Friday, December 12, 2014


At the moment I am working a canvas which is destined for my next solo show in May next year, this being the largest canvas in the collection of paintings that I will be exhibiting.  I used here a raw sienna  ground (see below) which creates a warm yellow earth base on which to lay on my colours.  I spent a while trying to create a particular green-blue jade colour , based around phthalo blue, which will work so well with the cadmium red light that I plan to use here, its early days yet, so anything might happen, who knows,  but all I know, is that by looking at  great art like The Annunciation by Jacques Yverni d.1435-38 this can only help my cause.      
                                                   I am constantly filtering out visual information, often abstracting out the colour or form of a thing, without any historical or literal reference, and storing this information in my visual memory bank which has no filing system what so ever, therefore is quite difficult to access verbally, as I have usually forgotten to look at any written information.  So this is not a promising start to a written blog on what has inspired me recently, but bear with me, because I will slowly piece together enough reference material to get my message across.  So I was in Dublin doing some Christmas shopping with some time left over and in desperate need of some visual solace,  and needing to meditate at the alter of heavenly painting, so the NGI just up the road from the busy shopping thorough-fare of Dublin,  helped to restore my faith.   Escaping the hectic, throng of  Christmas shoppers and darting into the sanctuary of the Gallery I then made my way to my two favorite paintings which happen to be hung conveniently next to each other.
The Annunciation Jacques Yverni French d.1435

The Virgin Mary Antoniazzo Romano d. 1508

The annunciation by Jacques Yverni French d.1435, and The Virgin Mary Invoking God to Heal the Hand of Pope Leo 1 by Antoniazzo Romano d.1508 there did it!! And the images here are not the best colour representation, which slightly defeats my object, in my attempt to share with you their deliciousness. The Annunciation is maybe 6 or so feet wide and 5 or so feet in length, a large alter piece depicting the Virgin Mary receiving Angel Gabriel’s good tidings; a tall lily is cast between them, and the virgin’s left hand is gently resting on an open text reading ‘My soul does magnify the Lord’.  this large painting beautifully iridescent with its overall ground of gold leaf which imbues it with a sunny radiance of warmth and well being.  This painting is nearly 600 years old, so I wonder whether the ethereal duck egg blue and greens of the angels wings and the faded indigo -prussian blue of the architectural elements were originally that colour, but who cares it is
exactly why I stand in front of it for so long and never get enough of that incredible up-lifting light infused cool greens and blues, that has the effect of the wings floating upwards and the building soaring heaven-wards.   The cadmium red of the alter cloth is just divine… there are no words…the pattern delicately and reverently painted here is so honest its heart-rending and the way it crosses the turned down edge without a thought to conventional perspective – because at the time this was painted, that dreadful dictate of a constriction had not yet been set in stone!- is to me one of the reasons why this painting is food for the soul.  Its neighbour The Virgin Mary Invoking God to Heal the Hand of Pope Leo I by Antoniazzo Romano is utterly divine, it transcends onto another plane of beauty, every touch of the artist's brush is a prayer, the Virgin's face is so open and perfect and again her regal robes of a simple classic cadmium red dress is paired perfectly with her dark cloak of warm black with a rich forest-green lining all edged delicately with gold filigree. Magnificant!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gilded lily!

vase and cover Sevres porcelain 1770

On a recent visit to London, I happened to drop by the Wallace Museum.   It houses the finest collection of Sevres porcelain in the world and to say it was a feast for the eyes is an understatement.  The cabinets grouped the display into various stages of the French porcelain factory’s history from its early days, then its subsequent move to Sevres,  through the exuberance of the 18th century Rococo period with the patronage of Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour finially to the Revolutionary period.  Some of the pieces were just jaw-droppingly audacious- outrageous pairings of turquoise and candy pink- gilded and decorated to the point of disintegration.  My pulse was racing and my brain was trying to take on board how human beings could produce such craftsmanship and attention to detail, in the days of no mechanization and technology as we know it. It was so exciting for me to know that the human spirit could go that far in celebrating an art form, exploring and expanding its language to its extremities and back again, and  producing such visual perfection. Truly a visual celebration of a time past, and one which I wholly recommend, well worth visiting again and again.
And if you have any more time  to spare after all that... continue looking around because the museum’s collection of Italian majolica ware dating from the second half of the fifteen century to the late sixteenth century is another veritable  feast for the eyes.  The wine cooler dated 1574 is over 2 foot long and that wide again!  The incredible thing about ceramics is that when they are in perfect condition, like they all are in this collection, then they look exactly like they would have looked 500  odd years ago, aren’t we lucky!!!
Italian Maiolica Wine Cooler 1574 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


