Plein Air in Rathmines

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Plein air painting in Rathmines, Dublin on a brilliant sunny day

This week, I took advantage of Tuesday’s brilliant sunshine to go out in Rathmines to paint the ‘Four Faced Liar’, as the Rathmines town hall clock is called by generations of confused Dubs. I set up outside Artmines art supplies shop, right at the pavement’s edge where I was close to being brained by bus wing mirrors.

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I spoke to several passers-by some of them painters others just interested. I also got a nice mug of tea from Laura in Artmines who came out for a chat -and from the owner Soma. Mr Ali, who owns the Turkish barber came out with a little glass of Turkish tea and a couple of Turkish pastries. Delicious. 

It was gratifying to  see that people are generally very interested in what I was doing. A few remarked that it made life more interesting to see this kind of activity. Some told me about their own practice in painting. I handed out many leaflets for my art classes in Dublin, so it was a very useful enterprise to be out in public. Thank you to you all for being so supportive; I have to say I was nervous at the outset. It’s one thing standing in a rural beauty spot to paint -and another to be in a crowded city street and probably in everyone’s way.

I teach this stuff. I have a fun painting weekend organised in beautiful An Grianán, County Louth at the end of August. If you’re interested in joining us, there are a few places left.

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Public Art at Harold’s Cross: Dublin Canvas

The traffic light control box at Mount Jerome. Complete with the incontinent and witless scrawlings of the spraycan children.

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be adding my ideas and colour to this excellent city-wide project. I wanted to paint one of these traffic light control boxes in my own area and this one by Mount Jerome Cemetery and Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church is in an ideal location.  I feel very lucky to have secured this one as it fits in completely with my work.

The brief is that the art should relate to it’s location:

“Participants should draw upon their own creativity but should also pay attention to the different characteristics of each area for inspiration, paying attention to the surroundings of each box when designing their artwork. As each of the areas are quite distinct it is suggested that you visit each location to draw inspiration from the immediate environment.”

There’s also a park across the road with the small-but-perfectly-formed Noshington café for moments of respite from the work. I’ll be close to home, so lunch won’t be a problem.

I’ve booked in a few days to do this during July and the people from Dublin canvas will prepare the box for painting sometime soon. So do keep an eye out for me and honk your car horn as you pass by. Words of encouragement are welcome. I’ll keep you posted about my progress -wish me luck.

The web site for the Dublin Canvas public art project is at this link.

An Infinite Variety of Styles

I started looking though the Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 timelapse videos – there are many – and it’s interesting to see the many different approaches to making a painting; from very loose and unstructured to the insanely realistic. There is no one way, of course, but one of my favourites out of the lot I saw was this one by Haidee Jo Summers. You can see paintings being made with the aid of iPads too but I have to say, I’m not a big fan of that method. The deadline for application for this year’s show is May 11 and you can do that here.

Whatever you do, watch as many of these short videos as you can ; they’re an education. 

HAIDEE JO SUMMERS: Time lapse – Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 from N9 Design on Vimeo.

The Story of the Blues

A carving in high quality lapis lazuli. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone

I’ve always wondered about the history of certain paints and ultramarine has one of the most romantic. Take a read of the following article on the Winsor & Newton web site:

“The word ‘Ultramarine’ comes from the Latin ‘ultra’ meaning ‘beyond’ and ‘mare’ meaning ‘sea’, as this was how Lapis Lazuli first arrived in Europe. Ultramarine came in the form of lumps of the semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli (the ‘blue stone’ in Latin), via foot and donkey on the Silk Road from Afghani…” read more on the W&N web site

Vermeer and Lenses

We’ve often spoken about the old masters’ use of lenses during class and one of my students has found a link to this lecture in University College London which is well worth watching. Now I have to go off and find the film, ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ which is mentioned by Professor Steadman. Enjoy.

Open House Exhibition 2018

Open House exhibition of paintings at my house and studio. December 7, 2018
Open House exhibition of paintings at my house and studio. December 7, 2018

I’m delighted to announce the second Open House exhibition of paintings at my house and studio. As this is a private event, this is by invitation only: If you want to receive an invitation and a PDF catalogue for this very successful art event, subscribe to my mailing list using the form at left.

The will be a drinks from 6.00pm onwards on FRIDAY December 7th 2018.

Download the PDF catalogue here:


On street parking.

A Perfect Composition in Cotignac

Happy Cotignac couple two-up on a Vespa in a flower-filled sunny Provençal street
Perfection: A happy Cotignac couple two-up on a Vespa in a flower-filled sunny Provençal street
While Cathy and I were out for a lunch en famille in Cotignac village, I turned the corner of a sunny street and encountered this delightful Provençal scene. This couple were just about to take off and I managed to get a couple of words in with the lady. These two are obviously Vespa enthusiasts, so I told them about my own machine back home in Dublin. As they pulled away, she even gave me a cheery wave. They know they look cool…and I love the matching helmets. This is the life we want, eh? This composition includes most of the elements I wish for: Colour, sunny aspects, a harmonious relationship and Italian scooter design! I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask them their names.
 
When I first saw this little street, while out searching for likely spots to take my painting students, I thought there must be a flower seller there but it turns out that the owner just likes a lot of flowers -and also doesn’t want cars parking in front of his house; hence, the large pots at the roadside.
 
We had an exquisite meal at the Restaurant du Cours (highly recommended) and then back to base for more painting.
 
Cotignac in sunny Provence is gorgeous and it’s the perfect spot for a painting en plein air holiday -if you’d like to join us in September, or next May, take a look here for my 7 day workshops, based in the lovely nearby villa of Le Clé.
 
