Monday, October 17, 2016

Big poppies - work in progress

Back to the Beginning? This is taking a while.

I went to a larger size paper (about A3) and painted the first layer with a big mop brush and it was a lot of wet-in-wet fun.

 But when it all dried, I added a glaze and it looked a little one-dimensional
So I decided to carefully add glazes over different parts of the flowers to give them more oomph. Now I need to reclaim some highlights and definition, and also to make the seed pods more architectural and less cartoony. And I'm really not sure about that brigh green. But we're getting there. And then I'll be ready to move on.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Invention of Wings

The last of my summer books - well, the weather turned on the 1 of October, but we had a lot of sunshine, so I'm stretching summer for as long as I can.

The Invention of Wings is a story about slavery. I thought it was total fiction, but it's not. There is actually quite a bit of historical fact in it. A beautiful story, beautifully told, from the perspective of a young slave, Hetty "Handful"and her young owner, Sarah Grimké. Gripping, gorgeous, heart-breaking, and uplifting.


Why is this ink sketch called lost?

Because summer is lost
Because my flowers look lost
Because the background is lost

Because I feel lost
In space
Because my mind goes wandering around
Generally not very deep

Just because that was the prompt for the day
And I had fresh flowers to paint
And I had always wanted to draw that vase

And these flowers are still standing

Tristan und Isolde

Tristan und Isolde at the Met HD last week was fantastic (if you ignore that Tristan's physique wasn't the sexiest or that they were wearing drab cold-war-on-the-Russian-side clothes). First of all, it's a beautiful opera, with powerful, melodic music. The singers were top notch: Nina Stemme, Stuart Skelton and René Pape in the main roles. The conductor was Simon Rattle. The production was interesting, with atmospheric radar and sea projections. How can a radar projection be atmospheric? I know, I know. But when it matches the music at the start of the opera, it just carried me into its own world. But it's really all about the music. If you can't bear to listen to 4 hours of Wagner, listen only to the overture, and to the very last piece, the Liebestod.

OK, I'm going to make it easy for you:

And here is the trailer from the Met HD production:

And was I the only one to see the cinematographic references? Definitely Apocalypse Now (the dark, the fans, the ship, the soldiers) and Melancholia (interesting boomerang homage, well at least that's how I interpreted what looked like a planet hurtling dangerously close to the camera, plus the little boy lying on the ground, and the sparks in the air). And probably plenty more that were lost on me.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Walking on my own these days. Well, not really on my own. If it wasn't for the big boy, I wouldn't be walking half as much. But with a sick husband, no chat means noticing my environment more acutely.
Not sure this counts as poetry? If there is such a thing as impressionistic poetry, then maybe that's what it is. Warning: I'm no good at counting syllables, or rhyming. 


That's the fruit of something 
Distant bark
Can't put my finger on it
Ears cocked
Wild chirping 
They talk to each other, you know 

Wing Overhead
Plop Plop Plop
Are you ready? Are you ready?
If you did this every day, you’d become very good
Black dog
Purple tshirts
Interest perked
The smell of hops
Or is it barley?
Brown tunic
Sophisticated smell
Haze over the aerials
They’re everywhere

Woof Woof
I hate them
Red tshirt
Thank you
Two mottled
Well done everyone

Four Seasons
Hot Hot Hot
Before that
The girls
I can hear them too
And before, forgot

Smell of laundry

Friday, October 14, 2016


What is hidden? Who is hidden? My thoughts? My feelings? The real me? Food in my mouth, that's making my face look so jowly?

An intense drawing, done live, looking in the mirror. These are always more serious than from a selfie. Well, try smiling for the cameras for 20 minutes, and you'll understand why.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I tried to make a sad face for this InkTober prompt. I took a selfie and drew from it. Well the result was nearly a fat face, which I tried to correct with my trusted Montana acrylic marker, but it wasn't opaque enough. Maybe I should add a few dabs of gouache?

No matter how they turn out, I always love drawing self portraits. Somehow, I find it a lot less intimidating than drawing somebody else. I don't really care what people think of me, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I'm skipping the odd day in InkTober, but overall, I'm trying to stick to it - just 10 minutes every day. I am enjoying finding things to draw around me, without having to think too much about it. Mostly I am using a Lamy Safari pen and I use a waterbrush to create the blended greys. I am using the prompts from the InkTober website, but only fairly loosely. Well, in this case, it was appropriate enough for the subject I picked.

