Summer Heat

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oil on canvas, 30″ x 36″

Finished a piece today, finally. When I started this one, loosely brushed a structure onto the canvas, it was so soft and ethereal, all misty greys and soft yellow light, and a composition that really formed itself. It was lovely, and I thought all I had to do was a few touches here and there and it was done, and I imagined that I was at last getting the hang of doing something quickly and well. Many weeks later I think I may have managed to pull it together, but not before labouring up many wrong turns, losing the soft subtlety long ago… It seems I am unable to do a gentle piece, that the paint in my hands has to have drama going on…so I gave into it and let the rich reds squelch and writhe, and the golds shimmer and pop. It reminds me now of the icons I used to immerse myself in many years ago, and that’s not a bad thing… and maybe one of these years I will know how and when to stop while it’s still fresh and gestural.

I’ve been thinking I should really get out of the garden and try a different subject, but these forms are very fun to paint, challenging too, but lots going on… wouldn’t mind doing another and abstracting it some – we’ll see.

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The Gardens of Kilmacurragh

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watercolor, 14″ x 20″

Over the weekend the sun shone, on Saturday from dawn ’til dusk, and what better way to enjoy the day than to head down into the heartland of the ‘Garden of Ireland’
, County Wicklow, to a property that’s now being run by the Office of Public Works, the Kilmacurragh Botanical Gardens. What a special place; acres of unusual trees, fields of narcissus, and hundreds of different rhododendrons, all blooming in the spring sunshine. Rows of them, lining ancient pathways and carpeting them in petals of pinks and purples, fringing ponds and lawns with thousands of blossoms, standing in community with tree groupings wherever you look, and all raging with bright colour!

We found ourselves a spot very quickly, and got to work. In the warm sunshine with the bees buzzing, and the sounds of children playing on the lanes and lawns of the gardens, we were very much in heaven. I enjoyed painting rhododendrons for the first time – strangely enough I had never painted them before, although they were a staple of my childhood. They grew both in our garden and in the area in which we lived, and also out in the West, and every spring and early summer they would be profuse and abundant, flanking roadways and tracks with blousy big flowers of mainly pink and purple, but also in whites and reds, and even some rare yellow ones.  The older trees grow a couple of hundred feet tall, and the shrubs grow in thick copses, making for romantic and spectacular tunnels and arbours.

And now this garden where we found ourselves on a sunny spring weekend was a host to them all, all the sizes and colours and shapes you could wish for –  a sacred place to be, as it turns out, once a monastery and later the home of a conscientious family committed to planting a beautiful garden. A high calling indeed.

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My mother settling in to paint rhododendrons in Spring sunshine!

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Garden pathway in Kilmacurragh Botanical Gardens, Co Wicklow, Ireland.

Zika-free zone (immune anyway…)

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oil on canvas, 40″ x 54″

Summer coming to an end, and so many almost-finished paintings around the house that don’t need a huge amount to pull together, and I was about to cap the summer of painting with the finishing touches, but then zika struck… Not too bad really, not after chick-v and dengue, but it still took a full 10 days to begin functioning again.

This one also went through quite a few changes, but I am seeing that a flow is beginning, now that I’ve spent so many months steadily painting, and the next pieces are not having to change direction so many times. There is hope.

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detail

Under the Petrea Tree, beside the Pool

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oil on canvas, 20″ x 28″

It’s been such a perfect summer, with plenty of rain and breeze, and anytime it has become unbearably hot it hasn’t lasted long, with more rain blowing in and cooling down the place, seeping into the garden and allowing the plants to thrive. No burning hills, no year-long drought and furnace skies blasting the island and killing life, which is what we had last summer and what I was dreading. Rather it’s been cool mornings, beautiful blossoming trees and greenery wherever you go, and here in my garden things have never been better. And then the delight of sharing it with my dear daughter, who having to recover from a tonsillectomy had to lie around languidly, creating gorgeous cameos wherever she went, so as she lay and relaxed I ran for my oil paints ( and table and solvents and easel and brushes) and tried to do her and the dappling light justice….

