Dotted across the landscape of Ireland are ‘Raths’, circular forts of ditch and bank construction. There is divided opinions as to their function. There has not been enough archaeological investigation to establish exactly why they were built. Were they defensive fortified homesteads, cattle enclosures, ceremonial areas? Many have survived agricultural destruction because of superstition. They were sometimes called ‘fairy raths’ and woe betide anyone who disturbed the homes of the ‘little people’. The rath which was here, survived up to the ’60’s when it was obliterated from the landscape by a local farmer. Nothing now remains except the name of the area, Shanrath, which in English translates as old fort. I remember it well. We often played here as children but never after nightfall.
I saw this unusual cloud formation one evening recently. Natural phenomena always look odd in paintings, but never in photographs, so I had to make it as ‘normal’ as possible. Part of this process involved putting green into the sky. This would bind the sky to the green landscape to remove any possible disconnect of this unusual sky.
The composition is also unusual. The cottage is placed dead centre with the red cloud and the road appearing to rotate anti-clockwise around this centre.
I used 4 colours, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, Cadmium Red and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 10″ x 8″ and was painted in about an hour.
Across the flat midlands of Ireland you will come across small hills and ridges called drumlins, a legacy of the ice age, created by the melt waters as the glaciers advanced and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years. Many have been quarried for their sand and gravel deposits but here and there a few have survived. Like this little hill they add interest to an otherwise featureless landscape.
This is a small painting, measuring 10″x8″ and was painted in about one hour. I usually paint on loose un-stretched canvas which I later laminate onto a rigid board for framing. This was painted on a canvas textured oil painting paper which was sold as a surface for oil or acrylic painting. I found it too absorbent for oils and the colours deadened when the oil in the paint soaked into the paper. So I applied a thin layer of rabbit skin glue size to both sides, letting the first dry before coating the second side. This reduced the absorption and the colours remained vibrant until dry. Applying rabbit skin glue size is an ancient method of ‘sizing’ a surface prior to oil painting. It was found to resist the effects of dampness better than other organic materials, an important consideration in this part of the world.
I know there are modern synthetic equivalents, like ‘polybond’, which are probably as good or better but it takes a few years to see if they work as well, so I’ll stick to the traditional material until further notice. I use the modern material to laminate the canvas or paper onto a board as it does not come in contact with the paint layer. If it fails the worst that can happen is the canvas or paper detaches from the board and not the paint layer detaching from the surface. The modern material usually has a fungicide added and this prevents mildew and fungus from developing in damp conditions.
The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.
It can be a little eerie, here in the water soaked bogland. Recently yet another body was found in the northern area of this remote sea of peat. As usual, it is thousands of years old and the circumstances of why this person was apparently sacrificed is lost in prehistory. Up until recently, turf was harvested as fuel for fires and the bogland was a busy place. Now many areas are preserved as heritage sites, because of the unique flora, and the wildness is returning.
To create an inner glow in the left foreground, which is in shadow, I painted thin layers of colour and allowed its transparency to produce the mid tones. Where the paint got a bit heavy, as in the large trees, I lifted the paint with solvent allowing light to shine through. The actual highlights were applies as white with a little Yellow Ochre dabbed onto wet paint and allowing the colours to mix.
The colours used were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. There is a small amount of Liquin Fine Detail used for the white lines of the trees in sunlight. This is the only time a medium was used.
This little church would look quite at home in a Victorian painting. Just a few miles north of where I live, its on what was once the main Dublin road. In recent years the new motorways have taken the traffic off this route and its now a quiet rural area. I painted the scene as it was about 30 years ago with the old trees, probably as old as the church itself, still standing.
Cadmium Red was the underlying colour throughout the entire painting. Unfortunately the photograph above does not register the very feint pinks of the clouds. The video gives a better representation of these very subtle shades. I used my usual method of applying an unmixed layer of the strong red and allowing the solvent to evaporate, then adding an almost white layer on top. The blending and brushing brings up the red which can be controlled precisely. Also notice there is green added into the deep blue of the upper centre sky. This warms the blue but will also help to unite the sky and ground which will be predominately green in a narrow strip.
The green I used was Olive Green. Its a transparent natural green. I find it difficult to use in mixes as it gets ‘muddy’ when combined with some colours. Here I took advantage of its transparency and applied it raw with solvent only. The different tones in the green were due to the ‘blobs’ in the very liquid paint, that is, the thicker the ‘blob’ the darker the tone. Also there are red and blue under colours and this also added to the variations in colours.
This is a ‘watercolour’ technique (with solvent, not water). In watercolours the highlights produced in this way are rich enough due to the nature of paint and paper. In oils the highlights are anaemic and need the addition of opaque white.
This painting uses 4 colours (Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red, Olive Green, Prussian Blue) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The size is 18″ x 12″ and was completed in under 2 hours in a single session.