3 Jul 2015

The Perfect Paint


I must confess that I've never worked through the night; never worked late shifts.  I've always managed to avoid them,  even when it looked like shift work would come in in one of the printing jobs I had when I worked in that trade.  So it was with hesitation that I accepted the task of a painting project in the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar which had only very limited times when the work could be done - from 7pm to the following 9am.
I love my bed,  you see.  I don't like missing any opportunities to sleep.  Even after  a moderately late night,  I feel exhausted and cheated of my rest.  To stay up over night is my idea of hell; to stay up all night working is worse.
The Guinness Storehouse has been shortlisted for  kind of Oscars of the travel industry.  It's  up there,  competing with the likes of the Parthenon,  the Colosseum,  Buckingham  Palace and the Eiffel Tower.  Not bad,  eh? So Guinness wanted to celebrate this success with a window painting of the other six candidates as if they were all on view from the Gravity Bar.  Good idea.
And this project did have its excitements. It would be an opportunity to experience  the beauty of seeing the sun set and rise again from the best viewpoint in Dublin city,  with its panoramic,  almost 360° arc of windows. And so I did see it.  The attached video is wonderful but it could not possibly capture the full glory of that scene - and  it was on one of the clearest and warmest of midsummer evenings.
The video also makes everything look speedy! Creatives in Ad agencies spend a lot of time and energy in trying to get across the story that a pint of draft Guinness takes a long time to pour compared to all other beers.  Well, just like an expert Guinness barman pulling a pint of the black stuff,  this painting took quite some time to prepare. I drafted in my daughter Mathilde to help. To the creative director and cameraman's dismay (they were there to oversee and record the proceedings) nothing much seemed to be happening for the first couple of hours - just layers of undercoat building up an opaque ground.  The CD did admit afterwards that she had begun to lose heart at that early stage!
But of course,  it all came together.  With unusual foresight, I had brought a sleeping bag with me and managed to get an hour or of sleep inside the circular bar. Then up at 2.30am to start work again. The funny thing was,  I didn't really feel the night passing at all, so absorbed was I in building up the details.
I finished slightly ahead of scheme too and was dabbing on the final touches as the CD and cameraman breezed in after their own short night of sleep.  So that's the long of it.  I practically lapsed into a catatonic stupor for much of the following week but,  like the perfect pint,  it's all in the preparation and it was well worth the wait.

30 Jun 2015

What Am I Looking At?

This is a good article from Rick Poynor in the Design Observer (from some time in 2010):

Excerpt: "...It’s an enduring conceit peculiar to the conceptual art of the last 40 years that the most important thing about an art work is its “idea” and that the visual dimension really isn’t the issue. This is like poets holding the view that crafting well-turned lines is of marginal interest for literature, or jazz musicians claiming that being able to play their instruments is a red herring and then informing audiences that they are simple-minded to see it any other way.
So we need to put more emphasis again on the visual in art, and it’s clear that many young artists with visual talent have decided to ignore the art world’s weary, self-serving conceptualist strictures and just go ahead and make the art they feel like making. They want to create optical art experiences of their own. By paying too much attention to the extremes of high or low we run the risk of undervaluing what’s happening in the densely populated middle — graphic novels, graphic design, illustration, low-cost film-making — where the expressive possibilities of the visual are still embraced with conviction. This, rather than art scene-mediated art, is the real center of visual culture in our time. Are we overlooking great work only because we have been instructed for so long to assume that anything presented outside the art world’s walls must be inferior?..."

Link to the full article here. 



Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design. He is Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, London. 

18 Jun 2015

The Wheels of the World

Acrylics on canvas (1m x 30cm)
This is now the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where Arf  (I'm not Irish!) Wellesley and Abba fought the combined legions of the French Empire under Napoleon Dynamite. There were some Prussians involved who turned up late/or just in time, whatever your point of view.

I wasn't there, in fact. And neither were you. But for the Irish, it was a win-win/lose-lose situation considering we fought on both sides. Isn't that a topsy-turvy way of going about? Not at all odd, really considering the circumstances in Ireland at the time.

So here are the lyrics of a song which has been passed down through two hundred years and which still ring true. If you think my painting is mad, try European politics:

The Wheels of the World

Come all you true sons of Erin; attend to these few simple lines:
I'll sing you a song about spinning. It was a good trade in old times.
Some they spun worsted and yarn, and others they spun flax and tow.
By experience, my friends, you may learn how the wheels of the world they do go.

Luther spun out his existence, and so did King Henry the Eighth.
John Calvin by Satan's temptation, their maxims he did imitate.
Tom Cranmer he joined the new system, and swore he'd make spindles of steel.
Pluto himself did assist them, perdition that turned their wheel.


CHORUS: So these are the wheels of the world, my friends, you must all understand.
For three hundred years, they've been spinning destruction all over the land.


John Mitchell the brave son of Erin, declared that a spinner he'd be.
He got all his wheels in full motion, his dear native land to set free. 
But Lord C—n—n the lieutenant, at spinning he was fully bent,
And unto the Isle of Bermuda the sons of Hibernia were sent.

