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Toys and the art of Diplomacy


‘Where’s my Sonic?’

My five year old son starred up at me apprehensively, lower lip slightly jutted.

‘If you mean a certain stuffed blue toy with long ears, he’s gone to a better place – one of Daddy’s paintings’

Tears began to well up in his eyes. He knew that it could be weeks before he would see his friend again, that feels like half a life time for a five year old.

Eventually after much negotiation and a last minute intervention by my wife I reluctantly gave him the toy back. Children these days and their first world problems. Whatever happened to sacrifice for the sake of Art?

It took me ages to set up that still life for the next painting in the children’s toys series and the cerulean blue of Sonic was the linchpin. Never had so much depended on so few and now he was gone, snatched from my grasp by the determinations of a persistent five year old.

Now I find myself to blame for whenever any of their toys goes missing. Give a dog a bad name.

Granted, most times they are right, but in my defense they get them back well within the three week agreed terms of lease that they signed with their own penciled hand.

Never mind, another toy will be procured. It’s just they ones they like the best are the ones I like the best and work the best in the paintings. Toy manufacturers take note. Christmas is coming with the promise of newbies. I’m almost as excited at the prospect as they are.

I also expect a spike in sales at Christmas for the paintings. Or else Sonic will have to do the rounds for another year, which acts as clumsy segue way into my plug. Get ‘em here. You knew that was coming.

Have a lovely day.


Ghosts and their skinned thumbs

clown reading

Ghosts of past paintings are not the most well mannered I have come to find, are largely unkempt and smell of smoke. He made me walk up the steps to the studio in front of him clearly taking no chances even though by now I was well assured I was still asleep. Once in the studio, he locked the door and deposited the key into a small leather purse hanging around his neck and pulled the drawstrings tight. He looked around, huge hands on hips, his expanse filling the already cramped area.

‘Well well well’ he murmured to himself softly ‘so they were right after all’

I had no idea who ‘they’ were or what they were supposedly ‘right’ about, I was too busy wondering what the hell he was going to do next. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. With surprising swiftness for a man his size he flung open the studio window and with one long reach of his great paw had deposited two medium sized canvases out into the elements below.

Instinctively I remonstrated with him to stop which caused him to hold up one threatening finger centimeters from my nose

‘Don’t tell me what to do. You had your chance’

‘What do you mean?’

‘These’ he picked up another brace and would have made them follow suit only the second of the two was too large to fit through the window, skinning his thumb in the process. A bead of blood popped crimson. He whimpered like a baby. ‘I hate blood, can’t stand the stuff, can’t stand it’. He danced lightly on one foot.

‘Stay there’ I ordered, not that he was going anywhere and retrieved a small packet of band-aid from an upturned canister on a nearby shelf. A minute later what little bleeding there had been had stopped, mostly by its own accord. He became calmer in himself.

‘Why are flinging all my art out the window’ I asked again.

‘Because it’s my job, that’s what they told me to do’

‘Who are they?’

‘Get rid of it they said’ he continued, looking concerned at his newly wrapped thumb, ignoring my question.  I tried to remember I was asleep but was finding it hard in the circumstances. Shouldn’t I have the answers then to my own questions? We looked at each other for a while and then he continued looking at his thumb.

‘Look, there’s better ways to get rid of paintings’ I finally said ‘rather than flinging them out studio windows’

‘Like how?’

‘The internet, daily emails, newsletters, stuff like that’

He snorted in derision.

‘No one reads that crap’

He stopped looking at this thumb. Standing, he picked up another smaller painting and immediately flung it heaven wards out the open window, almost simultaneously taking holding of a second and a third.

‘Door to door sales’ I shouted at the broad of his back in desperation.

He paused and pushed himself to his full height as much as the ceiling would allow.

‘My Uncle Trevor’ he appeared to be remembering ‘He used to do door-to-door sales. He was a bit weird, but he seemed to make money’ He then looked at the canvas in his hand and with surprise ‘Some of these are good!’

He shoved the painting into my chest

‘Do it’ he said.

In the interest of brevity, I pushed the time to Christmas. He argued Christmas was always a busy time for him as I wasn’t the only one on his list, but taking into account the band aid and everything..He let me off with a fairly stern warning.

