Playing around with watercolour, subject being a petrol station just outside Ennis on the road to Ennistymon/Lahinch.
While browsing my favourite bookshop (Charlie Byrnes in Galway city – http://charliebyrne.com/) I came across a lovely little book of paintings of children titled “Children of the Gilded Era: Portraits by Sargent, Renoir, Cassatt and their Contemporaries”. I have long admired Sargents’ pencil drawings, so that was enough to draw me in. The rest of it is a feast for the eyes, and great for someone like me who has a lot of child portraiture in my near future. The sketch above is based on a painting by Cecilia Beaux of her niece titled ‘Ernesta with Nurse’ which was exhibited in 1894 at the Society of American Artists.
Below is the sketch at an earlier stage, defini9ng the core areas in pencil. As the site is about bearing all I will always show these stages where I have then recorded.
I started this drawing of a lizard perched on some rock as a line drawing in pencil, very quickly executed. I picked out some shapes in the same way I’d draw folds in material, but here I was trying to capture the areas of light and dark – or to be more precise the borders between them. This first stage is shown below. I didn’t spend more than a minute or at most two on that.
I then dipped a wet brush into some black watercolour, or paynes grey perhaps – I don’t recall, and blocked in the darkest areas. I know the usual watercolour thing is to build up to dark but this was a quick sketch so I did it my own way (as I usually do in life!).
Next I used the blues and greens in my pocket watercolour palette and along with the grey/black I was using above I made up some shades for doing drops of shade to build up a sort of reptile skin texture. It is only a sketch, so there was no need to do all the skin, just enough to see how this method worked out. That was the purpose after all – see how this and that work out.
For the last step I picked up my most common sketching tool – a pen – and defined some scales, as well as the fins al0ng its spine (probably wrong word, but I don’t know the right one and am not going to look it up right now).
This painting looks a lot better in real life, but still not a super painting. It has a real vibrancy which didn’t come through in this photo (taken with a phone, so surprise, surprise!).
It is a painting of a few fishing boats moored on the shore of Lough Corrib at Greenfield, not far from Headford in County Galway, Ireland. I live just up the road. I really should re-paint this as this piece doesn’t do it credit at all. Keep visiting and you may see that happen…
I was making a series of drawings to explore the styles of the old masters, in this case one of Reuben’s cherubs. He was a wonderful painter. I used to find him really boring and overly soppy in his subject matter but when I started to explore the marks he made, the shadows, and the constant turning of his subjects in complex compositions I started to really respect his works as masterpieces. I am sure he would be very relieved to know that.
This is a drawing of Greenfield House on the shores of Lough Corrib. It is at the end of the road I live on. I feel a strong connection to the area as apart from moving here to live, the men in my wife’s family (Grandfather, father, brother, husband!) have all fished from here. I did this drawing in 2009 and little has changed I am glad to say.
This is a sketch of Greenfield harbour at the end of the road I live on between Headford and Lough Corrib. I drew it in two parts and sadly didn’t have the same perspective/scale from both spots. Pity – it could have worked out well. I will do some more drawings down there in the Spring. I love the spot, but always get my head wrecked by a dog down there. I’d cycle around there all the time otherwise.
Philadelphia is a lovely city. It has so many different colours of tree, plant and flower that it is a real feast of colour in the Spring. I did this sketch at my mother in law’s home there last May. It was so bright and hot it was ideal for watercolours – fast drying and vibrant colours.
I’d love to build a veranda on my house. Maybe I will someday. Somewhere to sit back, relax after a long day, and watch the world go by. Then again, I do live in North Galway, so unless I ws to wear oilskins I wouldn’t be sitting out for long most of the year.
My wife brought me away to Lenanne for a few days a little before our first child was born. Little did we know it would be the last peace and quiet we’d see for quite a while! This was drawn at the crossroads with the road for Maum.
I really enjoyed Lenanne as a get away from things, even though we live in the same county it really felt isolated – if I remember right we didn’t even have mobile phone signal. The people were friendly, and there is a great boat ride you can do out through Killary Harbour.
I was lucky enough to get married on safari in South Africa, in Kwandwe to be precise. Because of this we had the unusual experience of going out for a dawn trek on safari on the morning of our wedding day. While out we came across a cheetah dripping in perspiration, just after taking down a wildebeest. Here I drew from a set of photo I took where he is dragging it into cover away from some warthogs who were passing. I drew it with a fine-liner pen on watercolour paper as I like the firmness of the paper, how it soaks up the ink and how the texture affects the line when drawing.