And in case you're wondering, it's a tiny little plate, with just one wafer biscuit from Marks & Spencers Belgian biscuit set. I was showing true restraint. Normally, I need to eat 3 or 4 at a time, which is isn't bad, considering how delicious they are. And they remind me of my childhood. And it's currently two for the price of one in the shops, so I'm stocking up.

Urban Sketchers Symposium Manchester

I wasn't there. But looking at these videos, I wish I had been. Next Urban Sketchers Symposium is in Chicago. A bit far to go.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Meeting Square

Last weekend (well, actually the weekend before last), the Dublin Sketchers group met up in Temple Bar, around Meeting Square. It was a beautifully sunny afternoon, and most of us chose to stay and sketch outdoors.
Apart from an outburst from a paranoid passerby, we had a lovely time, further enhanced when one of the group grabbed a guitar and surprised everyone with his musical and vocal talent!
And we even managed to get a long table in the IFI café to accommodate the growing number of sketchers.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I'm interpreting the InkTober prompts fairly loosely. I am a hoarder - not as bad as some other members of my family who shall remain nameless. But I carry the gene, along with the DNA for batwings, bags under the eyes and lines over the upper lip. The weak chin comes from the other side.

So rather than draw my shoes, my clothes, my makeup, my art supplies, my old magazines (really? yes, I do keep old Boden catalogues - guilty pleasure!), I decided to draw a few stones - my collection of stones is not extensive - a dozen or so, mostly from Killiney beach as far as I remember, but they are like gems to me. I should dust them, now that I think of it.


Saturday, October 08, 2016

Killiney beach on a Sunday morning!

Last Sunday was our first time at Killiney beach after the summer. You forget how beautiful it is. And how peaceful. Met a man with an American Pitt Bull - a real pet, despite the fact he wasn't neutered. But strong.

Friday, October 07, 2016

InkTober 1

I'm not sure if I'm committed to this yet. I would be much happier to have InkTober in February, when life is not quite so busy. But I'll try a few and see where we go. Mugs are my nemesis, so maybe it wasn't a good idea to start the month with one. But there was a downlighter right over it, and the shadows were interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't think of taking a photo, and now I can't remember which shadow was dark and which was light. I can always try it again. Why did I not think of that until now? I was drinking that cup of tea at our dining room table, so I should be able to reproduce the setup, shouldn't I?

The prompt for this drawing was "Fast"

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Foundations Lesson 4 Constructing Volumes

It's a couple of weeks since I got a chance to work further on my assignments for this online course.
We're now getting into the more technical stuff, and that's slightly intimidating - maybe that's another reason for my procrastination!

The whole idea is to draw with a light touch (or a light watercolour pencil if, like me, you're incapable of a light touch) but confidently, looking at every line and every angle carefully and drawing what you see. And then to draw what you actually can't see: the whole volume of the books at the bottom of the pile - this technique helps you to figure out where your angles and proportions are wrong. Once you're happy with everything, and only then, you draw the viewable lines in pen. And that's where I went off the script a bit - some of my books are too small, but I didn't realise that until the whole thing was finished. Too late to fix it. But unless you know the books, it won't really matter. Or so I keep telling myself

PS: and in case you're wondering what the little green and turquoise round boxes are, they are pan-pastels! 

watercolour pencil drawing

with final lines restated in ink
Next assignment is to draw a chair in a public place. Scary stuff!! How long can I put it off??

Dun Laoghaire Harbour

While I was in Dun Laoghaire, I took the opportunity to do a little watercolour sketch of the harbour.
I would have been very happy with it if I hadn't tried to paint a few sailing boats! I would have been better off skipping them altogether.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Watercolour society exhibition

Really inspired by the Watercolour society of Ireland's exhibition in Dun Laoghaire last week. Over two hundred paintings I think. Not all of them to my taste. But some that I fell in love with at first sight! I spent an hour examining them all in great detail!

My three favourites were:

Kate Bedell's Poppy fantasia,
A still life somewhat reminiscent of Shirley Trevena's work, it was my top choice from the show. It represents everything I'd love to be able to do with watercolours - all about rich colours, textures and a dreamy atmosphere. This is the only one of the three I could find on the artist's website. Photography was not allowed at the exhibition. I actually asked at the desk if it was allowed. I could probably have taken pictures with my phone without being noticed (I know some people did), but I felt it was important to respect that request.

