Friday, June 30, 2017

Malahide Castle and Gardens

A great time watercolour-sketching in Malahide Castle and Gardens. I just brought a sketchbook with me (well, two actually), but no watercolour block. I just wanted to have fun, no pressure. And it certainly worked. I really enjoyed myself, churning them out! I picked spots that didn't seem to interest too many people. Maybe I'm attracted to the dark?

Definitely a spot I'd go back to! Funny that in my mind, I think I only ever want to paint the sky and the sea, but any time I try, it lacks something. Skill, for sure. Practise too.

The three long ones are Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks. They are the small format (15x20cm approx, closed, that's 15x40cm if you use the full spread), very transportable.  And I really like the restricted framework it gives me to work with. Used vertically, it makes for interesting compositions, although it's a little unwieldy.
PS: make sure to use bulldog clips to stop your pages from flapping in the wind!

It was cold to start with. I ended up wearing my wooly hat and gloves. Not a great look. Did I care? Not one bit!

PS: I'm done with my Ulysses sketchbook for another year, but the exhibition is continuing at the Olivier Cornet Gallery until 2nd July. Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Signs of Rain it is

This one was done on the footsteps of the Olivier Cornet Gallery, as a coda to the whole project. Thinking of Wandering Rocks. People today walking the streets of Dublin. And that our preoccupations haven't changed much. And we still talk about the weather.

"Signs of rain it is"

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cleary's Pub, Amiens Street

I had missed the first day of sketching, as we were still down in Kerry. So for me, Tuesday the 13th of June was Day 3 of our Bloomsday sketchout. I'd had a wonderful time the two previous days, but, like everyone else I think, I was pretty exhausted.
It was a hot day. The whole area around Talbot Street was busy.
The areas around the back, more towards Summerhill, where there still stands a Magdalen Laundry by the way, were too edgy for my liking (apart from a gorgeous pitbull puppy - they are sooo cute - Yes, I know, that is a weird thing to say about a banned breed, but all dogs have the potential of being good, if they are given the right guidance - its owner didn't look too friendly though, so I didn't make too many cooey noises).
So, Cleary's Pub on Amiens Street was such a haven when we walked in. All tranquil and dark and cool. A few middle-aged men having a quiet pint. A friendly publican. He even went to a shop to get ham and cheese to make us toasted sandwiches. As the afternoon wore on, more and more men lined the bar, watching the racing on the telly, talking quietly, drinking their cool beer. And we sketched. The three ladies, one nearly eighty, one in her fifties, one in her forties, in companionable silence. When we left, we felt recharged, becalmed, and ready for the next challenge.

Interesting that this pub was not only mentioned in Ulysses (as the Signal House), but was also one of Michael Collins's bases as he was moving around the city. This was verified by a French lady we met at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. Yes, the mysterious French lady,  who sends flowers to Michael Collins's grave every year. Small world. Full of connections. Criss-crossings of lives.

And another interesting bit of information: did you know what office stands on the corner of Talbot Street and James Joyce Street? Irish Water. I was standing there for 10 minutes or so chatting with Mr Bloom himself towards the end of lunchtime, and all the young staff were coming back in from their lunch. What do they all do now, I wonder? (Well, if you really want to know, have a look at their website - I for one believe in paying for water! Cute little video too btw)

And I can't help slipping in another titbit:

  • What's the Irish word for water? Uisce. 
  • What's the origin of the word whiskey? Water of life in Irish is uisce beatha, isn't it? Let's turn to Wikipedia for the full explanation: "The word whiskey (or whisky) is an anglicisation of the Classical Gaelic word uisce (or uisge) meaning "water" (now written as uisce in Irish Gaelic, and uisge in Scottish Gaelic). Distilled alcohol was known in Latin as aqua vitae ("water of life"). This was translated to Classical Gaelic as uisce beatha ("water of life"), which became uisce beatha in Irish and uisge beatha [ˈɯʃkʲə ˈbɛhə] in Scottish Gaelic. Early forms of the word in English included uskebeaghe (1581), usquebaugh (1610), usquebath (1621), and usquebae (1715).[2]". So there you go, uisce beatha, water of life!
  • Where does the word Aquavit comes from? Yes, if you've read the above paragraph, you will have figured it out: aqua vitae in Latin means "water of life".
  • And if you go to a café in Belgium, I wonder would they still serve you "eau-de-vie"?
  • And what is the word for water in Russian? вода (written voda, but pronounced vada). Lightbulb moment, anyone?
  • Can you think of a Russian words that reminds you of voda? Yes, you got it, водка, vodka. The ka is a diminutive, so, it means "little water". Think Agnes - Agneshka. I hope you enjoyed that little digression into linguistics!!  I certainly did!
And now, for the quote, as my handwriting is as bad as ever:

