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October Road

boat

The man on the radio informed me that today was the 1st of October. He said he had being waiting all year to play the next song and sure enough the dullest tones of James Taylor’s ‘October Road’ filled the car in a matter of seconds.

It didn’t feel like October, I told myself. I was still living in the beginning of September.  At this rate I would miss Christmas by a solid three weeks by my quick calculations. A matter which did not cause me any great concern.  I would wake up gladly in spring 2015, but life had other demands as I parked my car in its usual workday spot.

I thought of all the other Octobers and what this month really means. It’s a bit of a filler month to be honest. Cast half way between the end of summer and the beginning of Christmas, a vast wade of days to walk through, kicking fresh fallen leaves as you go. Such thoughts are wasteful. I chided myself. Each day is to be valued. These coming weeks are no less precious than their sun filled predecessors. But it is definitely a time for changing gear, and I don’t mean your Nikes.

Previous generations, particularly those connected with the land, who made their living from the earth recognised this fact. The world slows down a tad, winter is coming. Energy levels may drop and this is fine. Nothing to be alarmed about – purely natural. There is a simple word for this – autumn.

Maybe we should look at face book less and stop checking our emails every five minutes. Text messages should go ignored as we take stock of the year that has past and admit to our hopes for the future. It would be a good way to spend a spare five minutes and a natural way. Turn off the television; let the dog be content with a juicy bone. No walks today. Today, I’m thinking. Thinking of the old and the new.

In those thoughtful moments, consider these. Paintings composed in the height of summer of an artist’s life and thankfully there still are a few more long evenings of that summer still left. October will roll around in its own time, but not just yet. Pause and consider thus.

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Always timely advice…

midline

Some small words can change your life. Your direction, or indeed give you a new sense of direction. I can’t remember where I read the following words, but I never forgot them. The reason I never forgot them is because I keep saying them to myself, daily.

I’m not going to string you along; brassy fanfares are not my thing. The words I have in mind can be applied not only to writing, but also to painting or indeed any pursuit, even if they are explicitly directed to writing.  Those words are -

“Remember, the worse thing you write is always going to be better than the greatest thing you never wrote”

Simple, to the point, effective. Ideas are ten-a-penny, but it’s in real world actions that the heart of change lies. Those words are worthy of some pondering and even adapting as a mantra of sorts when you find yourself in that limbo state where your work is never ‘good enough’ for public consumption. The truth is it will never be good enough. Now is the time, there really is no tomorrow.

So is that my excuse for writing and painting crap??

Yes, it is.

It’s also the reason why I also paint some really great pieces of art work and discover occasionally that what I write even appears to me, to be surprisingly good. So with that in mind, we persist in our endeavors.

While on the subject of great pieces, why don’t you swing over here and browse and consider what might make a nice inspiration gift of a lifetime for a good friend or loved one. Remember my words about taking action.

Catch you later

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Young at heart

3men

So Kilkenny won the replay in the All Ireland hurling final. I was happy, very happy. So happy in fact that I bought two Sunday newspapers the following day to read all about the win.  The coverage was disappointing to say the least.

Each sports columnist seemed compelled to repeat the same old approach. A break down of the games scores with the same inevitable outcome – Kilkenny wining? I wanted more. I wanted to know the philosophical ramifications of Kilkenny’s win and what it meant to for their arch rivals – Tipperary, who never can seem to beat them. None was forthcoming. But there were other interesting articles in the paper.

Well, when I say other, I really mean one, but sometimes one can be enough, especially if it’s good. John Waters’s piece on the monks of Mount Mellary and their dying way of life was better than good. It made me think. I wanted to think about hurling but I ended up instead of thinking about religion and its impact on our lives and how it’s greatly changing in this part of the world.

Mount Mellary is a nearby Cistercian monastery which had 150 monks in its heyday, but is now home to something like 11; most of them are in their seventies. They spend their days in silent prayer and in former days working the land for their sustenance but all that is going now.

The interesting thing John Waters mentioned is that everyone, no matter what age they are, still believes in their hearts that they are young. We see the world through young eyes with a young heart no matter how old our bodies inevitably become.  I found this quite moving.

Maybe that’s why I paint with a young heart, and keep believing in the promises of tomorrow and all that it holds. The eternal promise that the best is yet to come.

The ones that have arrived aren’t too shoddy either and are available here for purchase.

Enjoy!

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Old age and other encounters

bernard1

I was at my friend’s, Frank’s, book launch last night. A memoir of sorts – ‘Grand-dad you’re not painting between the lines’. I first met Frank in 1990 and the overwhelming feeling I had last night was that we are all getting old.

I can’t say the feeling was new to me as I long held suspicions that such was the case, but there was a stark clarity to the reality yesterday evening. I saw a former school teacher of mine, grey and retired. I told my wife I remembered when he first started teaching as a relative youth. There were lots of moments like that.

It took all my powers of resilience not to take the microphone from the M.C’s hand and tell everyone to calm down, that there was nothing to worry about. What is happening is natural.

“We are all just getting old…a bit quicker than expected”

But I didn’t want to cause a panic and witness people scurrying for the nearest exits or reaching for their face creams in dismay.

I would like to say the moment past, but no, it’s still present this morning and has left me feeling a little glum. At such times I take solace in humour, remembering an old episode of Star Trek, of all things.

A race of aliens, of similar appearance to humans, by the end of the episode have somehow lost their capacity for immortality.

Their leader complains dismally to Captain Picard – “I don’t know how you humans can stand it…I can literally feel myself dying..Minute to minute”.  The good captain dryly replies as he prepares to be beamed back to the HMS Enterprise – “You’ll get used to it”.

