I’ve altered the line where the mountains recede from the land and I’ve sharpened up the grass shapes to the right of the pool.

Is this the better painting or should I have called it a day after the first sitting? I would welcome your response to this one.

In the meantime, I need to do some fast smaller works to loosen up my painting again.

 

Cut Bog, finished painting