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

Texture

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.

 

Contrast

I started this one with a couple of others recently. It’s loosely based on some pictures I took out on the bog road this month. I think this one is all about contrast – between the black bog and the white/golden grasses, the darkness of the earth itself and the lightness and blueness of the sky and its reflections.

Here’s how it started below.

 

First stage of January Bog

 

 

 

 

Here’s how it progressed – I worked this whole piece very wet, playing with the inks and paint and trying to work with their fluid qualities. I love the way they react together, bleeding into each other like glazes fusing in a kiln.

 

Second stage of January Bog

 

 

 

I’m almost tempted to leave it as it is ( above ) but I go back to it once the colours have dried. I try to put in just a bit more detail and to describe the grasses a bit better and give them more direction..

 

Finished Landscape - January Bog

 

 

 

 

While I am quite happy with this one, I almost prefer it at the earlier first stage as pictured above – what do you think?

 

Rain, Rain

With friends at Clifden Library

This Christmas was one of the mildest and wettest in my recent memory. We’ve had almost three weeks of rain now. I’m struggling to remember a rain free day in that time. G tells me it was fine on New Years Day and I can’t figure out how I missed it! Must have had my head in a book when the sun came out! I took these photos at the week end out on the Bog road to Moyard. It was pouring rain at the time, had been raining since early morning and there was a thick mist hanging low and covering everything in the middle and far distance save for a haze of trees and telegraph poles. Several of the images are blurred due to drops landing on the lens. I quite like the some of  the results though. There’s a drama about them, a romance that I would love to be able to translate in to paint. Here’s some more blurry shots.

 

Wet day in Connemara

 

 

 

Rain on Bog Road

 

 

 

Fence on rainy day in Connemara

 

 

 

Wet Bog in the rain

Buttermilk Hill

 

 

The picture below is the view from my top window where beyond the back garden, the gorse and the telegraph poles you can see Buttermilk hill.  (You can also see the new hen run – almost finished, the girls playhouse – I leave the bunting out all Winter because it adds some cheer and Jellybean our ginger cat!

 

Buttermilk hill from my top window

 

 

 

Here’s a better view of the hill (below) from Clifden’s National School. I’ve looked at it from this vantage point many times in the last eight years.. it always makes me think of a sleeping giant, the curves and hollows of a turned away face, it’s nose the highest point.

 

Buttermilk hill from Clifden National School

 

 

 

In all the time I’ve lived here, I’ve never climbed to the top of the Buttermilk so I made it a project this week and I brought my camera with me. This next photo is taken about half way up. I had to watch my footing as the ground was thick with tufty grasses, gorse and heather.

 

Halfway up Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

Such a great view already. This northern side of town has shrunk and seems to nestle cosily in the hills and mountains beyond. There’s colour among the russet grasses too and when I look closely, I spot some purple flowers and a brilliant red leafed plant.

 

Purple plant

 

 

 

Red leafed plant

 

 

 

At last the ‘nose’ of the hill was within reach..

 

The top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

When I got to the top, a plain of land was unveiled ahead and the lakes that provide our house with water.

 

Lake and grasses on top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

The view along the Wesport Road and beyond was wonderful – St. Catherine’s nursing home with its long narrow avenue to the left and the Spire of St.Joseph’s church off to the right. I could pick out my own house and the bright green GAA pitch beyond it. The mountains looked magnificent, their peaks covered in mist and I had the feeling that they were closer at this vantage point even though this is a relatively small hill.

 

View from Buttermilk hill

 

 

View from Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

One last picture looking further north – more clouds in this one and the curling line of Streamstown bay in the far distance.

 

On top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

I was tempted to keep walking but my time was limited so I made a promise to myself to return in the near future.

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.

 

 

Returning – Coastline Bog

Close up of stampler stapler

It’s good to be back. We’ve had a wonderful holiday in the magnificent city of Paris, a special family treat that we have enjoyed immensely and which was as exciting and fun as we could have imagined, but more about that in my next post..

