I took some photos along the roadside near Killary with a view to using them for some new paintings. I took these because certain elements attracted me – colours, the shape of the mountains in silhouette and the shape of the cut bog. I like this one below because of the warmth of the orange grasses against the blue sky – feels more like Australia than Connemara.


Hill near Killary





The light is still very low and it illuminates each blade of grass much like theatre lights. There is great drama too in the starkness of the mountains – they loom in the distance, great shadowy figures waiting in the wings.

This is a protected area so there are few signs of human interference save the ubiquitous telegraph poles and the road itself. You feel like you are standing in a bowl or an amphitheatre with mountains on almost all sides. I love the blue pool in this one below – it reflects the colour of the sky.






I have started a series of new landscapes based on these images which I will post about soon.

November Landscapes

Cover image – ‘November Pool’ by Deborah Watkins



These landscapes were worked together. They are all done on 5″ x 7″ heavyweight acrylic paper. The one above is based on a view of the Twelve Bens mountain range from the Roundstone Bog Road. I’ve kept the mountains sketchy and light to make them recede a little and I’ve used lots of thick paint and ink in the foreground to describe the grasses and this large pool. I didn’t take photographs during the process  – they were worked quickly and sometimes I find that stopping to take images interrupts the session too much.

I’ve called this one below ‘November Red’ – the colour of the bog has been exaggerated but the contrast between the paleness of the grasses and the peat itself is there.


November Red by Deborah Watkins

‘November Red’ by Deborah Watkins




This next painting was also worked quickly – I’ve used large brushes for the foreground and smaller ones to describe the hills behind. It’s evening so the colours are all quite dark. I’ve attempted to heighten the drama with this dark cloud shape that mirrors the swirling lines of the bog.


November Landscape by Deborah Watkins

‘November Evening’ by Deborah Watkins




A little too much colour for November? Perhaps, but is is all fading now and quickly so maybe I’m just taking stock..


Black bog, blue hills

I’ve been working on some small paintings this week ( 5″ x 7″ ) – I really enjoy painting on this scale as I can get results quickly. It’s not just the speed factor though ( impatient as I am ) it’s the ability to make a better response to the landscape. At the moment I find this more difficult with larger work – covering the canvas takes longer so the response is less immediate. I believe that smaller works and drawings often have an energy about them that is lost in larger work. I would love to scale up in the future and get better at making bigger paintings – a bigger space, bigger brushes, more paint – it’s good to think about the possibilities. For now small is good for me.

The composition here is based on a favourite spot of mine near Oughterard. When I drive past, I want to stop the car and get out and just take it all in. Sometimes I do but it’s not always possible and it is a very fast stretch of road.

This is how this piece started out below. I’ve used large brushes and lots of colour, a little charcoal too.


First stage of painting





Here’s the next stage. I’ve played with different consistencies of paint – thick and thin layers over each other. I’ve used a sepia ink to describe the bog which is almost black at the moment. I allowed the paint to dry before continuing.


Second stage of painting





Once this first layer was dry, I used smaller brushes to add spots of colour – some green in the foreground and more red and blue on the hills behind – a little more definition overall.


Oughterard Bog




Happy with this one now and eager to do some more..

Autumn Fire

Cover image ‘Oughterard  Bog’ by Deobrah Watkins


I’ve just written this piece for the next issue of the Connemara Journal. I took the photo above on Tuesday – the colour of the landscape here in Autumn is breathtaking and this year is no exception. Never mind New England in the Fall, what about Connemara in the Fall?


October stepped in quietly this year and gave us days of unexpected sunshine and warmth beyond anything we might normally expect.  The long hot Summer has already ensured that 2013 will be remembered far into the future. I’ve always loved the colours of the landscape in late Autumn – an in between time of growth and rest. Since the bog fires in April, the grasses have changed from their luminous green shoots into fields of warm brown and again over the last few weeks into a lustrous fiery orange. When the wind is up, the now tall grasses appear to move like flames and give off an imagined heat through their colour. There’s a very particular kind of light at this time because the sun is at it’s lowest. When there’s moisture in the air, there’s a flatness to the sky that reaches around everything and blurs the horizon. It always makes me think of a theatre stage where the light is low and objects appear edgy and sharpened. Keat’s describes this aspect of the season in his poem ‘To Autumn’;


‘barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, and touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue’


(from ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats 1795-1821). 


