30 Nov 2015

Open letter to the vacant commercial property owners in Terenure

An open letter to the vacant commercial property owners in Terenure.    Monday November 30. 2015

Reproduced from the 'Our Community' page in the top menu.

I'm writing an open letter because you're almost impossible to find.  I think it's vital that the environment in which we live contains art. We have plenty of places to eat. We can drink buckets of coffee. There are lots of shops where we can buy provisions. We have great pubs, enough accountants and enough solicitors and many estate agents. We all live together and share this locality.

What we have very little of is Beauty in our environment. Why not do what you can to make this place look better.  Little things matter a great deal: just take a look at what Terenure Office Supplies do with their fabulous window displays for the children around Christmas and other significant occasions during the year. Magnificent. They deserve our full support.

This does matter. This activity brings joy -and that's what will motivate people to turn up to our village centre and maybe even buy our stuff -or rent our vacant properties!

Here in Terenure, (and indeed all over Ireland) we have lots of empty commercial buildings. Some have been vacant for many years. Why not use Art to show how a village could look? Just a thought. Use Art to create a buzz around the place. Show how the buildings look when in use and lit brightly. Give something back to the people who we rely on to support the businesses in our locality.

Take a moment to think about how it could be if we all pull together. Of course, I'm asking that this be done as a community service. I don't have any money to pay for premises. I hardly have the money to pay my own mortgage; I just have my art, my enthusiasm and great connections to many wonderful, joyful artists with global reputations. I'm willing to muck in and organize a fantastic show for nothing; including sourcing print, putting together an opening party, publicising the event and manning the show for the duration of maybe a month. Will you muck in?

Have a look at the splendid video below, produced by the wonderful Sophie Spendel who's over from Holland, a country where they celebrate creativity and beauty and community activism. It's hard enough when the economy bursts -and then the clouds burst above us as they're doing right now. Why don't we just celebrate life? Create something to see that takes us outside of mundanity? That's why we work, isn't it? To fund our lives outside of work. It can't all be about money.

I didn't set out to write a letter like this; I was only going to have this page for the video but I became moved to do so after so many rejections and expressions of indifference. We owe this to ourselves, because we all have to live here. It can't be that difficult.

086 247 0737
6 Pack Dublin City from Sophie Spendel on Vimeo.

Update on Musical Youth Foundation Guitar Project

After a couple of weeks away doing other work, I've started back on this charity project. As you can see, I'm taking my sweet time. It's because I'm selfishly enjoying it so much -and nobody has given me a deadline!

But that's the joy of this. I'm almost done with the front of the guitar; I've the back still to do. Then there's all the lacquering...

Please visit the Musical Youth Foundation's web site and support them. I think it's a worthy cause because music, however badly I play it, is important in my life and I know how it gives children a sense of achievement once they own it.

When this guitar is finished, it will be sold to raise money for them. And it will be a playable instrument into the bargain!

27 Nov 2015

Anything Strange? Well, how about Art Cards?

Now available: Art Cards for sale in packs of 5, direct from this web site.

You can send these to friends or they look fantastic framed and hanging on your wall. Each artwork has been chosen from my 'Strange Collection' or 'The Gilded Birds Collection'.

They're printed on 300gsm satin stock and are blank on the reverse. Have a look here.

18 Nov 2015

Watch the Birdie

You can see how this small painting of a Bullfinch develops from roughing out to applying the gilding. Painting is a bit like building a house; things seem to come together very quickly until the final fitting and decoration have to be done. I left out much of the finessing of the bird as it would make the video just too long.

And I forgot to film it as I became so engrossed in the project, anyway.

I also played the ukelele for this. I bought it for my youngest daughter a couple of Christmasses ago but since then, she hasn't shown the slightest interest in it.

This is one of the works that went to Greenacres for their Christmas show. I do take on commissions for these, and if you're interested, call me on 086 247 0737.

You can see more of these artworks on The Gilded Birds page. :


16 Nov 2015

At the Greenacres Gallery, Wexford

These three little birdies are to be on show at the Greenacres Gallery in Wexford town in their upcoming Christmas show.

