Painting in Declan’s studio, photo by Declan Greene.
After a relatively quiet period for creating work over the last few years, it feels great to be free again – to travel, to paint, to mingle and organise. I’m very grateful to have a place – in Wickham St. Studios – to come in and make work and plans, to mingle and learn from others. I feel 2023 is like a restart, a new chance to try new things, and retry and invent old practices.
I’m delighted to say I will have a solo show of works in the Coach House, part of the beautiful Georgian era Peoples’ Museum of Limerick, in October this year. We say deadlines were invented for artists in this business, and it is true that having a target to make and present a body of work is a great stimulant. It’ll be called ‘About the Studio’, and will feature drawings and paintings depicting my own and other spaces in Wickham St.
It has been a most satisfying and exciting journey so far, and as I haven’t been full time making artworks through paint, it has led to new approaches and revelations. I will of course update on the progress.
After quite a long time I feel comfortable back in the studio, the daily routine once again normalised. It’s been a pretty productive period over the last few months, kick started in part by undertaking a drawing everyday for a few weeks (sort of).
Start with what’s around you, and as I am next door – so to speak – to artist Paul Rhatigan, I portrayed the view from my side. I’m using the pen and white paint (pen) brush technique, similar to my residency in Limerick City Gallery last year. I’m pretty happy with the results.
I like the challenge of trying to capture chaotic scenes, with several competing hard and soft lines and textures having to be portrayed, and it’s a great discipline.
I have completed the painting of the pink vase I had been working on, the ‘solid’ painting that is. In a month or so I will glaze and sign it. The glaze will most likely be two oil washes of light pink, and pretty electric cerulean blue hue. Hopefully that will bring it together nicely.
I’ve also been working on a couple of other paintings, but for now, I’ll post up the drawing one of them is based on.
I wish a happy and peaceful 2022 to all. The last two years have played out in a bit of a haze (lockdown began March 15 2020), but with getting back regularly to the studio, and latterly the Test Space Residency in LCGA, creatively things are moving.
I am concentrating on painting again, particularly on canvas, and the above image is the first layer of one (of two). The works depict a couple of views from a seated position in my studio, and have been occupying me for the last 10 weeks or so. I always draw with the brush(es) when painting. It is another way to relax the outcome and the wrist. Using a pencil or other media to begin a work tends to tighten and restrict I feel.
This particular piece is a vase of some sort above the back door lintel. The colour is quite exceptional -an electric pink – very much what we would call ‘plastic’. It’s quite an unusual composition, but I’m (quietly) confident it will work out. Working with canvas so much again brings back the old techniques and solutions, while at the same time the lack of practice can bring new approaches.
As can be seen above, the painting is built from the background up. The second image is after about four layers – dry paint (no medium like turps/oil added) is built up gradually, worked into the fabric, the darker and underlying colours (in my eyes!) being the base. These patchy bits, disguised more and more with each layer, go on to have a significant, but very subtle effect on the eye, particularly after the last stage of glazing.
This is where I am now with it (ignoring the brutal quality of the photos of course). The more solid and defined image is emerging. When we get to a point where it feels ‘real’, I will add a few layers of glazing -the oil painting equivalent of a water-colour wash – the image will rescind or diminish, leaving us with a more cohesive, moody work.
A question I, and many others have when beginning to pursue painting/visual art had, was what purpose does colour have? It may seem a simple question. Yes if we want to be faithful to a scene, and want to recreate it then we use similar colours. But what else is it for? Put simply, adding colours through glazes/washes sets a mood, and provides the audience with a lens to judge it. Say we have a scene and apply a red glaze – it is uneasy, and makes us think of danger. A blue glaze makes it feel cold/depressed and so on.
The above work was also done from the same seated position, and took about six weeks or so. I’m figuring out what colours I’ll apply to soften and enhance the feel and mood. Most likely I’ll use a lemon yellow to start with – really drawing out the acidic feel, and a little uncomfortable on the eye. After that a soft, perhaps pinkish hue. There may be another one, but we are on the home stretch(er).
