Green Way – Progression


I finished this painting of the ‘Green Way’ ( Inishbofin ) recently. This was a commission and I was given a photograph (below) on which to base the painting.


Photo of the Greenway, Inishbofin





I chose to adhere to the photo quite closely for the composition as this is a well known spot and the clients know the area. This is how it began below.


First stage of Green way painting




I filled in more colour next. Yes lot’s of green in this one.


GW 2




Next I added some textured paste.


Next stage of Green way painting




Now more colour. This time I’m using paint and ink together to get the effects I want.


More colour added - Greenway painting




Just a bit more colour and I’m almost happy with it. Time to send an image to the client. This can be tricky as each photo is slightly different – some images have a blueish tinge while others are more yellow – depending on the time of day and the lighting conditions ( and taking my limited photography skills into account ). Also, viewing a painting on a computer screen is a completely different experience to viewing a painting in life.


Is this to be the final stage?




I send off a photo and some adjustments are requested. There’s a bit of to’ing and fro’ing and finally the painting arrives at this point below. It’s an interesting one – where does the control begin and end? I believe ultimately with the client when a painting has been commissioned but it is a fine line and one which must be travelled carefully in order to protect the integrity of the artist/painter. There is also the element of challenge for the painter – having certain restrictions focuses the mind and a deadline always helps produce results.


Green Way finished painting

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

Sea Paintings

While I’ve been busy with the The Green Way painting, I’ve also been working on some small seascapes for the annual ‘Sea Week’ festival due to open shortly in Letterfrack. The theme this year is ‘A Memory of the Sea’.

These are done on 4″ x 4″ canvas which I enjoy using – small paintings enable a certain boldness that is not always possible ( for me ) on a larger scale. The painting above was inspired by some photos I took when I visited Inishturk this Summer, I’ve exaggerated the wildness of the sea which was relatively calm at the time although not quite calm enough for my feeble constitution as I discovered..


This next painting below is called ‘Ebb Tide’ and is drawn from memory.


Ebb Tide by Deborah Watkins





I used acrylic paint and inks with both of these and I added charcoal to the ‘Sea Cliffs’ piece once the paint was dry.  These photos were taken before varnishing so the finished pieces will appear richer.

Winter Jasmine

We’ve been away and hence the inactivity here and elsewhere. My family and I have just returned from a culture ( and fun ) soaked trip to London – more about that another time and much work to do here on the painting front. However I pause today to post a photo of my gorgeous Winter Jasmine plant. This was green and unremarkable before we left and now it is a tumble of delicate scented flowers. This is remarkable for me who has failed many times with this garden. Dead plants have often been flung into the hedge by me in a fit of disappointed pique. This little wonder was bought in Lidl two years ago when I was tempted by attractive packaging and the promise of sweet scent but it looked like a small stick. I was pleased when it didn’t die and seemed to settle into our thin and loamy soil. This year I attempted to train it up the side of the hen coop by tucking little sprigs into the wire and low and behold it took off!

I think our hens are very pleased with their new surroundings – might even make for tastier eggs..


My Winter Jasmine plant

Clifden Nature Studies

Cover image Wildflowers by Caroline Conneely 

( Caroline is a first year student in Clifden Community School and she was presented with a prize for this photograph by Clifden Library this September )


I recently attended a meeting in Clifden Library about ‘Biodiversity’ in our town which was co-ordinated by Clifden Tidy Towns and local environmentalist Marie Louise Heffernan. Marie Louise and I have been friends for many years so I wanted to offer my support and learn a little more about this thing called Biodiversity. So what is it you may well ask? As it turns out, it is a topic that is more than a little close to my heart because in the simplest of terms Biodiversity means our natural world and how we fit into it. I would have known it as ‘Nature Studies’ when I was in school and I remember it as a subject that was given a lot of importance.


