Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not Such A Cheery Christmas Illustration

Here's another Christmassy job I did just before the holidays.
It was for the ISPCC and it was to appear with a text that had a fairly sinister subtext about violence against children.
My painting was to seem wholesome and festive but with a subtle aspect of menace.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Little Christmas Window Movie

Here is a little movie of me at work in the window of Hodges Figgis.
I have transferred this from FaceBook so I hope it will work here.
Happy Christmas everybody.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Here's a seasonal painting I did of Ireland's new President last week for the lovely folks at Public Communications Centre and which I think makes for a hopeful Christmas card for those of us living in Ireland.

Thank you all for visiting my blog in 2011
and may I wish all of you a very Happy Christmas and the best of luck in 2012

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present

I have finally made up a pretty good digital approximation of my big painting of the Ghost of Christmas Present.
The problem was that I could only get my camera three and a half feet away from the canvas and so I had to make this image up from lots of smaller photos pasted together in Photoshop.

The painting in the window was a very strange project to take on, but I really enjoyed the process and I loved meeting all those nice people who stopped by to say hello.
Painting this scene from A Christmas Carol in public was a very good way of getting into the Christmas spirit, and in a purely practical sense, it is good to know that, when pressed, I can finish a seven foot oil painting in less than a week.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Oscar Wilde: Stories for Children

It's nice to see "Oscar Wilde; Stories for Children" doing so well in the Irish Bestsellers.
Not bad for a book I illustrated twenty years ago.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two Quick Studies from Life

With one thing and another I have missed a lot of life drawing on Thursdays in the last month or so.
These two paintings are from the time I got to go in about two weeks ago.
I split my afternoon session between models, with an hour spent painting Meri and an hour and a half on Sean.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Portrait of Richard

It's a month since my friend Richard Hannaford died.
He was only forty nine.

I was honoured when Richard asked me to do a portrait of him during his final illness.
He wasn't looking too well and he asked me to work from photographs that his wife Norah had taken earlier.
Luckily they were terrific photos, and I was delighted that Richard and his family were really happy with the painting.
On Sunday we scattered his ashes in Phoenix Park near this beautiful old oak.
It was a very moving experience for all of us who were there.
Norah's brother Leo paid a very touching tribute to Richard.
You can read it here on Leo's blog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Preparing A Large Canvas

Here is a short film of me putting together the canvas for the Hodges Figgis job.
I hadn't made a canvas that big before and it very nearly didn't fit down the stairs from the studio.
I'll post some video of the painting process later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present: Nearly There

MaryBrigid Turner bought me a coffee on Saturday afternoon when the picture was nearly finished, and we talked about the whole business of painting in public, the pros and cons. You can see the interview here at the Inís website
I reckon MB owed me the coffee as she was the one who dreamed up the whole idea of me as artist in residence in Hodges Figgis window.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present: Help from the Punters

Here's a link to a story on RTE's News2Day programme about the painting in Hodges Figgis window.
The kids were from Griffeen Valley Educate Together School, and they had some great ideas that I was able to include in the finished painting.
I finished up yesterday and the picture will stay in the window till Christmas.
It's strange that it is all done now.
I was getting quite used to always having an audience behind me.
It was the weirdest week ever, but I really enjoyed it, and I got a heck of a lot of work done.
Many thanks to Conor, MaryBrigid, Stephen, Liam and all at Hodges Figgis for their help and hospitality.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present: In the Shop Window

The first day working in Hodges Figgis window was certainly weird , but I got a bit done and all the people in the shop and those who stopped to watch were really nice.
If you come along, and I don't look round, please don't think I am being rude, it's just the only way I can get the work done.
Here's one of MaryBrigid Turner's photos.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present: Blocking In

I got a lot done on my Christmas painting yesterday, which is a good thing because I have no idea if the conditions in Hodges Figgis window will be conducive to doing decent work.
At least it's a nice typical Irish overcast day, so the lighting should be OK until 4.30 at least.
Anyway, we will be shipping the painting (very wet!) over in the next half an hour if we can get it down three sets of stairs here.
I’m looking forward to getting to work in a bookshop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present: The First Steps

I got a good start on my big Christmas picture last night.
I got the whole thing scaled up on the 7’ by 4’ canvas, and I got a few hours of painting in.
It would be great if I could paint the whole thing in situ in Hodges Figgis bookshop, but there is going to be so much to do that I just have to get a start in the studio.
Also the light in the window is going to be very unpredictable and I will only have a four foot space to step back in, so I want to have my tonal values well established.
I am remembering too that the last picture I did of this size took four months and I am supposed to finish this one on Saturday.
Fingers crossed!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present... in Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Here's the rough I have created for the picture I will be painting "live" in the window of Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin.
I thought you might be interested to see how I have constructed this from a mixture of mostly drawn elements with a few Photoshop images dropped in.
So much for my idea to have a scene with large expanses of sky that I might be able to fill in quickly.
This is a pretty busy scene and the canvas is seven foot wide........I'm going to be very busy until the weekend.
If you have a copy of my version of A Christmas Carol, you will know that this picture is based on my illustration of the Ghost of Christmas Present.
I always loved the design for that spread but perhaps I painted it a bit too dark or the paper in the book is overly absorbent, but anyway, I was never entirely happy with how it printed.
So I'm taking this chance to have another go.

