10 Oct 2016

The Manhattan Fish Project

There's an Illustrators Guild of Ireland group show coming up soon (I'll keep you posted). It'll be in the Luan gallery in Athlone to begin with but will then swim around the country. The IGI has done quite a bit of that kind of thing; it works a treat to get the membership known more widely.

I had the presence of mind to film part of the process of making this painting only at the outset -as usual, I then became embroiled in the little world I was creating and forgot about the camera. Still, that makes for a short, easy to view movie. It's only a minute long although the artwork took about twelve hours to complete. There's a bit of lively, upbeat jazz to help you with your viewing, so if you're at work, do turn the volume down!

I painted a complete underpainting in monochrome first, which is a technique that I'm currently teaching in my art class (it's the friendliest and best art class in the entire world!). The method is very popular with my students as you can provide yourself with a lovely 'safety net' before you ever embark on the colour work.

Speaking of nets; this art is for a curated show, so everyone has to submit their work for review, so there is the possibility of rejection and being thrown back in the lake. Fins crossed.

You've probably noticed that the background isn't New York or London -I made it up, but it does have the big city feel about it. I fancied that the fish could be some kind of Don Draper figure, arriving in Manhattan to his ad agency. A big fish in a huge pond. After all, the piece does have a kind of fifties retro feel.

3 Oct 2016

The Selfie Mona Lisa

Last week a job with a tight deadline came through from Toronto. It was for an ad agency who wanted three different quirky versions of the da Vinci's Mona Lisa. So three artists were assigned one each. I haven't seen the others but I'd love to; it was such an enjoyable project.

So here's my version, 'The Selfie Mona Lisa'. I had my daughter hold a phone and pout in position for a reference photograph; I also found some very good photos of the original on line.

There's also an Isleworth Mona Lisa, which it's believed, da Vinci painted before he made the famous one with the enigmatic smile. This is the Mona Lisa that Raphael drew while studying under da Vinci. For my Selfie Mona Lisa, obviously I had to  parody the most famous, later painting.

That's where I went to school, by the way; Isleworth. And incidentally, Van Gogh also taught in a previous incarnation of my secondary school. He taught Maths and religion, apparently. Famous place, Isleworth...

So, in true old master form, I painted a brunaille and glazed it with colour. All in acrylics, mind; in order to give it something of the appearance of the original. Da Vinci''s painting took something like three years to complete. Perhaps that's why da Vinci didn't get the job; ad agencies are sooo pressed for time. And he doesn't return calls.

Agency: John St. Advertising. Creative Director: Rick Mayzis. Client: innoviCares Medical.

23 Sep 2016

The Inscrutable Ones Painting

The Inscrutable Ones
Acrylics on gessoed panel in antique frame. 11”x 9”  Available to buy.

25 Aug 2016

Le Retour de PencilBoy

We just got back from France on a late flight last night. A long journey to Beauvais airport from Merlimont in 30º heat and back to half that in Dublin. Still, it's great to be home, whatever the weather. A few weeks ago, I slammed the seat of my motorbike down on top of my lovely smartphone and, wait for it...then rode off for about twenty miles before I needed to call home and couldn't find my phone. After going through the usual process of patting my pockets and shuffling around in small circles looking in the grass at the roadside, I realised what I'd done. There was my phone, wedged nicely at the hinge end of the seat. I stared at the mangled phone and made tiny sobbing noises for a while. I also uttered very many oaths and curse-words but to no avail. 

The upshot is, I was mostly offline for the week in France, which turned out to be a good thing as I wasn't peering into the screen looking for signs of work projects which weren't there anyway. I used instead, an old Nokia phone which we keep as a backup for my frequent phone mishaps.  I find it amazing how I've been seduced by the promise of always-on connectivity. I felt bereft because I couldn't post anything to social media. Pathetic.

So, I've made a decision and it's final: I'm going straight out this afternoon to buy another smartphone.

Below is a drawing from my sketchbook. It's cross-hatched using a fine-line pen. I was leafing through a French copy of Graffiti Art Magazine and came across an artist from Catalonia who calls himself Popay. It's difficult sifting through another language for details when you're standing in the middle of a newsagent's shop reading the magazines when they want you to actually buy one.  After seeing the €7.90 price tag, I spent some time pretending to browse other magazines and then patting my pockets as if I'd forgotten my wallet (Note: This practice can also be useful), I exited the shop, replete with half-learned information. The things I do for research, honestly: I should be awarded with l'Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur for services to art.
There were some drawings of his reproduced amongst all the colour work. I really liked them and that sparked off a series of sketches in my sketchbook.