Hopefully, I'll get a shot of each in its position on the wall of the gallery before long.

If you'd like to call in to them, the gallery manager is Julie Barlow: Julie@greenacres.ie

23 Oct 2015

Guitar Project #2: Working out the Chords

The best place to start with a project like this is the café. Rathmines, inevitably; in the calming surrounds of Café Moda. Of course I forgot my sketchbook, so I had to run in to the Swan Centre to find a cheap one -and a pen.

This is more or less how I approach any applied art project. I used to just write lists of words which may or may not lead me to an idea. In recent years, I find this a better way of generating at least something. In the end, I went for a bird theme with a peacock, as you can hopefully see in the third picture. I'm in an avian groove! I should start tweeting a bit more...

I used a posca marker for that white line. I felt I needed to see how it will work at full size on the instrument itself. As you can see, it's now completely covered with a spay-coat. This will just serve as a toned ground on which to work.

Oh and by the way, I've just invested in a new airbrush! Yup. I had one many years ago when I used to paint murals on scooters. I just can't remember what happened to it. I most likely left it behind when I upped sticks and left London in 1988. Strangely enough, I brought the compressor with me, which I still have. Bananas. I'm going to use the airbrush for the general shapes in order to keep the job as flat as possible. The detailing will have to be done with a brush -but I'll be using Golden liquid acrylics which will stay pretty flush.

When that arrives sometime next week, I can get down to the real work.

Do comment, if this project interests you; I'd love to hear your thoughts.

16 Oct 2015

No Strings Attached; a Guitar Project #1

I've just received this guitar from Chris at the Musical Youth Foundation. It's an all-working instrument: Not expensive but plays just fine and it's in tune with itself, which is not always the case. I've added myself to the list of artists who will take on these projects to raise money for this cause. Here's a bit about them from their web site:
The Musical Youth Foundation charity was established in 2009 as part of the Dublin City Soul Festival project and is the brainchild of festival founder and CEO Chris Maher. At the heart of the project is a deep desire to have a long-term positive impact on the local and wider community by providing children on the Island of Ireland with access to a musical education.
Chris Maher (Ambassador of Soul Music and an Honorary Tennessean!) is enthusiastic and passionate about using music as a way to empower all children on this island (that so often have precious little encouragement or opportunity in their lives). Music, like any other art, is a place where you can have some control and sense of ownership in life. Once you own the ability to create with your mind and your hands, you own everything.

Suddenly, I feel like a kid again because of this project -I know it's going to take a great deal of work: Weeks - possibly months of activity, including learning how to approach the project in the first place (ie., which paints to use and how to varnish at the end, preparing the instrument itself for painting, sketching and developing the artistic direction. But I'm all enthused -some of Chris's energy has rubbed off on me!

I want the instrument to remain as playable as possible, although I realise that there will be a dampening effect on the sound by the paint. I don't want this to end up purely as a piece of art that hangs on a wall; I want it such that a player can take it down and use it in anger, so to speak. That's a real challenge.

I already sounded it out and I'm going to take down the action to improve the playability. I'm so looking forward to this...and I'll keep you posted on it as it develops. The strings are off right now, as are the machine heads, pegs and strap fixing. I've started a bit of light sanding to see what kind of paint I'm dealing with. I've already had a good chat with Peter Donnelly, who already has completed his Batik Guitar), about how he managed his one. You can see the results of his work, along with those of another couple of other Illustrators Guild of Ireland members Brian Gallagher and Rachel Corcoran here on MYF's Etsy shop. Obviously, you can buy these artworks/instruments directly from there -and support this noble charity.

Right -where's my sander.

7 Oct 2015

Dark as a Feather

King of the River. Scraperboard. 4" x 6" 
I only experienced the joy of seeing a Kingfisher once. We were on a family walk along a river in western France. There was a dart of electric blue over my shoulder -and it was gone. For such a fleeting moment, it has had a lasting effect on me and it has kindled a fascination with extraordinary, showy birds. Not the wee brown Richard the Thirds that we mostly see around here -but Kingfishers, hummingbirds -even cock pheasants. It's the iridescent colours that attract me.

