Leo on slide

Laughter playing on a slide

I love drawing. Always have. I studied fine art printmaking primarily because it really makes use of draughtsmanship and so gave me a way to spend lots of time drawing. I tend to draw in a single colour, which is grand but the pictures lack colour and this makes for a rather morbit picture on a wall. The viewer shouldn’t just have the pleasure of coming close and enjoying the detail – they should be wowed with the brightness, the range of hues, the vibrancy of colour. Not a gift that my black and white pen (usually a 0.05 or 0.01 mm fine-liner) drawings can offer.

At the same time as drawing, I like to paint and try to push myself to paint more as my drawing skills are fine but my painting skills need some work. What I have noticed is that when I paint I sometimes do the painting as though I was drawing. I did that here. A few people who have seen this painting in my sketchpad have referred to it as a drawing. It isn’t. It does have a light pencil line drawing to get the positioning right – you can see that in the sides and background – but this is actually all painted with black and white watercolour (Payne’s gray actually, if I remember right).

The subject of this unfinished sketch is my youngest son, sliding down a slide and trying to capture the absolute joy he was getting from the experience. Initially I was just going to work out how best to frame the image – go close or draw the field of view out further to capture the slide in more detail, but as often happens with a quick sketch I got absorbed into the face and shading.

Rubens cherub


One of my many indulgences is to pick up a huge number of fine art books, and as I live in Galway the best place to do this is at the wonderful Charlie Byrne’s bookshop on Middle Street, Galway. Recently I have renewed my interest in the preraphaelite art movement and also in Peter Paul Rubens through some old art history books I picked up. Rubens painted a lot of fantastic, energetic, colourful and utterly dramatic paintings, and also painted in those an awfully large number of cherubs. I have never looked into the reason for this, but assume it was the times he lived in and the artistic fashion of the time. What always interests me is the strange adult meets child appearance of cherubs. They are babies, but they are more similar to adults if you ignore the pink skin and baby-sized bodies. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that is so strange, so have decided to paint some and see if it brings any clarity to my understanding. I will let you know if it does.

Boy in blue shoes

Blue shoe boy

I often like to work with a restricted palette, and in this watercolour sketch, I was going for browns. I felt the picture was going great through a few stages in it, but then it was just getting boring – the browns of the sofa Leo was sitting on were too distracting from the detail I managed to get into his face. The range of tones wasn’t consistently varied in different areas. In short, it wasn’t working for me.

Rather than abandon it completely – I still had the legs and feet to complete – I decided to emphasize the blue of the new shoes he had on, which were the reason for the happy smiles (not entirely – he is always smiling!). The picture is grand for a sketchpad, and I did learn from it – I would have been far better off with the earlier stages and not having painted the seat itself. What I am quite satisfied with through this sketch is the knowing look I manage to capture in his face.

New Delhi watercolor

India – New Delhi street scene

I was fortunate enough to travel to India with work, and got to see some of this wonderful country. One of the biggest shocks to the system for someone who lives a number of miles away from the nearest village or town was how crowded and bustling India is, or at least the city of New Delhi is anyhow. There are people everywhere, there are shops in doorways, cafes in basements serving out through windows just above ground level. Every inch is made use of, and everything is in perpetual motion. It is amazing to see.

The next most striking feature of India is the colours. While there is dusty browns from the dry clay, and the stone that is so different to that of Ireland, everyone is wearing bright colours, and colours have such meaning to Indians that the choices are far different to those of Ireland and western countries that I would be more used to.

This sketch is of a street in New Delhi that has a series of different churches temples and mosques, all side by side, representing the diversity of India.

Leo in hat

Leo in sun-hat

I have two sons, and love to draw them as it gives me a chance to be with them while I am having ‘me’ time too. I hope the collection of drawings will be nice for them to have in future years to look back on and perhaps remind them f the times we share now in their childhoods. This one is of my son Leo, wearing a sunhat and holding some tools for a sand pit that he was playing at. I was doing it to think about how I might paint him – finding a suitable point to crop and work out the placement of his head on the overall canvas or page. As you can probably tell, it was too high here.

Drawing a simple outline sketch like the one shown here is a very helpful way to plan the composition of a more detailed work – you do not have to invest hours of work to know if it will work, and I find that the mistakes you make at this point such as wrong proportions serve as a warning when you prepare to embark on a more complex or detailed version. I really recommend any sketcher or artist to never rush into trying to create a finished artwork. First explore the subject, explore the light, the colours, and of course the composition. Look at the different sketches you put together and decide what elements you like from each and then try another sketch combining those. Then you can focus on creating what you want to end up with, rather than trying to find that out along the way.

Leon Bonnat

Leon Bonnat

There isn’t a lot I can say about this sketch, other than I was passing a few spare minutes one evening. I was looking through an art book and saw the painting of Leon Bonnet that this is based on.

I’ve commented a few times about the importance of not aiming for an artwork every time you sketch – it is about practice, exploration, experimentation and for me also very much around relaxing my mind. For those reasons, I am not embarrassed to post this. Yes, I am well aware of the mistakes and inaccuracies; it isn’t posted as an example of high art though, just a lot in a sketching and drawing journey.

Drawing of boy with cars

A different approach

I posted a picture of this scene before, but in that used a wide range of watercolour colours. In this, I was keeping it far stricter to explore the key areas. It is a method I use to really get deeper into a picture. By removing different parts, such as colour, it is possible to focus on one aspect to see where you are going right or wrong. After the focus, it is easy to go back and bring in the missing element. The key is to not get too stale when re-drawing or painting the same scene.