Tá suil agam go bhfuil an bliain seo go mhaith ar son go léir.
Hard to believe I have been in residence in Limerick City Gallery for 7 weeks now. Before a catchup though I must give a special shout-out to my good friend Seán Healy, Contact Studios Alumnus, Gallery Interlude exhibitor, and fine artist and man. He has been extremely generous with his time and expertise, making and upkeeping my website over the years. It has been a great outlet for my musings – and a place to highlight my art and practice. A big míle míle maith agat mo cháirde!
We kicked off Limerick Artists Book Expo 2021 this Monday 22, bringing the best of Limerick City & County into the gallery for the public to read and marvel at. My aim is to highlight the wealth and diversity of talent of the artists making such wonderful, accessible works, while informing people where they can purchase them, at local outlets, or directly from the artists themselves.
The expo features Lotte Bender, Pat Collins, Pat Corcoran, Tom Fitzgerald, Helena Grimes, Gavin Hogg , Michele Horrigan, Seán Lynch, Hugh MacMahon, Brian MacMahon, Clara McSweeney, Liz Ryan, John Shinnors and my own 2 books. My thanks to the artists for kindly lending me their books for the project, and sure you wouldn’t know, it might sew the seeds for something more substantial in the future.
As part of the Test Space Residency, I have been facilitated by the gallery to progress an animation of my book, Skippy’s Tale. It’s very exciting, and I am delighted to be collaborating on the project with Declan Greene – Photographer and painter and lead Animator on the project, and my Gallery Interlude collaborator and master musician Mark Sheehan. It’s based on a story board I made while based at the Cahill May Roberts building – recently demolished – simple drawings that Declan is making sense of, while Mark is laying down original music to imbue colour and mood. I’m providing voiceover, with a new script, and early versions are already amazing! Above photo is a meeting we had this week with the Director of LCGA Úna McCarthy, where we shared our first ‘rushes’. If we have it finished by year’s end we’d be doing well – it’s a long process, but I feel very rewarding and educational for us all.
All the while I have been busy creating my visual love letter to the Carnegie Building, as the gallery is also known. New drawings are made each day, moving my chair around from upstairs, around the mezzanine, down the stairs, the foyer, the South Gallery, The Permanent Collection Room, The Hub and the main gallery. While there ‘incidental’ details are shown – aspects of Mark Garry’s fine show, musical recordings, and the occasional member of the invigilating team are captured. It is all part of the process of asserting my belief in the value of the subjective, fallible art of drawing as record, and has been of great value in developing and refreshing my own practice.
I would like to sincerely thank Úna, Siobhán, Sara, Brendan, Philip, Emily, Brendan, Steve, Yvonne and John for their many kindnesses, and for this amazing opportunity!
A new chapter began Monday two weeks ago, as I took residence in The Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) for an 8 week period. It’s a great privilege, and opportunity to be awarded the pilot Test Space Dual Residency in the esteemed premises. Alongside myself, on a complementary Virtual Residency is Rajinder Singh (I had the great pleasure of chatting with Rajinder – a very interesting artist and gent, and Sara Dowling of LCGA in a zoom meeting last week, about our mutual practices and what we will be working on – posted on Youtube – which is available online).
The pilot scheme is intended to try to bring a new dynamic to the gallery – an engine of communication with the public through talking about art in an informal way, and providing a space and platform for an in house and virtual artist to make work, and collaborate with Limerick city based groups.
I’ll be pursuing a number of activities – drawing my surroundings in varying media, which I’m hanging up in a very casual/informal manner – a visual diary if you will. It is a great space – physically and mentally – to accelerate through the drawing gears, and affords the opportunity to discuss the merits, thoughts and approaches I am taking with members of the public.
As part of The Arts Council’s EHRD Policy and Strategy, I hope to work with Bedford Row Family Project over the next month or so, doing some workshops with this important and valuable local resource. I’ll also work with Declan Greene and Mark Sheehan on a new Skippy’s Tale animation, and hope to do a Limerick Artist illustrated book collection before the completion of my time here.