There’s truth in the adage that travel that makes the return home all the sweeter – the first sight of the Twelve Bens felt like a welcome home party after our long journey, all hazy and blue in the evening sun.

Feeling full of enthusiasm, I got back to work at the week end and went out with my camera to Aughrus Mor, just North of Clifden. It is a flat low lying area of rock and bog that stretches right out to the sea. It’s always windy here and the breeze seemed to accelerate as I moved closer to the water. Although I went out with the intention of taking pictures of the sea and islands off shore, I found myself looking at the ground at my feet – a lovely combination of stone, bog and some wonderful cushiony soft grasses. I love the feel of these spongy plants, a mantle of spongy softness under every step.

 

Photo of Bog

 

 

 

 

The earth was broken by a number of  bog pools, each one a different  combination of curling edges and the stillness of the water contained reflected the colours in the sky.

 

Photo of Bog Pool by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This small one was eerily hidden and reminded me of the mythical bog holes that people warn you about, the kind through which people are supposed to disappear after dark, never to be seen again ‘beware of the bog holes, you never know how deep they are..’ Is there any truth to this I wonder? I wasn’t about to find out for myself on this occasion..

 

Photo of small hidden bog hole by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This low lying area was difficult to cross as the ground was so wet but such a rich combination of plants and colours. The vividness of some of the tiny water plants was striking and those russet red ferns seem like the perfect complement to all those greens.

 

Photo of bog and plants by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I discovered to my dismay that my new boots are not waterproof, should have brought my wellies..

 

Wet boots by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

Nonetheless, I came away feeling satisfied that I have some rich source material for a new batch of bog paintings.

 

Photo of coastline bog by Deborah Watkins

Island

Small and Large Notebooks and Pencils

 

I’ve been asked to submit a couple of paintings for this year’s Sea week group exhibition. This annual event takes place in the nearby village of Letterfrack and is a celebration of the sea through music, word and the visual arts.

This year the theme is the Island. I’ve been thinking about how I see the islands ( in a literal way ) as a shape on the horizon line from the mainland, as a two dimensional shape on a map and sometimes as coloured images from space ( with the help of google earth ). I wanted to combine these ways of seeing so I took some photographs of the islands from the mainland and then looked at maps and other imagery (below).

 

photographs and map collected by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I love this map by Tim Robinson – every town land, hill, island, inlet, mound and tomb is here. Every scaled inch is marked and has a name. I am drawn to the familiar shape of Omey island which is connected to the mainland by a strand at low tide.

 

 

Photograph of map by Tim Robinson

 

 

 

 

I begin by sketching an outline of the island as a shape on the horizon and then I flatten the perspective so that the shape extends underneath as if viewed from above. I like the resulting image as it also looks like a shape that is under the water like an iceberg.

 

Outline of Island shape by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I used a broad brush to fill in colour – paint for the island shape and strand and blue inks for the water. The composition is similar to a painting I made called ‘Tinkers‘ after the novel of the same name. The choice of colour is similar and both allow the viewer to see water from different perspectives..

 

Second stage - Island painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This is the piece as I’ve left it below. I filled in some details as if we are now seeing part of the island from the above. I put in Lough Feichin ( wonderful name! ), the large lake in the middle of the island and Tra Rabhach above it as well as some of the other beaches. I used brown ink to darken the water in places, I enjoy the way the inks react with the paint, especially where it has been thickly applied. I’ll return to it in a couple of days and see if it needs anything more.

 

Finished Island Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

Looking at the painting now I think that choosing this removed perspective is appropriate for me as someone from the mainland. I love to visit the islands when I can but I know that there is something about the isolation and the restriction of movement that I would find difficult..

 

Water, Snow and Ice

I’m reading a book that most of the world has read and enjoyed but which I am just discovering. It is ‘Tinkers‘ the novel by Paul Harding that won the Pulitzer prize in 2010. It is simply the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time and I am savouring every page. I decided that I would try to make some paintings to describe one lovely passage.