Lord Nelson he was a good spinner on board of the ship Victory.
He was counted the greatest of spinners that ever set sail on the sea.
His shipmen were all famous spinners. For Nelson they spun very well,
But the French spun a ball in Trafalgar, and on the ship deck Nelson fell.

Billy Pitt too was a good spinner, and so was Lord Castlereagh.
Sure they spun out the Union from Ireland. To England they shipped it away.
Poor Billy spun out his existence, and banished in Charon's old boat.
Then Lord Castlereagh saved his distance, by cutting the rim of his throat.

Napoleon he was a good spinner, for freedom did always advance.
Over deserts and great lofty mountains, he led on the brave sons of France.
Old Wellington he went a-spinning. His wheels they were at Waterloo;
But if Grouchy had never been bribed, the French would have split him in two.

Prince Albert came spinning to England. His wheel by a compass did steer.
He spun out a queen for his consort, and some little thousands a year.
John Bull must now go a-spinning. A few thousands more he must fork,
For the Queen has another young son that was spun in the city of Cork.

The factory masters are spinning. Their wheels they are turning away,
And now they are wanting their hands for to work thirteen hours a day.
They don't care a fig for the poor. They heed not their sighs nor their moans.
They don't care a pin if you work till you spin all the flesh off your bones.

The rich they are all famous spinners, and you are very well sure
They are always contriving a scheme to crush down the rights of the poor.
So if you're compelled to go spinning, let each of your spindles be steel.
Let "Liberty" then be your motto, and glory will turn your wheel.

***
You can even hear a version of the song sung by the excellent Len Grahamhttps://beta.prx.org/stories/141307 Starts at 15mins 15secs.

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12 Jun 2015

Sentinel: A Lonely Posting

Well isn't this a turn-up for the books? It's the Friday evening of a week where I've actually managed to paint a couple of pictures. I know that seems an odd thing for a painter to say but it's perfectly true. 

My regular art classes are finally finished for the summer and I now have a few months in which I can indulge myself. Most of my time is spent up to my oxters in admin for my classes -and once you start into that craic, whole days are lost, for admin is the opposite of art. 

Sometimes I have to force myself to paint in order to get anything usefully artistic done. It wasn't the way I thought it would be when I started: I thought that running art classes would make a perfect dovetail joint with my artistic endeavours. Oh well, it's better than penury!

Early on this year I bought a set of Golden 'Open' acrylics in Evans just to test them out. For some reason, I bought mostly cool colours: Pthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson, a rather toxic-looking yellow, Titanium White and Viridian. Luckily I also bought a Pyrrole Red which helped warm up all the hues in this painting. 

In the end, though, I figure that it turned out exactly as it would had I used regular acrylics. I didn't find the slow-drying quality helped in this instance. It's not that kind of painting.

So here is the result of my late freedom, 'Sentinel'.  Acrylics on canvas. 10" x 8"

By the way, if you're about and you want to attend a workshop in portraiture that I'm holding in Terenure this Sunday June 14, call me on 086 247 0737. Mention where you read this and I'll give you a discount of 15% on the €60 fee. You would need to book, though -don't just turn up! There are 3 places left.

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28 May 2015

Normal Viewing Has Resumed

After several months of being more or less 'off-air', because of mysterious webby infections, both my web sites (this one and my teaching site, www.mcsherrystudio.com) are now back in action.

My hosting company removed them sometime ago because they had been compromised somehow. I still don't really know what that means other than they were supposed to be 'cleaned' before reinstating them could take place.  Needless to say, that was beyond me.

Both of those webs sites were made using the open-source platform, Wordpress -and for years, they worked well with very few problems. The trouble is that Wordpress seemed to be getting more bloated and difficult to deal with as time passed.

So -it's back to Blogger with me. A little less slick-looking but easier to handle.

The attached picture is from my exhibition of last year. It's called 'Doran's Pre-fried Sausages' and if you can see a connection between it and this text then you've got better eyesight than me.


25 May 2015

Harold!

Lorcan Walshe (Artist), Cllr Mary Freehill, Kevin McSherry (Artist), Anne Corrigan (Festival Committee), Eoin MacLochlainn (Artist & Curator of Exhibition)
Harold's Cross Festival continues to be a success and to grow each year, thanks to the boundless energy of many local people; this year, artist Eoin MacLochlainn organized a small exhibition of local artists in the Victorian Tea Rooms at Mount Jerome. I was delighted to be involved.

Opened by Councillor Mary Freehil. More pictures on the festival web site.

29 Oct 2009

Halloween Carve-up

After days of pestering from my nine year old daughter, I finally got around to the annual task of fashioning the pumpkinhead. This year's theme was; drool. We wanted to represent the sticky moistness of yer average monster by leaving some of the 'meat' in the mouth.

As usual, a job that's supposed to be a father/daughter bonding experience started to turn into a serious carving session, with daughter standing by wondering how she could be involved...

Scary.

23 Oct 2009

Look Mum: No Hands!

