Sunday, September 28, 2014


Ever since I painted the above for our arts festival poster and programme in February, I have been meaning to paint more interiors. And, completely unrelated, botanical illustrations. After years and years where nine out of ten of my paintings would feature a face or a figure, human or feline (the tenth would most likely be a seascape), I find myself drawn to other subject matter - though I doubt the figures will disappear.

hazy light in my kitchen

I love Hammershoi's muted, restrained interiors (and of course the enigmatic people who inhabit or pass through many of them), but my own style is much looser. This reflects real life: I like the calm a minimalist aesthetic brings, but my house is more homey than bare; I am surrounded by things, though I do my best not to accumulate stuff. Of course it does not have to be a contradiction to like both. When it comes to art I happen to also adore representations of interiors bursting with life, colour and exuberance. Like Hammershoi's paintings, they too provoke a visceral reaction (often the sense of how ephemeral everything is - not as depressing an observation as it sounds -, followed by joy, or vice versa).

So many of the objects around me carry meaning beyond their form, and I like looking at the things that fill my house and enjoy the colour and cosiness of it all and want to paint it. I will always be a bit of a clean freak and would think that living on my own for the last six years surely must have made me more set in my ways. But I find myself getting more relaxed about the level of tidiness - I no longer believe I won't be able to sleep if I leave my notebook open on the kitchen table before going to bed. I can only credit mellowing with age for this change. My hope is that this will enable me to work within a so far elusive creative chaos; my need to have everything odered and tidy before starting work must have cost me months of productivity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014



Signs of change (at Portumna Castle)


Drinking tea that tastes of grass* (in a good way) on the grass

Colours are on my mind a lot right now, mainly due to something I am working on.

Ireland has been blessed with an extended summer - two weeks ago the weather forecast had seven sun symbols in a row for the week ahead, and it came true and then continued for another week. We are doing our best to keep up the swimming. Last week at Ladies' Beach there was an older woman in the water who had her long grey hair up in an elegant braided bun. She wore a necklace and earrings with her polka dot swimsuit and a smile on her face and spent a lot of time keeping herself afloat on her back (one of my favourite ways of being in the sea, and, incidentally, a great core exercise). I want to be that lady when I am older. Like in so many seaside towns there is a community of septua-, octo- and even nonagenarians here who go swimming in the sea regularly, some daily, throughout the year. They always have a cheerful welcome for us, and last week someone said "See you tomorrow!", as if it were understood that we'd all be there again the next day.

Parts of my life feel like a neverending holiday (the current combination of the weather, the swimming, half-day trips to places I had never been before, my house, the food, the company), and juxtaposed to that I am overwhelmed by how much I have to do. Taking my cue from our neighbour at home, I am banning the word 'stressed', though I am not sure 'overwhelmed' is a good substitute. Whenever I feel that way, I remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing.

So many things are in the work-in-progress state at the moment, but I am finally getting the hang of working on various projects and not losing sight of any individual one. It has only taken me about a decade to figure this out... I know it is a recurring theme here, but this time it does feel like a mini breakthrough. A lot of it is thanks to a version of the Pomodoro Technique and breaking down that barrier in my head that always seemed to dictate that if I had to be somewhere later in the day there was no point starting anything, even if I had a window of several hours. Now I think, wow, I have an hour to do some work! And I set my alarm. I shall report back next week.

* Kukicha