Monday, June 11, 2018

Store Street Plaza

This was an interesting outing with Dublin Sketchers! How do I put it? Well, Store Street is not exactly a tourist location - it's got a big Garda station (that means police station in Ireland), railway bridges, buses, trams, and a lot of people walking by, or hanging around. The day we were sketching, there was flowers on the railing of the garda station, for the 13th anniversary of the death of a young man in garda custody in the police station. A lot of the locals walking by were clearly very resentful of the police (if you click on the link above, you will find the different points of view and details of the coroner's report). I even heard a father tell his son that the police inside the station had killed the young man.

So, maybe I wasn't as focused on my painting as I would normally be. Or the circumstances gave me a different energy.
Or maybe it's just that the first sketch was done in direct watercolour - no pen, no pencil.

And when I found I still had some time, I decided to go to pen only - somehow this month of direct watercolour is helping me to appreciate pen-only sketches! It was done in less than 10 minutes, starting with a visiting sketcher from Switzerland and a man who was quietly drinking behind him, and then the tree in the centre of the stone bench, finishing with the big concrete boulders strewn on the pavement (art or some form of protection against cars driving onto the plaza?).

An exciting afternoon, with a lot of visual interest. Do look at the Dublin Sketchers website to see how other sketchers looked at the scene.

And, yes, I did manage to fit both sketches into my Bloomsday project, with appropriate quotes - by the way, don't forget to go and see our sketchbooks in the James Joyce Centre if you're in Dublin. They will be exhibited there for a month or so. The James Joyce Centre is also running a beautiful exhibition by artist Frank Kiely, which I highly recommend. And while you're in the neighbourhood, drop over to the Olivier Cornet Gallery, who is running a Ulysses-themed exhibition, called Drawing On Joyce.

They passed the main entrance of the Great Northern railway station, the starting point for Belfast, where of course all traffic was suspended at that late hour and passing the backdoor of the morgue (a not very enticing locality, not to say gruesome to a degree, more especially at night) ultimately gained the Dock Tavern and in due course turned into Store street, famous for its C division police station. 

He thought, but not for long, of soldiers and sailors, whose legs had been shot off by cannonballs, ending their days in some pauper ward

Thursday, June 07, 2018

At the hairdressers

I have no patience with hair colour. Yet, it needs to be done, every six weeks at least! Over the last few months, I have been bringing a sketchbook with me to the hairdressers, often doing a stark self-portrait while the colour is setting. Last Halloween, I even sketched a plastic skull that was decorating the counter! It helps that my hairdresser is into art - he's actually very talented, so we're always chatting about drawing, painting, and science fiction movies, another thing we both like!

Last week, I brought my big sketchbook (A4 Moleskine) and did a direct to watercolour sketch of the house across the way. I started working around the whites, so that I would not lose them. Did the house, windows, door, steps, the chimney. I then added the tree to the right. It got a bit chunky. So I decided to just suggest the tree to the left, and ignore completely the neighbouring house. I then had another go at the door, in pen this time. And by then, it was time to get my hair rinsed. And this is how I get to sketch and paint so much. Not a moment wasted!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Sketching around Belfield

I'm struggling to keep up with my blog at the moment - a sign that life is busy. So I'll be brief.

Experimenting with different styles, and new subject matters (for me). Two direct watercolours, as part of the #30x30directwatercolor2018 challenge, and one done very quickly with a brush pen, with light watercolour added. I like that one better actually. Which is weird, because brush pen is not my strongest tool. But I guess since direct watercolour is actually quite tough, there is a comfort factor in using line!
The motorbike was an interesting challenge. I should have measured better, but given that it's my first time ever ever sketching a motorbike, I'm pleased enough!!

Kilmacud Art Group poster

I'm proud to have one of my paintings on this year's poster!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Cricket Weather

The weather was supposed to be good. The showers were going to be "isolated". Not so I'm afraid. But I got into a dry spot in time for this sketch. A loading bay actually. Nice thing that they are elevated, loading bays. With steps. There was plenty of room for 5 sketchers I'd say, but I was on my own for the good hour and a half it took me to do this sketch. People walked by in search of shelter, but no-one asked if they could join me until the rain stopped. I was in my element. No distraction. No chat. Just pure concentration. Which I needed as I was doing this sketch in direct watercolour, i.e. no pen, not even a pencil mark. I started by working around the whites of the cricket boards (whatever they are, I was told that they provide a clear background for bowling, or something like that. I clearly wasn't paying attention) and of the building itself. I made some mistakes, but I soldiered on.