Photo 2 of Bog Cotton

Bog Cotton by Deborah Watkins




Sandra Shattock from the Tidy Towns began the meeting by introducing Brendan O’Malley who spoke about Biodiversity from his point of view, as a farmer working in the area. Brendan talked about recognising the importance of the natural world around us, whether it is a field or a seashore or a roadside. He spoke about the variety of wild plants and grasses on our doorstep that might be overlooked as weeds but which thrive when allowed to do so, without human interference. He also spoke about finding a balance between making a living from the land and respecting it, perhaps returning to an older kind of husbandry which is kinder to nature.


purple 1

Gowlaun Lake, Clifden by Deborah Watkins




Marie Louise followed with an outline of a proposed schedule of events which will contribute to the production of a Biodiversity Plan for Clifden. The idea is that people will start to engage each other on the subject and question what can be done in our town to best preserve and maintain the natural world. In this way, the process will become an interactive one where all ideas are welcomed and considered. You can get involved by joining some of the many activities over the next few weeks. There’s something for everyone and the events are spread over mornings and evenings with talks on garden bird identification, mammal tracking and even a bat walk! You can find out more information on Marie Louise’s website at


Keelin Kennedy – Painting with Thread

Cover image ‘Mountain Scene’ by Keelin Kennedy


I wrote this piece for our local newspaper the Connemara Journal a few weeks ago –

Keelin Kennedy is a visual artist and a native of Connemara. She is also a therapist, having almost finished an intensive three year course in Art Therapy. The strong practical element of this course has meant that Keelin has been able to continue and develop her own work throughout her studies. The quality that makes Keelins art unique in my view is the way in which she combines different materials to convey her subject.


Foggy Day by Keelin Kennedy

‘Foggy Day’ by Keelin Kennedy


When I studied art ( a long time ago ) there was a perceived divide between the disciplines of fine art ( painting, printmaking and sculpture ) and  craft design ( ceramics, metalwork, glass work and embroidery ). Fine art painting was considered to be a higher cause, attracting artists who ‘had something to say’ as opposed to the craft subjects which were often perceived as the option to take if you didn’t get accepted into painting. Of course this is utter nonsense and it vexes me now just to think about it.

Keelins work seems to effortlessly combine the separate skills of painting and embroidery. She manages to blend paint and thread seamlessly in her delicate and subtle depictions of the Connemara landscape with all it’s contradictions and nuances, it’s fierceness and it’s muted beauty. The landscape is Keelins main concern but she is also interested in abstraction so there is often a playfulness about the way her paintings are composed. She draws her inspiration from her surroundings but she often allows her materials to direct the work – objects and textiles that she has collected become starting points or are incorporated into a painting. Keelin works from a studio in her own home but says that she often ends up working on the kitchen table when her desk becomes too cluttered.


'Untitled' by Keelin Kennedy


Keelin enjoys reading fairytales and watching films with an element of fantasy and magic, she mentions Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ and Matthew Vaughan’s ‘Stardust’. The beguiling and sometimes hynotic nature of  fairytale is a quality that is very present in her work in my view.

When I ask Keelin what advice she would give to an aspiring artist, she tells me that art is something that she has always wanted to do, in spite of what others have advised her in the past. ‘Never stop playing and experimenting’ she says – it is this kind of openness to learning and creativity that inspires great work.

You can read more about Keelin and view her work at


Keelin Kennedy


Return to Painting

Cover image ‘The Green Road, Inishbofin’ by R. Byrne


It’s been a great Summer and a busy one mainly due to my temporary job in the Elm Tree centre, a local mental health clinic. The Elm Tree is a truly wonderful place to work and a very special environment where staff and clients are respected and appreciated equally and where the well being of the people who attend is paramount. While I was there I cooked dinner ( for twenty to twenty five people ) during the mornings and for two afternoons a week we crafted, sewed and painted together. I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there and I’m glad that I’ll be able to see some of the staff and people from time to time as the centre is very close to where I live.

I spent most afternoons during the Summer with my three daughters during their long school holiday, trying to balance a mixture of fun, outings, play dates and plain old rest. Now I find myself at home again with the Winter stretching out ahead and with some real time on my hands. The kids are back in school so I have my precious mornings to paint, something I haven’t been able to do since May. As luck would have it, I received an email about a painting commission just after my contract came to an end, so I’ve got an exciting project to tackle straight away.

The subject is Inishbofin ( just off the coast at Cleggan about seven miles from here ) and I’m starting with the Green Road on the West quarter of the island. It’s a spot I know very well, a stunning blend of hill, rock and heart stopping cliffs. I remember being told about how special the islands are before I visited them for the first time. It doesn’t take long to figure this out once you go – it’s like an assault on the senses. The sea is so powerfully present everywhere, the sound of it, the sight of it at every turn, the smell of it and the taste of it in the air, quite a heady thing.