Playing ball in the cold

Playing ball in the cold

As you can see, this is just the start for this – a quick (or slow) sketch of my daughter holding a pink ball in our garden. It was a cold day, chilly and fresh, and she really wanted to play in the garden so we wrapped up and went out for some playtime. How blessed I am to have time to spend with my children and to have such wonderful children to spend time with. Paintings or sketches like this are to me like a diary of memories. I hope to do a larger scale version of this once I’ve a few more trial sketches done – it is too hard to get the detail I want on such a small scale (the pad is smaller than A4).

The challenge in this is to get the wall not to take over – being the darkest part it draws itself forward, where I want it to be very much in the background. I will finish this version,  but in the next sketch I think the right thing to do will be to use far more soft grey as it is here in the parts of the wall not fully painted. For the grass I thing the best thing will be areas of green without detail, and just in the foreground define the actual blades of grass. Here the definition I thought would work is really just creating a scene where there is too much going on and the figure is sort of lost in the mix, only drawn forward by the contrast in colours. Still, when I look at it myself I am back there hearing her call to me to catch the ball, so it works on that front anyhow!

Diamond hill, Connemara, Galway in watercol

Diamond Hill, Connemara


This landscape is for me a step outside my comfort zone. I tend to do landscapes in black and white using a pen – rarely in watercolour. One of my workmate Aoife was on this lovely hill and took some amazing photos which I was surprised to hear were with a phone. I wanted to try painting them and to be h,onest I don’t do them any justice. But as you know for this site I post all the bad and the good, as it’s all about what we learn on the journey not just the end result.

I have to admit, I am not done justice myself in my photo of the sketch – this was taken with my own phone in artificial light. I’ll add a better quality photo to this post at some stage when I get some time in daylight. Ahead of painting it I was thinking greens and browns, with a little blue for the further back bits, but I was surprised as I get into it the whole range of colours in the Irish landscape. Everything from red to yellow to blue and pretty much everything in between. I’m blessed living is such a wonderfully vibrant country.

Little girl holding balloon drawing

Young girl with a balloon



This sketch is of my daughter, with a different angle to usual – I naturally am mostly drawing faces but with this she had her back turned and was lit from the opposite side – I was facing the light. I drew the balloon in negative space as it was a more dramatic aspect, and allowed for the lightness of the balloon to be conveyed also.

It is a sketch that was meant to be a few second rough to paint from later, but as happens to me so often I ended up spending longer and longer building it up. I do still hope to paint it at some point. Time will tell if I ever get around to that. For now at least I have this sketch to remember the moment.


Boy playing with cars


In this watercolour sketch I was painting one of my sons while he played with some cars while laying on the floor of our home. He was happily engrossed in the play and I enjoyed the challenge of the rather awkward angle to paint at. I have not added the cars – they should be just below his hairline – roughly where his eyes are focused. I was using a mixture of green, orange and payne’s gray. I find this mix gives a nice pallette to work from, allowing for softness of edge through colour as well as how diluted the paint is.

As I often state here – I post my mistakes as often (or more often) as successes. This is actually badly painted – if you turn your head so that you are looking at his head the right way up you will see the positioning of the features are all wrong. Amazingly I never noticed while I was doing it. A lesson learnt there: turn your head when painting to see the ‘right way up’ as easy to notice mistakes that way which are not so easy to notice when at a strange angle.


Wathercolor sketch of boy playing

Ashford Castle

Getting started – Ashford Castle

I am just getting going on a new picture of Ashford Castle up the road from me in Cong. It reminds me of mechanical drawing back in secondary school trying to get all the proportions right. I hope this one works out – I’ve tried drawing the castle a number of times but none have worked too well. Naturally, I’ll be posting more as I go along. Fingers crossed.


Alan Joseph

I am starting to draw my son Alan a bit more now. I am not able to capture him as well as I can his older sister, but with time I am sure I will. The biggest challenges when drawing the very young is first that they keep moving, and secondly that they tend never to face you! It is for that reason that I tend not to do too detailed sketches of babies or toddlers unless I have a photograph for reference.

AJ by his father


Shrimp by Andy Madigan

Something fishy

I am doing a lot of sea-related drawings at the moment. My daughter loves fish, and the aquarium in Galway is her favorite pace right now, so I may end up doing some sea related murals on her bedroom furniture. First off I need a load of source material to work from.

And for that reason, I give you – the shrimp!



Clifden, County Galway, Ireland

Clifden – almost done!


I have worked on some more with this drawing, and now have just the water and the sky to go. You’ll notice that I have started the water, but have a lot of detailed work to complete there. Water can be monotonous and it is important that I take my time – it is not the easiest thing to draw.

For the sky I have the option of leaving it blank or filling in the cloudy sky. It is a hard decision – the white really emphasizes the curve of the hill to the left. I think I will wait until the water is finished and decide then.

I also added a solid line border. This is a format I’ve been working with for a while in my Galway/Mayo landscapes as I intend to put together a set.  I actually forgot on my last drawing of Cloughanower castle. Oops!

Cloughanover Castle – First of 2014

Stage 1- Cloughanover CastleMy first drawing of 2014 was of a local castle ruin, just outside Headford in County Galway (where I live). It is Cloughanover Castle which is just beside the wonderful Campbell’s Tavern. I am showing three stages in the drawing, following my usual aim of showing the process as well as the piece.


Stage 2 - Cloughanover CastleThe image above is about halfway through. I have the whole structure defined, and am just working it in.


Finished - Cloughanover Castle

This is the final image. As you can see I added the wall which was just impossible to avoid. It is actually worth focusing on the wall for a minute as it is what I see as wrong with the picture – I was happy with the castle and just wanted to be finished, so rushed it. I feel it takes from the overall image, as the fine detail I added to the castle is muted a little with the wall. I guess I am my own worst critic, but there ye go.