And although this wasn't an official Bloomsday sketchout, I had brought my DrawingOnJoyce sketchbook and I found the perfect quote. Cricket Weather.

And the reason why I chose direct watercolour as a technique was that I'm doing the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge. So I'm killing a few birds with one stone.

When I was done, I made my way to the Lincoln's Inn, to meet with fellow sketchers. After eating a delicious slice of Bailey's cheesecake and drinking a hot chocolate to warm myself up, I sketched people at a table across the way, using my ArtGraf Tailor Shape. A completely different style, but I like that in my sketchbook. I'm always trying out new techniques and new materials.

The quote I used is not from the same pub, but the Lincoln's Inn claims a Joyce connection all the same - it used to be part of Finn's Hotel, where Nora Barnacle was a chamber maid. It is said that James Joyce first met her there, on the 10th June 1904 and they started going out on the 16th of June 1904, hence the date chosen by Joyce for Ulysses.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Kilmacud Art Group Annual Exhibition -

UPDATE: Five sold in total, 4 at the exhibition and one direct!

Put the date in your calendars : Friday 8 June 8pm: opening of the Kilmacud Art Group Exhibition! The exhibition will be open on the 9th and 10th of June too.
You are very welcome to the opening on the Friday evening at 8pm. It will be at the Kilmacud Parish Centre, behind the Millhouse pub in Stillorgan. Lots of beautiful art in a variety of styles!

Here are the pieces I will be showing. Contact me if you want more information on sizes and pricing, and if you would like to view the work before the exhibition, or reserve a painting.  All are watercolour, painted with high-quality pigments on acid-free watercolour paper.

Poppies, Corbières - SOLD

Stormy Sky, Seapoint

Sand Dunes, Béal Bán, Dingle Peninsula - SOLD

Winter tree and snow, Kilmacud

Country Road, Beara Peninsula

Sunrise on the new lake, UCD - SOLD

Beach, Bettystown - SOLD

I will also have a few other pieces that may not be in the exhibition, but which are available for sale.

Healy Pass, Beara Peninsula

Low Tide

House, Beara Peninsula - SOLD

I also have a few unframed acrylics - they don't photograph very well, so let me know if you want to have a look at them.


I hope she recognises herself.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Harold's Cross Festival

The weather wasn't perfect, but we didn't let a few drops of rain spoil our fun. I even finished one of my watercolours with an umbrella in one hand! A few of us Dublin Sketchers sat at the front row for the Harold's Cross Festival's music event, as you can see in the photo (courtesy of Harold's Cross Festival website).

And we sketched to our hearts' (and ears') content. The two acts we saw and sketched were fantastic! Martin Tourish and Daire Bracken dazzled us (accordion and fiddle). And Eleanor McEvoy brought back memories from long ago.
Tourish and Bracken even played an encore so we'd have more time to sketch. And Eleanor McEvoy was initially worried we might be critics, but once she saw the paintbrushes, she relaxed into her set!

And the dog?, you're asking. Well the dog's owner was eating an ice-cream, and the dog knew he had to be good if he wanted a lick! I never got to sketch the ice-cream nor the man, but you can see him in the crowd picture above.

I did all my sketches in direct watercolour, getting ready for the 30x30 challenge coming up in June. Then I did one in pencil, just because I still had 5 minutes! I still need to add text to the pages. It will come to me soon.

Sketches from the other Dublin Sketchers are on Instagram.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Willow B. - Born 17 March 2000, Passed Away 30 May 2018. We were there at every step of his journey. He made us happy. We gave him chicken. Rest in peace my Willow Pillow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Night Sky

Some pages don't work out too good. I started this one as a watercolour with masking fluid. It went horribly wrong when the masking fluid dropped in big blobs on the page. Then I wasn't patient enough to wait for it to dry completely before I painted. When I peeled the dry blobs, some of the paper lifted. So I had to abandon that idea. Montana marker to the rescue! I was able to cover the whole page with a good blue acrylic. And then attached little stars (I've had them for years - I knew they'd come in handy some day) and some origami paper. Not too bad.
Until I started writing the Ulysses quote I had chosen and found that I had a nearly empty ink cartridge and dry ink on the pen nib. And then, the ink took longer than I had anticipated to dry and I smudged it.
Turn the page and forget about it!

