La Pinede #297

La Pinède, ©John O’Grady
8.25″ x 8.25″ x 1.75″ oil on deep edged canvas, ready to hang


La Pinède or Pine grove is an accompanying piece to The Chapel in the Woods. It wasn’t planned that way and they happily happened to be the same size.

The intense light of summer brings everything into sharp relief and heightens colour in Provence.

Shadows and silhouetted trees appear blue and violet; they contrast with the warm yellow sandy earth.

What I find moving when walking through a grove of these Mediteranean trees is their tall slender elegance sweeping into the air, swaying back and forth in the breeze.

Their trunks curve in arabesques.

Between each pine, the space shifts subtly and alters the viewpoint of the distant mountains.

I wanted to imbue the painting with that feeling of looking up and through from a low perspective.

I look forward to reading your comment.

Olive Grove in Les Baronnies #296


Olive Grove in Les Baronnies, ©John O’Grady
8″ x 11.75″ oil on panel, requires framing


There is a small scenic winding road that passes between the village of Chateauneuf-de-Bordettte and Mirabel-les- Baronnies.

Close to Mirabel, olive groves are neatly laid out to the left and right of the road. The ground around the trees is manicured, nets are tied between the trees like hammocks, ready to be laid on the ground to harvest the olives in November.

Sometimes though, you can come across a grove or field that has gone ‘native’; the Olive trees and long blonde grasses meld into one in a pleasing way.

This particular grove had the light of summer evening filtering through the trees, silhouetting them against the light.

At the end of the overgrown grove, you can spot an old abandoned cabanon.

In this painting though, the real focus is the sculptural gnarled trunk twisted by age.

Against the light its beautiful form appeared to take on a blue, violet and reddish cast that’s accentuated by the blond colour of grasses that surrounded it.

In shadow, Olive trees appear almost black and in full sun are light grey brown but when I came to paint this piece remembered from last summer and I closed my eyes, I was back in the quiet grove and the tree revealed tints of deep blue and purple.

A quote from Gauguin immediately came to mind:
‘If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue’.

Although my olive tree is not blue, it shows different shades of colour.

Perhaps ‘The Colours of an Olive Tree’ would be a better title, what do you think?

The Chapel in the Woods #295

The Chapel in the Woods, ©John O’Grady
8.25″ x 8.25″ x 1.75″ oil on deep edged canvas, ready to hang

$242 (approx €213, £167) with free shipping

You can often notice, on top of hills in southern France, half hidden by shrubs and trees, small Romanesque chapels. Some date back to the 11th Century. They were built to honour saints and visited on pilgrimage days.

The long evenings of summer offer an incomparable quality of light that cast long deep blue shadows. In full sun, objects appear to have an internal glow as the raking warm light illuminates them straight on.

I came upon this chapel last summer whilst out walking, enjoying the cooler time of late afternoon and the tall trees’ shade.

On reaching the top of the hill, amongst the pines, I saw the facade of the chapel glowing a warm pink orange. The side wall offered a counterpoint with a deep shadow of blue / violet.

In this painting, I feel I captured the warmth of summer evening and dappled light.

Once the painting was finished, a short poem, ‘Pied Beauty’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) came to mind:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

I look forward to reading your comment.

The Way Over the Bog #294

The Way over the Bog ©John O’Grady
10″ x 10″ oil on panel, requires framing

$239 (approx. €215, £163) with free shipping.

The title here describes the path into a painting through a two dimensional space and works also as a metaphor for the ‘way’ this piece evolved.

I tend to steer clear of using photographs as reference. It leads to a painting with an overworked quality that becomes tighter and tighter almost as if I can’t avoid becoming a slave to the photo.

Also, my response to old photos can be so strong that I sometimes feel emotionally overwhelmed.

During the week, I came across an image from many years back, so long ago I can’t remember where it was taken even though it was somewhere in the West.

Although I couldn’t place the location, I was drawn to the image of a path running over the hill and past an abandoned farmhouse high above the distant bog and mountains. Tempted to make a painting from it, with my past experience I was wary.

I decided to take a few minutes to articulate what drew me to the image.

The faded off white colour of the farmhouse and peeling paint; the feeling that the farmhouse was gradually being submerged by vegetation; the quality of muted light in the sky and also the thought of the people who once lived there and what happened to them.

Then, I put the photo away for good.

The following day, I started work. The original photo had lots of greens in it but somehow, my painting came out with a sepia quality as if it had been filtered through time. This result wasn’t a conscious decision, more a natural evolution.

The sepia look, the subdued palette suggest the passing of time with a touch of melancholy. Yet, like when you rediscover some cherished yellowing old photo, it brings back strong emotions.

This experience taught me to believe in the power of how I can hold onto and capture the charge felt when first looking at a photo. I see possibilities for working in a similar manner without feeling stymied.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Le Chemin de Vaison-la-Romaine #293

JohnOGradyArt-Le-Chemin-de Vaison-La Romaine
Le Chemin de Vaison La Romaine, ©John O’Grady
20″ x 20″ X 1.75″ oil on deep edged canvas, ready to hang.

$1057 (approx €927, £743) free shipping.

Vineyards nestle up to the wooded hillsides that surround the town of Vaison-la-Romaine where I live. Forests of Mediterranean shrubs, oaks and pines densely cover the hills.

Paths and narrow roads crisscross these forests. They were once the only tracks that linked one hilltop village to another.

I have been walking these trails for the last few years, getting to know the feel and atmosphere of these ancient paths ways, absorbing the silence and inhaling the scents of boxwood, wild thyme, mint and lavender.

This painting shows one such track that takes the ‘less trodden path’ between the Village of Séguret and Vaison. The eye is led past the dark pines slowly fading into the mist of twilight and becoming silhouetted against the glow of the clouds, through to the distant lights of the town peeking over the brow of the hill.

I’ve been away for a little while, traveling and on my return to Provence, I made this painting. A bit of distance probably worked its magic to bring it out of my mind’s eye.

I’d love to read what you feel about ‘Le Chemin de Vaison-la-Romaine’.