Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

Have a wonderful Christmas,
and many, many thanks to all of you who have dropped in on my blog during 201o.
See you next year

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

Much as I adore the way Walker Books designed my version of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", I hope one day they will do a larger format version of it.
The pictures are pretty small in the book and you do have to look very closely to see all the detail.
This scene is from Stave Two.
I hope it will work with the slightly feeble snow effect I have added to the blog.
I took a liberty including the street light as they hadn't been invented in 1842 when the book is set. In those days they had flaming torches at street corners which I felt would have looked inappropriately medieval.

"When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber. He was endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened for the hour.
To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have got into the works. Twelve!"

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Nude Life Painting in Six Stages

I remembered to take a photo of my painting of Emma during each of the breaks in our morning session at the RHA yesterday.
The photo quality isn't great, and I apologise for the shaky first image, but I think this series shows very well how I develop one of my life studies.
Yesterday was our Christmas party in the life room, which accounts for the appearance of a half empty wine bottle in the last picture.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

From "The Young King" by Oscar Wilde

The recent post I did on Oscar Wilde reminded me of one of my own favourite spreads from that book, in which these two pictures flank the text.
It's a powerful piece of writing by Wilde, with wonderful imagery for the illustrator to explore.

"On and on he went, till he reached the outskirts of the wood, and there he saw an immense multitude of men toiling in the bed of a dried-up river. They swarmed up the crag like ants. They dug deep pits in the ground and went down into them. Some of them cleft the rocks with great axes; others grabbled in the sand. They tore up the cactus by its roots, and trampled on the scarlet blossoms. They hurried about, calling to each other, and no man was idle.

From the darkness of a cavern Death and Avarice watched them, and Death said, 'I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.'
But Avarice shook her head. 'They are my servants,' she answered.
And Death said to her, 'What hast thou in thy hand?'
I have three grains of corn,' she answered; 'what is that to thee?'
'Give me one of them,' cried Death, 'to plant in my garden; only one of them, and I will go away.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice, and she hid her hand in the fold of her raiment.
And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of water, and out of the cup rose Ague. She passed through the great multitude, and a third of them lay dead. A cold mist followed her, and the water-snakes ran by her side.

And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she beat her breast and wept. She beat her barren bosom and cried aloud. 'Thou hast slain a third of my servants,' she cried, 'get thee gone. There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron. What is my valley to thee, that thou should'st tarry in it? Get thee gone, and come here no more.

'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I will not go.'
But Avarice shut her hand, and clenched her teeth. 'I will not give thee anything,' she muttered.
And Death laughed, and took up a black stone, and threw it into the forest, and out of a thicket of wild hemlock came Fever in a robe of flame. She passed through the multitude, and touched them, and each man that she touched died. The grass withered beneath her feet as she walked.

And Avarice shuddered, and put ashes on her head. 'Thou art cruel,' she cried; 'thou art cruel. There is famine in the walled cities of India, and the cisterns of Samarcand have run dry. There is famine in the walled cities of Egypt, and the locusts have come up from the desert. The Nile has not overflowed its banks, and the priests have cursed Isis and Osiris. Get thee gone to those who need thee, and leave me my servants.'
'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I will not go.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice.

And Death laughed again, and he whistled through his fingers, and a woman came flying through the air. Plague was written upon her forehead, and a crowd of lean vultures wheeled round her. She covered the valley with her wings, and no man was left alive."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Reclining Model by a Mirror

A few weeks ago we had a pregnant model posing for us at our life painting session.
Establishing a comfortable pose that she would be able to retain for the day presented a few little problems, but it was certainly worth it in the end.
It would be great if she was able to pose for us again before her baby comes but I think it is unlikely.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Speaking of my studio, here's how it is looking right now.