This summer I have been looking at an intriguing book of the history of the swimming costume, I found the 1920’s particularly interesting, and it got me thinking of how to incorporate the figure in a seaside setting into one of my compositions, not easy I am thinking.    
sketch book ideas
bathing belle oil on board
Recently I spent the morning at my  local beach,
visual diary
and have been working on my sketch books.
 I have now put the idea into the back of my mind to slowly churn over as a possible painting, and will work on some working drawings in my studio soon.  I painted this little oil to start the process going.  But I am now working on a flower painting at the moment, which is taking all my time up, working from life is always so demanding .. takes over everything.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

favourite things

I have been eyeing up these snapdragons growing on the low stone wall directly outside my studio for days now.    There is something very painterly in a bunch of flowers that are the same species but in an assortment of colours; mixed tulips also look great together in a flower bed or equally in a vase, preferably with me on the other end, paint-brush in hand.
So this morning once the rain cleared I gathered up a bunch  and arranged them into one of my favourite vases.  I must have painted this vase many times, as it was 35 years ago when I was with my boyfriend (now husband) when we saw this little blue and white tankard vase through an antique shop window on one of Sheffield's back streets back in my college days.
Daffodils 2012

Fushia and Dahlias 2007
Sweet william 2011 61x46cm 
Dahlias 2006

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Charity shops and painting

studio with new painting

 So today I have spent the third day in the studio on this composition, initially its a slow process working out how to start the painting and then I take each stage as it evolves and change and modulate my original plans to fit with each new development.
setting up my flowers for painting

  I make  working sketches that are short-hand visual aids for patterns,
etc this one is inspired by some beautiful dress material of my daughters, I must add it was inspired not copied as the original bears no resemblance whatsoever.  The vase was from a charity shop, as soon as I saw it I knew it would translate into paint,  and the copper tray was from a lovely interiors shop Ryle and Company that has now moved to Glencormac, Kilmacanogue. I have done 6 hours in the studio since this morning and my head hurts and I am painted out, must escape and get some fresh air!!
All painted out!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Patterns and Woodpiles

The Invitation 122x92cm oil on canvas

Every year we stack up our logs against the outside shed, in preparation for when the evenings draw in.  I love to paint the logs piled up, the patterns and shapes that are created by the round cross-sections of the branches or the straight edges of the split trunks are endless and very painterly.  I will often paint logs in a log basket or the evening’s logs piled up in readiness next to the stove or fire. 
However, since the last storms we have even more wood piles around the place, all around the garden, waiting to be brought down and stacked nearer the house. These make for wonderful subjects for drawing and teamed with this lovely and unusually dry sunny weather we have been experiencing , means I don’t need to go too far for inspiration.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

new painting-Ballet Dancer

I have always loved and admired Degas’s paintings of ballet dancers and women bathing especially  his vibrant and freely drawn pastels on paper.  So inspired, I set out to paint a figure bent over tying laces; quintessentially feminine adorned in silk and netting and the ribbons of a ballet dancer.  I have been looking to Russian textiles from the late 19th century for my next solo show in 2015, and have been so absorbed in those wonderful home-spun Ikat coats worn by the men and women of that region.  Dramatic graphic designs of purples, greens and reds criss-cross and intersect the outer garment, which is so beautifully lined, and embellished with bold floral patterns of pink and red roses, peonies, hollyhocks and lilies, contrasting with strips and patches of material depicting delicate garlands of forget-me-nots, daisies and pansies.  The women look strong and challenging ( like Augustus John’s partner Dorelia)  as they stand for the camera and seem timeless and still translatable to me, despite the centuries between us. 
Ballet Dancer 42x24inches oil on board

Ballet Dancer has now been framed in a contemporary limed-wood frame
making its outside dimensions 122x76cm oil on board.

It is now available
 for further enquiries please contact me at

original idea for Ballet Dancer
Eduard Degas
one of my life drawings

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moonlit Garden!!

Planned a moonlight garden painting last month, and started working on the composition and staring at the moon at every opportunity .  With all that in my head I decided to paint it in situ outside during a sunny day but try and think moonlight colours!!..... and this morning was the day.  No trace of wind, warm and sunny, no distractions except for Biscuit who I had one eye on the whole time.
Biscuit- not much help!
Painting in garden

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Garden Flower Arrangement 92x76cm oil on canvas
I have been working on new work for my next solo show in 2015, and have been working on a lot of flower and flower-based paintings. So armed with my secateurs I raided the hedges and flower beds around the house and managed to collect enough for a large flower painting.  Finally finished it on Friday and mindful of our annual Bloom in the Park and not being able to get there this year, have painted it instead.
Earlier this week in my studio
brought the flowers into the house

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ordered Chaos

This is me in my studio earlier today working on my latest painting......