Congratulations to Chris Judge, winner of the Irish Children's Book Award.

Congratulations to my pal, and studio neighbour, Chris Judge, whose wonderful first book "The Lonely Beast" was awarded the Irish Children's Book Award last Thursday evening.
I was delighted to be the guest presenter who announced his win.
The full ceremony will be shown on RTE TV next Thursday evening.
Very well done Chris!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some Sketches from "A Christmas Carol"

I've been looking through old studies from my version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol trying to get a suitable design for the seven foot painting I will be doing in Hodges Figgis window next week.
I find the drawings I do as studies have a freshness and immediacy that I can't often keep in the finished paintings.
I must do a book illustrated solely with drawings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Artist in Residence in the Hodges Figgis Window

This is me measuring up the window of Hodges Figgis bookstore here in Dublin.
Next week I will be installing myself in this very window as their first ever artist in residence.
I have been asked to paint a huge new painting illustrating a scene from A Christmas Carol from next Wednesday the 23rd until the 26th or 27th, and at some point we will auction the original painting for charity.
I love the idea of working under that kind of time pressure, but the public spectacle aspect of it all might be harder to deal with.

Many thanks to my pal Conor Hackett for setting up this novel event!
And David Maybury who made this great little video, will be keeping an eye on my progress.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards

This Thursday I'll be dusting off the old tuxedo as I have been asked to present the Specsavers Irish Children's Book of the Year Awards at the Irish Book Awards Gala dinner in Dublin.
A few of my pals are shortlisted in various categories but I have no idea who has won any of the prizes. I will be as surprised as anyone when the envelopes get opened.
It will all be on the TV a week afterwards, so I'll hopefully be able to post a link.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Fleeting Light Effect

When I was working on this study of Niamh, a stray shaft of light found its way into the life room and irritatingly moved right onto the model's middle.
I was inclined to ignore it and concentrate on another area of the figure whilst waiting for the sun to go behind the clouds again, but then I thought I'd take up the challenge and try to paint it in.
It was a difficult effect to catch as the light was moving so fast, (it only lingered on Niamh's middle for about fifteen minutes as I remember) but in the end I think it made for a much more interesting painting.
It got me thinking of the problems that al fresco landscape painters must often come across. Maybe I'll give that a go next spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ireland of the Welcomes Article

Here is a nice feature that appears in this month's "Ireland of the Welcomes" magazine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Portrait Sketch of Giuseppe

Giuseppe modelled for me for this portrait sketch. It took about two hours.
Notice how engaging the direct look from the subject is.
That look is something that is almost impossible to get in a life room situation, and it can be quite unnerving to paint it in a one to one sitting, but I think a portrait is generally the better for it.
We were both fairly pleased with the finished painting, but Guiseppe is a sensitive and gentle person, and I think he looks a bit hard in this one.
I will be doing a series of portrait sketches like this for practice over the coming weeks.
I have a number of sitters lined up, but if you are in the Dublin area and are interested in posing for me, drop me a line at

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sarah: Painted from Life Using The Zorn Palette

I have been trying to pare down and simplify my life paintings in many ways such as the use of larger brushes and starker compositions, and more and more through the means of a limited palette.
The purpose of limiting the palette is for me mostly to do with attempting to achieve a harmonious colour scheme, where my mixed colours are all in the same family, rather than being taken straight from tubes where they might jar with each other.
This is to do with the inherent flavour of that each tube of paint has. And with developemnts in science there have been dozens of new colours created that we can choose from.
Some colours are acidy, some are are intense or full bodied (yes, it's a lot like discussing the taste of wine) but mixing them together can be artistically perilous unless you really know what you are doing.
I choose to work with only a few pigments so that I can concentrate on other elements of the picture.
Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920)was a tremendously vigorous and talented painter who is often compared to the great John Singer Sargent. Zorn was famous for using a very limited palette of white, black, yellow ochre and Cadmium Red. Obviously he used additional pigments when necessary, but I was interested to try a painting using the famous Zorn palette.
This sketch of Sarah is the first result.
I think I need a lot more practice with this palette, I particularly missed having Cerulean Blue to cool down some shadows in the flesh.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rubén; A Portrait Sketch

Here's a portrait sketch of Rubén that I did recently.
I was painting him life-size which I do fairly rarely, and Rubén's new number one buzz cut made it surprisingly difficult to establish the shape of his head, but I was fairly pleased with the result.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Two Faces of Sean

Here are a couple of recent life paintings of a new model named Sean.
After completing the three quarter length study above, I made this quick portrait sketch below.
I was struck by how different Sean looked from these different angles.
From the side he looks a wee bit pasty and out of condition , whilst from the front his face was square and rugged and he appeared to me like a beefy GI or a wrestling star.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Joanna: Progression of a Life Study

In preparation for my talk at the RHA, I put together this series of shots showing the progression of a life painting of Joanna.
In terms of composition and resolution of the figure I think this is one of my most sucessful life paintings.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Adventures in the Life Room"

This Wednesday, 12th of October, I will be giving a talk at the RHA titled "Adventures in the Life Room", in which I will be discussing my passion for painting from the live model.
Alas I don't have too many adventures as racy as this book cover to relate, but hopefully it will still be be stimulating artistically.