"So, bevelling around by Mullett's and the Signal House which they shortly reached, they proceeded perforce in the direction of Amiens street railway terminus, Mr Bloom being handicapped by the circumstance that one of the back buttons of his trousers had, to vary the timehonoured adage, gone the way of all buttons..."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


For this page, I decided to use water-soluble ink, which I manipulated with a tickle from a water brush. Turquoise was a happy colour to match a sunny day.
We started under the railway bridge on Talbot Street. A lot of people coming and going. I drew these really quickly while drinking a cup of camomille tea and eating a delicious toasted scone, while the others were busy looking at maps

"The Mabbot street entrance of nighttown, before which stretches an uncobbled tramsiding set with skeleton tracks, red and green will-o'-the-wisps and danger signals. Rows of grimy houses with gaping doors. Rare lamps with faint rainbow fans. "

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bloom finds himself accused of giving photographs to the ladies

Another day, another style.
I was given this beautiful postcard by one of the artists, Frank Kiely, who is a print maker. He was in character as Leopold Bloom for the 4 days, while sketching. I had read the passage about Bloom being accused of sending dirty photos to ladies, and it popped to my mind straight away. So I decided to use the postcard in that context. It made for an easy page in my sketchbook, more scraptbook than fine art. A little bit cheeky. But then, that's what Ulysses is all about, isn't it?

The little square/circle in the top right prompted a whole conversation about monoprinting, another of my passions.

"THE HONOURABLE MRS MERVYN TALBOYS: ... Also me. Because he saw me on the polo ground of the Phoenix park at the match All Ireland versus the Rest of Ireland ... This plebeian Don Juan observed me from behind a hackney car and sent me in double envelopes an obscene photograph, such as are sold after dark on Paris boulevards, insulting to any lady. I have it still."

The fruit market

Another theme, another style. This time, I painted this riot of colour first, then added the lines that describe them as peppers (it's obvious to me, maybe not to everyone!). I really enjoyed watching the colours bleed and mix. I was sitting in a little corner near the Luas line, by a wholesaler. And what struck me were all the colours, but also the murals and graffiti. A good opportunity to practise my hand-writing skills. More work to do on that front, clearly!

"I might go over to the markets to see all the vegetables and cabbages and tomatoes and carrots and all kinds of splendid fruits all coming in lovely and fresh who knows whod be the 1st man Id meet theyre out looking for it in the morning Mamy Dillon used to say they are and the night too that was her massgoing Id love a big juicy pear now to melt in your mouth like when I used to be in the longing way then Ill throw him up his eggs and tea in the moustachecup she gave him to make his mouth bigger I suppose hed like my nice cream too    Ill put on my best shift and drawers let him have a good eyeful out of that to make his micky stand for him"

The paragraph above is Molly's monologue, a whole chapter with only two or three full stops I believe. It's worth reading aloud, actually, but not in the presence of children! No wonder the book was banned in Ireland for so long!!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Capel Street area

A lot of themes in this sketch of mine: food, nationalism, horse racing, advertising, and most of all, what would Bloom notice if he was wandering the streets of Dublin today?

And another style - Using a red watercolour pencil for light outline and shadows to define edges. And a lot more writing.

"—Ascot. Gold cup. Wait, Bantam Lyons muttered. Half a mo. Maximum the second.
—I was just going to throw it away, Mr Bloom said.
Bantam Lyons raised his eyes suddenly and leered weakly.
—What's that? his sharp voice said.
—I say you can keep it, Mr Bloom answered. I was going to throw it away that moment."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blessington Street Basin

After a vegetarian breakfast (I do like liver and kidneys, but not for breakfast, thank you very much), I set off to the Blessington Street Basin area.

Well, it was past lunchtime at that point, and the showers didn't seem so ominous. So I thought the park would be nice. I had never been to it. It was quite deserted on that Sunday afternoon, despite a neighbourhood street party in the adjacent road. Only a few couples walking around the pond, looking at this strange lady in a long skirt and jacket, with her bags and watercolour paints. But such a lovely park. Well worth a visit.

"The gulls swooped silently, two, then all from their heights, pouncing on prey. Gone. Every morsel."

A lot of seagulls in Ulysses, all ready to pounce and bombard. Nothing has changed!

The exhibition "There is a Touch of the Artist about Old Bloom" continues at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. By popular demand, it's been extended until the 2nd of July. Plenty of affordable art by wonderfully-talented professionals who sketched their way around Dublin for 4 days before Bloomsday.