What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?
The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

Monday, May 28, 2018


I can't believe I got this far in my sketchbook, and I hadn't sketched Molly yet. Well, I haven't done Bloom or Stephen Dedalus either, so I'm going to have to think about that!

I looked at the movie, but I found it hard to freeze a frame where I was happy with how Molly looked for a portrait. So instead, I found a black and white photo online of Barbara Jefford, the actress who played Molly, and I sketched her with a Viarco ArtGraf tailor shape. For the facing page, I was inspired by the colours of the TogetherForYes campaign! I think that's the only quote I needed, particularly after the landslide vote in Ireland on 25th of May!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Westland Row

I had a great time around Westland Row, sketching for our Bloomsday Sketchbook project.  Our sketchbooks are getting quite full, actually, so it will be lovely to see them on display around Bloomsday! If you've followed our adventures via the Dublin Sketchers blog, you'll see there is quite a variety of styles and interpretations!

For me it's an opportunity to (re-)discover lesser-known corners of Dublin, trying to see the city as if I was James Joyce himself - what would he notice if he was writing Ulysses now, in 2018? First, he probably wouldn't be in Trieste - he'd probably have got an arts grant to sustain him and his family while working on his avant-garde project, without having to leave Dublin. So he wouldn't be working from memory, but maybe you'd see him taking notes while walking around the streets of the capital!

Anyways, comparing myself to Joyce is somewhat ambitious. I'm not of that caliber. Nowhere near. But I do sketch from direct observation - no working from photographs for me, except to finish a piece at home, adding darks or colours. And the more I sketch, the more I love my city.

Since I had already been inside St Andrew's Church, I decided to go around the back, following into Leopold Bloom's footsteps. (I'm telling a little lie here, since I entered South Cumberland Street from the South, rather than from Pearse Street, unless you count when I drove through the street looking for parking a little earlier!)

I've lived in Dublin over 30 years, but I can safely say I had never been on South Cumberland Street. Well, I think it's worth a visit. From an urban sketcher's point of view anyway. Lots of buildings, windows, roofs, a covered railway bridge, parked cars, a fire escape that caused me endless trouble to draw, street lamps and overhead cables. It certainly was a challenge to sketch! And yes, there is an entrance to the church "from the rere". But it was locked.

"The cold smell of sacred stone called him. He trod the worn steps, pushed the swing door and entered softly by the rere."
(Darks added afterwards)

You can't do Ulysses and Westland Row and ignore Sweny's Chemist. Actually, you don't even have to know anything about James Joyce to go visit - that's certainly the impression I got from a lot of the tourists who visited that Sunday afternoon. It's such a busy spot on a Sunday that it is quite challenging to actually see what's in front of you, let alone sketch it. If you're lucky and PJ is there, he will ask you where you're from and he'll speak a few words in your language. He spoke French - very well -, Russian - mine is rusty, but he sounded convincing -, and Lithuanian - I can't comment there -, in the time I was there. And he sang a song in Irish, accompanying himself on the guitar - twice! Japanese seemed to stop him, though!

"Drugs age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then. Why? Reaction. A lifetime in a night."
(Colour pencil added afterwards)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Friend 4

This friend, I've been trying to capture her likeness for years. This is the closest I've got so far!
She's always in my thoughts.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friend 2

Another portrait from a photograph taken last year, at our Bloomsday exhibition. I'm getting to like these ArtGraf tailor shapes!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Friend 1

You know me when I'm on a roll. No stopping me!

This time I worked from a photo of a friend. It was quite a small picture she had sent me a while back, but in a way, having so little detail to work from helped be distil the essence of her (I hope!)

This time, I used hot-pressed watercolour paper, and the smoothness of it was much better than the rougher grain I had used so far. It enabled me to use a lighter touch.

I hope she likes it!

Timber and Willow

These didn't work out so well. I was getting carried away, lashing on the tailor shapes! Less is more is the lesson to be learned here. Back to the drawing board.

