The Silver Thread #251

The Silver

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The Silver Thread, ©John O’Grady 2015
Oil on deep edged canvas 19.75″ x 19.75″ x 1.75″ / 50 cm x 50 cm x 4.75cm
It does not require framing and is ready to hang.


Have you experienced and felt moved by the magic of moonlight as it infuses billowing clouds with its silver light?

I watch the sky frequently from my studio terrace at night and feel deeply connected to these large masses folding and unfurling before my eyes as they glow in the moonlight.

Subconsciously, my cloud watching is featuring more and more in the paintings I make and is a starting point for this nocturne.

I blocked in large shapes of coolish blue over a warm red under painting. The shape and diagonal movement of the cloud just magically arrived, moving off towards the slightly greenish blue light emanating from outside of the picture top right.

When I had this part roughed in with large brushes, I continued to block in large areas of the lower part of the painting bringing the grey violet from the sky down into what I thought might be land.

Once this stage of the painting was completed, I found both good and bad parts. I loved that a fabulous amount of light was bouncing in all directions but it was too cool. By adding a warmer violet and red/browns into the distance, shapes started to emerge out of the chaos.

There is always, with this way of working, a key moment when I see some shape emerge which gives some sort of coherence to the whole painting. In this case it was the very feint outline of what looked like a distant mountain with blueish light hovering over it and reflections of light on water below.

The Silver

When I saw this, it allowed me to bring this reflective light forward, working in bands of light and dark as the cumulus cloud cast its immense shadow on water. The painting began to remind me of a wide open vista one might see in the west of Ireland. Now on a roll, the last part of the middle ground and foreground just fell into place. By adding a warm foreground well lit with directional marks it balanced the coolness of the top two thirds and the rounded forms of the cloud.

The part of the painting that I felt particularly pleased with is the hillside on the left (see below) and the arrangement of cool greens and grey violets.

The Silver

I would love to hear what you think.

Winter Reflections #250

Winter Reflections
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Winter Reflections, ©John O’Grady 2015
Oil on canvas 20″ x 8″ x 0.75″

$368 (approx. 323 Euros, £239 with free shipping)

This winter painting of Killary Harbour in Connemara is looking from county Galway across to the mountains in county Mayo. It’s the only fjord in Ireland.

This whole area is stunningly beautiful. I wondered what it might look like in winter with a dusting of snow.

To accentuate the chill and stillness of winter, I chose a palette of blues, purples/browns. The effect is quiet and static. The weight of land above the horizon line is balanced with the stillness of its reflection.

I would love to hear what you think.

The Mountain Road II #249

The Mountain Road II, ©John O’Grady 2015
Oil on canvas 7″ x 9″ x 0.75″.


A small road weaves its way through the mountains in Ireland.

This painting is about scale and how the road is dwarfed by its surroundings. It’s also about what we might see when we look up and notice the incredible light in the skies that swirl around us.

As our eye moves upward through the painting, shapes begin to dissolve. Where does land end and sky begin? Nothing is definite nor defined; the elements are in a constant flux.

After all has been diffused in the transparent light filled mist, we eventually reach the top of the painting and the sky, where we meet the solidity of the back lit glowing clouds that seem to move towards us. Yet, we know clouds are also unsubstantial and evanescent.

I’d love to hear what you think about the light in this painting.

I Dreamt of White Horses II #248

I Dreamt of White Horses II, ©John O’Grady 2015

Oil on canvas 10″ x 10″ x 0.75″.

$239 (approx. 210 Euros, £155 with free shipping)

The south-westerly wind is blowing hard off the coast, moving clouds over water and land in quick succession and as they do, they change colour. Catching the light in the process, they move from dark to light, from opaque to transparent veils and from warm to cool and back again.

At sea, the high winds are lifting the waves in crests like white horses galloping across the water…

In this painting, I worked to capture that energy and the force of that onrush through the use of colour to suggest shape and movement in the clouds.

Can you feel it?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Land Marks II #247

Land Marks II, ©John O’Grady 2015
Oil on canvas 8″ x 8″ x 0.75″. This piece is sold framed 11″ x 11″ x 1.5″ (see below).

$237 (approx 210 Euros, £155 with free shipping).

I have visited The Courtauld Gallery in London on a few occasions. It is one of those art collections where I could spend days if not weeks. They have one of the finest collections of impressionist and post impressionist work but save your eyes, for lying in the bowels of the building in subdued lighting is the jewel in the crown: the gothic and medieval icons.

In the minimally lit atmosphere, the gold leaf glows. One can only imagine how a believer must have felt when faced, in a dark corner of a church, by the radiating light and vibrant colours of a Fra Angelico.

Not too far from the Courtauld, on the other side of the Thames river is the Tate Modern where the Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals are displayed in their own cathedral-like room.

It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust in the darkened room and start experiencing something quite strange. The monumental paintings, like the small icons, seek to induce a spiritual experience and yet they achieve this in a different way. Here, you are drawn in by the inner light that starts to glow in a quiet whisper.

I have only recently found out that Rothko was an enthusiast of the light in Fra Angelico’s work and after viewing these two artists’ paintings, it starts to make sense.

Mark Rothko spent many years seeking and refining a way to imbue his work with an inner glow that expressed as he called it ‘the big emotions of tragedy, ecstasy and doom’. I don’t know whether he achieved these or not but I know I have experienced a strong emotional response when standing in front of his work, particularly the Seagram Murals.

What he did without the use of gold leaf was to make the colours intone a beautifully mournful song. It is quite extraordinary. He allowed colours and tones to shade gradually into one another and thus produced softened outlines and hazy forms very much like Da Vinci did with ‘sfumato’ (to tone down or evaporate like smoke).

He also used delicate glazes of colour to build luminosity into his lozenge shapes and cool and warm colours that move forward and recede. It is all technical but through his enormous efforts, his hand and mind’s eye were unified to transmit his vision.

In making this piece, as I layered a glaze of scarlet lake and violet paint over the brown of burnt sienna in the lower part of the painting, Rothko’s paintings’ inner glow came to mind.

Then, I scraped back to reveal the yellow orange underpainting and created lines and landmarks.

Above this focal point, a fine mist of puce colour intensifies the glowing, other-worldly quality as if the mountain has a life force within itself.

I would love to hear what you think.