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sketch #1

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sketch #2

Lovely though it has been, this painting business is not easy. With every stage some spontaneous gestural marks that I really like have emerged, and trying to keep them and still be true to the pose and the light has been a problem, and time after time I fail. Motivation to keep at it alright, but it’s too bad that I lose so much as I progress. I rarely am satisfied with the finished piece as I grieve the loss of all those strokes that lie beneath…

Summer in the Garden

 

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‘A Childhood by the Water’, Oil on canvas, 43” x 58″

This painting was begun a year ago, and has undergone many different directions, finally resulting in this. It was my neighbours swimming in the pool that revealed how it should be finished, and so here it is.

It’s fairly thick with paint, but I hear Peter Doig’s work is also multi-layered, so I’m not too worried, as I admire his work greatly. I haven’t yet seen it in person, or should I say canvas, but I look forward to that treat…

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detail

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detail

 

 

Cultivating our own garden

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Oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″

This painting took a direction I was not planning or expecting…
It began as another study of the heliconias/sexy pinks and became about female sexuality. It began ‘plein air’ in the garden – and it was fine, and had nice brush work etc., but I felt it needed a focal point as all the ‘work’ was on the two sides, in the flowers.
I brought it into the studio where I’m also working on another large piece with flowers that I put figures in, and I like it, so I decided to do the same with this one, and without intending  any particular meaning, it became about female sexuality. And it took me a long time to paint, so I was with the unfolding message of it, and it rang true to me.
What emerged is the exploration and then the owning of our sexuality, as women. It’s from my experience of course, as that’s all I really know, but my path has not been so very different from that of many others. When we’re younger it’s all so new, and in our curiosity we explore and want to learn about this aspect of ourselves, and then because of this exploration our lives take a direction, with the partner/s we are in relationship with, or pregnancy, and motherhood, and inevitably love and loss – the real, hard, living-life stuff. Time passes, the kids leave home, the partner may change, and as we mature and age our lives become less about caring for others and more about our relationship to ourselves.

So, the two figures in the painting are the younger and then older versions of womanhood. The younger woman is a little more cautious, aware that being a sexual being is all so very life-changing, and she’s holding back in her spirit, if not with her body, and is more in the shadow. The other figure is more relaxed with herself, more reflective about life, and open-heartedly engages with it in a simple way. She’s integrated her sexuality and the subsequent experiences with children and family, and now she’s independent, free to engage as she chooses, and in the light.
The flowers of course are so very phallic, and even have their seeds hanging underneath, so they represent the Male aspect of Woman’s sexuality. This Male/Female presence suggests a Garden of Eden, but one where there is no sense of sin, no casting out of the garden for being curious and wanting to explore. This is a place where she can be, be in awe of beauty and creation, a timeless place of passion and enchantment.

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detail

A teenage girl came by yesterday and saw this piece, and her response was that it feels like a fairy world, a magical place, a place that invites you in. I wish for her that her sexual life will be just that.

The news these days is so extreme, with Brexit and its many repercussions, and Trump’s  idiotic posturing and his unbelievable popularity, and the refugee crisis, and the bombings everywhere, and the world economy being so contracted, and global warming and pollution, and that’s just a start. So I find that I have to make a choice, not to despair of our very existence but rather to daily choose to create something peaceful and reflective of who we are. And the theme of sexuality and flowers and gardens is a timeless retreat…

An Abundance

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EDIT: Made changes to this one – wasn’t happy with the bright expanse of yellows and greens and felt it needed someplace for the eye to rest, a break from the sunshine, a contrast to allow the light to be significant. The third distant flower, added towards the end of the painting’s emergence, was too obviously placed, too defined and too green, so I moved it, neutralized and cooled the background light, and softened it’s edges. Much happier with it now. I hope the home it’s going to will also be happy with it, and see it as restful – I know it’s also dynamic, hence all the more reason for an area of rest…go well and emit peace my dear painting : )

 

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Oil on canvas, 36″ x 40″

 

Having my morning coffee in front of a resplendent dozen of these gorgeous pink pendulums, all glinting in the early light, hanging from their stems and creating arches with their weight. There are so many of them, and each one grows to over 3′ long, with up to 20 slender bracts that look like the smooth silk stocking-clad thighs of a bank of burlesque dancers, all stretching out their extended legs, pointing a tiny ballet slipper into the light…

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So many shapes and tones and curves and planes, and illuminated membranes and shaded spears, and then the stalks and leaves, and the gradual recession of the grove has my work cut out, and I know I’ll never do them justice, but their beauty and magnificence keeps me paying homage…20160612_071415