Wednesday, 24 September 2014

"The Voyage".... a reflection

                                               "Ballycotton Boats 2014" -  K.Scannell

 link - Christy Moore's Version of "The Voyage" written by Johnny Duhan

One of my all time favorite songs  by our much loved Christy Moore. It has an extremely romantic backbone, and reminds  me constantly of my parents, and their love for each other. Through often very hard times, it kept them strong and got us all on the road to begin our own path.The older I get the more I realize how important loved ones are, in supporting us on our own Life's Journey, which is never a solo voyage. 

The song, is full of metaphors and imagery , telling a story in poetic fashion ...much like what  I try to achieve in my painting !

Artists in general live quite a solitary existence. It's the nature of their work, which often demands long spells of concentration. The creative process itself is still mysterious..who knows why, one day we can do no wrong...while the following day, the brush just won't behave itself.
Though we can be comfortable in our own company,we're  still social animals, look for new experiences, and benefit a great deal being around people, particularly other like-minded artists.
"Experience is not what happens to a man (woman) : it is what a man (woman) does with what happens to him (her). " - Aldous Huxly

It takes a while for new experiences sink in, and allow for growth. I believe every experience we go through, changes us a little, and if we're lucky, in life's journey, through the people we meet along the way, the positives will outweigh the negatives, and our reflection of the world, become deeper, and more meaningful as a consequence.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Paint Annapolis USA 2014

 Update.. I was very happy to return home with two awards from this great event. Third place in both the "Nocturne", and "Quick-draw" events :) 


                                      Paint Annapolis 2014

                  Presented by the Maryland Federation of Art
                                         June 23-29

I am  honored to be one of thirty artists taking part in Paint Annapolis 2014.Working very hard  in developing my work, I made the decision early in the year to be open to any opportunity that arises, which will help me develop as an artist. As a result, when I saw at the last minute, a call for entries to the Paint Annapolis Event, I applied.

My brother JimWexford Injury Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre ) always says work hard and be prepared ,as you never know when an opportunity will arise. He coached me in my sporting years, and is a great coach also in life. It helps also, that he can fix my back when it "screams" after along  painting spree ;)

Often (and I'm sure it's the case for many artists) we get caught up in the process of making, and are happiest painting, creating, and developing work. However it is very easy to get lost in the process, and we can  forget the benefits to be had, by stepping beyond our environs. New experiences, help us to develop as human beings and as artists. 

Annapolis is the Capitol of Maryland with a population of  about 36,000 in comparisons to Wexfords' 19,000.Perhaps one of our biggest connections is Commodore John Barry , founder of The American Navy. 
Annapolis is also a Maritime City, the United States Naval Academy was founded in 1845 on the site of Fort Severnand now occupies an area of land reclaimed from the Severn River next to the Chesapeake Bay.

 I was barely aware of Annapolis, and Wexford's connection to it, until the organizers of Art In The Open , (Wexford's Outdoor painting Festival), encouraged the relationship between the two . As a result, over the years A.I.O has had artists from Annapolis, and further afield participating in the event, Lynn Mehta, Ardis and David Diaz, who has made the journey for five consecutive years, and has been a great ambassador  for the city.

"Paint Annapolis is a four-day juried plein air painting competition held June 23-29, 2014, that brings to Annapolis plein air painters from across the United States. For 12 years it has been a premier event, bringing artists and patrons of the arts together to share in the spirit of the energy and vibrancy of outdoor painting. The event is designed to explore in paint the special colonial architecture, marine atmosphere and overall energy of Maryland’s capital city - home to families, business, colleges, and maritime activities."

It  promises to be a great experience, painting inside and outside the environs of the city, with a quick draw and Nocturne Event also in the schedule.

Preparing for a week of serious painting, I enjoy the pressure that competitions bring ,as I feel being challenged, always helps to progress my skill level. At the same time I never regard it as a win or loose situation. Much like in my sporting life in the past, competition is only ever with yourself, in a drive to keep improving...and achievement is in the eye of the beholder. Long term your own judgement is what matters, and a continuous movement forward with honesty to our own creative vision and response.

Look who's coming to Paint Annapolis 2014

Paint Annapolis Website

My Website :

My Painting of eighty year old Gerd Hinrichsen , during Plein Air berlin - brandenburg Event 2014

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Plein Air berlin-brandenburg May 26th - June 2nd 2014 @ Altthymus haus

Every so often in life, a series of events happen, that make you think, that something, more than co-incidence has occurred.This is the lasting impression I left Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, with, last Monday evening.
I met Marko Fenske during Art In the Open Festival 2013. Traveling from Berlin he was one of a small number of German participants to take part in AIO, and he certainly left an impression. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, I think I can say with confidence that he endeared himself to all who met him.