PS: no, Timber's ribs don't show like that. He is well fed, don't worry

As for Willow, well, he does look scruffy these days. He gets quite wheezy when he tries to purr, and he purrs when I brush him (not because he likes it, quite the opposite actually). So I don't brush him as much as I should.

I did manage a nice portrait of Timber later on, as he settled on his sofa.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Done on watercolour paper with black, sanguine, and (I think) ochre (the pack says sepia, but that's not sepia!) ArtGraf tailor shapes.

They're basically like a tailor's chalk, but it's a very tightly compacted pigment instead. I don't know what the binder is - it's watersoluble and it behaves like a mix of charcoal and watercolour is all I can tell you. It needs fixing, but it's not as light as pastels, so if it's framed under glass you might get away with no fixing spray.

Great fun to use - you can draw with it, you can blend it with water, as thick or transparent as you want. And I love how the three colours I bought work together!

This first effort is a bit heavy-handed, but I enjoyed it so much that I'm definitely going to explore this further!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Art Graf

Got myself 3 ArtGraf tailor shapes and one little tin of watersoluble graphite in Spectrum art shop in Wexford last week. Of course, not a clue how to use them. YouTube to the rescue!

This is going to be fun and energising. And messy!

House on Beara

I can't remember if this is the small valley (Glenbeg) or the big valley (Glanmore).  We were on the Beara Peninsula for a few days last year. The small one I think. That's when the cloud descended so low you couldn't see the mountains. By the time we got to the big valley in the afternoon, it was raining so much that the cloud was actually lifting!

Again, had great fun with colours here, starting with a similar range as the previous painting, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Moonglow, Potter's Pink, Lavender, Buff Titanium. Then I had to extend my palette for the green grasses and plants at the front.

PS: I chose not to include the power line that goes into the house, more or less at the centre of the gable. But if the house is on the market, it's good to know there is the potential for electricity!

Monday, May 14, 2018


Trying to get back into painting more, as opposed to urban sketching and art journaling (I go through phases). This is a view of the wet beach at Bettystown, from a photo I took a few months back. All clouds and reflections. There was actually a car on the beach too, but I edited it out. It's one of these beaches that you can drive onto (There's nowhere else to park!). And some cars do get stranded apparently. Just like people get stranded on Sandymount beach - it's so flat, with some dips that you barely notice at low tide, that when the tide comes in, it can really take you by surprise. A few weeks ago, I was wearing my wellies, and we did measure how quickly the water was coming up. Well, not exactly measuring, but it was fast!!

I had great fun with (mostly) Daniel Smith watercolour - if you're familiar with their range, you'll probably recognise Moonglow, Lavender, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Mayan Blue. Possibly a touch of Buff Titanium too. The Potter's Pink I use is Winsor & Newton (based on feedback from fellow students on an online watercolour sketching course I did in January, it's supposed to hold itself together better). I love my Daniel Smith watercolours They've opened a whole new range of watercolour magic for me.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dublin Sketchers go to the Seaside

Last Sunday, unlike today (I'm writing this on the 11th of May, and it's raining cats and dogs out there), was a beautiful, hot, sunny day. I had picked the Dun Laoghaire seafront and pier for our Dublin Sketchers outing. It's not often the sun shines so brightly in Dublin, so I felt it would have been a waste to stay in the city centre. There'll be plenty of time for that by August, when our summer is effectively over (in some cases, over before it's started).

I knew Dun Laoghaire would be busy - Dublin is basically divided between the people who stay home when the sun shines, and people who go to the seaside. My husband is the former. Me, it depends, but I like to be where the action is! 
I knew it would be pointless to try and find parking on the street, so I opted for the Pavilion car park, which was remarkably quiet when I arrived there just after 1pm.

First, I headed off to People's Park. They have a market there on Sundays and I thought it would be a good spot to practise sketching crowds. I found a shady spot under a tree and got started. Just as well I'd had lunch before leaving home. The queues for the food tents were huge. I'd reckon a good 20 minutes half an hour before you could place your order at most of them! And there were people everywhere, on the benches, on the grass, families with kids, hipsters with dogs, and people queuing queuing queuing! People moved, but enough of them stayed put long enough for me to try and catch their poses. I worked straight in watercolour, not even one pencil mark to start. I made the mistake of starting with the tents and the people queuing at the back, so my man in red standing at the front lost his head in a tent, and you can see the legs of the people at the back, which I couldn't see in reality. But, hey, lesson learned and all the rest! 