My first step is to do some loosening up as it’s been a while, so I’m starting with some small sketches. I’m using the photo above for reference .







I need to work out the composition  – what is important, what is not. I decide that the cliff in the background is where the eye should be led as it is the destination of this Green road and the most dramatic part of the island. I want to heighten it a little to make it stand out. I’m changing the horizon line also, to make the sea peak out at the other side of the cliff. This ‘being surrounded’ by water is very important  for the finished painting and I feel that it is lacking in the photo where it looks more like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle.


Composition sketches




So far, this little sketch seems closest to how I want the painting to look – plenty of movement in the landscape and lots of bright colour – but I’m conscious that I’ve lost the sharp incline to the right in this one. I may push the whole image to the left in the next few sketches so I can suggest this better. It’s a start but there’s more work to do before I start painting on canvas..


Sketch of the Green Road







Summer Break

Cover image taken from ShopHomeGrown at


Two weeks ago, I got a temporary job offer that could not be refused and now the position has been extended over the Summer months. I’m working in the Elm Tree Centre here in Clifden which is a mental health clinic that serves the greater Connemara region. I absolutely love this job which is a mixture of teaching and cooking ( lots of cooking! ) as well as handcrafts and art. It’s a real privilege to work in such a vital part of our community and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be there for a while.

However, as there are only so many hours in the day, I will be taking a break from painting and blogging until the end of the Summer. If you are interested in my work, you can view it here on this site or in our gallery – the Lavelle Art Gallery where there are a large number of pieces available. You can follow all our latest news on our Facebook page.

You’ll know when I’m back if you’ve subscribed, as you’ll get an email as soon as I publish a post. I might even get the chance to write a bit before then but until that happens, I want to thank you for following and wish you all the best for the Summer ahead.



Island Paintings

I’ve begun a series of small paintings based on my trip to Inishturk and Caher island recently. It was such a thrill for me to have the perspective of the islands from the sea – all that blue/black/green in the foreground with a gorgeous slice of land in the middle of it all. I decided to work small and quickly rather than give myself the pressure of a large canvas so I chose acrylic paper, small pieces – 3″ x 4″ and 5″ x 7″

I prepared several sheets with a wash of blue and white.


Stage one of island paintings




Next I outlined some rough compositions and I used acrylic paste for texture.


Stage two of island paintings





Once the paste was dry, I went in with lots of colour – some charcoal first for the cliffs. I used paint and ink applied thickly and thinly in turn to maximise the effects that these two materials bring when used together. I worked quickly and back and forth between several pieces. The one in the cover photo ( also below ) was the last piece I worked on. I think it works best because I had figured out what I was doing by this stage. This is what it looked like when wet below.


Inishturk from the sea by Deborah Watkins





Here is the same piece when dry – the paint has settled so the textures are clearer. The colours will brighten when I coat the surface with an acrylic varnish later, which will not effect the texture.


Finished Island painting





Here’s another piece – the first photograph below shows what it looked like when wet.


Small Turk painting by Deborah Watkins




The same piece when dry below.


Finished Island painting





I’ll be taking a break from painting and blogging soon as I have a job for the Summer months which I have already started. I’ll post more about that in a little while..




Cover photo by Aoife Herriott



We saw a large flock of Puffins while on Inishturk last week. They were congregating around one of the cliff faces where we stopped to admire them. We lay down on the grass at the top edge of the cliff to watch them swoop below us which was more than a little hair raising! My camera didn’t pick up the images very well but fortunately there were a couple of professional photographers in the group, among them Aoife Herriot who was kind enough to share her pictures with me.


Puffins by Aoife Herriott

 Puffins on Inishturk by Aoife Herriott




The cliff face was lush with growth,  grasses and a beautiful plant called Samphire which is very clear in this photo above. It was prolific in this particular spot and the leaves and delicate flower are edible.

These next photo also taken by Aoife, is of a Fulmer which is a seabird that looks rather like a gull but is in fact related to the Albatross. They breed on the cliffs here – we were mesmerised watching them swoop in and out of the rock face alongside the puffins.


Fulmers on Inishturk by Aoife Herriott

 Fulmer at Inishturk by Aoife Herriott




You can see more of Aoifes work on her website at and at