Sunshine on a cloudy day

I’ve been racing the onset of winter with this latest project to transform a wooden gazebo…

before…

…into a perpetually sunny, coastal themed summer-house, and finally finished last weekend.

After….

I’m pleased with the results which combine traditional postcard scenes on the outside panels with a more ethereal internal vibe of airy sky- blue walls and ceilings complete with graceful swooping arctic terns.

So the finished product should brighten even the dullest of Northern Ireland winters for years to come. But this was no easy task – i spent hours painting contorted into all shapes – lying on my side, or kneeling, or cross-legged till my muscles ached; or standing atop a ladder, bending backwards to paint above me (kudos, Michaelangelo – you were made of sterner stuff than me)

But it’s all worth it to see the finished transformation – here’s a video of how it went –

Swan Lake (finished)

I’m happy to finally lay the pastels down on this painting of the swans at Lough Neagh.

It’s been challenging to paint but i just find the light so mesmerising and the swans so dramatic against the evening sky.

It’s also been a bit of a learning curve – working towards what o thought was the finished composition only to return to it and change the shoreline so it curves round at the bottom right hand corner and so extends the diagonal reach across the image. I’m much happier with version 2 of the finished painting.

Hopefully going off to be framed this week before going to its new home, although i hope to have a few prints available on the shop page soon.

Swan Lake, 50 x 70 cm, pastel on card

Swan Lake

August was busy.

I only managed to get one painting done (see my previous post about standing on the shoulders of giants for my painting of Northern Ireland’s beautiful Giant’s Causeway – better still, come visit the Causeway itself!) – I’m a bit disappointed in myself

The good news is I think I’m now starting to recover from the stresses of August and able to carve out some more time for art (which always equates to ‘Me Time’).

September has landed with its back to school feel. The days are shorter, the evenings longer and the lure of my attic studio is stronger than ever.

I find myself drawn to those ‘turn of the seasons’type scenes and have finally immersed myself in a new work in progress that I’ve been planning since springtime – the working title is “Swan Lake” and its of the swans at Antrim Forum, on the shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, captured at that magical moment when daylight turns to twilight.

Swan Lake, pastel on card, 50cm x 70cm

I’m loving the light and the reflections, the graceful curve of the birds’ necks and the trees silhouetted against the sky.

What I’m not loving, it turns out, is the challenge of keeping the whites and creams crisp against a dark blue lough with a medium as mobile and unstable and frankly smudgy as pastel. It’s been a challenge, though I’m excited to see it coming together and I’m looking forward to posting the final image which will be available to buy as a limited edition print later in the season.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Giants Causeway, 40cm x 30cm, pastel on card

Growing up in Northern Ireland, one of the first things that you learn in school and in life is that there’s more to this world than meets the eye. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s enchantment all around – the landscape has been etched by fairies and folklore (don’t cut down a hawthorn tree or the fairies will seek vengeance) and giants once roamed the earth.

Whichever version of history you lean towards the Giants Causeway on the Antrim Coast mesmerises. Visually stunning it dramatically holds its own against a dizzying midday sun or wild January seas and skies.

Geology is no less dramatic than legend, the Causeway was born in the turmoil of volcanic eruption and molten rocks that cooled to set into over 40,000 basalt columns, set together like pieces of a jigsaw.

However every school child knows the real story is of angry giants, with Irish giant Finn McCool building the causeway to go fight his Scottish rival, Benadonner. Don’t believe me? Go check out the huge rock boot and chair and organ pipes left as evidence.

Whilst the Giants Causeway attracts millions of tourists from across the world, it’s engrained in my mind as a place of childhood holidays. Blue skies, sunny days, scrambling one slippery rocks and scree, climbing the cliff path and icecream afterwards.

There’s a photo of me, aged about 8, with my sister, my cousin and my lovely, much loved Aunt Jean (who we lost much too soon, nearly 30 years ago). We’re perched on this basalt columns, blinking into the sun, Aunt Jean’s arms around us, warm rocks at our backs. It’s a happy memory and as I’ve been working on this and the painting has emerged into life the memory of that photograph, and that childhood day out has taken hold and become a driver. It’s what i see now and think of when i look at this painting, a perfect memory that is tinged with love and loss and the feeling of warm sun baked rocks.

The painting is a commission. I plan to make some prints so watch out for those on my shop page.

In the meantime here’s the final framed painting. Thanks

New framed original paintings available

If there is anything I love more than seeing my paintings come to life, it’s seeing how they are transformed by a really skilled framer. So I was really so excited to go collect these two newly-framed paintings as my Friday treat last week.

I use a local framer in a nearby town who works magic on my art with a total midas touch – highly skilled, highly qualified and highly recommend if you’re local – you can find out more here: http://www.saintfieldpictureframing.co.uk/

SPOILER ALERT – my photos just aren’t going to do these justice (I’ve been struggling to avoid the window reflections (I know there is a way to do this… I just haven’t worked it out).

Anyway, I’ve fallen in love all over again with these two paintings which are now available to buy on my shop page (with limited edition giclées of Turn of the Seasons also available).

Turn of the Seasons

A stunning painting of Belfast Lough from Ballyholme Beach (Northern Ireland) captured at twilight at the autumn eqinox. The painting itself is 50cm x 70cm, beautifully framed in a bespoke, handmade distressed charcoal grey wooden frame, with white inner frame, glazed and with double mount.

The Kelpies

This is a truly magical painting in rich aqua colours, capturing dappled underwater light filtering down through a kelp forest onto the sea floor. It combines realism with mythology to also suggest the shape-shifting kelpies of Celtic mythology.

