Tuesday, September 19, 2017


 Three feet



1|  Pink shoes you can walk in for miles (because they are Ecco), to the pub and back, for example

2|  Alternating cooking and eating apples from the garden in this apple frangipane tart

3|  I have photographed the view from the kitchen window in this house and in my old place so many times, always with grand plans to paint the particular colour combination of sky-land-sea, and I have done the latter four times in all those years. Sometimes we are in the car on the way to work or home, and the bay is sublime, and I make a mental note to get the morning or evening light down on paper or canvas or snap a hasty photo. One day soon those scribbled lines of 'fuzzy strip of indigo above pale blue water, flat sky' will be translated into paint.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mapping time

When we were in Germany in June, John found this 1952 map of the Kattegat in the basement of my mom's house. It belonged to my dad, who died fifty years after this map was printed. He loved the sea and spent a good chunk of his life on the water. My mother was more than happy for us to give this map a new life, and we got it framed for our hallway.

I joined Spiddal library a few months ago and have been reading a lot of good books lately, from said library, from our own bookshelves, as well as new purchases, and quite a few of them about art. How to be Both was a gift from John, and it was such an immersive and affecting pleasure reading it. I loved Smith's reimagining of Francesco Del Cossa, whose disembodied voice narrates the first or second half of the book, depending on which version you have, the form of the book mirroring the exploration and reversal of the binary forces at play in the novel.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bubbles, chickens, cider

Blowing bubbles - sketch of my nephews

A summer holiday visiting our family tends to come with good weather and thus involves a lot of outdoor pursuits for my nephews, including playgrounds, the inflatable pool and swing in my mom's garden, blowing bubbles, listening to the church bells (much more active than it may seem) and visiting chickens.

We are thinking of getting chickens, so we were interested to see how my mom's neighbours keep theirs, and how they deter rats (supervised feeding of small quantities. There are more elaborate methods, for example a self-service pedal-operated feeder). We got a box of fresh eggs, a cucumber and a fennel bulb from the garden, and my nephew was given a sunflower for my sister.

This year my mom is successfully growing tomatoes out in the open, whereas our plants didn't take off, despite our polytunnel. But the potato yield has been high, and we regularly have meals with three or four different types of produce we have grown ourselves, which is immensely satisfying, though I cannot take much credit for it. Last year we contributed a few boxes of apples towards a local cider-making project, and this summer a few bottles of the result appeared on our doorstep.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On the easel | Three starts


1 |  A mini painting in preparation for a larger painting I want to do of Furbo beach

2 & 3 |  Hydrangeas (work-in-progress) for my mother-in-law, who is a wonderful gardener and was tempted by a print of pink hydrangeas a while ago, so I decided to paint some from our garden for her

4 |  A Full Table (John at the Kitchen Window), work-in-progress, though I quite like it sketchy like that

I got a commission framed this week that I cannot show yet, as it will be a gift, and while putting the finishing touches to it, I started the kitchen scene above. This is how I want to spend my time, and in these August weeks I am doing at least a little of what I thought would be my summer. Instead there were other commitments and a stream of (very welcome, I hasten to add) visitors, and together with housework, gardening and general day-to-day happenings, my time in the studio dwindled to windows of an hour or so snatched here and there.

It is so freeing to paint with no agenda, whatever takes my fancy. With all the space we have in this house, I have been thinking of going bigger and perhaps bolder. In a lovely act of synchronicity, a woman in my class gave me several large canvases she has no use for, which was so kind and generous of her. They are leaning against a wall in my studio, beckoning.

Friday, August 11, 2017


1|  The view south - a new neighbour and blooming agapanthus in our garden

2|  We combined a long weekend in London with a trip down to Lewes to visit Charleston, which was wonderful - more on this soon. I came away with Angelica Garnett's memoir and this card with the dog Duncan Grant painted below the window of what was originally Vanessa Bell's bedroom, to protect her at night (above the window he painted a cockerel to greet her in the morning).

3|  Roger, a dog made by my talented sister for John. He is tartan on the reverse and lives in John's reading chair.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Garden delights

Summer in the West of Ireland has been a mixed bag so far - no surprise there. But the sunny balmy days obliterate a sizeable chunk of the memory of rain-drenched days (weeks), and we can pretend we are in the Mediterranean and set up our garden furniture (which amounts to a bistro table and two chairs), drink white wine and eat olives and temporarily move the lemon tree outside. The latter was ill and nearly died, but after receiving the right treatment it is blossoming with the most divine scent.

After visiting gardens in Wexford, including this one and of course my mother-in-law's (she is the gardening expert we turn to, and I must not forget to mention here that she has won prizes for the fruits of her labour), we are sketching ideas of how to turn our lawn into something more abundant. Most seaside gardens our end of the isle tend to be quite bare, with lawns, bushes and rocks, and while it isn't possible to grow as many plants as in the sunny South East, there are a lot of options, even for this tricky, mostly exposed corner. Now to find the time (and the money)...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On the easel | Irish landscapes

The first land-(and sea-)scape is a recent commission, which prompted me to paint another one in the same format. I look at the first one, and certain elements and colours make me think of the writer Ali Smith, whose Desert Island Discs I was listening to while working on the painting and whose book How to be Both I read a few weeks ago.

These formed associations can be strong and lasting - the painting or drawing will bring back memories of whatever I was listening to at the time, down to flashes of sentences. That's why I am selective in what I listen to in the studio (no radio apart from Lyric FM) or work in silence.

Which makes me think, my students have no choice - I can only hope that my playlists of 'mellow music for the art classes' (the general consensus seems to be that background music is desired) do not offend anybody's audio/visual synthesising.