Dark, dark and more dark, then the light

Myrtleville, Co. Cork.

Dark phase of painting

Just a short post to remind you to keep the initial stages of a traditional oil painting landscape dark. Resist the urge to introduce white into the mixes. The exception is the sky. This part of the landscape, down to the horizon, should be treated as a separate picture with the full range of darks to lights. This is because the sky is a single item. From the point of view of the landscape artist it should have a sense of vapour not solid which is achieved by a lot of mixing and blending of the colours. For practical reasons very bright highlights may have to be added after the initial paint layer has dried.

I have included a photo of the scene on which I’m basing the painting and also the initial stage of the painting which will be allowed to dry before completion.

The painting, when finished, will be bright and airy with a west coast (North Atlantic coast that is) feel to it. Light will be an important part of this painting, and ironically this is why the dark colours are so important.

I am videoing the process for a future post.


A country for old men

Brownshill Dolmen

I live in an old country! Wherever I go I’m reminded of this. This ‘piece of sculpture’ is a few miles from my home. That piece of rock on top is estimated to weigh about 150 tons and possibly the largest capstone on this type of monument in Europe. Those smaller supporting stones are about 6 feet tall. The sheer size of this is work is astounding.

Sitting on the side of a hill and visible for miles, it faces east, towards the rising sun. The return of the sun, after night or winter, must have been an important occasion as ‘east’ is a common alignment in monuments of this age. Like all great works of art we are left wondering, how did they do it?

It was placed here by a farming community who lived in this area 5000 years ago and it still speaks to their descendants today. The archaeologists say its a religious monument but I suppose future archaeologists will say the same about the Pieta.

And what was the greatest achievement here? Its not its physical presence of this great work. Its the satisfaction the creators must have felt when it was finally completed all those years ago. I think the act of creating a work of art is more important than the finished piece. Enjoy your art!

Kilmoroney – time lapse oil painting


This was a fast painting, one and a half hours, in spite of the relatively large size (20″x16″). The application of paint in large flooding strokes really covers the canvas fast as described in previous post. I was fairly sure of the scene, composition etc. as when I was at the site, there and then the composition presented itself. At the end of this post I have included a short video and near the end you can see the scene on which the painting was based.

I did a little more work than normal on the initial charcoal sketch. This was more of a ‘working out’ of the scene as opposed to creating a drawing which would be ‘coloured in’ later. Charcoal is good for the initial sketch. It can be corrected easily by just rubbing off the charcoal but a ‘ghost’ image is left to remind you where you went wrong initially. Any particles of charcoal which are left are enveloped by the paint without affecting the colours.

The building is covered with ivy which I did not include in this stage of the painting but I put in a few cattle to give scale and life to this sad scene. The ivy may be be added after the painting dries. A little more definition in the water’s edge and reflections in the foreground might also be needed.