Winter Cleaning

Seafarer by Claire Finlay

I’ve been busy doing lots of this kind of painting below

 

Photograph of decorators ladder and paint tins

 

 

 

..and not so much of the other.

It’s a spring cleaning kind of thing that I’m going through but for us this has to happen in Winter as there’s no time in Summer when the gallery is busy. Our poor house has been sorely neglected for a good many years and so I’ve been painting walls and ceilings and skirting boards and architraves and bookshelves and window sills.. It’s time consuming and addictive because once you start in on one corner you have to take pictures down and clean them and then maybe change them around or replace them. Then you go looking for new photos or older ones and before you know it, the morning has gone!

I found a photograph of this painting while doing just that. It’s one of my early seascapes, from about 2009. It’s most likely based on the sea out at Aughrus which is a beautiful coastal area near Claddaghduff, just a few miles north of Clifden. I was using a lot more charcoal as you can see in the background of this piece. I often cringe at older work but it was nice to come across this one and I’d be happy enough with it if I produced it today. So forgive me if the posts are a little threadbare while I do this nesting cleaning tidying thing and I’ll be back soon.

 

Wild Sea by Deborah Watkins

 

 


Miry Place II

The last time I worked on this painting, it looked like this (below)

 

Miry Place - beginnings

 

 

 

It sat around for a long while and every so often, I would pick it up and tinker with it, always feeling that it needed something more. Here are some of the stages I brought it through;

 

Next stage of Miry Place painting

 

 

 

Next stage of Miry Place painting

 

 

 

A further stage of Miry Place painting

 

 

 

During this time, the seasons changed and those bright yellows turned into darker browns. I thought I’d try to reflect this in the piece and to darken the whole painting considerably. Here’s the result below.

 

Miry Place - finished painting

 

 

 

It’s a far cry from where it started! It has completely lost the freshness it had early on. There was something there at the first stage that really worked – the deep blue and ochre colours against each other especially. Perhaps I should have left it as it was but it did seem to me to have an unfinished air about it. I was very unsatisfied with all these in between stages but I am quite happy with it now in it’s darker form. It does seem to me to reflect the darker hues of the landscape at the moment. What do you think?

November Bog

Near Maam by Laureen Marchand

 

This is another painting in the Black Bog series that I’ve been working on. It’s similar to the last one featured here but it’s twice the size at 10 x 8 inches. This is how it began;

 

November bog painting first stage

 

 

 

Next, I added a line of brown ink and dragged the colour downwards with a broad brush to give the lower part of the painting an under colour. I also used some gold paint.

 

Second stage of November bog painting

 

 

 

Here’s the next stage below. I’ve used lots of colour – browns, reds, yellows and golds. I’ve manipulated the way the inks react with the paint to create interesting textures and I’ve worked with a variety of brushes to make different kinds of marks.

 

Third stage of November bog painting

 

 

 

Once this layer of paint had dried completely, I worked on the piece again (below). I deepened the blues of the hills in the background and I darkened some of the colours to give the painting more contrast.

 

Fourth stage of November bog painting

 

 

 

This is the finished piece below. Once again, I added more paint and ink when the last layer was completely dry. I altered the line of the bog slightly to make it less horizontal and I’ve given the bog more depth with these additional layers of colour.

 

Finished 'November Bog' painting by Deborah Watkins

Black Bog

Pike by Claire Finlay

 

This image of Roundstone bog inspired the painting above. It’s unremarkable as a photograph but I love the contrast in it, between the darkness of the boggy landscape and the gem like blues of the mountains and paleness of the sky.

 

Photograph of Roundstone bog by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

This is how the painting started below.

 

First stage of Black bog painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I started at the top of the page and kept the colours clean when working on the sky and mountain shapes. Then I outlined the line of the land in a dark ink and I dragged some of the colour down using a brush to make a yellowish wash. This is the how the painting developed below.

 

Black  bog painting by Deobrah Watkins

 

 

 

I worked quickly using a combination of acrylic paint and ink together and brushes of different sizes. I like the way the paint settles when I work quickly like this, some effects are accidental but I have an idea about the overall feeling I want the piece to have. The middle and foreground dominates in this one because the marks are broad and gestural and this contrasts with the relatively careful way the sky and mountains have been painted. The richness of the colours that I have used in the landscape also make it stand out – browns, reds, golds, yellows and some dark blues. I like the way a large brush stroke gives the impression of strata, like layers of matter so the effect is being allowed to see under the earth as well as across it, to see the layers of material that have built up under ground over time.