His parting words, as he lowered himself out the window were to expect two of his friends in the coming months. A Mr. Paintings Present, and a relative rookie – Miss. Paintings Future. One theatrical wink later, and he was gone, just as swiftly as he arrived. I was left alone in the studio, staring at the open window, and I was awake.

The paintings that didn’t get flung from the window that night are here, available as always. Enjoy and watch this space, I have promises to keep.


Enter a man in the dark of night

four crows

I woke suddenly last night with a blinding headache. A glance at my phone informed me it was three in the morning, the full moon bright outside. I checked to see the kids, all asleep, snoring softly lost in a world of their own. I would be getting up in a couple of hours and at times like these found it hard to go back asleep.

I flung myself in the half made bed in the spare room, hoping its coolness would still the flow of my thoughts. Two minutes later, an undeniable terror welled up inside of me; there was someone else in the room. I shot up and there in the corner sat a very large man, impassive and undeterred.

‘Wh..,who are you?’  my voice sounded like a squeak.

He didn’t answer. He seemed distracted by the moon light and kept glancing out the window.

‘There’ll be rain tomorrow’

With these words, he stood up and walked slowly to the end of the bed. His hair was long, part pony tailed, part dreadlocked and a cusp of large brass bangles jingled on his left wrist whenever he moved.  He was well over seven feet tall and stooped a little under the ceiling. His jacket was old and in the brushed light of the moon I could make out a ‘LA Laker’s’ logo over right shoulder. Even in the darkness his hands looked huge and dangerous.

He had positioned himself firmly between me and the door, escape was out of the question.

‘Who are you?’ I tried to hide the growing fear in my voice half managing to push the blankets back hard against the end of the bed.

‘Cool it kid’ he said ‘your still asleep, relax’

I swung to my feet and demanded what he wanted. A stupid question on reflection.

This made him smile. His long beard, wispy and graying at the ends. He could have been twenty or sixty-three impossible to say.

‘I’m the ghost of past paintings’ he finally said. Turning and shuffling toward the door, he paused briefly.

‘Well’ he said ‘what are you’re waiting for…lets go’

Go where? I wanted to ask, but I knew the question was redundant. After all I had been expecting him, just not like this.

Consider this an intermission, instead of advertisements there’s a plug for my paintings. This will be a long story, but I’m hoping an interesting one. Meanwhile, stock up here, and we’ll resume at first light.


The man who thought he was James Bond


On those not so rare occasions whenever I feel that a painting in progress has taken a turn for the worst, or journeyed to the dark side, I’m heard to utter the expression ‘Another Man who thinks he’s James Bond’. It’s a byword for a glorious failure in my vocabulary.

‘The man who thought he was James Bond’ was a novella I had undertaken with great hopes. Eighty thousand words in and having seen the same wooded area for a fourth time, I knew I was going in circles with the story. I did the only thing I knew best. I put it in a drawer and never looked at it again. That was about a year and a half ago now, but the phrase remains denoting spinning wheels and creative mishaps. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but at least I’ve salvaged something.

The main thing is you learn by doing. And while this story didn’t take flight the next one may well soar. As long as it doesn’t fly too near the sun, but granted there is little danger in that happening these days. Another take away from the so called failed enterprise was the happy expression – ‘Another man who thinks he’s James Bond’.

It lightens my mood and puts perceived set backs in their proper context, namely side roads on the route to sustainable success. We all have them and had them, and even when we do taste eventual success, whatever that abstract concept may entail, we will still have them.

Happily the paintings here are not to be categorized as James Bond also-rans. They’re the real deal, ready and waiting for your nod of approval. Licensed to trill.


Motivate your motivation



I was wondering to myself this morning about the nature of motivation.  How do we convince ourselves to keep going when we would rather just throw in the towel? I was thinking about it primarily in relation to writing and painting, and my thoughts even branched into exercise. People are willing to spend a lot of money to have others tell them how to be motivated, when the answer purely lies in themselves and their own personal makeup.

You, yourself, have to find the reasons alone to keep doing what you do. When you find those reasons you have to hold unto them and keep them in a place in your heart where you can readily reference them. Don’t burrow them too far away because you’re going to need them to hand when the going gets tough.

The secret to having them to hand is to take those reasons out regularly, once a week, dust them off and enter into that subjective ritual where you remember why you first got started on your own particular road. Regular self reminding is the key, also a few side ways glances at your life devoid of these pursuits is also helpful. Without regular exercise you get fat. Forgive my bluntness, and for me a life without writing and painting closes up a well worn path into the spiritual and the deeper aspects of what it means to be fully human.

