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.


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.


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!


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.


View of Soldier Camp


Oil on canvas, 40″ x 28″

Begun months ago, this piece is finally finished.

Based on memories of being up in the hills in April or May, when the agapanthus were in full bloom and the hills were green from plenty of rain~

Walking between Woodside and Greenwich, on a narrow meandering roadway overlooking valleys of sweeping majesty, birdsong and woodland scents filling the air. In the distance the buildings of Soldier Camp glint in spring sunshine, and along either side of the Greenwich driveway the thriving gardens blaze with color. The healthy blossoms all boisterously happy in the cool air; if flowers could sing it’d be a choirburst of sound.

Now that it’s in the heat of summer, and with the holiday weekends coming up, many will be escaping into the hills, leaving the hot plains of Town behind, but those Springtime gardens of lilies and agapanthus are over ’til next Spring. Just a memory…

Once again, so many manifestations of this painting lie beneath the final surface, and all are now lost. The process seems to demand a certain heartlessness – areas that work are sacrificed in order to get all the areas to work together, to make the whole thing relate, and in that process certain fresh strokes and color combinations die. I can’t say that the finished piece is the best of all the versions that have gone before, it’s just that it now reads as a particular scene; the composition and colors make sense. It’s a long and laborious process and one that I’ve yet to master. Once again I’m reminded of Monet throwing himself into the river in frustration… I so understand.

Medinilla Magic


oil on canvas, 41″ x 28″

The Medinilla Magnifica is one of these magical plants that’s so exquisitely beautiful it takes your breath away. A healthy and mature plant will bear many blossoms, each a cross between chandeliers and pink grapes, and every one in varying stages of flowering. Their ergonomic leaves are a sultry green, their strong stems tinged with a pale gold. The last time I saw one in full bloom was up in Greenwich, in the Blue Mountains above Kingston, although I have one in my garden that has yet to perform its magic. It’ll soon happen, when this queen of plants is ready ~ if everyone had a garden to tend there might well be peace on earth…

Tomorrow marks the end of the first month of having all day every day to paint.  I have two more to go, God willing. It’s a summer of no distractions, no commitments, no plans and no expectations other than to paint. Every morning I get up and go to the studio where it’s just me, the brushes, the paint, the canvas, and beautiful inspiring music (from RTE Lyric FM’s The Blue of the Night. One art form influencing another, the soundscapes suggesting an otherworld where every mark is intentional and beautiful and perfectly placed…) Because of this open time, progress is finally being made, and that is cause for quiet and deep gratitude. In the words of a painter who’s work I admire, Scott Conary, I’m becoming a better painter, and that’s no small thing.

I know how lucky I am to be able to do what I want to, and I don’t take it lightly. As with anything, showing up consistently has been the key thus far, as has slowing down and thinking about what I want to paint, letting it simmer within in vagueness for a while, and when it stays and makes itself clearer, I quickly sketch a wee plan on paper, and then sketch it loosely with a wash on the canvas, using a limited palette. Then I wait. Wait and see what it wants. There’s a fine line to be found between letting the paint and marks lead the way and restraining my own heavy-handedness, and when that happens there’s hope…


Zika-free zone (immune anyway…)


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.



Summer in the Garden



‘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…







Cultivating our own garden


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.



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…

Along the Dublin coast


Oil on canvas, 27″ x 20″

Raised in the Wicklow hills that verge the East coast of Ireland, the Irish Sea has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From playing on the grey stones of Bray beach as a child and walking along its Promenade, to sailing from the Harbour into all sorts of weather, to taking the train to school, and then later the Dart to Dublin, the sea was a constant backdrop, and imprinted on my soul. A decade ago my parents moved back to the seaside town of Bray, and now when I go home a daily walk along the Seafront is always a rewarding and invigorating experience, offering something different every time, depending on the time of day or night, the weather, the light and the season.

In winter the waves crash and sea spray blows, with seagulls broiling the air above, shrieking with aggression, and in the summer the people flock, a community drawn by the magic of the place, gathering together at the water’s edge. It has such a pull and a power over all of us who have lived near to this immense body of water. Whether walking along the Seafront, gazing from the windows of the Dart as the sea stretches far to the horizon, or climbing high above it on the Cliff Walk to Greystones, she is always awesome. Sometimes she is an unbelievable aqua, deep and inviting, home of seals and sailboats, but usually she’s clothed in ever-changing shades of grey, speared with shafts of light, her surface hosting tunneling clouds heavy and dark with rain, arched with rainbows and shadowed with showers.

This piece was painted from memory, from thousands of miles away in Jamaica. It’s now going to a new home in Malahide, where it clearly belongs. I’m letting it go with the intention that one day I will paint beside this majestic moving piece of home that makes my heart sing. Bring it on : )