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 canvasreplicsa.com




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


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

Woodland in paint

I took some photographs in the old graveyard in Clifden on Friday which I had a look at over the week end. I wanted to use them for a painting, but not too literally. I decided to focus on the trees and woodland floor and omit the gravestones and the old church ruin. Perhaps I will include them in another image but this time I wanted to focus on the upward reach of the trees, from the richness of the earth and the woodland floor right up in to the light and the sky.


Woodland Photo



I chose this photograph, not because it is a good photo in its own right, but because of the arrangement of the trees and because it could be a woodland anywhere and not necessarily part of a graveyard in the middle of town. Here’s the first sketch below. I used acrylic paint, charcoal and a little oil pastel.


Woodland painting 1



The bluebells are suggested with some blue paint in the lower part of the piece.



Woodland painting 2

I turned the page around for this one, to emphasize the length of these spindly trees.

Sunshine, beach and Heron in paint

Last week, I spent some time on Ardmore beach, near Clifden and I took some photographs which I blogged about. Over the week end, I returned to these and made some sketches in paint.


Painting of Seascape 1



I used acrylic paint, ink and charcoal here on a heavy acrylic paper. The colours are not strictly true to life but I love this combination of blue and brown and I think the two together look exactly how the sea smells, if that makes any sense at all..


Painting of Seascape 2



The paint is thicker here in places. These sketches are still wet as I photographed them. They were done in one sitting – I might have a look at them again when the paint is dry and make some additions. Here’s one below of the Heron. It is done on a light weight coloured paper.


Painting of Seascape with Heron



I will add some chalk or white pastel to this one when it is dry just where the rocks have bled in to the sea on the top half of the sketch.

Loosening up

It takes me a day or two to get in to a painting rhythm once I have broken my routine. I have been looking over some of my work, particularly these sea paintings I did about five months ago. I plan to return to this looser style of working on paper as I can get lots of ideas out quickly and it is a good way to get back to work after a break


Sea Painting 1



Sea Painting 2



Sea Painting 3



These pieces were done on acrylic paper. I used acrylic paint, ink and charcoal and varied the way in which the paint was applied. It is very thick in areas such as in the foreground of the middle piece and thin elsewhere. I like the way the charcoal leaves its mark on the paint and for me it adds darkness and character to these pieces.
I plan to return to this looser style of work and use these materials to bring some expression back to my work.

Inspiration from others – Ghislaine Howard

Ghislaine Howard is an English painter whom I have admired for some time. Her drawings and paintings are bold and expressive and I love the way that she uses her materials so powerfully.
Although Ghislaine has done many landscapes, her work is primarily about the human figure.

Her maternity paintings are the ones I admire most personally, the portraits of her expectant self and the series she made as an artist in residence at the women’s hospital in central Manchester in the 1990’s. Here is a link to a gallery of these paintings on the artist’s website;


Drawing seems to be at the core of everything she does and I love the expression she gives each mark – sweeping black lines that sometimes stand out and sometimes merge with colour.

These two images below are taken from an exhibition called ‘The Choreography of Walking’ which took place in the University of Salford in 2011. This work was done in conjunction with the university’s Podiatry department and celebrates the simple act of walking.


Painting 1 by Ghislaine Howard



Painting 2 by Ghislaine Howard

( reproductions from Arts Development Team, University of Salford’s photostream on Flickr )



I love the sense of movement in these paintings and the bold use of colour and line. I admire too the way that each gesture – line, brush stroke and smudge sits undisguised just as it was made. This brings the paintings alive for me because it is as much a celebration of the act of painting itself as it is of the subject matter.