I’ve decided to call this one finished as I’m happy with the results as they are. I’ll varnish it once the paint has dried and this will give it a protective coating as well as making the colours appear richer, as they were when they were just made and a bit like the way the colour of a beach pebble looks deeper when it is wet.

Sea Week Exhibition 2012

Letterfrack’s annual Sea Week  festival is underway. It’s an exciting programme of events – music workshops, conferences, walks and visual art all of which have the subject of the sea at their core. This annual celebration is running for many years now under the guidance and boundless energy of Leo Hallissey and it is always a welcome opportunity for the community to reflect on the gift of our natural surroundings here in Connemara. Last Saturday night, I went along to the opening of the Small Works exhibition taking place in the Connemara National Park. This year the theme is the ‘Island’ and this exhibition is a collective whereby artists who are living and working in the area are invited to participate. The really interesting thing about this show is that everyone presents their work anonymously. In this way, established artists ( some known on an international scale ) are shown alongside much lesser known artists and the viewer is invited to see each piece on it’s own merit, without partiality or bias. Another distinctive feature of the show is the prices – everything on view is for sale at the agreed price of  €90.00 unframed or  €130.00 framed. This idea of bringing art to the people by making it affordable is supported by all of the artists who allow their work to be shown at a low value and it gives people here the opportunity to buy an original artwork, some perhaps for the first time. Leo introduced the show with this in mind and he spoke about it as a ‘hymn of hope and generosity’ and a ‘reclaiming of values’. These things are worthy of praise, what we are left with really after the shock of the last four years and the excess that went before it.

 

Where Sea meets Sky by Karina Heaslip

‘Where Sea meets Sky’ 

 

 

 

Music is always an important part of the evening and this year was no exception as we were treated to a number of tunes from young local musicians before Galway city arts officer James Harrold took the floor and officially opened the show. He spoke about the islands in terms of mythology and dreams, as symbols of life and interesting places to explore. He was full of praise for Letterfrack as a thriving community of artists and a place of enormous energy and diversity, characteristics which make this small place shine out among other larger western towns. He also spoke about our unique landscape and coastline, how privileged we are to have the sea at our side and how enriching this is for our community when so many counties are locked in by land.

 

Detritus of my Studio arranged as an island

‘Detritus of my studio arranged as an Island’

 

 

 

My own first impressions of the exhibition took account of the way it was presented and all credit to the meticulous eye of curator and artist David Keane and painter Mary Hession. The show has a real sense of cohesion in spite of the enormous variety of work and scale, framed and unframed pieces. I recognised some of the artists by their style of painting and drawing and in some cases by their chosen materials. However I was unable to pin down most of the pieces and I really enjoyed the sense of mystery that this brought about and the close examination of each piece that it prompted. I found it inspiring to see such a variety of responses to one theme, like a chorus of quiet separate voices singing together. Some of the pieces can be clearly read as island forms, other paintings suggest it with colours and other imagery. All of them made me look at my own work in a new way and question how I might explore new materials in the future.

 

Untitled by Alice Coyle

Untitled

 

 

Untitled by Colin O Daly

 Untitled

 

The artists participating in this exhibition are – Barrie Cooke, Margaret Egan, Bernie Dignam, Mary Donnelly, Debbie Watkins, Alice Coyle, Brigid Sealy, Laura Cull, Jill Scott, Angie Williams, Oilbhe Scanell, Gavin Lavelle, Margaret Irwin West, Tania Gray, Mary Hession, David Keane, Leah Beggs, Will O’Kane, Karina Heaslip and Dorothy Cross.

Don’t let this one pass you by, it’s well worth a visit and it runs till October 29th.

 

 

Cover image by David Keane

Miry Place

I’ve started a couple of paintings based on some photographs I took out near the coast at Aughrus recently. This is how the first one began.

 

First stage of 'Miry Place' painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I want the main part of the painting to have a golden glow (this is how the grasses appeared when I saw them) so I’ve used lots of gold paint in broad strokes across the page. I’ve sketched in the sky using a combination of blue and white paint and I’ve left a space for the bog pool in the centre of the piece. Here’s the next stage below.