Bog painting as I left it

‘Land Interrupted’ by Deborah Watkins



The American poet Emily Dickinson speaks about Autumn light in her poem ‘There’s a certain Slant of light’ written in 1861;


‘when it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –


(from There’s a certain Slant of light’ by Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886)


Enigmatic lines appropriate for a season where colour and light are heightened briefly before they are dulled again. Keat’s poem ‘To Autumn’ is first and foremost an ode of praise while Dickinson uses the season as a metaphor for change and the difficult acceptance of ageing. I think that both poets and many like them recognise the beauty of the season as it exists poignantly on the edge of Winter but perfectly and eternally not yet Winter.


Winter's end landscape almost finished

Landscape by Deborah Watkins

Winter’s end landscape

I’ve just finished this painting. The canvas is 12″ x 16″ and it’s based on some photos I took last month. The landscape had a bleached look to it that is only starting to change now. It’s unusual not to see more Spring colour here at this time of year but we’ve had a very long spell of unseasonably cold and dry weather which has delayed the new growth.

Here’s how this painting began. I’ve roughed in the composition and I’ve added some textured paste to the foreground.


First stage of Winter's end landscape





Next some more colour. I decide to leave the background more or less as it is.


Second stage of Winter's end landscape




Next I concentrate on this gorge in the foreground. This represents an area of cut bog and I want it to contrast with the lightness of the grasses so I go in with lots of darks – sepias and earthy reds.


Third stage of Winter's end landscape





Here’s a couple of close ups below.


Close up 1





Winter's end close up 2





At this point I decided to add a little green to the piece. I chose a pearlescent silvery green below.


Winter's end landscape almost finished






Now a bit of tidying up and just a little more green, this time it’s a sap green.


Finished landscape by Deborah Watkins


Fires have been burning here in Connemara for the past week. I stopped en route to Dublin to take these pictures at the weekend. This particular stretch of bog became a creeping line of fire that landowners struggled to contain.


Burning bog near Oughterard





It’s an annual sight here and the only way to control the voracious growth of the gorse plant. The ash from the fires also gives much needed nutrients back to the earth which promotes new growth, a kind of seasonal cleansing and renewal. The problem arises when fires get out of control and with the fact that it is illegal to burn growing vegetation in this area between March 1st and August 31st. Unfortunately this period is often the only suitable time for burning to take place due to the length and inclement nature of Winter in Connemara.


Gorse burning in the distance - Near  Oughterard





We have had an unseasonal amount of rain since October last followed by an unusually long spell of dry windy weather. This has led to the rash of out of control fires in Connemara this month. The garda helicopter was called in to assist fire services in tackling a number of blazes near Spiddal and Moycullen. The wind direction hampered their efforts and has caused the rapid spread of fires which may otherwise have remained under control.

A stretch of road was closed in this area at the week end while I was away. I could see why when I returned last night and stopped to photograph the ashen land which now reached the edges of the road. My camera struggled to capture the colours as the light was fading but these photos give an impression of the charred landscape below.


Charred landscape near Oughterard




Charred landscape II




Theres something eerily beautiful about this blackened place and I will return soon to take more pictures during the day. Thanks to the efforts of the Clifden fire service, there was no loss of life or serious damage to property and hopefully this position will continue.



I understand that it is widely believed that some of these recent fires have been ignited unlawfully and not by landowners and that the gardai are involved. It is remiss of me to have suggested that any landowners were involved in this latest series of gorse fires. I met with friends this evening who spoke of the extent of the fires in the Moyard and Cleggan area and how the blaze came dangerously close to several homes, causing significant damage to some property and to underground pipes. It is also quite feasible that some of the fires may have been caused by accident or heedlessness due to the particularly dry nature of the bog grasses at the moment.



March Landscape

This landscape is probably more true to how the landscape actually looks at the moment than others I’ve done recently. Along with the richness of some of the colours, theres a bleached out feeling to the old growth which has been touched on in this piece. It started out like this below.


March Landscape - first stage





Next I added some textured paste to define this long gully that disappears into the distance and the movement of the grasses on either side of it.


March Landscape - Second stage





Here’s a close up of some of the marks below.


Second stage - close up





Next, I’ve loaded the canvas with colour. I’ve left the mountains in the background as they were – just a simple wash of colours as I want them to recede behind the ‘action’ in the foreground.


March Landscape - Third Landscape





Another close up below. I’ve applied the paint thickly and in layers, sometimes wet on wet.