Lidl seem to be able to tap into my thoughts. A couple of weeks ago, after spending almost €50 at Woodworkers getting some MDF cut down into squares for painting supports for my students, [they charge €1.80 per cut] I decided to invest in one of these lads. The cheapest I could find in the specialist tool shops was around €199, with a possible €40 to buy a new, finer blade for cutting MDF.

Next thing is Lidl put this one on offer at €130. This isn't the first time they've had just what I was looking for at the moment when I needed it. How do they do that? What other private thoughts are they reading? Am I that bloody predictable?

Just one thing, though: The only problem so far is the 'eccentric lever' which is supposed to lock the 'fence' [the moveable guide to which you knock up the wood to be cut]. After a couple of cuts, it loosened and now won't stay in position; I have to keep it fixed with a G clamp . At 1700 watts, the blade cuts very well and the machine seems to be solid enough. And...AND...it came with two blades, one course and one fine.

I believe next week, Lidl are doing a range of prosthetic hands.

22 Oct 2009

Not Quite All Washed-up Yet...

I received a communiqué [well -a comment] from somebody who asked why I'd stopped posting to this blog recently. 'Tis true -I have only posted seven times in the whole of this year.

To Anonymous.
The reasons for my lethargy were that I thought no-one was reading this stuff, for a start; so that's one reason! It's truly gratifying when I discover that someone is listening to my outpourings -especially when the comments are as cheering as yours. Thank you.

More importantly though, I've been through some challenging times, shall we say, along with many. First, a sudden and dramatic fall-off in editorial illustration work forced me to rethink how I should be directing my efforts; and really about how I should be living my life. What's true is that I had become increasingly dissatisfied with life as a jobbing illustrator and there are several strands to this: The constant but fruitless promotional efforts [I had a database of well over a thousand two hundred names that sat in my computer ever accusing me of not contacting them].

The work that I really enjoyed ; illustrating for the Irish Times Business on Friday section was cut and I was left with one last editor who had the authority and desire to buy in my illustrations. However, the editorial approach was too heavy-handed for me and I gave it up. The only 'work' I enjoyed doing was sketching and posting them up on Creative Ireland!

The reality is; the problem has been mostly me. I don't like being told what to draw or paint. Sure, most people who dislike their jobs just turn up at their workplaces and do their daily duties but the whole point of striving to be an artist is that you mustn't compromise your soul and that's what I was doing. I've been involved in too many projects where some cardboard-brained pillock has taken over and ruined a good idea. Furthermore, I'm brutal at negotiations and almost always short-change myself. The one piece of advice that I can offer to those wishing to make a profession of their art is: Don't make your hobby into your job as I did. A good artist is an amateur in the real sense of the word. If money comes in as a result of my artistic endeavours, that's great -it'll allow me more latitude for art.

The upshot of all this navel-gazing is that I started teaching painting in my studio. That's my day job. I turn up to work four times a week on two days and earn my wages. You can take a gander at my Art Classes Ireland site, if you like. In fact, teaching ticks many of the boxes for me:

  • Time. I work 12 hours a week -the rest of the week is mine, to do as I please. That includes the following: Painting my own compositions; taking on an illustration project from decent and respectful clients; staring out the window of a favourite café; playing the fiddle; doing raised-leg farts; organising paintings for exhibitions; thinking; farting while jumping up in the air and clicking my heels; catching up on my neglected blog[s]; meeting colleagues in cafés -and jointly staring out of the windows.
  • I meet great people -my students come to me because they like my work, so they want to be here.
  • I now know where I'll be and what I'll be doing on two days of the week -that hasn't happened for the last fifteen years. I'm the last person who should be left to organise my own week!
  • Choice. At long last I feel that it's an easier prospect to reject offers of work by clients who I know won't suit me.
To finish; currently I feel about as happy as I could be. I'm painting for myself. I'm not so pressured that I snap at my family. Sure, I don't have much money but I have abundant other riches. I'm awash in a sea of love rather than swamped in the corrosive bilge-water of commerce.
Thanks for asking. How are you?

24 Aug 2009

Les Petites Soeurs Gouache

Me old matey Steve Simpson's story about acrylic paint drying on the brush during his Italian painting holiday prompted me to bring along a set of gouache tubes on our family camping spell in France. Good thing too -there was a real heatwave for much of the time. I didn't get much painting done but I managed to get some time to doodle in the bar whilst the bairns were in the mini-club. I tore off part of an empty cereal packet which served as a palette for the entire time I was there.

I can't really remember what I wanted to achieve with these two. I seem to recall that I wanted to give them a kind of deathly, consumptive pallor -and that they're supposed to be sketches for a future painting. I used varying mixtures of cyan, magenta, yellow and ochre for the skin tones [Why is it that gouache sets keep to printers' colours? Perhaps because gouache was the preferred medium of graphic designers?]. I aimed to keep the whites of their eyes tonally similar to the skin.

Gouache is a pleasant and forgiving medium and I must use it more. The high density of pigment allows the building up of colour and it's possible to use a wet brush to blend at any stage. I brought a good high-quality Hahnemühle 5" x 5" sketchbook with me; no amount of blending or reworking broke down the surface of the paper. Mmmmmmmm.