 

Second stage of 'Miry Place' painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I’ve played with different consistencies of paint and ink and I’ve used brushes of different widths to vary the effects. I like the movement that a large sweeping brush stroke gives and I also enjoy the way watery paint pools around thicker clumps of colour. I’ve tried to keep all the colours as fresh as I can, not allowing them to muddy too much and washing my brushes often between applications. I want this dark bog pool to be the focus so I’ve used dark blue and brown inks for the central shape and surrounded it with light and metallic shades to describe  the grasses.

Here’s how the second painting started below.

 

First stage of second bog painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I’ve used blue, purple and white paint to sketch in the sky and clouds and I’ve outlined a broad shape in red to describe the russet coloured ferns I saw in the bog that day. Here’s the next stage.

 

Next stage of second bog painting

 

 

 

Oooo I like it here! Something about that red and green together – these colours appealed to me when I took the photographs in Aughrus. I love the way the blue ( a watery pool ) has bled in to the cream and pink paint. I’m sorry in a way not to have left it here as the colours are lovely and fresh and true to how they were. It does look very unfinished however and so I continued working on it as you can see below.

 

 

Last stage of Miry place painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

I’ve gone in with lots of colour to the extent that I’ve had to stop at this point so that it doesn’t become too sludgy. I’ve tried to give the area on the left of the piece a vertical direction to suggest some tall grass shapes. The dark blue shape across the centre describes a wet pool and beneath that some green plants. I’ve more to do on both of these paintings but I’ll have to wait a day or two until the paint has dried completely.

 

 

Paris & Painting

We had a magical time in Paris with the kids last week. It was a dream for us to be able to take them to this beautiful city and share in their excitement as they saw some of it’s treasures for the first time. It’s been more than twenty years since my last visit so the excitement was just as real for me too. We tried to make the trip as family friendly as possible and included trips to the wonderful Cite des sciences et de l’industrie ( Science museum – full of interactive games and challenges for kids ) a night time visit to the top of the Eifel Tower and a day trip to Euro Disney. We also wanted them to see the Musee d’Orsay, more child friendly perhaps then the Louvre and full of original paintings that they have seen reproduced in print and modern media in their own lives. They immediately recognised Van Gogh from his self portrait below.

 

Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait

 ‘Portrait de l’artiste’ ( Self Portrait ) by Vincent van Gogh

 

 

 

I remember being struck by the vividness of the colours when I saw these paintings in the late 1980’s. They are so clear and bright that it’s hard to believe that they are real and I imagined that perhaps the hazy originals lay in a dark vault somewhere, the worlds best kept secret. This radiant, vibrant, intense colour takes your breath away and each mark sings out against the one beside it. The texture of the paint really made an impact on me this time, the depth of it and the clear impression of each stroke, as if the weight of the hand behind it had been taken away just a moment ago, the shadow of it still there like the  presence of someone having just left the room.

 

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

‘La Nuit Etoilee’ ( Starry Night ) by Vincent van Gogh

 

 

 

Close up of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Detail of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

 

I was also greatly moved by the paintings of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Unlike Van Gogh, the paint is sketchy and thin but nonetheless full of vigour and energy. This one below is called ‘Le Lit’ ( The Bed ). It is such an intimate scene and must have been quite shocking at the time as it appears modern even to our eyes.

 

Le Lit by Toulouse-Lautrec

 

 

 

 

I love the roughness of the lines and the sweeps and smudges of paint that he has made with such conviction. He seems to have cast all convention aside, all notions of what a painting should look like and lost himself in the desire to bring this scene to life with all it’s nuances of tenderness, sleepiness, attachment and warmth. It is so wonderfully human and surely made by a man who knew this moment himself, really felt it so that he was able to put it down so earnestly and faithfully.

I also loved this next painting called ‘Seule’ ( Alone ).

 

'Seule' by Toulouse-Lautrec

 

 

 

It’s a study made on cardboard of a woman lying on her back across an unmade bed, her long limbs in a pose of complete collapse and abandon. I’m wondering who she was – her black stockings and light dress suggest that she might be a prostitute and we know that the artist liked to go to brothels. He moved in permanently at one point so that he could observe and capture the women where they lived and worked. He makes no judgment on her however and she might just as well be a worker or any other ordinary person captured at a very private moment.

The overriding feeling in all of these paintings is the sense of them having been made by a human hand. The magic of this wonderfully versatile material and the relationship between it and the artist is paramount. The energy and the will behind each stroke is clearly visible and I think there is enormous value in being able to read this expression. It makes me question the point of photo realism and any other technique of painting which disguises the material. Really, what is the point? There is so much humanity and feeling in these works because of the way that they were made and it was a huge pleasure and an inspiration to see them again.