PS: Notice how every one of my sketches for this project looks visually different. It was quite instinctual. Was I trying to imitate James Joyce, who used a different style of writing for every chapter? This sketch is much looser, more wet-into-wet, than the previous one.  Or maybe, I just like to try out different techniques all the time?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hardwicke Street

Hardwicke street looks very different from its appearance in the early 20th Century, and yet, there's probably not much change in its character.

My goal when I set out with my sketchbook was really to try and see what James Joyce would have seen if he was walking the streets of Dublin today, and to understand what themes would have been close to his heart.

On this spread, questions of religion, but also of social justice, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, and a question - why did I not draw the young child Jesus standing in from of the Virgin Mary? The emptiness of the Church? The gap at its core?

"Repentance skindeep. Lovely shame. Pray at an altar. Hail Mary and Holy Mary. Flowers, incense, candles melting. Hide her blushes. Salvation army blatant imitation. Reformed prostitute will address the meeting. How I found the Lord."

The quote on the left is from the plaque under the statue, about three women who were killed on the same day in 1980. I could not find any information about them online.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

David Norris dazzles with his reading from Ulysses at the Olivier Cornet Gallery

Well worth watching. David Norris was so entertaining!

By the way, the exhibition, There is a Touch of the Artist about Old Bloom, has been extended to the 2nd of July by popular demand. So if you have missed it, drop over to the Olivier Cornet Gallery. 3 Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1, very close to Belvedere College and the Hugh Lane Gallery.
Beautiful works sketched over 4 days in the week leading to Bloomsday. And the artists' sketchbooks are available for a peep too!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beach and Martello tower

Balbriggan beach and Martello tower
A quick thumbnail sketch to work out what went where. Another to choose my colours. And then a really fast drawing with watercolour pencil before I painted. And yes, the hill to the left looks like it's floating in space and just about to land on the beach. That's what happens when dehydration sets in! Still, this little painting captures the light just the way I saw it!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Capturing a beautiful sunny day!

Balbriggan beach and harbour
Watercolour is the best medium for capturing the moment! And the light. All done in less than half an hour - while oil painters were still waiting for their first layer to dry, and the clouds were drifting in.

Monday, June 19, 2017

John Kelly and the Seagulls

David Norris at the Olivier Cornet Gallery

It was very special to have David Norris read three extracts from Ulysses, with his legendary verve, at the Olivier Cornet Gallery yesterday.
Everyone there enjoyed it tremendously.
And we even managed to get a group photo with the artists, Olivier and myself!
Don't miss the Q&A at the gallery tomorrow evening, Tuesday 20 June, 7pm

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Elegant lady!

This elegant lady made an appearance last night. You may see her again next year! In the meantime, looking forward to David Norris's reading at the Olivier Cornet Gallery tomorrow, Sunday, at 2:30 pm.

The gallery is open tomorrow: 12 noon to 5pm
They are closed to the public on Monday (but Olivier can be reached on 0872887261 if you want a private viewing)

Tuesday: open 11 am to 6 pm
Wednesday: 11 am to 6 pm
Thursday: 11 am to 8pm
Friday 11 am to 6 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm

Sketch by Pat McAfee. Pat, who can be seen working in his sketchbook here, has some beautiful pieces on view and for sale at the gallery.

Friday, June 16, 2017

There is a touch of the artist about old Bloom - a peep into my sketchbook

Is there something voyeuristic about looking at an artist's sketchbook?

Well, let me give you a peep into mine (if you've been reading this blog for a while, you're well used to it anyway!)

Ulysses - Questions of belonging, religion, nationalism, food, advertising, sex, coprophilia, or simply people wandering around town,  ... And a pub or two. It's all there!

If you want to see how 12 artists were inspired by Ulysses, head over to the Olivier Cornet Gallery this evening, 16th June, 7pm for the opening of the show  - it runs for a week at the gallery, 3 Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1.

Hardwicke Street

Wandering Rocks

What would Bloom be eating today? What would catch his eye as he makes his way around Dublin? Would Horse racing and Nationalism still be at the centre of the story?
Cleary's Pub on Amiens Street - a haven for three tired ladies - and the best toasted ham and cheese of the day!

There is a touch of the artist about old Bloom - exhibition opening tonight

Will this young elegant lady make an appearance tonight?

You won't know unless you're there! She may even appear in a sketchbook or two!

There is a touch of the artist about old Bloom, sketching event and exhibition on the theme of James Joyce's Ulysses
Olivier Cornet Gallery
3 Great Denmark Street
Dublin 1

Opening at 7pm, tonight, 16th June, Bloomsday.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dingle Peninsula

Sorry for silence in last couple of weeks. Was on holidays on Dingle Peninsula. Will get back to posting soon!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Three watercolour artists working together

Amazing stuff! I want to try to paint like that! A strong drawing as a foundation, of course.