I’ll as usual add news and images of my progress here, or check out my Carl Doran Test Space Residency Facebook page and/or Instagram page.
Sincere thanks to Director Úna McCarthy, Siobhán O’Reilly, Sara Dowling and all the welcoming team at LCGA – míle míle maith agaibh!
It’s been a difficult period over the last year and a half or so. Creatively, for many artists – myself included – the closing down of society and normal life has impacted the ability to think clearly, and make work.
In previous times with work and/or personal setbacks, when I have struggled in this way, I have gotten some satisfaction from lending a hand with studios, working with artists and the Gallery Interlude team , lobbying for the arts – anything in short that makes me feel I am making some meaningful contribution. It’s not perfect, but it makes me sleep easier.
Being unable to do these things in the last few months have forced me into a time of introspection, querying why I am not using the resulting time for more studio work?
Fragment of larger drawing in charcoal and acrylic, and 6 quick gestural charcoal studies.
It’s not as easy a question as it may sound. Many times over my years in Contact Studios, new members would come in, and it being awhile since practicing, would be apprehensive about whether ‘it’ would happen i.e. whether the old creative spirit and abilities would return?
My advice was uniformly the same – don’t put pressure on yourself – you don’t want to turn your time in the studio into something you dread. Begin with drawing, using low quality materials with which their is no expectation, and hopefully this will reignite your latent abilities. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, fall into a schedule that works for you, be it morning, night, afternoon – whatever.
I’m taking my own advice over the last month, getting back to basics. I began with drawings on newsprint, with basic paint and rubbish brushes (forces you to use them better, and avoids intricacies). The subject is beside me – an adjacent studio space and its contents. These I do repeatedly, trying to understand them in a visual way – their weight/mass, negative and positive shapes. Colour is left out of the picture so to speak, as it complicates matters with too many options and concerns.
Initial layering on canvas – bag of plaster.
As I went on I became most interested in the form of a bag of plaster – trying to convey its weight and the tension on the paper wrapping the heavy dust. Moving on to working on canvas has been the next step, with its more complicating factors of under-painting, colour and all the micro actions when working with oil. It is of course early days, and as ever, time will tell whether they will work out or not, but we’re back in the saddle at least, and re-learning.
Initial layering on canvas – bag of plaster (2).
For now, we’ll ‘keep on keeping on like a bird that flew’ as Bob Dylan says, and see how we get on.
It’s been a while since I have put together stretchers – wooden frames over which canvas is stretched – certainly not since being in Contact Studios Prime, maybe 15 years ago or more.
The main reason for that was the technique I employed for a long time of pouring glazes, was unsuited to the surface. As can be seen from the above picture, taken in my studio, the base frame consists of 2×1 timber (baton), while a thinner piece (beading) is used on top, keeping the material taut and away from the baton surface.
The canvas needs a little ‘slack’, as the warmed up glue solution – ‘size’ – that is applied (above) adds extra tension, while also acting as a preservative and pre priming coat.
It’s a new primer I’m checking out, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the surface is to paint on.
I regretfully have to report the passing of my good friend, and frequent Muse, (Old) Squealer. She is survived by her two daughters, Mandy & Mindy (pictured below her), and more than likely, other felines I am unaware of.
She lived to a good old age of 13, and it gives me no small comfort to say that she had a fairly good existence, particularly from when we officially began to associate i.e. when she overcame her natural feral instincts to become friends.
She was a particularly majestic cat – an imperious mane growing in the winter time. Though of a small stature, her paws were very large, and needles(s) to say, she was fond of sticking her claws in to a leg on frequent occasions.
As can be seen from both the photo and painting above, Ol’ Squeal had her own blue cushion. As a very wild cat, providing her with a seat solely for her own use – with the back door open of course – was my way of giving her the confidence to sit awhile. Within a year or two, she was confident enough to sleep indoors. In fact, she wasn’t too fond of going out a lot of the time, and the cushion came in handy to ease her out, without the scrawb and numerous hisses!