In January 2014 after talking about the possibility of such an event, "Plein Air berlin-brandenburg",  was formed, and artists were invited to take part. With the help of Plein Eire  our Irish Plein Air Networking site, a group discussion began, and  dates, times and schedules were arranged. Finally by around March a group of 5 Irish Participants had their tickets booked for the Event.

Leaving at 3am on the morning of  May 26th, our conversation in the car went from nervous excitement to an unsettling fear of the unknown. With only some idea of what to expect, (as artists, our imaginations can get the better of us) a list of "what could happen" was slowly being added to, in our day long travels....all in good humor.

Our group was greeted at the airport by Nikoli Kraneis and Lynne Hynnes, who accompanied us on the remainder of our journey. Arriving at  Altthymus Haus by around 5pm, we  met Angela Voigt, who was to be our "Mother" for the week, and feed us so wonderfully.

I could write 40 pages on our experiences, but I feel, some things live stronger in memory. The wonderful welcome we received, the beautiful unspoiled surroundings, the deep history within the area, the great connection each of the participants had with each other and a series of impromptu events, made it a very special, fun filled and productive week, on many levels.

I can't help but think how lucky, artists, particularly Plein Air Artists are, to have that deep shared appreciation for their environment. It's a common appreciation, which connects us the world over.

No amount of imaginings could have prepared us for our actual experience. We are so often sheltered from the natural rhythms of life, and desensitized to our environment, that what is natural, becomes unnatural.....the unnatural becomes norm..

What was more than co-incidence, was the open hearts each brought to the week, a shared love of our craft, a work ethic, and lightheartedness, respect for all and a common will for a successful week. Testimony to the respect we had for the work Marko, and Nikoli did, in preparing the Event, and making us feel so welcome

Special thanks to :  Marko Fenske, Nikoli Kraneis,, Angela Voigt, Lydia Fenske, Ingrid and Gerd, Felix  Hinrichsen, Manfred Saborowski, and Gerhard Max Meyer.
And fellow Participants :

Plein Air berlin-brandenburg
Ravensbruck memorial Site
Facebook - Pleinair berlin-brandenburg

My three exhibition paintings which earned me Second Place in the Event :

An Impromptu Portrait Session with Gerd Ingrid and Felix Hinrichsen ,owners of Altthymus Haus

My Portrait of Gerd

Marko's Artpiece - The Alttymus Haus "Home Oak" - illuminated

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“Not all those who wander are lost.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring

I walked the Camino a number of years ago(an 800 km walk /pilgrimage across the top of Spain from St Jean Piet de Port, in southern France, to Santiago de Compestella in West of Spain), and the experience  left a lasting  impact on me. I can't say I'm religious, but there is a deep experience to be had in taking "time out " to reflect on life and gain new experiences and perspectives.
Time moves so fast,.much faster than any previous generation has witnessed, and combined with the advancement of technology, events positive and negative, personal to global are being presented on a daily basis to our doorstep.

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

I believe Plein Air Painting can be  a type of meditation. An opportunity to exist in the now, and to appreciate our present. A scene can be noted with a quick glance, but by stopping, observing, and using each brushstroke to express the feeling that moment gives you, is a very special thing. As artists by opening our hearts to an experience, I believe we also open that experience to the viewers of our work.

“The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting.” 
― Milan KunderaSlowness

Tonight I begin priming new boards in preparation for the next journey, excited by the prospect, that each will be filled with  new observations , experiences and memories from life....

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Traveling and Painting on a budget - The 12 kg challenge ! sept.'14 note: policies have changed on certain airlines since I wrote this to check before travelling

I was invited recently to visit Florence by Simon and Ayfer Mills, and Karina Drogowski, and Mauricio. It had been on my "to do list" for a while, and with friends already there, it was an opportunity too good to miss.
I haven't traveled often on painting excursions, so I decided to use this trip as a test to see what is possible when painting abroad on a budget. Budget flights always have a 12kg weight  limit to passengers on board baggage, so this became the challenge : Could I include all my painting materials, as well as clothes ect within this 12kg limit ?

Tickets and accommodation

Tickets and accommodation were booked early, (unfortunately before the Aer Lingus Sale, which would have given me a direct flight to Pisa), For about the same price, I booked a transfer flight, Dublin - Paris....Paris-Florence, and on return, Florence Amsterdam.... Amsterdam - Dublin.
With some research I sourced a hostel , The Duilio Hostel, which had good reviews, at a very reasonable off season prices. A shared 6 bed dorm for one week (around €66). There was a four story climb to reach it ,but basic, clean and very helpful. It more than met my needs.