Growing old? I’m getting used to it. We all share stories. It’s a day by day thing, just like painting really.

It’s too early to talk of legacies, but I have to say there are some very fine paintings available here waiting for you to share in that story.  Please feel free to join the club of owners.

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Yellow

flowers

Another one from the archives – a trinity of roses. This is from my ‘less is more’ period. Everything was scaled down and pared back, you can practically see on the canvas where the decisions were made on the fly.

I like it. It works and is up there in my personal top ten. Then again, yellow has always been one of my many weaknesses. When in doubt reach for the yellow, apply liberally and wait for the magic to happen. It seldom disappoints.

You’ll also notice there are variations of yellow evident in this work. This is not a happy accident, it was again experimentation.

He would say that, won’t he?

But before you take that line of thought let me explain. I was at this time looking at an awful lot of paintings which were purposely painted in just one hue. Depth and focus and values were hewn out of variations of the one colour and the finished pieces looked fantastic!

For a self confessed colorist like me, you need discipline of steel to paint this way, which I sadly lack. What’s a single yellow without a blob of red? A lonely soul in my book. For all my diatribes about the search for simplicity in this work, I just had to introduce the red roses. They could easily have been painted in some nice heavy ochre and the pedestal with an off set cadmium, but no, I couldn’t resist.

There’s nothing worse than a lonely rose. At least give it some contrast and I did. Hence the end of my experimentation with simplicity as I gave over to my wanton flourishes of colour from there on in. Which, for the record I don’t regret.

For me this work speaks of what could have been, if I had reined in my colours more, and I like it for the memory it evokes, but its time to let it see the light of day and push it out into the world. There’s a lot of people out there who need more yellow in their lives and who am I to hoard?

If you need to add a rich cerulean blue or turquoise pink to your ongoing domestic bliss, please indulge here, and remember a splash of colour is always life enhancing, no matter what the hue.

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All the time in the world

oldman1

I remembered when I first got seriously bitten by the painting bug. About thirteen years ago now? I started taking some lessons from a Columbian gentleman, living in Ireland with his family. He did the most exquisite detailed and very beautiful figurative drawings with coloured pencils. There were coloured pencils everywhere in his house. You could barely move, without crunching a coloured pencil underfoot.

We got to know each other over time and a regular lament of his was there just wasn’t enough time – and he was a full time artist. He wanted to work with oils and acrylics, pastels and then there was his growing love of sculpture. I don’t think his small house could hold much more artistic endeavors but he was determined to try! It was just the pesky problem of having only twenty-four hours in the day.

I thought of him yesterday when leafing through a supermarket flyer. Up coming offers included an air compressor – it was Lidil in case your wondering. Appendages for the air compressor included a chisel set. Once again I was a young child, excited. Mouthing the words – ‘I always wanted one of them!!’

Imagine the sculptures I could turn out, in half the time that it would normally take me with a mere hammer and chisel. But then reality set in. I don’t have the time to even lift a hammer these days to any unfortunate piece of limestone. I can barely get the time to work on the paintings.  If I did buy this new gizmo the paintings would only further suffer, and as a result so would I.

So for the time being, the boulders of limestone are safe, at least until I reach some stage of happy retirement in thirty years time, or sell a cart load of paintings. Which is always a possibility since the concentrated effort is paying dividend in quality, if I do say so myself.

Which reminds me, that I need to remind you to click over here and have a look for yourself. Take it easy browsing; we have all the time in the world.

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A Leopold Bloom moment

two souls
Last Sunday morning I found myself walking a leafy suburb on the north side of Dublin. It was just gone 7am, the morning was crisp, autumnal and surprisingly warm. As I walked, I kicked errant bunches of fallen leaves and wondered to myself.

The first thing that clamored for my attention was the fact that everywhere was so peaceful and quiet, I mean very very quiet. No early morning joggers, no sniffing curious dogs or stray prowling cat and of course none of the inhabitants of the houses were anywhere to be seen.

The boulevard I was on was long, lined with mature trees and apart from the brief flash of a yellow jacketed cyclist, there was no one else but me. I placed my hands on my hips and looked all around. All the blinds on the neat rows of well maintained houses were pulled shut.

This was a very well to do area of the city, close to the centre but just out of reach of anyone who would think of walking out. Each house had at least one expensive looking car parked in the drive, sometimes two or three, but the dwellings themselves were small and I would imagine somewhat cramped.

I walked on a short distance and came to a very large white church. I thought I could get early morning Mass, but no, everywhere was padlocked. 9.30 was the earliest service. I glanced at my watch – 7.15. I didn’t really mind and walked on again in silence.

A grey squirrel eyed me curiously from a low hanging branch. I asked him about his family and his prospects for the winter, but he just scuttled away, disgusted with my easy manner and ill considered nosiness.

I rounded a corner and another long road of similar houses awaited me on either side. Breakfast won’t be served until at least eight, so I just shrugged and kept walking. The sun was rising higher over the horizon and reflected off the upstairs windows, but still their blinds remained determinedly down.

Then I came upon it.  A red door with four yellow balloons tied to the door knocker. They lightly tapped against the wood and bounced gently in the faintest of morning breezes, and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.

I didn’t do a sketch or pull out my phone to take photograph; I just stood a moment and soaked it up. The image is in my head now and it will probably be there for a very, very long time. It might even work its way out and be found somewhere lurking in this area of the site. If not today, perhaps tomorrow.

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