That is not something to be given up lightly.

So if I was to crystallize this whole motivation topic down into once solid nugget, it would be this. – “Don’t give up in the first place and you won’t need the motivation to restart. Keep going when you’re going and never underestimate the power of gained momentum”.  A sizable nugget, more man-sized chunk actually, but it’s all there as far as I’m concerned.

This advice is free and before you thank me, you’re welcome. Unfortunately, these paintings are not free, but they are worth it. Just as you bring out into the light your own personal reasons for staying on your particular path, you can use one of these as a lighthouse. A beacon to keep shinning at you, a gentle reminder in the confines of your own living space. Have a wonderful day.


An Unlikely pairing


Captain’s log: – Painting seven in the twelve painting children’s toys series.

“The terrain has been kind and the native’s friendly, but something doesn’t seem quiet right. There is an air of expectation that still needs to be punctured. To push against the boundaries of this reality and see what’s on the other side.”

Thanks Captain Kirk for that. No, I’m not a Trekie, but some of their story lines were as weird as they were wonderful. The crew of the starship enterprise may have come up against the pair that inhabits my latest painting.  A rather dead eyed parrot (thingy) and the multi tasking yellow soft toy that is Mr. Happy.

For the first time I used acrylic aerosols and I like their smooth effects. It creates a nice contrast with the puckered strokes of a heavily laden paint brush and allows the eye some rest. The downside is I have to leave the windows of the studio open. Which is not a downside as long as I remember to close them again, which I don’t. I’ve been lucky the weather has been unseasonably kind these last few weeks but how long can my luck last. Obviously I like living on the edge. Maybe I am a trekie after all?

Anyway, only five more to go in the children’s series and as Captain Kirk noted above its now time to push against the walls of reality that this whole series represents. It’s a reality I have created so I should be more than capable of pulling the whole thing apart? You would think. If I do, I will have to come up with an alternative and that’s where we get creative. So, let’s see where we go from here, possibly three toys? Maybe four? Why not lop in an empty bean can there for good measure? Everything is possible.

For now, the bounds of possibility have been closed to these finished paintings in the gallery. Well, for me at least. For you, if and when you purchase one of them, the possibilities of the painting are only beginning. Have a lovely day.


All Ireland Blues



Great All Ireland Hurling final yesterday. A wonderful game that had everything, except a winner. So they need to play again at the end of September. We will wait in anticipation. For those who haven’t a clue about what I’m talking about, just youtube ‘Hurling Final 2014′ and linger awhile in the soft glow of new found wonder. For the rest of you, we have work to do.

Work? Well, I have work to do and lots of it. You see it’s always around this time of year that the thorny subject of painting hurling players comes to the fore. I’ve seen various attempts at painting players and have been left less than enamored by the results. The primary reason being that obviously they have been painted from photographs or video stills. No arguments there, you can hardly expect any artist to fire off a detailed sketch of the fastest field game in the world while its in full flight, but I find we need to do something more. Or more to the point, I need to do something more.

As ever there is a history there. A rather unfortunate one. It entails me painting in a small wooden hut – a garden shed, during the height of one of hottest summers ever. A large canvas and a few detailed photographs of one of the games greatest practitioners -  D. J. Carey.

Long story short, the painting was a disaster. I literally threw everything at that painting to make it work and it just won’t give me an inch, not a foothold to build on. It was one of those glorious failures that can leave you smarting for weeks afterwards. It took me a while to recover. To retrieve my brushes from the neighbors’ garden from whence I flung them and start again and to draw a line under my experience of painting hurling players.

People forget. I forget or so I tell myself. Was it really as bad as I remembered it? Leafing through a few photographs for possible initial sketches as I venture to take on this subject again, I know it was as bad as I first remember it. Flashbacks of struggling with skin tones and helmet visors melt into a cacophony of nightmarish images.

But it is also human to return. To return and face those things from which we formerly ran. The new canvas has been primed. The drawn game yesterday has bought me a few more weeks of hurling fervor. The Gods are in my favor. Watch this space.

While you’re watching it, you can allow your eyes to linger over here.  Variety is good for the mind and so is purchasing the things you love. Enjoy.


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