After a while, I decided to move to a quieter spot. Just below the seafront promenade, there are paths and steps leading to the sea. Hardly anybody there! I found a nice little corner and set up there. I love the colour of the sea in Ireland when the sun shines. In the West, there are spots that are Caribbean or even Maldivian turquoise. Not quite in Dublin, but still, shimmering and dancing! Well, I got so engrossed in the colours that my horizon isn't straight. But, really, I felt so happy there, it didn't matter to me! I was actually proud I had reserved the white for the sailboat anchored in the bay that nothing much mattered after that.

Once that was done, I still had a bit of time before meeting my fellow Dublin Sketchers, so I looked around and there was a lady sitting on a low wall to my left. She looked like she might be there for a while. When I left, she was engrossed in her phone, so I didn't show her my sketch.

And then at 4pm, we met for a drink in the Haddington House Hotel. Great location, just above the pier. And they have a beer garden. But it was mobbed, so we retreated to a quiet spot in the lobby, and after queuing forever, I managed to get a drink and sat down to chat with the others about the day!

PS: It took me nearly half an hour to get out of the car park at 5pm! Memo to self for the next time: park further away and walk!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cherry Blossoms everywhere

Very often, by the time I get my act together to go out and paint them, the trees have lost their spring freshness. This year, I was determined I would not miss the cherry blossoms, at the very least. So last Saturday, the sun was shining, and they were at their fullest. So I picked up my backpack and walked down the road and started painting them in a little park near us.

I found that the latest colour I bought recently, ultramarine rose (Daniel Smith), is perfect to capture the pinkness of them, with a touch of Lavender for the shade. I dropped in a little Potter's Pink for texture too.

And today, Thursday, most of the petals are gone, lying in our back garden  - one of our neighbours has a cherry tree, and the prevailing wind sends most of the petals to us. So I feel so lucky that I did capture the trees at their most glorious.

And of course, I can't talk about cherry trees without including John Spillane's song, which never fails to make me happy, no matter what time of the year!

Vignettes from my travels (to Wexford)

I often struggle to sketch much when I'm travelling. But I had a very patient travelling companion (whose special birthday was the excuse for this trip), so I managed a few pieces over the 3 days we were in Wexford. Also, I worked almost exclusively in my little Hand.Book sketchbook, which makes it easier to work quickly (it's about 15x15cm). The only exception is the view of the town from the quays, for which I used my little Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (about the same size)

We didn't have perfect weather, but it wasn't bad, except the day we drove to the JFK Arboretum near New Ross. It's not that it was bad bad even then, just very grey, and although I carried my sketching kit with me all morning, the light was so dull that I decided not to even attempt a drawing.

I always arrive in good time at the airport, so I had enough time in the arrivals hall to do a quick sketch.

I can't believe I hadn't been to Wexford since the National Opera House was built! The entrance on the street is still exactly the same as it was many years ago when we used to go to the Opera Festival. But once you step inside, it's just amazing. A big high space, with wonderful wood, and great views from the top floor (which has a nice little café overlooking the roofs)

A nice lunch in Green Acres in Wexford town. I'm trying to sketch fuller views, with people and ceilings even. But I didn't draw the lady's two friends across the table from her. Plus I need to practise chairs!

Found a nice café on the main street, with seating upstairs. It was busy with students who had just finished school before the mid-term break. The poor waitress was constantly going up and down those stairs. The camomile tea was nice too!

I attempted a sketch of the town from the quays, but I was chatting on the phone at the same time, so my lines are all over the place. Still. It was fun. And it shows the lack of planning in the development of Irish towns!

OK, not a very good sketch, and it makes it look like the view from our room was awful, which isn't true. We could see the sea to the left of the building too, a nice surprise as we hadn't booked a seaview room. But the really exciting thing about this sketch is that it was done with an ArtGraf watersoluble tailor shape. I had heard of these, and I was hoping to buy one or two in Porto when I go there this summer, as they are made there. But I discovered them in Wexford's art shop, Spectrum. I was very excited!! And this sketch doesn't do the material justice, but I'm looking forward to experimenting more with it!