Tonight i finished a painting. I like the back story to this one – I had donated a painting of a bluetit with cherry blossom as a prize in a lockdown charity zoom quiz.
By a strange quirk the quiz master won the painting, but then i felt bad ‘cos he didn’t seem a bluetit and cherry blossom kind of guy , and y’know, wherever my paintings end up, I want them to be a good match. So instead i offered to paint whatever else they wanted and they chose this – the KEA – a bird I hadn’t heard of till a few weeks ago.
I love the blurry out of focus of the background and wingtips to suggest movement contrasted with the sharp focus of the head and that flash of scarlet.
Have just finished a mammoth session at the easel and though I’ll check it again in daylight, for tonight I’m calling time on this one.
So one painting ends and another begins. I’ve got 3 commissions left before Christmas and then I have big plans for a big self-indulgent painting project in the new year…. I’m excited and daunted. And you’re just going to have to watch this space.
A few weeks ago I posted about the turn of the seasons. Our latest lockdown (still in place) had just started, with restrictions on socialising indoors as well as the closure of cafés and bars. Compounding this was the looming end of British summertime, when the clocks fall back by an hour, ushering in long dark Northern wintry nights. I usually dread this time of year and mourne the long days of summer.
This year has been different. My dog and I have been celebrating the gorgeous deserted wintry beaches of Northern Ireland.
Faced with the end of the summer we jumped in the car and headed to our nearest nice beach – Ballyholme, in Bangor, Northern Ireland – and chased frisbees and sea birds while the daylight started to fade till it was just a strip of silver reflected on the wet sand along with the distant streetlights from across Belfast Lough.
The summer has definitely ended and become a memory, but for once I’m embracing the beauty of the approaching winter and enjoying impromptu outdoors car-boot picnics with friends, warming ourselves up with hot soup after chilly beach walks.
I’ve been inspired to capture that evening in a new painting “Turn of the Seasons” (you can see it the start of this post). It’s been a joy to work on and I’ve been excited to watch it come together.
I’ve just put the finishing touches to the painting this morning and I’m stepping away from the easel with a lovely sense of satisfaction that comes with finishing something that I’m proud of, that captures the fleeting beauty of a cold wintry beach in lockdown and (I hope) the peace and gratitude and wonder that I experienced being on it.
I hope you enjoy. I’ll be adding it to my portfolio and i plan to get some limited edition prints, so do get in touch if you’re interested in one.
The VIRTUAL PANDEMIC EXHIBITION of 2020 by the Pastel Society of Ireland.
It’s been a challenging year. Across the whole world we are agreed on that. Its been full of tears and fears and loss and loneliness. But it’s also shown us unexpected joys and love and new friendships and hopes.
Throughout it all creativity has been a godsend to many – a release; an escape; a strength – whether through gardening, poetry, DIY or (as with us) pastel art.
Now I know you’ve all been looking forward to the exhibition of 2020 with baited breath:
And with good reason because I’ve seen some of the work and it is exquisite.
But like they say, the best things in life are worth waiting for and so the exhibition is going to be fashionably late, with a new start date of 12 November. There will be daily featured artists from 16 November and the exhibition closes, with me as the featured artist on 7 December.
It brings together a diverse collection of art to mark what has been such a challenging year for everyone. Throughout 2020, in the face of the physical threats posed by COVID-19 and the hardships and challenges of lockdown, one factor that has become obvious across the world has been the importance of creativity to our sense of wellbeing – be that through gardening, home improvements, craft, or – in our case – pastel painting.
Whilst we have been unable to host what would have been our 31st Annual Exhibition, instead we are able to invite people into the socially distanced world of our Virtual , Pandemic Exhibition 2020 – a collection of 54 works from 24 of our members, from across the whole of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The artists participating in the exhibition have breathed new life into the centuries-old medium of pastels, producing a diverse range of fresh, innovative and at times challenging works.
The themes covered are familiar and relevant to all of us in these unique times and touch on the importance (or absence) of family, community, love, nature, the environment, the temporal and the permanent – all of the things that connect us, even while the need for social distancing and ongoing lockdown restrictions keep us apart.
All of the artists who have contributed to the exhibition are members of the Pastel Society of Ireland, which brings together pastel artists from across the whole of the island of Ireland to promote the use of this medium.
The quote is from CS Lewis and I guess it bears no correlation at all to the image, except both make me pause and reflect.
That’s my dog in the photograph, racing the beach and living his best life. He turned 11 yesterday and I know that our time together is limited, but this image of him racing into the sea will always cheer me.
I used this picture in a previous post – it celebrated the turn of the seasons, autumnal beaches and wintry socially distanced car boot picnics with friends that were good for the soul.
I knew when i took the photo that I’d want to try to capture the evening clouds spread out across a big sky and the lights and shadows of Belfast Lough reflected across the wet sand in pastel.
I’ve loads more to do, but I’m pleased with the progress so far.
Time is fleeting. I’ve had a glorious week of beach walks and painting and no time commitments – which sadly comes to an end tomorrow with a return to the office, so no doubt my progress will slow down.
For now I’ll leave you with thoughts of dogs racing across beaches and time galloping apace, with this timelapse video of progress.
Is there anything in life more joyous than a border collie on a beach?
This beach (Murlough Beach, near Dundrum in Northern Ireland), where the mountains of Mourne (in the far right) sweep down to the sea, is my happy place. And seemingly also my dog Patches’ happy place.
Today we’ve walked the shore and the inner bay, we’ve scaled sand dunes and I’ve taken photographs while he’s terrorised sea birds.
This place is special any time of year, but there’s something magical about the almost deserted beaches of autumn and winter.
Today a vast grey sky streaked with slate clouds and an outward tide that gave us a perfect mirror to walk on (farewell, favourite boots, now wet and salty).
I’ve walked this beach hundreds of times, I have thousands of photographs and it’s a favourite subject to paint.
Here’s a painting from two winters ago of the winter sun slipping down behind Slieve Donard. I’ve got prints of this painting available from my shop page in a choice of sizes.
For today, I’ve stared at where the sky meets the sea, I’ve let an old dog let his inner puppy run free and I’ve restocked my supply of Murlough photos to inspire me to paint more wintry beaches. That’s got to be a good day.
I have (almost) an entire week of no commitments ahead of me. It’s a rare luxury, where i can visit favourite haunts with Patches, take photographs and catch up on some art…
Northern Ireland is behaving like Northern Ireland is supposed to in late October, with flashes of sunlight chased away by dark dramatic clouds, strong winds and the never-far-away rains (this is why we have 40 shades of green).
I’m also mulling over in my head where I want to go with my next paintings. I generally have several commissions and paintings lined up for clients or specific people but I like to intersperse these with the paintings that I want to do for myself. Ultimately I might not keep them, but the process of choosing the subject and capturing whatever the essence is – that’s for me. Ironically most of the times these paintings that I do for me turn out to be some of my most popular pieces.
I’m currently fascinated by everything to do with light underwater (hence the recent polar bears) and I’m itching to explore that theme some more, maybe without the animals and purely a water study.
However I am also drawn to the changing of the seasons… I always lament the end of the long summer days.
But a recent twilight trip to the beach at Ballyholme (Bangor, Northern Ireland) last week had such beautiful moody light that I’m can’t wait to get up to the studio to try to capture these scenes.
Such evenings are food for the soul. Winter is definitely coming. But that maybe isn’t such a bad thing.
More original art and limited edition prints in my online shop