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.

.

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.

.

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.

24 Jul 2009

Spacer

Ireland should do this not because it's easy; but because we've a lot of unemployed builders.

Acrylics on stretched canvas

26 Jun 2009

Bearding Michael O'Doherty

I've just read Marketing Magazine and saw the reference to Michael O'Doherty's Sunday Times interview. I didn't read the original article unfortunately. O'Doherty is quoted as saying that the one thing he'd change in Irish tax system is the artists' exemption. "Seriously", he's quoted a saying, "why is it that someone who writes a crap book doesn't have to pay tax, simply because they have a beard, whereas a team of well-groomed people who produce a brilliant magazine, do?".


I do suppose that the man was joking [although it does start with the word 'seriously'] or else that quote would win the Double Take accolade for being, witless, peevish and ignorant all at once. I do understand that people who pay tax regularly may feel aggrieved that a whole section of the workforce seems to be treated favourably [including myself; I'm a registered artist under the exemption scheme although I do pay tax on some work]. O'Doherty's glib comments aside, it's worth examining the system as it stands. First, the scheme for the much greater part, covers people whose income would not rise to the level where it would be taxed, anyway. [There was talk of capping the scheme: Here's a quote from Visual Artists Ireland's report on how the scheme has been adjusted: "The scheme therefore does not represent a cap of €250,000 on the artists exemption scheme but rather a cap on the percentage of total income that can be exempted from tax which applies to those who earn over €250,000. High earning artists whose total income is comprised of up to 50% of creative earnings and 50% of non creative earnings (from performing or merchandising for example) will not be effected by the new proposals no matter how much they earn. This is a significant difference to the implementation of a straight cap that was initially reported." The likes of U2 are always thrown into the ring as an example of how this system is unfair but anyone working at that level of income has the motivation and resources to move their taxable status anywhere around the world.]


Art should be different from commerce; it shouldn't follow the same rules -ie. produce at best cost -then sell for best price. Each artistic endeavour is only ready when it's ready. Inordinate amounts of time and effort and research may go into a single production which couldn't be charged for with at any reasonable hope that costs may be recouped. Paintings stay on easels for months or even years being re-worked, sculptures remain unfinished, plays undergo constant rewrites, all because it's about a process which culminates in a finished unique work. It's all about the endeavour and not about the pay-off which for the large part will never come. If the bearded artist's book is crap, there's a good chance it won't sell; however, if the bearded artist's book is brilliant, there's still a good chance it won't sell. In most cases, Beardy has to continue working in the day job -and pay tax.


Artists, live in the hope that one day, the fruits of their creativity will be appreciated enough to provide an income, or even just appreciated. The Irish tax system allows artists some hope of remaining as artists. Now imagine Michael O'Doherty of VIP, producing magazines month after month for years on his own before his magazine is recognised for its brilliance, merely because he felt inspired, thought it was important and he needed to put it out? Then, after a period of modest success, it falls out of favour with the public who have moved onto something else, with no other reason than the public is fickle. Most artists produce work for long periods of their lives without ever earning a living from it.


Further to all that, this visionary system attracts foreign talent that combines with our own, hopefully creating an environment that increases the cultural capital and therefore, the international profile of this country. We have to compete, culturally, with countries that plundered many of their treasures from defeated peoples during imperial wars. In comparison, I prefer the way we're doing it. Under this system, Irish-born artists gain by having outside influences arriving at their doorstep, rather than having to leave these shores to seek them out. The fact that there are a few extraordinary and lucky characters that have risen to stratospheric levels of income is just the price we have to pay for this generally excellent scheme. And you may even find that they pay a certain amount of tax anyway.


All this is true, provided that art means something to you, of course. If all you really appreciate is superficial splendour and the trappings of financial success, then I could see your point.


Personally, I find that since the cabal of recent governments and business have made such a hames of the economy during the credit bubble, we need authenticity and creativity more and more. It's through art that we can transcend the dreary repetition of day-to-day living and through creativity that we can control something in our lives. In other words, art is vital.


Being shown the gracious interiors of celebrities' cribs and the revelry of the well-heeled month after month was always a somewhat vapid proposition and now seems somehow matted with irony and just a little embarrassing.


Finally; what's wrong with beards anyway?