28 Jul 2016

The Feathered Ones

A monochrome print from my summer 2016 show: Flights of Fancy. Hand printed from a linocut. A limited edition of 25.

I had this composition ready to go but I wanted a title that fitted, so I got talking to Nicola in KM Evan's art shop in Dublin. He's Italian and we share an enthusiasm for Vespas. Anyroad, I asked him to translate 'The Feathered Ones' and he told me it doesn't really translate. I Piumati is the closest he could get in meaning and intent.

You can see my printing press below (it's the spoon) and the lino from which I carved the image.

All I can say is, grazie mille, Nicola.

Image approx A5 on a 12" x 14" fine grain watercolour sheet. 

You can order this original handmade print on Etsy here -and what's more, shipping is FREE!

27 Jul 2016

Sir William Marshall at Microcosm: Kilkenny Arts Festival

This is my contribution to the Illustrators Guild of Ireland show at the Island Mill in Thomastown, co. Kilkenny. The show, entitled Microcosm, runs from Aug 5 to 14. You can get more details here: https://www.facebook.com/grennanmillcraft/?fref=ts

This shows the bould Sir William in the famous hurling match between Kilkenny and Tipperary in 1214. Kilkenny pipped it as they had heavier cavalry and crossbows.

Acrylics on Arches watercolour paper. A5.

25 Jul 2016

IGI Show at Kilkenny Arts Festival

The Illustrators Guild of Ireland (IGI) is taking part in an exhibition at the Island Mill in Thomastown starting on August 5. I'll be part of it with my painting 'Sir William Marshall', below.

Keep an eye on the Grennan Mill Craft School FB page:https://www.facebook.com/grennanmillcraft/?fref=ts

20 Jul 2016

Making a 5 Colour Linocut Print. Halcyon

5 Colour Linocut

Click on the above picture as it's actually a slideshow. ^

I'm currently engaged in making another linocut limited edition print (of 25). I wanted to make the description of the kingfisher a little simpler as I have only 5 flat colours to work with. Also, I had to make a jig to make registering the plates more accurate and not have the colours printing in the wrong place.

I chose to print on a fine grain watercolour paper instead of a smooth one as I want to see texture rather than a purely flat colour. This introduces yet another variable to the process which makes each print unique.

3 of these are already sold.

The image is roughly A5 on an A3 sheet of Fabriano fine grain 140lb watercolour paper.  Signed and embossed with my studio stamp.

"Halcyon". Unframed €95. Order this handmade, original print here on Etsy.

27 Jun 2016


So that's the end of my solo show in Harold's Cross. Feeling very wistful today -I liked being in the space and having friends and randomers strolling in, talking about art, Brexit and football. A fellow artist arrived in last night to collect something from me just before I closed and as I talked, I could feel the energy draining from me (nothing to do with him!) it's just that as it finished, all my alertness and tension fell away. By tomorrow I'll be comatose!

So it'll be on to the next project. La Galerie Impromptu will pop up again, next time as a community event. I'm writing a proposal to Culture Night to host a 6 Pack exhibition https://www.facebook.com/6PackCommunityProject/ 

Hopefully, the space won't have been occupied by then -but there are no guarantees. In the pics I took over the week or so, I felt that the gallery looked just right in that spot. It had a kind of Continental look to it, tucked away in that corner; un petit coin du paradis... What do you think all of you out there in Dublin6land? Please 'LIKE' the 6 Pack project FB page at the above link.

23 Jun 2016

The Peacock Guitar

 Joe and Steve Wall (The Walls and formerly of The Stunning) dropped in to see my exhibition in la Galerie Impromptu, Harold's Cross and to play the Peacock Guitar.

 I received the unadorned guitar about eight months ago from Chris Maher of The Musical Youth Foundation and although I began work on it almost immediately, I ran into a couple of difficulties, mostly at the finishing end (there's nothing clear about lacquer!) However, I eventually made it through.

 I made a short video recording the process by which I decorated it -and then the lads give it a blast of, 'Are you Lonesome Tonight' at the end.

For anybody who likes to paint; I used Golden Artist Colours 'Fluid' paint to keep the strokes flat but still intense. In the Golden range are also some iridescent paints which were ideal for some of the bright plumage. The edges and other gold areas are gilded.

 You can still see this artwork at la Galerie Impromptu until Sunday June 26, when the gallery closes and reverts to a disused laundry. The proceeds from the sale of this guitar will go to the Musical Youth Foundation who provide access to an education in music for ALL children in Ireland.