We've had about ten days of freezing temperatures and the deepest snow I can ever remember in Ireland.
It will pass in a week or so, but the poor Selfish Giant had winter in his garden for years.
Below is my illustration to "The Selfish Giant" from "Oscar Wilde; Stories for Children".
I've been thinking about Oscar a good deal this week as it is one hundred and ten years since he died, and BBC Radio 7 has been broadcasting his letters and short stories. You can get them for about a week at this link.

"The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. “This is a delightful spot,” he said, “we must ask the Hail on a visit.” So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Justifying My Thursdays

In my studio, the painting of Aine in my previous blog entry happens to be sitting just next to a painting of a little girl from my next book “No One But You” by Douglas Wood, which publishes next May.
The juxtaposition of the two got me thinking about the differences and similarities between my work from life (Aine), and my work derived from photo reference (the little girl).

Sometimes I fear that the amount of time I spend in the life room is a bit of an indulgence. Sure it’s good to get away from my studio and to hang out with other artists, but can I really justify spending at least one day every week away from my desk?
On the whole I feel the answer is “yes”. Not only is the life painting hugely enjoyable for me, but I think it is certainly informing and improving my illustration technique too. The comparison of these two pictures proves the point.
My brushwork in the illustration is freer, and more confident and economical than it used to be. In the past I would have had a tendency to paint every hair on the girl’s head and to very clearly delineate every fingernail.
Now I indicate the hand with the more dabby and hopefully more telling brushstrokes that time dictates I must use in the life room.
In very basic terms, I now understand a great deal more about the mixing and application of oil paint than I did when I did the Gulliver paintings four or five years ago.
The illustration is still a good deal tighter than the life painting and that’s fine, but it’s good to feel that after twenty-five years in the business, that the core training I still do may be paying off in a meaningful way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two New Life Paintings

I spent four hours on this life painting of Aine and then I left it for fear of losing any freshness that there was in the brushwork.
I'm very lucky to attend an all day drawing session, but the diminishing natural light in these winter afternoons means that the subject looks very different than they did in the morning session.
I am always tempted to keep reworking the tones and shadows as the daylight fades and the artificial light becomes dominant.
All in all I think it's best to start a new piece if possible.
So I did the study of our other model, Rubén, holding a broomstick in two hours under over head spotlights. And, although I usually prefer natural light, I found this effect quite striking.

Knowing when to leave a painting or an illustration alone is a constant difficulty. The great thing about the life room is that it imposes tight time constraints on you, and what any good artist learns from that will hopefully inform the other types of work they do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner here in Dublin on Sunday ( I know we were early!)
The menu, inspired by a fair amount of Pilgrim research, and with vital contributions from our guests, included savory butternut squash soup, roast turkey of course, sweet potato topped with marsh mallows, various nutty stuffings, venison casserole, followed by pecan pie and various goats' cheeses (the first Pilgrims had no cows).
We did drink wine although the Pilgrims, and their Wampanoag guests would most likely have been downing beer.
Among our thanks-givers were my very dear friends who modelled as Jonathan Toomey and the Widow McDowell, who are now happily married with a lovely daughter. Mrs Toomey makes a mean pecan pie.
My wife Barbara did most of the cooking whilst I opened the wine and, using up two leftover pumpkins, carved a grumpy Wampanoag warrior and a Pilgrim who looks a lot like Guy Fawkes.
May I wish a very happy Thanksgiving to you all, especially to my American friends.

Friday, November 19, 2010

90 Minute Study of Giuseppe

I took photos at thirty minute intervals during the painting of this study of my pal Giuseppe.
The photos are with a camera/phone so the quality isn't great, but I do like the idea of recording the process.
Not least because I will have a record of the lovely loose brushwork that gets obliterated as the work continues.
Giuseppe has agreed to pose for me one of these days and to let me film the whole procedure. I will then chop it down to a nice size for youTube and I'll post it up here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two views of Sophie

I've posted this painting of a rear view of Sophie before, but I recently got a hold of a jpeg of the drawing that my friend Oisin Roche did from the opposite side of the model. It is always fascinating to see two artists' different approaches to the same subject, but this one is doubly interesting for me as Oisin included a pretty brilliant portrait of me in the background of his picture.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rolling Sun Book Festival

