Walking into the Light

My first oil painting after a long break. And it went well, didn’t end up as yet another reject, which is a very good way to start back. These days are days of new beginnings, of new life, which I now realize is not an assured thing or to be taken for granted.

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This painting marks the birth of our new Young at Art calendar too. It’s based on a photograph I took of a magnificent tree in the car park of the printery on the day I was signing off on the final version, after many tweaks and minor adjustments. I was heading back to the car, and as I’d just begun teaching a new block on Trees, I’d been looking at trees in a sleuthing way, looking for good ‘models’. This one really stood out, and was inspiration incarnate! So absolutely magnificent, a magical being right here in our midst. I took a few pictures of it, and thought I’d try to paint it myself.

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When I got home the only surface I had ready was a 4′ x 4′ board, and so out it came, and I got to work. I applied much the same principles I’d been teaching for approaching trees, and so it went pretty well; all that presenting of shapes and interesting rendering paid off. And of course I had to work with yellow, as that’s the colour I’ve been consistently drawn to ever since I got my new lease on life; again, new beginnings.

The woman was so enjoyable to draw, and I love that she’s walking into the light with her arms full of work, engaged and productive and financially independent. I’ve incorporated the collaged newspaper technique that I was using for the Starbucks murals, and had to search through a pile of Gleaners to find the crosswords as my mother-in-law takes them out to do them – I was lucky to find a page with two grids still remaining!

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I love the combination of Kingston life and The Gleaner. This same technique came in very handy for the motorbike, which I found very difficult… I’ve never painted or drawn a motorbike before, and it was so challenging. I had to repaint it numerous times, and so pasting over a bike that simply wasn’t working and starting again on fresh newspaper became part of the surface, and I like it. Keeps it from becoming overworked and stagnant.

It’s good to be back.

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Finding a Way

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Oil on canvas, 30″ x 36″

So I’m still trying to find my way, my one particular style of painting. I’ve spent the summer responding to this and that: painting orchids from a flower right in front of me, the ‘plein air’ approach, and as close as I got to painting outside as it’s so damn hot; starting something from life and then continuing in the studio with the help of a photo; starting from a photo and then trying to allow the paint to take over so the image is not too literal, but the paint is what’s important; experimenting with a collage-and-glazes technique I gave a workshop in, and going big with it…  All have had their challenges, and I can’t say that I know which approach resonates the most with me, so I guess I’m still exploring.

This one I started months ago, inspired by a photograph I saw on Facebook of someone entering a river’s pool somewhere in the interior of Jamaica, and I really liked the feel of the place, and rather than pack up the car with equipment and go and find this magical river, I started from the shot and took it from there. The other day I found the painting amongst a stack of unfinished canvases, so I put a few touches to it and titled it to reflect the fact that I don’t know one definite way, but am pretty open to the exploration. Maybe ‘Finding’ is presumptive; it’s searching really….It would be easier if I knew my ‘style’, but that will either become clear in time or it won’t. And I’ve always liked a variety and find it hard to stay with one approach. One thing I know is this type of narrative painting, the one with a ‘story’, a depiction of something happening as such, is easier to conclude than the type of painting that is an exploration in paint alone… I have many of those unfinished…

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"Fuchsia #4"

“Fuchsia #4

Hmmm…this one veering towards abstraction, mainly because I was not liking areas and then washing them out with water, and then liking those ghostly marks and working with them. Again, the piece itself is not well executed, but it gives me ideas for a larger piece in either oil or watercolor. It’s really worthwhile sketching things out first and allowing the process to lead the way.

That was the last day in the garden, and we had hot sun.My daughters on their way to their studies, and it’s time for us all to get back to work. I fly home at the crack of dawn…

Purple Loosestrife in Wicklow

Purple Loosestrife, watercolor 16" x 20"

Purple Loosestrife, watercolor 16″ x 20″

The remains of Hurricane Bertha was blowing around Ireland a few days ago, and a mighty cold wind she brought with her. In the early morning I went for a stepping-out power walk along Bray Seafront in bright sunshine, brilliant white clouds skidding across the clean blue sky in super-fast motion, white-caps whipped up on the sea, and everything sparkling light and looking spanking new. In wind like this there’ll be no painting outdoors, I thought to myself, but when I returned to the house Mum was packing up a picnic, full of enthusiasm to paint plein air, so off we went…. I carried my watercolors instead of the oils as I knew a canvas on an easel would blow away in moments, and when we arrived at our special spot near Kilmacanogue the only place sheltered from this blustery cold breeze was in a copse of trees amongst hosts of magnificent Purple Loosestrife flowers. Layered in clothes and a windbreaker anorak I got to work, and the above is one of the pieces inspired by these most lovely of flowers, graceful and weirdly wonderful.

Mum painting with watercolor

Mum painting with watercolor

As we worked a friendly neighborhood lady came out on the little narrow road to warn us of the local tractor man who would run us down if we weren’t careful… but he never turned up, and nor did any other car pass during the many hours we were there – it really is a lovely spot, hidden and yet with the most magnificent views, and of course an abundance of these purple flowers, golden gorse, heathers and rowan trees bedecked with red berries.

