Went down the rabbit hole of the internet this morning. Knots, macrame, mandalas, doodles, tangles and … tribal motifs from south America. I like them and I put a few simple ones on pebbles this evening.

Yesterday, I painted a lighthouse. It was dreadful – flat, lifeless, one-dimensional, insipid and dull. I’ve never been good at buildings.

With a bit of discipline, maybe I could be better. Some years ago, my step-mum, Jane, bought me an architectural primer with lovely hand drawn illustrations. So, what I’m going to do is try to draw and paint one a day, just copy them from the book, to get used to proportions, shapes, colours, shading, perspective. This should help me in time to draw and paint real buildings.

Here’s number one …

I’m not aiming for photorealism, and I don’t want to be prissy, so a little wonkiness is OK as long as it’s clear what it is and it makes visual sense.

The other thing I’m doing at the moment is teaching myself to fingerpick the guitar properly. Again, I think discipline is the key. I can do simple arpeggios but I’d like to try something a little more complex and fun. So, using a guy called Matt Smith on YouTube as my teacher, I’m learning Travis-style picking, named after Merle Travis. It’s not that complicated at its most basic but it takes a lot of concentration to get the right fingers plucking the right strings in the right order. I aim to spend about 10/15 minutes a day, to start with, just plucking away using a C chord and concentrating on getting it right.

That’s all, folks.

On a Whim

I’ve kind of done most of the painting this evening that I wanted to do yesterday. I also wanted to work fast. So this and the wild flowers in the previous post are not as carefully done as, say, the leaves on the teabag from yesterday. That’s ok though. For me anyway. I’m not aiming for photorealism.

I wasn’t planning to do this. Something on Pinterest caught my eye.

Birch on a Bag

Around about Easter, I used acrylics to paint sky on a series of wooden eggs. Specifically Blue Lake and White which seems to suggest a spring/summer sky. If you don’t mix them thoroughly, you can get little streaks and variations that suggest high clouds. Anyway it worked then so I thought I’d try it again. The bits of tree are painted with gouache.

I’m continuing the theme of looking up at edges. Yesterday evening, just as the sun was going behind the house, I took a few photos of one of our back garden silver birch trees. This is based on one of those photos. This is the second painting today. The first one was on paper. It was OK but had no depth and I’m not going to include it here.

I noticed from the photo that the focus was very much on the dominant branch and the branch above it was further back and slightly out of focus and that this phenomenon gave the photo some depth. I’ve tried to replicate that in the painting. Not 100% successfully but I think a reasonably good attempt. It might have been better to extend the upper branch downwards, behind the dominant one. I didn’t think of that when I was painting it.

Click, if you must, to enlarge

It’s on a tea bag, of course. The brush I used to paint the branches and leaf stems is TINY!

PS (just a quickie)

When I should have been present and mindful in town today, I was thinking about the different ways in which I could use that drawing gum. So, as soon as I got home, I played with it a bit. I wanted to see if I could use it to create different shades in a painting.

So, having sketched out the leaves, I applied the gum to the two branches in the foreground. I then gave the whole thing a wash of blue watercolour and let it dry. Then I applied the gum to the leaves in the background, over the first wash. When that gum was dry, I gave the painting another wash of a darker blue.

When that was dry, I removed the gum with an eraser.

It’s a bit ragged, the result of not enough care shown in applying the gum but I succeeded in getting the effect I was looking for.

The advantage of this method over, say, painting around the leaves, is that you can get a uniform shade. Uniformity is difficult to achieve when painting around things.


Just received a package from Amazon. Literally 20 minutes ago. Another weapon in my aforementioned. Drawing gum.

So, the idea is that you use the drawing gum to create a mask. You’ll see what I mean in the illustration below.

In this, I drew the branch with leaves with the drawing gum directly onto the black card. I let it dry (well, with the help of a hairdryer: I’m not a patient man). Then I painted the entire card with diluted white gouache. Hairdryer again. Finally, I rubbed off the masking gum with a normal eraser.

