Glendalough Reflections #207


Glendalough Reflections, ©John O’Grady,
2014 Oil on Panel, 16″x 16″


Back in October 2012, I made a small painting of the lower lake of Glendalough, from the Irish Gleann Dá Loch “Valley of the Two Lakes” in county Wicklow.

Today’s painting is a second view, this time of the upper lake where Kevin, a monk seeking solitude arrived in the early 6th century. Anyone who has been there can appreciate why he chose to stay and why it became a major monastic site whose churches and ruins you can still see today.

I have heard many people say that it is their favourite place to be, that it has something special beyond its natural beauty and religious connections and I tend to agree with them.

This ineffable quality may be in some part to do with the lakes that are on certain days, so still the water acts as a mirror reflecting the corporeal world above.

The apparent symmetry of the mirror image offers us equilibrium, an all too rare moment in a world of flux.

Perhaps this is what Kevin first saw all those centuries ago: stability, symmetry and harmony.

Perhaps we unconsciously seek these things or we are naturally inclined to notice balanced proportions when focusing on something.

My painting “Clouds in the River Rhône” has a similar quality and composition.

When painting today’s piece, I used more saturated colour and a cooler palette which tells of the spirit of the place. I found though, that the clouds reflected in the lake have more movement than clouds I would normally depict above an horizon line. I wonder why that’s the case.

Do you get that sense too?

I’d love to hear what you think.

As Far as the Eye Can See II #206

JohnOGradyArt-As Far as the Eye Can See II
As Far as the Eye Can See II, ©John O’Grady,
2014 Oil on Panel, 8″x 10″

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A few of you have sent me questions lately about how I go about making a painting.

So I thought it’s about time to bite the bullet and put a little video together. Now it is a small 3 minute video but in terms of putting it together, it took longer than making the painting. Put it like this, it was a steeeep learning curve.

I managed to edit over an hour of recording to just over 3 minutes.

Here is my first effort.

“Gone with the Wind” it is not but I hope it gives a little insight into what I do.

The first part of the video, the painting is flat while I apply an acrylic underpainting wash. Then, after about 30 seconds, the painting is on my easel for oil painting.

After I completed editing the video, I reworked the foreground so the painting you see above is slightly different from the one on the video.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Take me to the Island V #205

Take me to the Island V.

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Take me to the Island V, ©John O’Grady, 2014
Oil on Panel, 6″x 6″


Islands have often been used as places of isolation and contemplation such as the monastic site of Skellig Michael off the west coast of Ireland. And they have had a long association with literature and mythology as a metaphor for a place of refuge from the world, where imagination can escape to and wander freely outside of the confines of the “real world”, whatever that is.

I find myself coming back to these veiled forms on the horizon, non specific in terms of topography but specific enough in my mind that it feels like Ireland.

Maybe making a painting can be a flight from the “real world” to a reality of the imagination.

I was thinking, during the making of this painting, about the lives that people led on my veiled island, of their view onto the mainland looking back at me and what they saw and felt.

Green in a painting can be quite an overpowering colour and can find itself unwanted sitting next to other colours. In this piece, I shifted the green slightly to yellow and added white into it. This is counterbalanced with the violet and pinks of the clouds and mist and the deep violet of the night. This allows the green fields to glow.

Now I know that the green fields would not be illuminated in such a way at night but it is another reality after all.

I would love to hear what you think.

The Glow of the Night #204

The Glow of the Night,

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The Glow of the Night, ©John O’Grady, 2014
Oil on Panel, 23″ x 23″

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Summer nights in southern France have a quality that fills me with wonder. The heat during the day can be too much to spend a lot of time in but it has its compensations. When the night falls, the earth releases the day’s heat, breathing a sigh into the air often filled with such sweet perfumes of wild herbs that it can be quite heady.

This painting was started at the same time as my previous painting #203 and had the same process of using a paint bleed onto the panel and moving the paint around to arrive at something interesting in terms of shape and colour.

With a warmer use of underpainting colours like vermilion and violet/blue, it contrasts with the cooler palette of the last painting.

When the paint dried, what I saw were the rivulets of violet that had run into the red. You can still see some of this paint showing through the trees on the upper right.

The shape of the dried paint revealed the shape of large pines in the distance and below that, the deep red earth that you can sometimes see in the fallow fields and unkempt vineyards.

Above the horizon line the violet/blue had dried in the shape of night clouds illuminated by the moon.

In front of me was a perfect reflection of the weather and hot Provençal nights experienced over the last few weeks.

If you go off the beaten track here, up and down “petits chemins” deep in the countryside, you will find the ruins of old farmhouses and “cabanons” amongst fields that have old vines sitting like black statues, twisted and dark and beautiful amongst seas of wild flowers and grasses. This is just discernible on the left in the night light.

The making of any painting doesn’t arrive in a vacuum. As mentioned before, I am tapping into memory, imagination and of course other painters and paintings that hold my hand like trusted friends when I am trying out new things.

This time, Derain and Matisse and the daring fauvist work they undertook over 100 years ago and that’s still as fresh today came to mind. Especially ‘The Turning Road, L’Estaque’ by Derain whose bold explorations encouraged me to push how I combined colours in this piece.

I would love to hear what you think about my painting.

Moonlight over the Sugar Loaf #203

Moonlight over the Sugar Loaf
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Moonlight over the Sugar Loaf, ©John O’Grady, 2014
Oil on Panel, 19″ x 19″

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Here in southern France broom is in full bloom. I was out hiking recently around the wine growing village of Gigondas. As I climbed into the mountains, the air was filled with its perfume. The way they dot the landscape and their similar colours made me think of gorse bushes in Ireland, their distinctive coconut smell and weekend walks in the Wicklow mountains…

The following week I started work on a new painting.

For the underpainting, I laid in a very loose wash. The paint bled and dripped into rivulets that joined each other as I moved the wooden panel around, enjoying not knowing what might come out. Sometimes when I work this way, nothing is revealed to me and I have to see the painting again after a few days. On this occasion it showed itself almost immediately.

Across the middle of the painting, a swathe of dark green, yellow and violet paint reminded me of the rich darks and lights of gorse on the land. In the upper part of the painting a vague bleed of paint not unlike the conical shape of the Sugar Loaf mountain in Wicklow appeared.

It might be argued that the choice of colours made in the underpainting prescribed the outcome of the subject matter, and I wouldn’t disagree with that but my choice of colour wasn’t premeditated. It could also be said the hike the preceding week had an impact.

I purposefully choose colours quickly as an intuitive response to what is happening on the paint surface.

What emerged as I later returned to the painting was a particular view of the Sugar Loaf with the Irish sea in the distance.

At this stage though, I couldn’t capture in my mind’s eye the shape of the mountain. Fortunately I had a photo taken from the Roundwood side that helped me describe it.

Recently completed paintings offer an aerial vista of landscape but on this occasion, there is an intimate human dimension, a more down to earth feel even though the eye is directed towards the iconic mountain noticeable from afar.

The sugar Loaf’s statuesque presence bathed in the moonlight has I feel a dream-like quality.

Please let me know what do you think.