The RHA Autumn series lectures are open to the public and will be held in the Friends Room of the RHA starting at 6pm on Wednesday evenings.
The lectures are free.
The RHA welcomes a suggested donation of €5 per lecture, which can be made to our donations box in the foyer.
Prior booking is not required for the lectures, early arrival is suggested to ensure your place.
If you require further information or have any questions about the lecture series, please contact the Academy Co-ordinator, Ciara Timlin, phone 01 6612558 or email

PJ in Westport

I had a great time down in the West, as always.
Many thanks to everyone from Mayo libraries and Westport Arts Festival for the very warm welcome and great hospitality.
It was a thrill to see my poster up all around the town....they even had it on t-shirts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Westport Arts Festival Poster

Here is the vertical version of my poster for the 2011 Westport Arts Festival.
I am heading down to Mayo for a few library events as part of the nationwide Children’s Book Festival, and am looking forward to catching a few arty events in Westport while I'm down there.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The National Library of Ireland's Prints and Drawings Collection

Someone contacted me recently about a picture that they had seen in the National Library of Ireland's Prints and Drawings Collection.
Under the directorship of the wonderful Dr Pat Donlon, the NLI acquired a large collection of my original work, which they have added to over the years. Pat was very keen to get hold of preliminary drawings and unused paintings from right at the start of my career.
The ink line drawing pictured here is from "WB Yeats: Fairy Tales of Ireland".

Monday, October 3, 2011


Here's a shot of me spouting off at Brian Gallagher's launch last week at the UAC.
That's Brian looking slightly concerned about what I might say about him.
Beside Brian is the Arts Club's Angel Loughrey.
You can see more shots from the opening by Mario Sughi here.

One of Brian's wonderful Sgraffito pictures was this drawing of Keshet.

I like to show the same model as interpreted by different artists when I can, so below is a shot of the painting I did of Keshet on the same day. Just behind my easel you can see yet another version by Eugene Conway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sgraffito- exhibition of work by Brian Gallagher

This isn't one of my pictures....I only wish it was.
It's a scraperboard drawing by Brian Gallagher.
Brian has been a friend and colleague for several years, and his scraperboard illustration work is exceptional.

On Thursday evening I have the honour of opening Brian's new exhibition, Sgraffito, at 8pm at the UAC.
His drawings from his homeplace in Donegal have a moody intensity and a definitive sense of place that bring to mind Andrew Wyeth's portraits of farm buildings in Maine.

The show runs from Friday 30th September until 17th October 2011

Viewing Mon to Sat from 5.30pm

The United Arts Club
3 Upper Fitzwilliam St
Dublin 2

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Culture Night in Dublin

For Culture Night in Dublin this Friday, I will again be drawing portraits at the United Arts Club.
I'll be there from 7.30pm and the drawings are only 10 euro each.
Here’s one I did last year of the artist, Patrick Brocklebank.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Global Honour for Irish Examiner Ad

A nice pat on the back for me and Chemistry for our Examiner Billboard Adverts.
Somehow they managed not to mention me in this article, but we illustrators get used to that kind of thing.
See also The Inspiration Room.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The View From My Studio Window

It's funny the things you sometimes see just looking out of the studio window.
I was watching this man struggling with his bicycle, when......look what happened.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Illustrators’ Evening with Oliver Jeffers, Sarah McIntyre and Me!

I will be taking part in an Illustrators’ Evening with Oliver Jeffers and Sarah McIntyre
Thursday, 08 September 2011 at 06:00 PM •
I am very much looking forward o seeing Oliver again, and to meeting Sarah for the first time.
Its happening at Eason’s Bookshop, O'Connell St. Dublin
Illustration! Q & A! Book Signing!
This is a ticketed event. Book in store or call Dublin 8583815

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Still-life with Brushes

Here's another still-life of some brushes in a pot with some linen draped around.
I'm trying to avoid overworking these by continuing to use brushes bigger than seems right for the job.
They are painted mostly with a square flat half inch brush and a two inch blending brush to soften the edges.
In fact I used brushes just like the two shorter ones shown in the pot.
I have also strictly limited my palette.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Still Life of Flowers in a Glass

I haven't posted any still life paintings for a while.
Flowers and fruit didn't appeal to me as subject matter before but I've really been enjoying painting these white roses recently.
I've been trying to restrain myself from over painting the glass or vase, and then I've been having fun laying on the impasto paint representing the flowers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chippy the Chipmunk

You might get a giggle out of this article that appeared in the Brighton and Hove Leader in 1989.
It was a true story too. A chipmunk just appeared in my kitchen one day.
Many thanks to my Mum for digging this one out.