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
One small step for man; one giant leap for a technophobe…
Don’t get me wrong – I have a love- hate relationship with social media the same as everyone else, but this is my first foray into an ACTUAL website and blog. So the first challenge for me is about understanding everything about the placement of widgets and how to resize a header, rather than the more creative challenge of a blank page (note, I still haven’t quite worked out how to link pages on this site).
But the purpose of this space? Other than to think out loud about how to build a website? I guess ultimately it’s going to be a space for me to focus exclusively on the art process (which helps me think through my ideas and where i want to go with them); and for me to reach out and hopefully connect more with readers and people who like my paintings.
The thing is, I’m not quite ready to launch my artsite, so I think that means there’ll be a disconnect. But I’ve been assured that the thing to do is to just write (stream of consciousness here i come) and worry about sense and quality and all that jazz later. Just write. Beat the big blank page.
Interestly I’m rarely put off by a blank page when painting and drawing – just when I’m writing.
Anyway, that’s probably enough for right now. If this is supposed to be a conduit for my art, maybe its best to let the art do the talking instead.
I’ve spent the last week in a race to the finish line in order to make an exhibition deadline for this painting, called “Svalbard”. It’s one of two polar bear paintings where I’m experimenting with light and movement (and it turns out, also thousands of bubbles).
I’m pleased with the result, but don’t want to see another bubble for a looooooong time.