Below is one in the series of photos I took to make the drawing from. Magnificent animal. I feel very lucky to have seen him in action in his natural habitat. What a wonderful start to our married life together. And it has only gotten better and better since.
This is my adorable daughter Rebecca, making faces as I foolishly asked her to give me a big smile! She is such great fun to be around, I spend so much of our time together in fits of laughter. Parenting can be tiring, but it is definitely the most rewarding thing you can do in life.
I didn’t finish it but as you’ll notice as you go through the site, I really like partly completed drawings. There is something about an unfinished drawing that is like watching a mix between a blueprint design and a finished product. You can see how it is being built, at the same time as seeing how it will end up.
This is about as random as they get. I wanted to try out some new pens the other night – Faber Caster PITT artist pens in sepia – and so needed something to draw. I pulled up a random photo form my honeymoon, which turned out to be an Icelandic sheep. I’m not very impressed with the pens, but will give them a few more goes before I give up on them. They are far firmer than the package gives the impression of. I had expected something halfway between a brush and a pen.
The reason for the washes is that I wanted to see if the ink was water soluble. Another impression I picked up from the packaging.
My wife and I had a new baby boy a few weeks ago. He is adorable. This is a quick sketch of Julie-Anne feeding him. A great one for sketching as she was not likely to move too much. I always find babies hard to draw but hope to practice a lot with little Alan and have a whole catalogue of drawings of him as he grows to give to him some day.
I’m also going to include here the first pencil sketch and the first wash. I want to show my process wherever possible (as in, wherever I remember to take a picture midway) so that people can either pick up ideas from me, or advise me of alternative methods.
After the quick drawing above to get the lay of the land as they say, I wanted to get some quick colour references down for myself, in case the bottle was finished and my sitter was gone. This also acted as my first wash so I wasn’t just splashing it on, I was considering where the marks would serve as underlay to final washes. That stage is shown below.
I did this drawing, or perhaps I should call it painting?, back in the early ’90s. Nothing too special but surprisingly I had a number of offers to purchase it. In retrospect I think I should have sold it, but when I like a drawing or painting I do I hate to sell or give them away, as I can’t look at them again. I think that concept of always being able to see my work, but still wanting to make a living out of art is a lot of why I studied printmaking in art college – I could make an edition of a print and sell them, but always keep at least one copy for myself.
Girl in lines
I completed a B.A. Degree in Fine Art Printmaking, and while the core focus of it was etching, screen-print and lithography my own interest towards the end was very much on block-print. I have always been keen on hard lines, contrast and strong colours, and found block gave this in abundance.
At that time most of my work was either directly or indirectly tied to politics – and this example is no exception. It was part of a series of woodcuts I did that I then converted to photo silkscreen, and printed large runs of posters I fly posted around the country. A different process, but not a million miles away from what stencil spray-painters do these days.
I did this drawing/watercolour back in May while staying with my in-laws in Philadelphia. They have a lovely porch I was sitting out on in the sun. and I drew this view of the junction down the road. The style of houses over in the US is so different to here in Ireland, and even the perimeter of peoples plots were defined differently. Add to that the different trees and colours and it’s a whole new world.
For me the biggest new past of the experience was how the light was great in the sun there, and the heat dried the watercolours so fast I could add new washes in minutes, or in some cases seconds. Really great for speed, but it took getting used to, to be working fast before a stroke dried and put a rim on a brushstroke.
This is the view across the road from my house, out my bedroom window. Actually, the sheep isn’t there all the time, but the rest is pretty much always there. The land is quite hilly so there are lots of these slopes, with lovely Galway stone walls – no mortar so like here, they are often knocked down in places by livestock looking for a scratch.
I like this drawing as it isn’t finished, but there is a nice balance between the bits I shaded and those I had only rough marking out done for. To me it is instantly recognisable as the hill over the road, and without looking at the landscape I could easily draw in everything that has not been drawn already.
I guess I should get out more!
This is an early detail of a drawing I did of a plane waiting in Stockholm airport. Airports are great places to sketch, but of course when you are in them you rarely have time to sit for a few hours and draw. Also with so many security restrictions you’d probably not be allowed bring a pencil parer or water for paints.
Julie-Anne and I had a holiday away in Leenane a while back, and took a drive out into the wilderness. At one point (shown) I had to pul over as the landscape was so nice. The clouds were really low, cutting off the tops of the mountains, which were really not that tall.
The wind would cut you in two there, but I’m used to that living near a lake, and of course in the same county. Galway is such a huge county it is great – you can see such different landscapes in different parts. It is a real haven for artists who enjoy working outdoors in the wilds and like rugged landscapes.