Third stage - close up





Here’s the finished piece. I’ve left this small area of white at the point where the gully fades into the background. The eye is drawn to that point so it seems right that it should be the brightest patch. I’m happy with this one – the swirling energy of the grasses and the landscape against the cool austerity of the hills in the distance. I like the brighter tones in this piece too which I’m going to try to keep for the next few paintings. What do you think?


Finished March Landscape



I began this painting (above) a week or more ago. It is loosely based on some photographs I took in the bog this year, particularly this fuzzy looking one with the trenches at right angles in the distance.



Rainy landscape photo by Deborah Watkins




I started work on a 12″ x 14″ x 1.5″ canvas and outlined the composition with broad strokes of colour. I’ve accentuated the right angled trench and made it the centre of attention.


First stage of 'Surge' painting




Next I added some textured paste. I’m really enjoying this stuff – it does exactly what you want it to do, so when you put it on the canvas it doesn’t slide off and it holds it’s shape perfectly until it dries.


Second stage of 'Surge' painting




Here are some close ups – I’ve used my hands to make the marks, as well as brushes of different sizes and various tools that came to hand. I’m interested in putting some energy into the piece with these marks, in making the surface seem to writhe with movement as it sometimes appears to do in life.


Close up of textured paste





Second close up





The paste takes several hours to dry completely so I return to it the next day. I go back in with colour to describe the grasses and the landscape and I make the trench a watery one with blues.


Next stage of painting




This is what the piece looks like when it’s still wet and after lots of colour has been applied (below).


More colour added to painting




The paint loses it’s gloss once it has dried (below) but this will return later once the canvas has been varnished.


February Landscape




When I look at it again, I realise that there are too many horizontal lines and shapes which need to be broken up. I decide to correct this by making some small vertical shapes in the centre of the canvas so that the eye is carried around the painting rather than stopping at the point where this trench shape ends.


Finished Landscape




I’m pleased with the results and I’ve decided to call the piece ‘Surge’. This describes for me the movement of the landscape – movement that the eye can see but also the shiftings that take place over hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Layers of matter building up all the time and layers being washed away. I love this notion of the land as a living thing, observed cooly in the distance by the unchanging character of the mountains.


I went out to the Bog Road between Clifden and Moyard last week. It was about 5.30pm and the light was really beautiful, low and clear. The colour of the bog grasses was striking – rich metallic shades of gold, copper and bronze. There was still some warmth left in the sun but the wind had a bite to it which isn’t evident in these pictures – the colours are so deceptively warm, it could be some hot and arid place..


Photograph of bog by Deborah Watkins





I wandered down this road to get a better look – a typical Irish side road with impressive pot holes..


Road with pot holes





Mmmm, need a tractor to get through this next bit, good job I brought my wellies..but just look at the blues reflected in this pool.


Photograph of flooded road by Deborah Watkins





One last picture, I like the way the hill peaks over the top of the road in this one.


Road through bog by Deborah Watkins



Connemara Sheep by Evie Lavelle

I’ve been working on this large landscape. It’s 12″ x 14″ x 2″ which is a large deep canvas by my standards. It began this below.


First stage of Large Textured Landscape





Then I added more colour.


Second stage of Textured Landscape





Next I brushed on some textured paste, my first time using this medium. It has the consistency of thick paint and is opaque white in colour. I worked into the paste once it was on the canvas to created different kinds of textures. It should probably be applied before this much paint has been put on to the canvas but I wanted to make the textures relevant to what is happening in the painting. I have a pet hate for landscape art that uses texture randomly.


Large canvas with texture





Here’s some close ups below.


Close up of texture medium on canvas




Second close up





Next I added more paint.


Next stage of landscape painting




Here’s the piece after a more work (below).  I’ve covered the canvas with colour now and I’ve made this corner on the left darker than I’d originally planned. I’ve also added some green and brown to the pool as I wanted it to have a more murky feel to it.


Finished painting





When I looked back at the last two images, I saw that I had removed most of the green from the clump of grasses on the front right of the canvas so I went back and put some more green back in there.


Landscape with a little more green





I’ve learnt a few things making this painting – the first is that I love working with this textured paste. It brings the piece alive for me by – a bit like modeling with clay ( ahh, I remember those days ). More than that, I’ve learnt to trust this material ( paint ) which probably sounds a bit strange or perhaps too obvious but sometimes the hardest things to grasp are the things that are right in front of our noses! It’s an acceptance of the material and the ability to really work with it, to just go for it without trepidation. I think I’m finally learning to do this and I feel happy with the way the work is progressing at the moment.