It all puts me in mind of when I was a child, growing up in London. My oldest friend was a keen bird-watcher and would rise very early of a weekend morning to visit the local parks and pursue his hobby. Despite being invited many times, I never made it along which I regret to this day. I've said it before, I've never been an early bird -I'm very fond of my bed and always have been.

On walks, he's able to identify each variety of bird he sees, recognise their songs and describe their feeding habits and habitats, whereas I'm hard put even to identify the trees in which they live!

Not long ago, we were walking through Richmond Park, when I noticed many bright green birds flocking together. "They're parakeets", my friend told me. "Eh? Wild parakeets in London?" "Yeah -they're all descended from a couple of escaped pet birds sometime in the past and now they're all over the south-west of London".

True enough; I've just looked the story up on Wikipedia. They're known as the Kingston Parakeets (very close to Richmond). Apparently, there has been an explosion in the population of feral rose-ringed parakeets since the mid-nineties.

So, I let my imagination take flight and produced this little scraperboard work of a Kingfisher on watch. Scraperboard is a joy to use, I have to say. You'll have to use your imagination to see the iridescence of the electric blue and turquoise plumage. At least he'll sit still while you fish around for the colours.

Do make a comment, or a tweet or a squawk, it'd be lovely to hear from you.

23 Sep 2015

A Bad Hair Day

I did a small demo for my morning students yesterday. I wanted to show them how to make a warm monochrome underpainting.

I think he looks a little like the actor Paddy Considine having a bad hair day.

Acrylics 6" x 6".


16 Sep 2015

The Terenure Dirigibles

The Terenure Dirigibles. Oils on canvas 10" x 12"
Somebody told me recently, that before the rise of the GAA, cricket was the most popular sport in Ireland. Interesting. I was never that interested in cricket. I could never understand why people got excited by such a ponderous game. I much preferred football and as a child, always dreamt of scoring the winning goal for Manchester United or Chelsea; I can't remember which.

Meandering about a field on the off-chance that a very lethal ball might fly your way sometime in the next week just didn't do it for me. However, now I've gotten older, I can see the attraction more and I wouldn't mind standing on a grassy surface for a few hours -and then retiring to a clubhouse for a beer. Or I could just go for a beer.

I don't single out cricket for a mild ribbing due to any particular dislike; I see all sports the same way. I realise that this is probably why I'm shunned by society; it's hard to be with a crowd of Jeremy Clarksons in a pub and have to ask them which sport they're talking about, about an hour into the conversation.

“Huzzah for Terenure,  O land of beige and taupe,Our genetic ability for dirigibility, And hiding our money beneath the soap"

Sport always generates an inordinate amount of seriousness, and a serious amount of hot air. It's worse than art. Many people seem to have an almost religious observance of the details and forms of sport. And an unlimited capacity for reeling out sporting anecdotes about events dating back to the 12th Century.

Mostly, though, the media and advertising seems to be pathetically obsessed with sport and what it thinks it'll do for sales figures -hence, those fantastically overwrought TV introductions to sporting events that scream excitement, excitement, excitement! Then they get some elite sports star, who's the personification of derring-do on the field of play, to endorse a product, only to have them drone through their script in a monotone, passionless manner. God knows how they think this will help them link sporting élan to car insurance or National Cement in the minds of the public. I always think of the poor creative directors of many of these ads whose dreams are broken on the wheel of sports-star dullness. It always makes me smile. Thank you sport, for making me smile.

The above painting will be showing in Terenure Sports Club's Culture Night event on Friday 18th September. That's this Friday, folks.

2 Sep 2015

More Red Herrings...

Starting work on a new painting project. These photos were taken about 20 minutes in. I'm still designing the painting as there were no preliminary sketches, lazy man that I am.

For what it's worth, I'm making an underpainting, or a brunaille. I'll colour over this with glazes until I'm happy with the result and then it'll be opaque paint all the way.

I'll post up more information when I have it more complete.