 
And the restaurant…
Outside Le Restaurant du Cours, Cotignac. France
Le Restaurant du Cours, Cotignac. France
 

Influences: Paul Slater

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my students the other day. At the end of the class, while all the packing up and cleaning of hands and equipment was going on, the subject of influences came up. Both of these students have been with me for a long time and they both mentioned that they liked the way I would cite my influences as I went along in the class – for example that “John Singer Sargent said this” or “I learned this from such-and-such a painter”.

However, what I was thinking when this was being said is that I don’t do it enough -and not publicly enough. So, I thought I’d better remedy that here. I’m planning a series of posts that show where I’ve picked up knowledge or where I’ve fallen into the orbit of an artist I greatly admire, whether they’re still around or not! Much the same way that an academic must cite references, although no-one has ever accused me of being academic…So here’s the first -and he’s alive and well!

Paul Slater. Album cover for OMD's Crush
Paul Slater. Album cover for OMD’s Crush.

I’ll spare the embarrassment by not gushing about this first painter because it’s highly possible that he’ll read this at some point. Paul Slater is an English artist who has been creating wonderful, unique work for papers such as the London Times and others too numerous to mention for a long time. His witty, surreal and beautifully rendered artworks on the food theme were a staple of the Times restaurant critic’s page for many years. I came across his work because he was invited to speak at NCAD in 2002 to illustration students and I was also there with fellow Irish illustrator Tom Byrne, representing our new illustrators’ organisation, the IGI.

Tiny Trilbies by Paul Slater
‘Tiny Trilbies’ by Paul Slater

It was Slater who came up with the words of advice that I’ve tried to follow, ‘Think of the most ridiculous thing you can; and paint that”. He also impressed upon students that you can’t realise your crazy ideas unless you have the craft skills to support them.

We had a conversation in the pub one day about our palettes and I mentioned that I used Ivory Black (and there are many categorical-minded people who will say the black should NEVER be on the palette). He asked me why and I told him that it’s good for making shadows from body colours and it’s a relatively weak black compared to Lamp or Mars blacks so it’s less likely to overpower mixes. I was surprised when he fished a notebook out of his breast pocket and wrote it down. And that’s one of the things that make him such a great artist; he’s supremely confident, he’s always curious and always ready to try something different in the pursuit of his art rather than defensively sticking to one way of doing things. He told me a couple of years later that he’d been using ivory black quite often. Blimey -I thought to myself, especially as I didn’t have a notebook handy.

There’s something that’s so English and early 20th century about his work. I was brought up amid this stuff and despite living the greater part of my life in Ireland, I still feel at home in his art.  I’m delighted to say I’ve got a few Paul Slater originals in my collection.

Paul Slater – Illustrator from Cian Brennan on Vimeo.

Paul is represented by the Central Illustration Agency in London and you can see more of his work on their site.

And the lucky winner of the oil painting Ophelia’s Sweetpeas is…

We finally organised the raffle draw after our last few visitors saw the exhibition: Ticket number 19 was picked out of the box by Emilie, making the lucky winner of Ophelia’s Sweetpeas framed oils painting; Linda Hederman
Congratulations to Linda -I hope you get many, many years of pleasure out of the painting. Open House was a tremendous success, so here’s a huge thank you to all my friends who came to my home to support it.

Winning ticket drawn for prize of an oil painting by Kevin McSherry, Ophelia's Sweetpeas at 2017's Open House Art Exhibition
Emilie picked out the winning ticket…

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Ophelia's Sweetpeas. Oils on panel. 7" x 7"
Ophelia’s Sweetpeas. Oils on panel. 7″ x 7″.
Emilie with Ophelia's Sweetpeas. Oil painting on panel, the prize in 2017's Open House Art Exhibition
Emilie with Ophelia’s Sweetpeas. Oil painting on panel, the prize in 2017’s Open House Art Exhibition

Making Stuff Up: Using your Imagination in your Art

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Draw and paint from your imagination as much as you can.

I often tell my painting students that sooner or later they should all try to work from their imagination. For me, that’s what most of my studies lead up to.

So, sketching is very helpful; sketching and doodling. Great for getting what’s in your mind out into the world in a quick and convenient way. Life-drawing will equip you with the ability to render what’s on your mind; I just don’t think it’s enough to have all that craft ability and to not use it for expressing yourself in an imaginative way.

This little work was a demo I did to show my students how you can paint an underpainting (a brunaille* in this case) if you’re not sure how you want your painting to turn out. I had no particular plan with this other than demonstrating how to achieve a result. I made it up on the spot because I’ve done things like this thousands of times.

Anyway, you can design the painting and add other details or subtract them as you go along -and it’s not going to affect your final work. The underpainting is like painting with a safety net; all the details and tonal values are worked out before any colour gets added. Then the colour can be glazed over it, eventually building up to opaque paint. Just make sure you keep you brushstrokes nice and flat -you don’t want to form little ridges in you paint as your transparent glazes could pool.

Tubes of paint used for this are:

Ultramarine
Burnt Sienna
Pale Terracotta (also known as ‘Flesh Tint’) or Warm Bright Yellow from Sennelier.
Titanium White (you can get away without using this. I just used it for the shirt and the bright highlights in the eyes).

*Grisaille = A monochrome grey painting
*Brunaille = Warm monochrome painting

Of course, the other thing you should be doing to exercise your imagination is to draw: Doodle and sketch as much as possible. Buy a sketchbook that you can carry around with you and fill it up. I’ve written a book that will help inspire you to do just this. It’s called, ‘The Care & Feeding of your Sketchbook’ and you can find it here.