Click to enlarge


Looking Up

Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking up. More specifically, looking at trees against the backdrop of the sky. Not the whole tree. Just the edges.

Edges interest me. Edginess conveys passion, energy, momentum, opportunity. The edge of something contains outliers, things that have broken away from the mass, seekers of light, growth, challenge, change. In theatre, the Fringe is, by definition, on the edge. It’s where innovation happens, where people take risks, experiment with form and emotion.

Although they are not all that good, there are a few things about these small paintings that please me. They represent my thinking about edges. They are done in watercolour and so they represent some sort of perseverance and determination with that medium. They have been influenced and motivated by people I have encountered recently who have displayed passion, excitement, courage and positive thinking.

The colours are better in real life.

(The influence for the middle one came from Rowena Dring)


Still working on this …

You know, at some stage, I’ll get it right. That stage clearly hasn’t been reached yet. No worries. There are elements of each of these that are OK and I’ll keep going.

In the meantime, a musical interlude …

If you’re a regular visitor to YouTube, you’ll know that the comments under videos are often negative and tedious. The comments under this one are an exception. Click through and you’ll see.

I made a list today of creative things I’d still like to do. Some old, some new, some old with a new twist. It’s a long list and it still excites me.

I’m Learnding

Busy enough day but I found time to watch a few YouTube videos on gouache.

I use gouache in tubes and i’ve been in the habit of washing away the excess paint after each painting session. Gouache is quite expensive and this is a bit of a waste. One of the things I learned today was that one can leave the paint on the palette and simply reactivate it with water later. The handy thing about this fact is that it makes gouache a lot more portable than I thought it was. I bought this palette a while ago and haven’t used it much. It folds over though, so it’s something that I might consider bringing away with me when I travel.

I think I improved my blackcurrants (I added some more) except they look a little pale. That’s more to do with the photo. They are darker in real life …

Not so sure about this rose. It started off very pale but it looked dreadful. The right hand side is OK. I had trouble with the left side however. Trying to make things lighter is harder than making things darker. I really should have started again instead of trying to make it better. Anyway, no worries. The next one will be better.

I mentioned the Rathgar Horticultural Show a few posts back. I decided not to enter the herbs competition. Christine, however, continued to dominate the baking competitions, coming first in four out of the five competitions, and second in the fifth. She also won the major baking prize with her magnificent lemon, bay leaf and olive oil cake.

I’m Learnding …


I suffered a significant loss of creative confidence over the last few weeks. This time of the year can be challenging. May and June are quite stressful work-wise and then the speech and drama year stops quite suddenly. The switch from crisis mode to ‘what just happened’ can deliver quite a shock to the system and often puts me off-balance. Anyway, some positive interventions have helped to restore my equilibrium and the ideas have started to flow again.

This, which was a good idea, I think, didn’t quite work out. It’s worth coming back to and executing better in the future though …

I enjoyed thinking about this, planning it, and painting it. I’m pleased with the result …

Its translation to a teabag didn’t quite work out as well. I know what went wrong. I rushed it too. I’ll try it again …


I’ve written before about my inability to make watercolours work for me. I won’t give up on them because I love some of the effects you can produce with them, especially at the delicate end of the spectrum. I tried a thing this evening and I thought it was going to be OK but it turned out looking so crap that I won’t even put it up here.

I ended up just doodling and playing with water and pigment.

A friend sent me a YouTube link on acoustic guitar playing and it’s made me more determined than ever to learn to finger pick. I’m just going to choose a style and go for it. I reckon 10-15 minutes a day over the summer should give me a good start.

Speaking of acoustic guitars, the same friend brought me to a gig in Whelans on Tuesday. A band called Tir na nOg. Pioneers of a kind of progressive folk with an Irish flavour in the 1970s, out of the same sort of stable as Scullion. I can just about remember them. Two members, Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly, both in their late 60s. They played some beautifully mellow melodic music – very calming. Nice guys and lovely musicians too with amplified acoustics, using alternative tuning.

I need to go here …