22 Dec 2016

Happy Christmas 2016

Have a lovely and peaceful Christmas,
from all at McSherry Towers.

We hope to see you in the new year...

20 Dec 2016

The Wren, the Wren, King of all Birds!

Little Fairy Wren. Gilded Acrylics on canvas. For sale €350. 6" x 6" framed behind glass.

Not the wee brown bird of the ancient Irish tradition of hunting the wren (An Dreoilín) on Saint Stephen's Day, but a native bird of Australia. I wish we had more such colourful birds here. Maybe we wouldn't have been buck-lepping around and battering them with sticks... 
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give him a treat.

Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.
2. As I was going to Killenaule,
I met a wren upon the wall.
I took me stick and knocked him down,
And brought him in to Carrick Town.

3. Droolin, Droolin, where’'s your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.

Chorus:4. We followed the wren three miles or more,
Three mile or more three miles or more.
We followed the wren three miles or more,
At six o’clock in the morning.

5. I have a little box under me arm,
Under me arm under me arm.
I have a little box under me arm,
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.


12 Dec 2016

Digital Illustration Ready for Takeoff!

Yes, yes, I know. I'm late for my flight.  There are a couple of reasons why I've taken so long to enter the world of digital illustration. For one thing, I love to paint and get my hands dirty and smell the paint and feel the brush in my hand. I became an illustrator to be a painter who gets paid properly from time to time.

Another thing is, I did already try some years ago. For a while I used a program called Painter which promised to give painterly results but I struggled with it before giving up on it as I just couldn't get the results I wanted.

Then, Adobe introduced their subscription by the month, which is fair enough but it banjaxed my chances of using it.  That's when I discovered the Affinity suite of products: The software company, Serif, obviously saw an opportunity provided by Adobe's move to subscription and the resultant flight of irritated users. They've introduced two extremely comprehensive and professional applications that are developing apace. It's true that neither of the programs have the complete set of bells and whistles provided by the standard-setting Adobe products but if you know what you want to achieve in your work, there's almost nothing that a photographer or illustrator can't do. Add to that, Serif's Affinity Publisher, which is due for release in about a year's time to compete with Adobe's InDesign, and it will be possible to move away from Adobe and still produce industry-standard results.

So, illustrating this little ode to Affinity, is a cover illustration I did for a non-existent (as yet) children's book. It's made entirely in Affinity Designer and is a vector image. You can see something of how a vector image is made up in the above screenshot. I won't go into the details of what that means  except that I can reach into any part of this image and refine it, change it or remove it at will. Imagine trying to do that with a hand-painted illustration! This is the way things work with today's illustration clients who have become used to making 'after the fact' changes, and I must change my way of working accordingly. Over and out.

5 Dec 2016

Two Puppies Find a New Home

Going to See a Man About a Dog
A Dublin Nocturne

Two paintings which have been with me for quite a long time have just found the same new home. Even though I'll miss them, it's so much better for them to be out, doing their own thing; running in the fields and gambolling in far-flung meadows. So farewell to them and may they bring much happiness.

I made a post about the top painting, 'Going to See a Man About a Dog' around the time it was completed (2010) but since then, the post has been lost somehow. However, thanks to the Wayback Machine internet archive, I found this snapshot of the text I wrote:

When my siblings and I were nippers, ‘I’m going to see a man about a dog’, was very often the answer we got from dad when we asked where he was going. I was sure that one day, he’d arrive home with a puppy, though that never happened. Perhaps it was difficult to find a dog, especially on the way to and from the pub? [Ironic, incidentally, when you consider the amount of dog turds littering the pavements. Was it just the one uber-hound, with a massive appetite and a terrible digestive disorder? Surely the trail of canine spoor would have led to the promised pooch? How unobservant could he have been?]. Anyway, I digress. My dad never learned to drive a car; he settled for a Honda 90, the workhorse of the 60s. He even accompanied the rest of the family on our trip from London to far-flung Caherciveen, [Caherciveen!] scooting along while we travelled in our uncle’s car. Epic. There’s surely a painting in that…
This is one way I remember him; standing outside in the dusty heat of a Brentford day, with his teacher’s clothes and his teacher’s head on him; away to look for a dog somewhere. The aspect of our street allowing the sun to stream down making brilliant shadows. The distant roar of the crowd from Brentford football stadium every other Saturday, as the opposition put another one past the keeper. The unremitting rumble of heavy traffic from the twelve lanes of road in front of the house. The particular dry smell of the local dust made from brake linings and tyres. The London Box. Probably no place for a dog. Do you know what, dad? I reckon you weren’t looking for a dog at all…
Oils on canvas. 20″ x 30″

3 Nov 2016

Illustrators Guild of Ireland Show at Luan Gallery

The Luan Gallery is delighted to announce its winter exhibition for 2016 entitled Without the Words. Celebrating the art of illustration, Without the Words is a group exhibition selected especially for Luan Gallery which showcases the brightest talents of Irish Illustration today.
Showing works by a variety of artists, Without the Words includes samples by both established and high profile illustrators as well as emerging creative talents and forms a celebration of visual storytelling and the imagination.

Without the Words
 is an exhibition inspired by a line from Emily Dickinson's well loved poem: ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’.
Margaret Anne Suggs, Illustrators Ireland Promotions Officer says:
‘In most circumstances an illustrator will respond to a brief which is communicated either through written or spoken word. As supporters of visual literacy, Illustrators Ireland propose to tell our visual stories, putting the pictures first- without the words. Here we tell our stories; visually stimulating the imagination to respond by creating an individual narrative, not a prescribed story’.

Illustrators Ireland is a community of professional illustrators working together to actively promote the craft and art form that is illustration. Members offer a wealth of combined experience and amongst those exhibiting include Kate Greenaway Medalist and current Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch, former Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey, and 2016 CBI Book of the Year Nominee Lauren O'Neill. With over 40 members' work on exhibition, visitors are invited to find their own narratives within the original works.

The show combines computer generated imagery with traditionally executed drawings to present an assortment of colourful scenes and images to ignite imagination and discussion.

Aedín McGinn, Luan Gallery says:
‘We are thrilled to present this exhibition and showcase the wonderful variety of works by Illustrators Ireland. Throughout the course of the exhibition, Luan Gallery is offering up its River Gallery space to a participatory project entitled ‘The Big Picture’ in conjunction with Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch. Here, visitors to the exhibition will be invited to add their own illustrations directly to the wall, responding to the works on show and resulting in one large evolving time based mural. So come one, come all and draw on the gallery wall!’

Speakers at the official exhibition launch include: Aoife Murry from Children’s Books Ireland, Margaret Anne Suggs from Illustrators Ireland and PJ Lynch, current Laureate na nÓg.

The exhibition will open on November 5th at 6pm with a wine reception to which all are welcome and continues until 27th January 2017.

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!