Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Moving On

I've got plenty of inspiration material, collected over time, magazine clippings, internet photos, our own photographs. Sometimes, that can be overwhelming. But yesterday, it enabled me to quickly move on. This one is quite unusual - it's a photograph I found on the National Geographic website, of a volcanic eruption underwater in the Atlantic ocean near El Hierro in the Canaries. I just loved the mad colours, and El Hierro is one of the Canary islands I haven't seen yet and a friend of mine went hill-walking there a few years ago and said it was wonderful - she even snorkelled there. So, it's on my list of things to do some day before I die. But maybe I'll wait until all that seismic activity settles down a bit. In the meantime, I'll dream of the deep blue sea with a lime green stain!

Colours used are: indigo + prussian blue for the sea, burnt sienna + a touch of indigo for the mountains, and phthalo blue (what else - when you need a mad green, phthalo blue is the one you want) + cadmium yellow. I played with the colours before I launched into the painting itself. This is something that Shirley Trevena recommends - it's a warm-up before you start on the real work, a way to relax into it, to get the creative juices flowing, and to check that the colours are going to work! Very often, I tend to jump straight into a painting, but then I end up having to scrap my first attempts until I've worked out my colours and techniques, so there is a lot to be said for these watercolour doodles. In this one, I used the colours listed above, as well as a blue oil pastel. The mottled effect is achieved with a Schmincke Aqua effect spray.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Impressions of Christmas


Here is the photo that inspired that little watercolour.
And another picture of the painting, taken in better light. It's a strange little painting. If you look at it close, it's just splatter and strange white lines. But if you step back and view it from a distance, it takes shape and looks quite convincing. I'm not sure where to go from here - I don't think it's frameable, but I don't know how to improve on it. Maybe I'll just move on?

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I'm still exploring the theme of the colour green, or rather the million of hues that fit under that label! This little painting is created from 5 pigments only: cobalt blue, aureolin yellow, burnt sienna, hooker's green and black (yes, black, not something you see much in watercolours, but hooker's green + black is a combination recommended by Sherley Trevena, an artist who is not afraid to paint with bold colours. Hooker's Green is pretty boring on its own, but with black, it develops great depth. I've also just tried it with Interference Gold, and I think that will be worth exploring too!

This is a scene from a photograph taken in the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin in the spring of 2010. Must go back there soon to take more photos!

Plenty of splattering for textures. I had to use an old shirt to protect my clothes. Messy business.

Reasons to drink Green Tea

Green tea is good for everything! And I love the taste of it. My personal favourite is Clearspring's Sencha.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Siobhan Ryan, Christmas Day

A modern look for Siobhan Ryan on Christmas Day. Somehow, I knew she wouldn't be wearing a tight-fitting silver dress! Would love to see the bottom of this dress. Is it long, is it short? That's one thing RTE never shows: the weather forecasters' legs. Very different picture on TV5 (we've watched a good bit of French-speaking television in the last 10 days) where one of the weather presenters was showing quite a bit of leg!

Jean Byrne, black dress, 22 December

Classy black dress for Jean a few days before Christmas. I don't think Jean was on duty on Christmas day, so no silver dress this year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

If you want to purchase some of my designs, go to
make custom gifts at Zazzle

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Little House in the Prairie 3

I shouldn't have started with the sky. It's too different from the rest of the painting. It was a good sky, though, just not right for this painting. I got the steps for painting the sky in a Cheap Joe video - the colours are Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna. For the rest of the painting, I used a variety of mixes using just my three favourite  colours: PB29 (ultramarine), PV19 (permanent rose) and PY184 (vanadium yellow).

So, after taking a picture of it, I scrubbed my sky off and applied a strong wash of ultramarine with just a dash of vanadium yellow. The picture below is not quite the final painting - with all the colours so strong, the white dashes in my foreground grass stood out too much, so I dabbed a pale vanadium yellow wash over it. I'll have to see in the morning if that works or not. If not, I'll add a diluted ultramarine wash. PS - the sky is not quite that blue. I must take another picture of it.

So, here is the final product. The vanadium yellow worked really well. And I decided to crop the painting tighter, to get rid of some of the sky, which I felt was dominating too much. And the colour in the picture below is truer to the actual painting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I drew another pair of shoes earlier in the week, but not pretty enough to show here. But I think my little pepper is quite nice so I decided to show it to you all. Peppers are very forgiving - even if you don't get the bumps and dips quite right, your drawing will still look like a pepper. An art teacher friend of mine told me once that she always starts the year with nature subjects, just for that reason. The talented students can then move on to urban landscapes and portraits. Some like me will stick to the peppers for life!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Les Belges du bout du Monde

For those of you who missed it on Belgian Televison: Les Belges du bout du Monde - Marie-Hélène Brohan Delhaye - RTBF Vidéo
It's a really strange feeling to see myself on the telly, but Dublin looks good!
Wondering if the number of Belgian visitors to Ireland will noticeably increase after this? Is that even something that is measured?