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife

She went on to tell us many a story, including one of a mutual acquaintance who supposedly stole a statue of the Virgin Mary from the tinkers, painted her up and placed her in a favored spot in her garden, and then invited friends to come by on a saint’s feast day to offer the Virgin flowers and votive candles, sweet foods and prayers. Also invited were some Muslims working in Dublin who were initially unsure of the proceedings, but who soon got into the spirit of things and began to strip, dance and ululate. And another story of the same lady who held a potato party and invited friends and strangers to come by and dig beds and plant potatoes in her garden, but one hard-working participant was quietly asked not to return as the host had taken a dislike to her unassuming ways…Before long this talkative local was joined by her friend, and the conversation turned to artists and actresses, auctions and world adventures, all on this little boreen of a road surrounded by swaying purple flowers. I feel this is a magical mystical land, and many paintings are being born, mostly in my heart so we’ll see of they ever manifest, but one of this day’s encounters must surely develop….I can see it and feel it. Upon my return to Jamaica I will try to paint it.

On the road again


In March of this year  Young at Art teamed with the fabulous Nikki Delicious of Montego Bay to offer a workshop on her veranda, introducing the fundamentals of painting a face to North Coasters. It was so successful we were asked to  repeat the workshop to a (mostly) new group, and so we returned this weekend to the lovely setting of her home and garden.

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Painting Studio by the Pool and Patio

Beginning on Saturday morning with how to mix colors and tones, and how to use brushes effectively to apply paint well, unique pieces were created with a limited palette. Below are the results:

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All Roads lead to the Centre

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The Colorist

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miss tammy

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The Flower and the Fiends

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Always Return to Source

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Sea Sand and Surf

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Meditation

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Zany Superhero Shield

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Coming Through

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Mexican Plate #2

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Mexican Plate #1

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World Cup Kicks Off!

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Cushion Collection

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Transforming

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Refreshment

Beautiful work emerged, and through these expressive pieces we got to know each other in surprising ways.

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Group discussion

Taking a break for lunch, we returned to learn the fundamentals of drawing a face  objectively, and seeing tonal values.

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Drawing on Nikki’s breezy veranda

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Focus and concentration

We finished up Day 1 with some lovely pencil studies of faces, for many students their first attempt at seeing the face as a series of shapes, and adapting to a new way of seeing. Tiring but satisfying work.

Sunday morning we began with a demonstration of painting a face, using the paint mixing and application lesson from the day before to render a face with smooth clean colors.

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Demonstration

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Is this work or play?

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Masterpieces emerging!

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Mace raising the bar

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Painting – a newfound passion

The work is all so beautiful!!

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Tammy’s Girlfriend

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J’shri

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Teacher’s Star Student

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Mind over Matter

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Surf Boy

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Alien Robot Saves the World

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Mirror Mirror

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Peacefulness

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Getting the Groove On!

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Football Fan

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Regal and Strong

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MoonBather

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A Quick Sketch

Mace's Masterpiece!

Mace’s Masterpiece!

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Bruce Bust Out

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Raw Talent….

Gathering at the end of the Weekend Workshop to view the work…

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The Gallery

…creating a gallery of our own in this home of fun and art, the most perfect environment in which to explore creativity and develop friendships. Give thanks!

 

Ghett’a Life

Ghetta Life Poster 3

This was really fun! My first time working with the amazing artist Bruce Donaldson – we’ve since become a team and have worked on a number of projects we both really enjoy. As an artist one tends to be working alone, and I had assumed that that’s the way it is. Not lonely, but alone. This project revealed how stimulating it is to team up – it actually accentuates the creative process and gives birth to a multitude of directions, possibilities and solutions.

It came about because  a friend of ours, Chris Browne, was making this movie, Ghett’a Life, and asked us for feedback on the posters he had. I didn’t like any of them, and offered to give it a shot, ‘though I’d never done anything like this before… That’s where Bruce came in, as the film had to be watched and key scenes selected for the right shots so the characters and the essence of the movie would be portrayed in the poster. This is all in digital media, so someone with technical computer know-how was key. Then there was the subject matter of the movie; the links between the police and the criminals in downtown Kingston, which is often reported in the papers, so I went through a stack of Gleaners to select the right articles in order to collage them into the drawing of the main character.

Bruce was a patient teacher, showing me how to draw with a stylus, making magic with filters of all kinds, and creating dozens of layers in Photoshop – it was such an education to see how a graphic programme works in the hands of a master, and a wonderful opportunity to witness an idea become a professional-looking piece of work. Had it been left to me it would never have amounted to more than a few line drawings and a lot of frustration, but the combination of painter and graphics artist is a winning one, in my mind at least, and certainly romantically!!

The poster was not chosen to promote the film in the end, but it was printed on hundreds of t-shirts and distributed to the Kingston crowd on opening night, and put on the invitation to the event. It was quite the thrill to contribute to contemporary Jamaican film in our way, and maybe sometime we’l get a chance to do it again. I hear the movie is doing well internationally – watch it if you get a chance…