Working from still life objects in my studio, and composing them into a painting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hampstead Affordable Art Fair 2014

Still life with garden produce 71x71cm oil on canvas

Garden Terrace 71x71cm oil on canvas

I will be showing these new paintings Still life with Garden Produce and Garden Terrace as well as work from my recent show Scheherazde  at this year's Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead, London from 11th -15th June 2014, represented by The Doorway Gallery stand H2

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring is Sprung

Daffodils 2010

Spring is here, screaming its song and steam-rolling its way directly towards summer.  It's turmoil out there: the birds are desperately nest-building, while trying to control their patch, defending it from rivals, predators, high winds and torrential rain storms; and then there is a lull... the sun comes out and its so beautiful - full of promise.  I love this time of year, the earth has been cleared and stands black against the gaudy  colours of the  newly planted  bedding plants.  The grass is beginning to intensify its dense greenness, and the daffodils reign supreme.    Gathered up and crammed into vases, they help to cheer up the dark corners and north -facing windowsills inside the house.  I always find myself painting a vase of daffodils around this time of year, I find them a painting challenge, and they continue to evade me, so I will continue to try and capture in acid yellow, their startling beauty.
Daffodils 2009

Daffodils from my student days 1980

Daffodils in my studio

Daffodils 2013

Daffodils 2012
Recent Daffodil painting

Monday, March 10, 2014

Painting Heroes - Sir Matthew Smith 1879-1959

Matthew Smith Nude, Fitzroy st.  
I can never get enough of Matthew Smith's paintings, and his work is frustratingly under exposed, very rarely will I see a book or postcard or anything that gives this master colourist a mention.
It was way back in 1983 that I made my way over to the Barbican Centre in London to see his major retrospective and it was a wonderful experience and still lives with me today.  It is no surprise to me to find out that this painter spent a short while at the Matisse Art School in Paris, and was very influenced by the Fauvist and Post-Impressionists that were working in Paris before the First-World War.  This painting Nude, Fitroy St. No.1 1916, was obviously painted when he was back in London.

As can be seen by this landscape painted during his war years, how influenced he was by the Irish artist Roderic O'Connor who would have been living and painting in France at the same time that Smith was there.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Favourite things

Matryoshka blue vase
I have been working on a series of flower paintings.  I feel so happy with a vase of flowers set up in front of me in the studio, especially during the dark gloomy days of winter.  I came across some very pretty michelmas daisy-type flowers in my local supermarket, and they had a strange dusty antique quality about them, and created the challenge that I was looking for.  I find working from life stops me from becoming too formulaic in the way I paint, as the permutations are endless when it comes to form and colour, as every leaf and petal presents a new challenge visually. 
Matryoshka daisies
 My paternal grandmother had a lovely flower painting above her fireplace, painted by one of her artist friends(loveday), I inherited it and it was probably one of the first examples of a portrait of flowers that I would have seen as a child. 
loveday flower painting
 I have always loved Dutch still life paintings with their intense observation giving nature centre stage.  I think I re-visited my preconceptions of a vase of flowers when watching a programme on the TV on van Gogh I realized how large and daring some of his sunflower paintings were.  They were certainly standing up on their own in all their glory, unapologetic and beautiful.  As a student my favourite flower painting was Vuillard‘s mantelpiece painting, a busy divine painting about nothing and everything, a time-snatched incidental composition, but so beautiful and spiritual, like a prayer.
Vuillard The Mantelpiece
  There is nothing more complete than painting an inconsequential vase of randomly picked daisies from the garden, it is so simple yet for me defines everything that is important in this world. However Duncan Grant’s Parrot Tulips are far from spiritual they are of this world rich and earthy, exotic and sensual the velvet cloth they stand on is tactile and warm and the whole composition for me is perfection, vibrant and masterful, it was exhibited at the Camden Town exhibition in London 1909.  
Duncan Grant parrot tulips
My theme this year is Matryoshka which means Russian Doll, as I am looking at Russian textiles and culture for inspiration, and  these recent flower paintings  will be at the Brussells Affordable Art Fair with The Doorway Gallery this February 2014.