This part of the book describes the failure efforts of the protagonist’s salesman father to sell small pieces of jewelry to peasant women on his travels. The land is frozen and the women are too caught up in their own hardships to allow themselves this small pleasure.

 

‘He thought, Buy the pendant, sneak it into your hand from the folds of your dress and let the low light of the fire lap it late at night as you wait for the roof to give out or your will to snap and the ice to be too thick to chop through with the ax as you stand in your husband’s boots on the frozen lake at midnight, the dry hack of the blade on ice so tiny under the wheeling and frozen stars, the soundproof lid of heaven, that your husband would never stir from his sleep in the cabin across the ice, would never hear and come running, half-frozen, in only his union suit, to save you from chopping a hole in the ice and sliding in to it as if it were a blue vein, sliding down in to the black, silty bottom of the lake, where you would see nothing, would perhaps feel only the stir of some somnolent fish in the murk as the plunge of you in your wool dress and the big boots disturbed it from its sluggish winter dreams of ancient seas. Maybe you would not even feel that, as you struggled in clothes that felt like cooling tar, and as you slowed, calmed, even, and opened your eyes and looked for a pulse of silver, an imbrication of scales, and as you closed your eyes again and felt their lids turn to slippery, ichthyic skin, the blood behind them suddenly cold, and as you found yourself not caring, wanting, finally, to rest, finally wanting nothing more than the sudden, new, simple hum threading between your eyes’.

 taken from ‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding, Chapter 1, pages 24/25 

 

This is how I started the painting below.

 

First stage of painting

 

 

 

 

The largest part of the painting is under water. I wanted to have a central shape plunging downwards and water gushing back upwards and in to the air. This is the next stage below.

 

Second stage of painting

 

 

 

 

I used lots of colour for the plunging shape – pinks, golds, browns, some red. I made several attempts to get this sense of movement using large brushes and lots of colour – blues first and then splashes of white for the water. It’s coming together here but I’m not happy with the top part. It doesn’t feel like a cold place yet. The next image below is the piece as I have left it.

 

 

Finished painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I used a broad brush, some white paint and some charcoal to work up the sky and I’ve darkened the water at the base of the painting. Now I think it feels like snow and the depths feel like murk. I’ll let the paint dry before I decide whether to add any more to it. What do you think?

Welcome Back! Seascape in Progress

I’m back after my short break and I’ve returned to the sea to do some painting..

I started this one with the idea of setting up some kind of contrast between the bright shore line and the darker water out to sea. This is how it began below.

The sky takes up less than a third of the page so the emphasis is very much on the water. I’ve used a touch of red on the island shape and some charcoal in the foreground to suggest some rock shapes. The rest of the colour is a mixture of acrylic paint and ink.

 

Seascape first stage

 

 

 

This is the next stage below. I’ve used lots of bright colour near the shore line – turquoise, green and some pink. I find the colours of the sea seductive and inviting near the shore and I want to play this against the water further out towards the horizon where it becomes mysterious and dangerous.

 

seascape stage 2

 

 

 

The next image is exactly the same but taken a couple of days later. The paint has ‘settled’ and some of the thin layers in the foreground have shrunk a bit as they have dried. The colours have dulled a little too but I’ll bring them back later when I varnish the finished piece.

 

seascape - paint dry

 

 

 

This is the finished painting below. I tidied up the horizon line and added a bit more purple to the island shape. I also used some more paint and charcoal on the rocks. Once the paint was dry, I varnished the whole thing.

I’m happy enough with this one – it needed very little adjustment after the first sitting so I think it has an energy that reflects how it was made. I like the way the paint and charcol bled together in the foreground into these watery shapes that look like seaweed.

 

 

Finished Seascape

 

 

 

Do you think the contrast works here? What does the sea mean to you?