Indeed, like all wild cats, she was pretty skittish, particularly with visitors to my home. With three cats of this mind, once one cat runs the others duly follow. She did mellow over the years, and would happily sit beside myself and select guests- well, one, Aunty Belle. She was also very fond of her Uncle Paul, who would look after the house and the cats while I was away, and was very happy to have her fluffy belly rubbed by him also, while rolling around. She was also fond of times when her Uncle Seán would stay and indulge her, though a bit freaked by his height!
Not a few tears have been shed over my old friend, and I miss not having her interruptions post-shower, or indeed anything bathroom related as Paul will attest! No more squeals will be heard, but she will be fondly remembered.
Special thanks to all our friends who provided for her when I wasn’t around, Rose, Paul, Hugo, Mary & Rina, Ciarán and Declan.
An especial thanks to John and staff at Treaty Veterinary, who were kind and sympathetic to us both, when Old Squeal’ went on her last journey, and her final sleep.
Tá súil agam go bhfuil áthas ort i do plás speisialta a Squealín!
It’s always been a great pleasure to present work to the public, and moreso perhaps when you don’t have to go to the effort yourself of putting it up! Fantastic news therefore when I was informed my work that forms part of the Limerick City Gallery Collection, would feature along with 66 other artists with strong Limerick Connections.
Given these strange times, and the gallery being closed until not so long ago due to Covid, it had a comforting resonance – much like Matisse compared great works of art with a comfortable pair of slippers. (I am, as some might know, a bit of an authority on slippers).
Hard to credit it really, but I have now lived in The Treaty for 25 years – over half my life, since coming down to complete a Painting Degree in LSAD.
We were fortunate as it turned out not to be in the dilemma that faced graduates this year, unable to attend college to complete the last few crucial months of the Academic year, and then a virtual show.
Despite being no fan of the looong speeches from the podium, the Graduate show is a highlight of the year for myself and many, many others – a chance to see ideas and art, perhaps to buy work, and meet friends and potential new friends and colleagues.
It was super to see that LCGA and independent staff members took the initiative to exhibit work from the newly graduated artists in the show previous to this – it is a real public service, and I am delighted for all.
I cannot understand how a showing of graduate work cannot be hosted on the Clare St. Campus in a safe manner, be it in the (vast) Church Gallery, or even outdoors on campus. It is certainly something the very upper echelons of the School should urgently attend to, in the interests of completing the Artists’ education and experience.
It’s been a strange few months – perhaps the strangest myself and most have encountered. Along with the vast majority (on the planet perhaps!), our places of work are off limits, our ability to meet, travel and have gatherings has been completely curtailed.
There are I’m sure, artists who will thrive in this atmosphere – where there will be no unexpected, or indeed expected visitors or phone-calls, or outside activities and jobs demanding their attention. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority I have talked to, no more than for myself. An unclouded mind I find the most conducive to creativity, and this current uncertainty and lock-down most certainly isn’t relaxing.
Still-Life goes on though, as in the above painting I began a few weeks before everything wound down. It’s an oil painting from life in the new studio space I moved into last January in Wickham St., with a bit more to do to finish.
It is more in the vein of an ‘Interiorscape’ I guess than a Still-Life. As the title suggests, I am using a donated surface from my very good friend and Contact Studios Alumnus Hugh (Hugo) Mc Mahon, which adds a bit of ‘character’ to the piece. It depicts whatever happened to be in the corner of the studio the day I started. I do hope to finish it very soon.
With everything up in the air these days, we are unclear on the how’s or when’s of Gallery Interlude as it stands. The world will be a different place when all this finishes, but that does not change or alter the need for our message, and the need for promoting local arts and indeed business.
If anything, we will have to redouble our efforts, and think even further outside the box.
‘Change, this is a restless Earth’ I heard someone say on an Ali G USAii show, and there is no doubt about it.
I don’t particularly relish it, but myself and the Gallery Interlude Team, and indeed our friends, artists and partners, will certainly do our best to rise to the new situation.