What do you think about this point of view?

 

 

Cover image ‘Church at Auvers’ by Vincent van Gogh taken from John Brody Photography

Night Bog

I found this painting (below) in a drawer of old works. It’s very small, about 4″ x 3″ and I’d started it about two years ago for a group exhibition. I was unhappy with it at the time and decided to put it away. Sometimes these discarded paintings don’t seem so bad later on so when I came across this one recently, I thought I might rework it a little. The white patch in the middle ground is a damaged area where something stuck to it and then the paint was removed. While I like the colours in the piece, I think it lacks definition.

 

Found painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

This is the finished piece below. I’ve given the sky more interest and direction using some white paint and a little charcoal. I’ve also added a fine wash of gold and blue. I tidied up the white patch with some brown ink and then I put some gold grasses in the foreground. I’ve pushed the grasses diagonally across the bottom of the image to give a sense of atmosphere. Finally I added some tiny gold highlights in the middle ground where the light of the moon might be catching the tips of the lighter bog grasses.

 

Finished painting by Deborah Watkins

 

Bog Furrow

 

I’ve been working on this one for about a week. It hasn’t come together as easily as the last couple of paintings, I’m not sure why. Perhaps my enthusiasm has waned a little since the first and I need to change direction for a while. Here’s how it started below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the next stage. This large furrow is the main interest and I’ve added a grey pool to draw the eye down and in to the painting. I’ve tried to vary the colour and texture of the grasses but I think this middle ground looks confused. I also think that the brown line following the direction of the hill downwards has the effect of slicing the picture in two..

 

Penultimate stage of bog painting

 

 

 

 

Here’s the painting as I have left it below.  I’ve developed the background a bit by adding some colour and definition to the sky and the mountains. I’ve tried to make the grasses interesting by varying the blocks of colour on either side of the furrow. I’ve also softened the brown line so that it doesn’t break up the composition as much. The direction of the grasses pushes against the direction of the hill, hopefully to give a stronger sense of movement. I’m still a bit unsure about this one – I can see the struggle in it and I wonder if this is obvious to the viewer. Let me know what you think.

 

Finished Bog painting by Deborah Watkins

 

Land Interrupted

I got back to some painting with the photographs I took of the bog in mind (see Shifting Seasons ). I have been thinking about this notion of the cut bog as a wound. It brought to mind a passage in ‘Tinkers‘ ( a book I have already mentioned a few times! )

In this excerpt, Howard is reflecting on a woman he sees in his mind’s eye, planting flowers. He is thinking about the effect that man has on the landscape. He imagines how a consciousness of this demands some small gesture as a ‘token of redress

 

..the flowers were an act of resistance against the raw earth like an act of sheer, inevitable, necessary madness because human beings have to live somewhere and in something and here is just as outrageous as there because in either place ( in any place ) it seems like an interruption, an intrusion on something that, no matter how many times she read in her Bible, Let them have dominion, seemed marred, dispelled, vanquished once people arrived with their catastrophic voices and saws and plows and began to sing and hammer and carve and erect.

 

taken from Tinkers by Paul Harding, Chapter 1, page 61

 

I love the hyperbole in this piece and the fundamental truth of it. It made me think of the cut bog as an interruption in something that is much older than ourselves or our forefathers or anything we can possibly imagine. I don’t intend to make any kind of judgement about the use of the bog, it is just one way of seeing it, as an ancient observer might, like a star gazing down on all of time. I think perhaps it is this interruption or contrast that draws me to the bog lands. The swaying grasses and heathers are like hairs and goose bumps on skin, a living breathing thing which when damaged, reveals a beautiful shock of glistening tissue and muscle underneath.

This is how my painting of the bog began (below).

 

First stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

Next, I added some broad strokes of orange so that this colour will come through anything I put on top and hopefully make the surface glow.

 

Second stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I subsequently added more paint and ink ( using different types of brushes ) to describe the heathers and grasses – greens, reds, pinks and gold. Then I used a dark brown ink to suggest the disturbed surface where the bog has been cut and driven through (below).

 

Third stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

It’s not finished yet but I decided to stop here before the colours became muddy. I will go back to it once this layer of paint has dried completely.

Have you read anything recently that has influenced the way that you see things?