Colourful Collection by Maureen Phelan  A big bold painting - a vase with flowers, all in pinks and yellows and a gorgeous sea green. It needs a big room. But it's such a happy painting.

Slea Head Beach by Joe Dunne. This painting looks so simple - beach, sky, sea - but it's so striking. And I know what he achieved is not easy to do - painting convincing waves without using white gouache! My ultimate goal!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Poppies into begonias?

I wanted to try something a bit different with my poppies, so I took a sheet of cheap watercolour paper and the biggest brush I have in my bag. It ended in a very watery mess. The paper buckled. The paint gathered in the middle. It took a long time to dry. But as always, watercolours dry lighter, a good bit lighter. So it gave me a good background to work from.

Somewhere along the way, these poppies lost their poppiness, I think. In my eye, they look more like begonias now. But that's ok. It was just an experiment. But I do like the brighter red. And the splatter. So there will definitely be a third version on the cards, in a larger format this time. (The original and this one are about A4 in size).

Here is how it looked when wet 
Here is how it looked after drying, not quite as juicy, but an interesting foundation
And here is how it will probably end up - Solomon's judgement - that's it, I've found the title for this painting!

Mrs Engels

Fascinating piece of historical fiction, Mrs Engels. And what better subject than an illiterate woman who was the lover of a very famous man! Lizzie was an Irish mill worker in Manchester. The mill was owned by the Engels family, and Friedrich Engels, the son, was sent to Manchester to learn his family's business. He became interested in the plight of the workers, became the lover of an Irish mill worker, Mary, and after she died, he started a relationship with her sister Lizzie.

In this book, we see the world through Lizzie's eyes, the Manchester where she was a young working woman, the London where she mixed with Engels' friend and fellow philosopher Karl Marx and his family.

A wonderful story of an outsider, who got herself into the ultimate insider position, and what she thought of it all. Of course, as she couldn't read or write, there are very few records of what she actually thought, but the Lizzie that's been created by Gavin McCrea is a likeable character, warts and all.

Monday, October 03, 2016


Back to serious painting now that the summer is officially over. Somehow, I found it hard to complete a full painting during June, July and August, and as the good weather continued into September, I was starting to think I would never be able to paint again. But here we are, now, full of energy and new ideas. I decided to ease myself into the process. Yes, I still want to paint ambitious landscapes, seas and skies, and even roses, but poppies are so cheerful that I felt it was a good subject to start with!

I used a photo I took in Airfield in June as my starting point. I was inspired by a poppy painting by one of my favourite artists, Shari Blaukopf, so my watercolour is not very literal, but it's full of life and freshness. And that makes me happy!

Here is the sketch I did before touching my good paper! I liked the idea of the blue sky, but it sucked the air out of the painting, I thought, so I opted for a much lighter background.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

People's Art weekend

Had a great time at People's Art on St Stephen's Green last weekend. Lovely and sunny on Sunday, and it was such a lovely feeling to sit there and watch people go by, enjoying the art on display. Thank you to all of you who dropped by!

Brush pen and shadows, water soluble pen

Exploring all sorts of techniques. Jack (or Jane) of all trade, master (mistress?) of none.
But all that matters is that I am drawing and painting fairly regularly these days, if only for ten minutes here and there.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

RHA and Hume Street Hospital

Initially I wasn't very inspired by the RHA as a Dublin Sketchers Location, but once I looked out the window and settled into my work, I really enjoyed the outing. A good spot for a rainy day!

And I've volunteered to organise the locations for the month of November, so if you can think of a good place with visually-interesting indoor space, with a café or a pub nearby, open from 2 to 5 on a Sunday, within easy reach of the City Centre by public transport, and it has to be free entry, let me know!! (Botanic Gardens and Dun Laoghaire are the furthest locations I've come across!)

Summer Project 2 - thumbnails

OK, I didn't get very far with my Summer painting projects. We're now officially in Autumn (BB has put away his shorts), and I never got beyond this thumbnail. But it's not a bad thumbnail. If only I got started on a painting rather than sketching and doodling. I have allocated three timeslots on my calendar: one for drawing, one for studying Japanese and one for painting. I'm doing quite well on the first two, but the last one is still at the mental block stage.

