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

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


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



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


The Dash

Spring might just be on it’s way after all. We’ve had a whole week of dry weather which is very welcome indeed after all the rain we’ve been having since Christmas. Although it is very cold ( oh yes that wind can slice the skin ) it is a tonic to have clear blue skies overhead and to feel the sun again. My garden is slowly beginning to recover and harden from the sludgy waste ground it had become. There are spots of colour too reaching out in the few daffodils forgotten since last year and the bursts of new growth by the roadside. Every bit of this is long awaited, long earned.

I came across a poem which expresses this beautifully. It is called ‘The Dash’ and it is written by Kathleen Jamie whose book ‘The Overhaul‘ was shortlisted for this years Costa Book awards. Kathleen is from the West of Scotland and her work has been honoured with many awards throughout her career. ‘The Overhaul’ is a collection of poems which seem to breathe the landscape where Kathleen is from. There is an engaging use of Scots speech in her poetry, much of which has similarities to gaelic and this gives the writing warmth and musicality. There are many similarities between Scotland and Connemara – the wildness and the ferocity of nature’s relationship with the land and the gentleness of it too – the beauty of the everyday and all it’s treasures.




The Dash



Every mid-February

those first days arrive

when the sun rises

higher than the Black

Hill at last. Brightness

and a crazy breeze

course from the same airt –

turned clods gleam, the trees’

topmost branches bend

shivering downwind.

They chase, this lithe pair

out of the far south

west, and though scalding

to our wintered eyes

look; we cry, it’s here



Kathleen Jamie



Image of Hawthorn by the roadside by Deborah Watkins



This painting below is one I made towards the end of last year. There’s something about it, something accidental that happened that really works. I want to replicate it on a larger scale to see if I can work out what this is exactly. I also want to introduce some of the textured paste I used in my last piece which I think will lend itself well to this composition. Finally, I’m keen to find out if I can change the scale of a small piece like this ( 6″ x 8″ ) and still keep the essence of it intact. I was reading some of Seamus Heaney’s poems at the time about the bog bodies and I love this idea of the bog as a resting place, a secret tomb.


Original 'Black Bog' painting





Here’s how I began below. The canvas is 12″ x 14.5″ x 2″


First stage of painting





Next I applied some paste, scooping it onto the canvas with a brush and then working it with several brushes, sometimes with the wrong end of the brushes to make sgraffito type lines


Landscape with a layer of textured paste





Here’s some close ups of the different textures. I love the variety of marks that are possible – thick raised pieces and scratchy sinuous lines. Hopefully it will give the finished piece some real depth.


Close up of texture



Second close up




Once the textured paste had dried, I began to paint the middle and foreground of the canvas. I worked quickly with paints and inks, taking advantage of the way the two materials behave together. I didn’t pause to take pictures along the way until I was satisfied that I had the results that I wanted. This next photo was taken after a couple of days when the colours had almost completely dried. The black/brown of the bog has a leathery feel to it that I am very pleased with but was difficult to photograph without getting too much shine.


Textured landscape with colour




Here are some close ups.


Close up of Landscape




Second close up




The next part of the painting I worked on at this point was the mountain nearest the bog. I had painted it with ultramarine blue which just looks too ‘straight out of the tube’ and is too distracting. I mixed up a slightly duller colour (below), truer to the blue silhouettes that you see here. I want these mountain shapes to be flat and serene looking to contrast with the energy and life of the bog.


'Underneath' Landscape - finished piece




I am very happy with these results as I think I have hit on the essence of this piece and the direction that I would like the paintings to follow from this point. It’s the intangible nature of this place, the idea of life underneath the surface and more. The composure of the landscape on the surface versus the darkness and unrestrained nature  of the layers underneath. More work to do!


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.


January Landscape

I started another landscape based on some photos of the bog I took in the rain this month. I began the piece on the easel and used charcoal and broad brushes with lots of colour – below.


Landscape first stage





The horizontal swipe of orange made me think of Egon Shiele‘s work – something about the combination of black and rust. I had to stop and take a look at his paintings – this one’s called ‘Truth Unveiled

I love the energy in the lines, the scratchiness of them, you can almost feel the hand that made these marks – the daubs and blocks of vivid colour. Wonderful.


Egon Schiele - Truth Unveiled

 Image taken from




Now back to work! I added more colour and detail to the landscape below, it’s still on the easel so the inks and paint run downwards a bit.


The same landscape with more paint added





I take it off the easel now and do some work on the table, trying to counteract the vertical lines with more horizontal shapes of colour.


Same landscape worked a bit more





I want to darken it a little now so I use some charcoal where the paint is dry, on the hills at the back especially and in the line through the middle of the road.


Next stage of landscape painting





I mark in the fence on the left also with charcoal.


Landscape after more work





I reworked much of the piece ( below) once the paint was dry. The fence is gone and I’ve decided to leave it out. I tried consciously to avoid being precious about what I’d already done, pushing myself to just go ahead and make mistakes – keeping the image of the place in my mind at all times.

I think this is where my greatest weakness is and I’m trying to gain the confidence to finish a painting with the same energy that it had when it began. I’m happier with the results so far and I need to put this painting away now for a few days and come back to it afresh.


Finished Landscape