My Shoes

My summery espadrille platforms. That was a tough one to draw. Not 100% sure where it went wrong, but I didn't get the proportions right - either the straps are too narrow or the sole is too long, but they just don't meet where they're supposed to. I'm definitely trying a simpler shoe next time.

Still and all - it doesn't look too bad.

Last summer wasn't great, so I didn't get a chance to wear them much, but they're really comfy, so I can't wait for good weather to start wearing them again!

Jean Byrne

A few outfits worn by Jean Byrne recently. I can only assume that RTE/Met Eireann have reduced their presenters' clothes allowance - it's the recession for everybody after all, and I approve of cutbacks to unnecessary spending - as Jean hasn't bought new clothes recently. 

I think the red dress is relatively recent, and a favourite of the boys who spend time discussing her attributes on the Facebook group "The Jean Byrne Appreciation Society" and other forums. I may have seen the black lamé jacket on her before. And the biker jacket is definitely a favourite of hers - though not of mine I have to say - I think it looks wrong over a dress. Of the three outfits here, I prefer the lamé jacket.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We'll always have Paris 3

Finally, and it turned out easier than I thought, "We'll always have Paris" on 700x500mm canvas. If I was to do it again, I would add a 5th background layer, to correct the slight unevenness in my brushstrokes. But I don't think I can face another go. I'm happy with the textures, the colours (the actual red is not quite as fire-engine red, it's a lovely subtle mix of burnt sienna and quinacridone red), the fluidity. I'm looking forward to seeing it hanging over our mantelpiece.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Flying Dutchman

VDH sent me a link yesterday for a free live web transmission of Wagner's Flying Dutchman at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège. And also for free streaming from La Monnaie, the Belgian National Opera House. Here I was, thinking that all there was online was the Met. How wrong I was. If I start looking, I'll probably find another dozen opera houses streaming their live performances free of charge. I guess they do it as a way to attract new audiences, who may then go onto actually buying a ticket some day.

I haven't reached a stage yet where I'm comfortable with Wagner, apart from Tristan & Isolde, with its beautiful sweeping music. I did watch the whole performance of the Flying Dutchman though. It's one of Wagner's shorter operas, at two and a half hours. I can't say I loved it, but I did appreciate the music and the drama. Maybe it was the speakers on my laptop, but I didn't think that the voices were very strong at the start. It did improve when I moved to my iPad with headphones, so I think the problem was at my end. The lady who sang  Senta, Manuela Uhl, sounded to me like the perfect Wagner singer, beautiful voice, full of thrills. But she wasn't fat! So that killed one of my preconceptions about Wagner operas! And Mark Rucker, the Flying Dutchman, was a big presence on stage.

The set was interesting, but maybe distracting too. One of the first scenes is on the deck of a ship caught in a storm, and that was nicely done, with projections representing the huges waves pummeling the boat, and the cast leaning left and right, just like on the deck of the Starship Enterprise! When the Flying Dutchman arrives, the ground lifts up to reveal a vision of hell, with skeletons and giant red cobwebs. I quite liked that bit. The set and production reverted to a more static form after that, not quite as dramatic.

From what I can see on the website, they will offer a replay on the 17th & 18th of December. Keep an eye out for it. Also available on the site are cast interviews and promotional clips.

Friday, December 02, 2011

My shoes

Nothing like a public statement to motivate me! Almost as soon as I had written my previous post, I picked up my pen and paper and another pair of shoes (Imelda Marcos, eat your heart out, although she probably didn't go for flats like I do). I didn't use the flash for the picture at the top, so it's not quite as sharp,but the colour is fairly true to the original. For the the picture at the bottom, I used the flash and I also made it black & white in Picasa. Here is the result, my beautiful little leopard-spot pumps. BTW, I'm a size 37.5/4.5.

My shoes

I have to start practising what I preach - drawing every day! Sometimes, I go for weeks without drawing anything, except for what I'm planning to transfer to acrylics or watercolours. Drawing for its own sake is real fun and I should do more of it. I started on Tuesday, with a pair of shoes that I love. I didn't get around to it on Wednesday. But I forgave myself and drew another pair on Thursday, another of my comfy favourites. I'll probably skip today - it's the night of the Late Late Toy Show after all, so I won't find 15 minutes to draw! Great excuse, isn't it? No, no, no. There is no excuse. I probably spend 15 minutes every day playing Solitaire (I am an addict, let's face it), so I could easily swap that for 15 minutes of drawing. But will I, really?

If, like me, you need help in motivating yourself to draw, I recommend The Creative License, by Danny Gregory. He's even got a full chapter on "Resistance", with a section on "Excuses" and "Procrastination".