Or maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself? I have painted tea pots and mugs and barns after all. But you see, in my mind, these are not real paintings. They are practise exercises to develop my observation skills and eye-to-hand coordination. And they will make me a better painter in the long run. 

Or maybe I need to move my painting timeslot to a different day, or maybe just get up earlier? And paint before I go downstairs to look after our dog? Mmmm. I'll still have to go downstairs to let the cat out, or I'll get no peace. Or maybe I should stay up later? But I hate working in artificial light. What a whiner I have become! I should just be happy I have a roof over my head, and food in my tummy. Mmmm, I wonder what's for dinner?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Airfield Grey Barn

Here is my second shadow shape sketch from that productive interlude in Airfield.
Rather pleased with how it worked out, despite the face that the side of the barn is a bit darker than I had intended and that I added a shadow that wasn't there when I started to paint (bottom left). That's what happens when you paint outdoors: the sun moves (or rather the earth moves around the sun) and shadows come and go. But, hey, it's convincing all the same, and I would never have dared tackled such complex shapes a few months ago. It's good to see progress!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shadow Shapes - Outdoors

The last of the summer sun was shining, so I really had no excuse to postpone this outdoors assignment any longer. So I went to Airfield for an hour. A very productive hour it was. A couple of watercolour shape sketches and lots and lots of photos. Glad I went when I did, as the day clouded almost as soon as I was finished!

I had planned to draw one of the buildings in the courtyard, but there was some Microsoft meeting in progress, and I didn't fancy myself having to sketch under the critical eye of a horde of Microsofties when they were going to come out for their coffee break. So I went between the garage and the hens. It was a wise move, as the hordes did come out, cuppas clinking, and chatter rising. The only watchers were hens and toddlers. I'm not too worried about their critical eye.

And, look!, I managed to draw the building without the roof, as that's the way it was from where I was sitting!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shapes - White mug

Part of the Shape Challenge is to draw with shapes and colour, without using a pen, for a week. But I just got a new pen! A Lamy fountain pen. And I love it already. So it's going to be hard!

So this page has half pen and half shapes

Maybe if I look at it from this angle, my mug won't look too short?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More shadow shapes - Red tea pot

I love practising newfound techniques, so you will probably see a few more still lives with shadow shapes over the next few days!

That teapot is actually yellow, but I thought it would be so much prettier in red! And I cropped the thumbnail section out so it looks better composed!

Here is how it looks with the thumbnail. I had drawn a vertical line to separate the section with the thumbnail from the main painting space, but I ran out of space. Cropping tool to the rescue!

Culture Night

Great time at Culture night last Friday week. Wonderful opportunity to discover places that I had never entered before, despite my 30 years in Dublin. Yes, 2016 is my anniversary year - 30 years in Ireland. And I still think of my quarter century in my beloved country as if it was yesterday. Time is moving too fast. Time to carpe diem!

Here are the three places we went to:

  1. Mansion House - Only a few rooms were on display. And they've sold the round room that housed the first Dáil in 1919 to the restaurant next door! Selling off the crown jewels if you want my opinion! But they do have a fantastic photo of that historic event in the entrance hall.
  2. Royal Irish Academy - well, it was the building beside the Mansion House, and we had no idea what it was when we went in, but we were blown away. It is open to the public, and well worth a visit, for the beauty of the rooms alone. Or if you can't make it, this link will bring you to the virtual tour. There was a live show from an Irish radio station. And an excellent (and short) lecture on manuscripts. All very interesting. But my favourite bit was the ceiling, I have to admit.
  3. National Library of Ireland (Kildare Street) - open to the public too, even on Saturdays. Worth the visit just for the glorious colours of the Reading Room ceiling, and the staircase leading to it.
We had intended to do a lot more, but after a bite to eat as part of our night out, we were ready to go home to our boys.

Here are a few pictures from the night (from BB and me):

View of National Museum from the NLI

Mansion House

Men's Toilets in the NLI (Clearly I didn't take that picture, but the Ladies was just as nice,
but too busy for me to take a photo, although I have to admit I was tempted)

Me and BB at the Mansion House

The First Dáil, 1919

Ceiling of the Royal Irish Academy

Talk on manuscripts at the Royal Irish Academy

Stained glass window at the NLI

Beautiful light - Molesworth Street

Door detail - NLI

Ceiling - NLI

Beautiful light - NLI

Reading Room, National Library of Ireland

Ceiling RIA