Can oil paints be carried on board flights ?

So, The big question. Can oil paints be carried on board flights ? I read through flight regulations in all the companies I was flying with, and saw nothing directly related to the subject. Later, I rang the airports, and asked specifically, if artists oil paints can be carried on board flights ? All gave me the same reply:
"Artists oil paint is o.k to bring on board, so long as each tube is under 100ml and placed in a transparent ziplock bag", and  presented with all your liquids at checkpoints  As an extra insurance I also placed a printout of the manufacturers ingredients  in the bag.
Needless to say turps is not allowed. And I decided to buy linseed when I arrived in Florence

The Litmus Test

The only way to truly know what's possible, is to go through the system. In case they were confiscated, I brought old tubes of paint. Happily through all four airports I traveled through, there was absolutely no problem bringing oil paints through the security checks and on board flights.
Paint materials in Florence are very expensive, so I was more than happy I could bring my paint and panels.

Carrying Paint gear while on location

Unfortunately my new Alla Prima pochade box, didn't make the trip as the tripod it attaches to was too big for my suitcase, so I settled for my old homemade box and tripod, which were a little smaller. The backpack, and paint gear, all fitted into my suitcase, while traveling.

Painting Panels

I like working on 6x8, (3mm  mdf wooden panels), particularly when under such a short time frame. I brought what I thought I would use, plus a few extra panels of the same size and larger, to have a choice, should an opportunity arise.

Storing and transporting panels

I believe Mark Delassio uses a similar system. I  have found cork very handy to store my paintings in the studio ,and also when plein air painting at home .A cork tile, (cut  into 3mm slices), placed in between two panels and wrapped with masking tape on both sides.
 3mm of each side of my paintings are marked a little by the board, so I intend, in future to cut the 3mm mdf panels allowing extra space for the cork separators.. I'll blog that when I make the next batch of panels...

All in all, I found that it is possible to travel abroad on a limited budget, with only a 12kg baggage bag . Of course including changes of clothes, toiletries ect. It takes a little planning, but for me, well worth the effort.


If planning a painting trip abroad, I would advise to check the Airlines you are traveling with beforehand, as to  their policies of bringing Artists' oil  paint on board, for your own peace of mind. Ultimately, traveling with one suitcase, may be too much of a "squeeze", and you decide to bring a second bag, whereby  many of your decisions  be different.

My trip was made all the more enjoyable by meeting friends over there, who gave me great insights, before and during the trip. A great help also, was having my old painting buddy, and now Florence based artist Karina Drogowska  who guided me around the city and surrounds, while also painting.
Karina is the founder of the group ,  Italy Plein Air, a voluntary group, based in Florence, which meet every two weeks to paint plein air.

On my return home, walking through "arrivals", I couldn't help, but keep an eye on the "Departures" Area...hmmm where next ??

Friday, 21 February 2014

Plein Air Painting

The aim in my Plein Air work, is to respond to, and attempt to capture fleeting light effects and colour, from life. As soon as  light conditions change, so the mood and first response changes, creating the need to work from memory. At that point  I usually change my panel. It's possible to work from memory outdoors, but my aim is always to respond to the environment, with all its challenges as it moves and changes.I like to work "subjectively", and aim for that high concentration level needed to work intensely within a  short time frame. In this respect, it is far from a mundane activity, and very much like training for a sport.
These paintings can seem "sketchy", when compared to studio pieces, but look at them as responses to a subject, rather than solely a record of  place. In recording a "response" to a subject, all of what your experiencing, while being on location, is being expressed, through a variety of techniques, along with a sense of place.I try not to stick to a formula, as each day is different, and each response is determined by many factors.
Sometimes the "Plein Air Sketch", stands as a finished painting in itself, when all the elements come together easily. That, I feel depends on many factors, and is what Plein Air Painters chase, - that perfect moment when all your years work, study, experience, combined with excitement in your subject, and that x ingredient we can never put our fingers on.
 Plein Air,  for me,  is a solid foundation from which all other work benefits. It provides endless inspiration, and possibilities from representational through to abstract, and the sheer discipline of getting out there,experiencing,  and really looking at ,and responding to a  subject is endlessly challenging .
I used to question the relevance of Plein Air Painting in today's world, but what can be more "relevant", than observing, and recording  life as you experience and journey through it ?