I'm going to be in Westport this weekend for the inaugural Rolling Sun Book Festival
I'll be giving a presentation at the library from 2 to 3pm and later I'll be showing some pictures and signing books 5.30 pm at the Sea Sky Shore gallery.
I haven't been down to the west in more than a decade and I can't wait to see Westport again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Candlewick Book of Fairytales

I'm always chuffed when I find that someone has taken the trouble to scan images from my books to share them on-line.
I found a whole bunch from The Candlewick Book of Fairytales on a Russian site and, as I am just now in a Fairy Tale frame of mind I thought I'd post some of them here.
The book came out in the mid 1990s and did really well, but unfortunately it went under several different names in different territories. I'm still very fond of it, and my thanks go out to the Russian blogger who scanned the pictures.
большое спасибо

The Frog Prince

The Six Swans


Hansel and Gretel

Beauty and the Beast

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Rather Patrician Nude

Here's a recent male nude.
This model, John, had a wonderfully patrician look about him I thought. It would have been great to have painted him in a toga.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Female Form

Here are a couple of recent life paintings of female models.
I often elect for a rear view study, especially if I don't have a long time with the pose. That means I don't get involved with the business of attempting a likeness and can concentrate instead on describing the form, the skin tones and the way light falls on the body.
I also like that the anonymous rear view is more evocative of womanhood generally than of a specific individual.

The prone study above (which I set) was the cause of a certain amount of debate about where the boundaries might be perceived to be between eroticism, sensuality and titilation.
My position is that I am not happy with the idea of boundaries in the first place, and that a good life painting can work on many levels, eg as an artist's practice piece, a portrait, an exploration of the human condition, and even as a kind of up market pin-up.
I don't think that we should be coy about the fact that we are working with naked human beings, and that sexuality is an issue, but for myself, I am probably most pleased when we have a model who's looks or shape do not conform to any conventional notion of beauty.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Wise Woman from Catkin

Here's one of those illustrations that my mother posed for a number of years ago.
She modelled as the Wise woman in Catkin by Antonia Barber which I illustrated in the mid-nineties.
This was a key picture for me in many ways because it showed me I could handle more naturalistic scenes than the fantasy work I had previously done.
It certainly pointed the way towards the work I did on The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
The other models were myself, and Niamh, my girlfriend at the time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Artist's Mother

I've just noticed that the models in the last two posts have had very similar poses. Here is another one again with the hand supporting the head.
This time the model is my own beloved Mother.
She has modelled for me many times over the years when I've needed to take photos for characters in the books, but this is the first time she has sat patiently for me whilst I have painted her from life.
A still pose like this naturally brings out the thoughtful or even the sad side of a person's character, but I'm happy to say that my Mum still has plenty of laughs and fun as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Giuseppe Enthroned in the Life Room

Here is my painting of "Giuseppe Enthroned in the Life Room" that will be in the RUA’s Annual Exhibition this year.
The exhibition takes place at the award-winning Ulster Museum from the 15 October to the 14 November 2010.
The museum is fantastic and hopefully the exhibition will be worth seeing, so come along if you are in Belfast during the next month.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Life Study of Jim

To get back to pictures.
Here is a piece that I did of Jim, one of my favourite models from the United Arts Club drawing session.
Jim has a terrific burly physique and an imposing presence as a model. (I always thought he looked a bit like Henry VIII) In the bar after the session though, he's a charming, fun kind of guy with a great fund of anecdotes.
This was done at the first long life session I had attended after years of frustrating short (max 30 mins) poses, and it was great to get a chance to use my oil paints rather than drawing with pencil or charcoal.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'I love the challenge of helping to tell a story with my pictures'

Here's a little interview that appeared under the above title in yesterday's Irish independant.

Monday October 04 2010

Award-winning P J Lynch, arguably the most influential Irish illustrator, was recently short -listed for the 2010 Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards for his illustrations on 'Lincoln and his Boys' by Rosemary Wells.

Having worked in the business for 20 years, PJ has certainly noticed changes in the type of children's books now being produced.

"There are so many more picture books for children now, from very traditional work to the funkiest computer-generated imagery. Whatever the illustrative style used, the books which children love are the ones with great characters and great stories.

"That's why the books that AA Milne and Roald Dahl created with their illustrators EH Shephard and Quentin Blake will stand the test of time."

PJ started illustrating because he had an interest in folklore and the Irish storytelling tradition.

"One of my early tutors in the 1980s was Raymond Briggs, who was then breaking the mould of children's books with his comic strip-style creations of Father Christmas and The Snowman. He inspired me to focus on picture books rather than advertising or editorial illustration.

"I liked the idea that my books might be enjoyed by any age group, so I have always been careful never to patronise my audience, and I try to get right into the emotional heart of each story I illustrate."

After 20 years, PJ still enjoys his work.

"I like to think that I'm still learning and developing with each new book I do. The thing that always excites me is a terrific story, and I love the challenge of helping to tell that story with my pictures. I'm always trying new techniques, and I'm very keen to do a book entirely created in Photoshop on the computer."

PJ applauds the work being produced by his fellow illustrators and children's writers in Ireland.

"It's tremendous that so many Irish writers are doing really well internationally, and there have been quite a few new Irish illustrators breaking through in the picture-book market recently.

"There's a great vibe and a genuine sense of camaraderie when Irish writers and illustrators get together and, although the book trade has suffered through the recession, I think there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Laundry Show

There was a great buzz at the Laundry Show in Dublin last night.
It was great to see so many Irish illustrators and other creatives all in one room.
That's me and my old pal Roger O'Reilly. You can see more photos by Mario Sughi here.
Many thanks to Steve Doogan and the Offset Team for putting together such a great event.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

It was great to get back drawing portraits at the Arts Club last Friday.
Many thanks to my blogosphere friend Aladine who braved the depths of the Arts Club basement to get us started.
It was great to meet Aladine and her friend John in the flesh.
Here's my twenty five minute sketch of her...I don't think I quite did her justice.

I did another four or five drawings upstairs in the bar and there was mighty craic as the Culture night crowd surveyed the club.
I did another couple of drawings yesterday of one of my favourite models, Giuseppe.

They aren't portraits, but as sketches I think they capture a little of Giuseppe's spiritual nature.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Death and the Maiden

Given a pretty free brief for the IGI Offset event "Laundry" which is on in Dublin next Wednesday, I set about creating an image that reflected many of my own deeper pre-occupations and visual fixations.
Here is the painting that resulted.
I'm not sure what a shrink might make of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Culture Night at the United Arts Club in Dublin

I'm one of five or six artists who will be doing fairly quick portrait drawings this Friday as part of the United Arts Club's Dublin Culture Night Celebration!
My pal Brian Gallagher will also be on duty for this Arts Club fundraiser.
We'll be doing doing portrait sketches with each sitting lasting about twenty five minutes. I'll be drawing with wax and chalk on gray Ingres paper, a wee bit like the picture above. I think each drawing will cost the sitter about 20 euro.

Here is the club's blurb about the event:
The historic United Arts Club, founded in 1907 as a centre for people interested in the Arts is opening its doors this Friday night.
Take this opportunity to tour the building and view our current art exhibition (from 5pm-11pm)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Life Paintings of Tony

These are two paintings of Tony that I did on the same day.
If I get a decent painting in the morning I tend to leave it and start a new one rather than to risk over-working the first.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jack and the Beanstalk...Last step: Collapse exhausted!

What a weekend!
The Mountains to Sea Festival was amazing for me in many ways.
It was the first time I've been an artist-in residence anywhere and the experience of working away while hundreds of people went about their business around me was very strange indeed.
I'll make a fuller post about all that went on at the Festival later, but for now I just wanted to show you how the painting turned out.
I chose to illustrate Jack and the Beanstalk in the end, because I thought it might have appeal to the range of age groups who were attending. Plus it is a story I had never illustrated before.
I did all the photo reference and photoshop preparatory work on Friday and sketched the outlines and did some underpainting on Friday night. All of the rest of the work was done at the event in Dun Laoghaire County Hall on Saturday and between events with the children and meeting other illustrators and authors. (I'll tell you more about my meeting with Kate DiCamillo) anon.

Anyway, somehow I got the picture pretty much finished in the three days, and here it is.

Thanks to Conor for the photo and all of his unflagging assistance throughout the weekend.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jack and the Beanstalk...first step:prime the canvas

As artist-in-residence at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival, I have undertaken to do an illustration over the next two days at the festival. This is the blank canvas for the painting as it is now on Friday afternoon.
I've already done a lot of work on the rough, and I'll scale it up tonight. If all goes well it will end up with a nice big illustration of Jack and the Beanstalk.
I'll hopefully be able to post again on Monday with the results.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The 2010 Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival

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Gif animator
Here's a practice piece I did in preparation for my contribution at THE 2010 MOUNTAINS TO SEA DLR BOOK FESTIVAL.
I'm going to be painting a large (this one is 4 foot tall) oil painting a bit like this one over the weekend (11th and 12th Sept).
Anyone who's attending please come and say "Hi"... I reckon I'll need the moral support.
I still haven't decided on the final image I will be painting, but, given the time constraints, it will have to be simple with just one or two figures and a nice plain background perhaps stencilled like this one. I'm pretty sure I'll be using gold paint and gold leaf as I have done here. (I have tried to show the shiny effect by making an animated gif)
I've considered The Children of Lir and Gulliver but they could both get a bit complicated.
Maybe I'll do something like Cinderella or Sleeping beauty or Jack the Giant Killer.
Anyone got any great suggestions?

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Doll of the Bee-Man of Orn

When I returned today from a wonderful but tiring holiday in Catalonia with the family, I was delighted to find an e-mail from a lady called Beth Casper in the US. Beth has created a doll based on the Bee-man of Orn.
She sent me these great pictures of her creation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Madonna Sophie

I don't think I've posted this one of Sophie before.
With her hair down she has a lovely Renaissance Madonna look about her. We had a lot of nice drawings of her in the Life drawing session that day.
I returned to my painting later and added a background and a few glazes.
I'm always very wary of messing with a life painting after the fact, but this one has turned out OK.

Friday, August 6, 2010

IGI Group Exhibition at the United Arts Club

Mario Sughi took some great pictures at the launch of the IGI show at the United Arts Club in Dublin last night.
Here's a funny one of me with the artist Sean Hillen who very kindly opened the show, and who made some very interesting points about the nature of fine art versus illustration. Lots to argue about.
I have two pictures in the show including the charcoal drawing below.

The exhibition continues until 24th August 2010
Viewing Mon to Sat from 5.30pm
The United Arts Club
3 Upper Fitzwilliam St
Dublin 2

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life Painting of Emma

Emma is a model I would love to paint more often. She has a lovely look about her, and is excellent at resuming and holding her pose.
I wasn't mad about the drapery over the cushions, but the green shape is useful compositionally.
The Life Drawing session I attend regularly now has a lay off for August. it is only four weeks without life painting but I'm missing it already. I think I'll have to come up with an alternative.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Experimental Piece

Here's an experimental piece I did when I was playing about with wax resist and watercolour.
Shows a bit of the influence of Egon Schiele I think.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Large Painting of Rubén

This painting is a bit larger than the life studies I usually do. It is about 30" x 20".
I left it after a few hours because I liked the quick sketchy quality that it has, and I moved on to do the portrait study below for the last hour and a half.