Again the image is in pastel and measures 50cm x 70cm. It’s beautifully framed in a bespoke, handmade white wooden frame, glazed and with double mount.

Honestly, I should be working but I’m mesmerised by both of these and can’t stop staring at them 😊

2 new landscape prints now in stock

2 new stunning prints of my favourite landscapes available to buy now in my shop page.

Turning Tide, Dundrum Bay

Large #seascape painting of #DundrumBay with #Mournes and dramatic #sky and #sea in soft pastels on Clairefontaine pastelmat board. #seascape #clouds #sea #ocean #NorthernIreland #CountyDown #Mournes #Dundrum #Newcastle #SlieveDonard #Donard #Murlough #summer

This prize-winning painting of Dundrum Bay in full summer sunshine is now available in a choice of striking A1 and A2 sizes.

Turn of the Seasons

Turn of the seasons

This is a dramatic painting of Belfast Lough at twightlight, as seen from Ballyholme Beach. The painting captures a moment, caught between day and night and between changing seasons at autumn equinox. It’s also now available as A1 and A2 sized prints.

Each of these prints comes wrapped in tissue paper and rolled for protection. Less than 50 of each available worldwide.

I hope you enjoy. Check out my online store for these and more.

Sky and sea

Not an art post today but a tribute in celebration of the start of summer and a day’s sailing under sunny, cloud-streaked skies on Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.

The most relaxing sounds in the world

Gentle winds, no real agenda, just a vague plan to head up the Lough, enjoy the sights and sounds and snacks and company.

I’ve painted the skies over the Lough before – my painting “Smell the Sea and Feel the Sky” (Van Morrison fans on high alert) was painted here, on a day when the clouds looked dramatically extraterrestrial.

Smell the Sea and feel the sky

Gentler skies this time, with the sun clearing the haze to leave steaks of white across blue and to reveal the Mourne Mountains in the distance.

A glorious day. This is Northern Ireland, so we don’t take the weather for granted. But for today, summer is here.

racing fleet in the background
Hazy Mournes
Not the windiest day!
Trasna Island – from which i randomly helped heard rare breed cattle earlier in the year (!)

Coast

I’ve spent my weekend in Dundrum doing a couple of art projects designed to blend the boundary between outdoors and indoors and bring the smell of the ozone and the cries of the seabirds inside.

First was a series of Arctic terns painted directly on a bedroom wall. These birds are such light and dainty, delicate beauties. But watch them do their kamikaze death dives when fishing and you’ll see that they’re actually delicate little killing machines. But here they are swooping around the room, just as they swoop around the skies outside the apartment.

It was typical April weather – albeit in Last May, with sunshine and showers constantly transforming the Bay.

But I did manage to enjoy some plein air painting on the balcony for my second project, which was upcycling this plain console table to a piece of coastal- themed furniture, which now provides the perfect setting for displaying this beautiful model yacht.

before
After
finished piece in situ

Seabirds at Dundrum

I have to admit, when I started this set of seabirds in late February I didn’t expect to still be painting them in mid May. But they’ve seen through the end of winter to the start of the warm weather.

I usually feel a mix of elation, excitement and sadness when I come to the end of a painting project – in the same way you do approaching the end of a book that you’ve loved.

This time is with relief, and a little satisfaction, that I get to set down my pastels and step back. I am tired. And the egret in particular has been a challenge to capture.

However I am pleased. There’s something in each one that I’m proud of. I love the sunlight catching the long shafts of the egret’s feathers; I love how light and delicate the avocet looks against the blurred background; i love the power of the heron; and the luminescence of the cormorant’s plumage.

I have my favourite; what’s yours?

Egret, pastel on card, 50 x 50cm
Taking off, heron, pastel on card, 50 x 50cm
Avocet, pastel on card, 30cm x 30cm
Cormorant, the sun worshipper, pastel on card, 30 x 30cm
The full set
Work in progress

The home strait….

Those of you who have been following will know that I’ve been working (slowly and with multiple interruptions and distractions) on a commissioned series of four seabirds, based on the local seabirds of Dundrum Bay, County Down in Northern Ireland (which you’ll also have picked up is my favourite place – and for good reason).

from Keel Point, Dundrum – a very cold April morning

Dundrum is a small coastal town with its roots steeped in history as evidenced by its ruined castle, set high on a hill, overlooking the Bay (I THINK this is Norman, possibly built by John de Courcy, but it’s Sunday morning and I’m too lazy to fact-check – sorry).

The Bay from the castle

Dundrum is special, the Bay empties out completely and refills with each tide and sunlight and shadow on the sea and the Mourne Mountains is an assault (in the nicest sense) on your visual senses, with never the same view twice. The beautiful Murlough Nature Reserve edges the Back Beach, with miles of sand dunes, roaming grazing ponies, a resident seal colonies, underground cities of rabbits and ancient towering Scots Pines.

I honestly love this place. But best of all are the birds – in winter we welcome colonies of geese from Canada wintering out the harsh weather. But we are also home to such an array of local seabirds, nesting in those tall Scots Pines – herons, egrets, avocets and cormorants. There are so many other species, but these are the fou who make up my seabird series.

I’m in the home strait- last night I finished my third bird, the cormorant and I’m now turning to my final (and favourite) bird, the beautiful and elegant egret. Here’s the story so far….

Lift off – grey heron 50 cm x 50 cm, pastel on card
Wading-in- avocet 30cm x 30cm, pastel on card
The sun worshipper – cormorant- 30cm x 30cm, pastel on card
Work in progress
Work in progress, egret, detail
%d bloggers like this: