New Year, Exciting Plans Ahead.

Happy new year from Art Academy. It’s a fresh new year and time to start making exciting plans. The nicest gift I received this Christmas was this diary from The National Gallery of Ireland. It is a weekly diary and has a different pieces of art from the collection to inspire on each page.

I had wrote a post on my top fav gift idea’s from the gallery shop. I had planned to pick one up in January and Breda Flaherty beat me to it. A beautiful gift to receive and it makes me feel excited for the year ahead. You can get yours at their store in the gallery on Merrion Square.  May your 2018 be wonderful.

This is my 3rd NGI diary and I am set to continue.


Flesh tones; inspiration by the Great Masters at the newly refurbished National Gallery of Ireland

Detail from Head of a Bearded Man by Peter Paul Rubens

I am working on a painting at the moment. Experimenting with oils. By painting I mean realist, representational painting from life. It is a return to a childhood ideal.

As a teenager and even a child, my vision of what I thought attending art college would be like, was unbeknownst to me, already extinct. I had visited the National Gallery of Ireland as a child. Standing in awe before Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, I could feel that art was powerful. I needed to be involved in this alchemy. I wanted to learn to create it. I imagined, after school, I would attend something like, what was once The Metropolitan School of Art. There would be easels and drawing classes. There would be artists.

Art college was different from what I expected. I studied Graphic Design and Art and Education in the end. Learned plenty but something was missing. I practiced life drawing in my evenings and free time. Recently at a loose end, I tried oils. I didn’t know how to use them but from the moment I picked up a piece of oil paint and placed it on the canvas, I knew, there is magic here. No other medium will ever compare. It holds a richer and bolder quality than anything I have tried. And as much as I enjoy the graphic side of my work there is a realness to oil that no computer screen or camera can quite live up to.

I understand and believe we reside in an era of a New Renaissance. It is evident in every arena. Where once stood Galileo Galilei , we now explore space. Where Leonardo Da Vinci excelled in engineering, we are speeding ahead with technology. Science, music, theatre, film, literature and art are evolving. To progress the field of visual art we can look to the Old Masters as those in the Renaissance looked to Ancient Greece and Rome. It is my opinion that we must build on this past mastery and raise the standard of art here in Ireland. The National Gallery of Ireland is one place to start.

In order to better understand how Masters like Rembrandt and Rubens approached painting flesh tones, I returned to the place that inspired me as a child, the now recently refurbished National Gallery of Ireland. The NGI is stunning. Below are some studies from todays visit, concerning skin tones. It is wonderful the variation and wide spectrum of colour used to paint skin especially the unexpected colours like violets, greens and greys.

Detail from Lady Gregory by William Orpen

Detail from John Count McCormack by William Orphen

Detail from The Dead Ptarmigan by William Orphen

   Detail from Portrait of Henry Shefflin by Gerry Davis

Detail from Portrait of Philippe Roettiers by Nicolas de Largilliere

Full portrait 

Detail from Lady holding a glove by Rembrandt van Rijn


Image of the full portrait

I was especially drawn to the depiction of hair in this detail from Thomas pooley’s Sir Phillip Perceval

As above

Detail from Jupiter and Ganymede by Nicolaes van Helt Stockade

Detail from Saint John  the Baptist in the Wildereness attributed to Michele Desubleo

Detail from The Penitent Magdalene by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Bretonne by Roderick O’Conor

The Grand Gallery at the NGI

These images are a point of reference for my portrait studies but are best enjoyed in real life. A visit to the National Gallery is a must.

The story behind the winking playing card on the canal

Photo credit Instagram: @bmv_20th_century_boy

Each Summer Dublin Canvas pours it’s kaleidoscope of colour across Dublin city.  Traffic light boxes are adorned with a rainbow of public artworks and our city becomes a wonderful outdoor art gallery curated by David Murtagh. An exciting group of exceptional artists are painting again this Summer and I am honoured to be counted among them.

Tomorrow morning you might spot Queen Ester winking at you, from her corner at Canal Road / Grove Road, near Rathmines bridge.  Ester was originally designed from my degree show, storytelling by choosing two elements from my childhood, namely Mass and memories of Daddy playing card games.

Ester is a biblical story from the Old Testament. At the time a graphic designer I chose to tell the story using the medium of re-appropriated playing cards. She is a queen with a kind heart, a dangerous secret and a precarious plan.

Photo credit Instagram: @cristinlarkin


In the story, Ester is a poor girl but chosen by the king of Persia for her beauty. The King passes a law to “exterminate” all of the Jews in his lands. Brave and kind Ester hatches a dangerous plan to save her people. She herself is secretly a Jew. Hoping the king will avoid the bad PR of having to kill his queen, she reveals that she is Jewish, forcing the hand of the king to revoke the cruel law. Her plan is as precarious as a house of cards.


She plays a dangerous game, gambling with her own life. On the canal Ester winks and shares her secret plot with passers-by. Secret codes and symbols are hidden in her image.


The painting process employed, is that similar to screen printing or reduction block or lino print. This design uses only 4 colours yellow, red, blue and black.* Each colour is applied separately and in order from light to dark. It was fun to work on, especially on a glorious day like today.

Yellow is primarily applied

Next some red

The blue is put down

And finally voilá, the darkest colour, black

I actually did the back and sides before the face:

You can look forward to more Dublin Canvas art popping up all over the city in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on the website and follow on Instagram for more pics of all the work.

Photo credit Twitter handle:

A little behind the scenes stencil cutout

*yes, I know, I cheated. I decided to pop on a bit of green paint marker on the stem of the flower at the 11th hour but hey.





Hatch and Sons has Just Opened a Second Eatery in the Dreamiest Location

Hatch and Harry make a dreamy brunch combination. The well-loved informal dining favourite Hatch and Sons opened a second venue last Friday at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Street, where once housed Itsa Bagel. I popped in today with a pal to enjoy a bite and some artistic inspiration.

Hatch and Sons are located in the bright and airy room downstairs and even have an outdoor seating area to enjoy on a sunny day. Just take a right as you come in the front door and go down the stair between the reception desk and the bookshop.

In contrast to the natural light of the café, the magical Harry Clarke room (to the left after the reception on entrance) is set in a darkened room. From this shaded space, bursting with jewelled coloured light, Harry Clarke’s Eve of Saint Agnes transports you into his dreamlike fairytale land.

Stained glass windows are often associated with church windows and religious iconography. However this particular stained glass window, is set out like a graphic novel, telling a love story based on the poem “The Eve of Saint. Agnes” by English Romantic poet John Keats.

The poem this window is based on is very long. In short it tells the love story of Madeline and Porphyro. January 20th was known as the Eve of St. Agnes. On this eve young girls would fast and go to bed early. The feast day of St Agnes was the next day January 21st. If you followed a bunch of rules, fasting, bed early etc you could hope to dream of your future husband on that night. This was before iPads, Facebook, Tinder and online dating sites, so extreme lengths were gone to.

Madeline, daughter of a Lord, lived in a great castle. She was hoping to dream of her husband this night. She had followed all of the rules and conditions. She was in love with a man called Porphyro however. But her father the great Lord Maurice had forbidden her to marry him. Just like in Romeo and Juliette the girls childhood nurse gives a helping hand and helps Porphyro enter the castle in secret.

Madeline is woken by Porphyro’s music and finds he is in her room. She isn’t sure at first if she is dreaming of her future husband as it is the Eve of St. Agnes or if he is really there. Porphyro assures Madeline this is not a dream.

Like the Ed Sheeran song “Nancy Mulligan” Madeline and Porphyro run away to be together despite the family differences.

This window is so detailed and gorgeous. It contains lines from the poem on each of the 14 panels. Purple, blue and red and strongly referenced in the poem and so Harry Clarke uses these colours quite a bit in the window. Pop in and see it for yourself, because like all beautiful things, it is best viewed in person.

Admission to the gallery is free and does not require booking. The Hugh Lane opens Tuesday to Thursday 9.45am– 6pm, Friday 9.45am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm and is closed on Mondays.

Detail from the window.

The super food salad was a very tasty and healthy dish. I’ll recommend it. Definitely a winner for me.

Lots of natural light at Hatch and Sons

The gorgeous turquoise and gold entrance door of the Hugh Lane. This photo isn’t doing the colours justice. This is my dream front door.



Artist Colette McDonagh’s exhibition opens this weekend

This evening sees the opening of an exciting solo-show by Galway based artist Colette McDonagh. Avid supporters of the arts, News Cafe, Books n More (formerly Easons) of Tuam, Co. Galway present the substantial collection of oil paintings.

The exhibition includes a collection of over forty artworks inspired by the great Masters, the human form, the beauty of the West of Ireland, abstractions, flora and domestic still life.

The exhibition opens at 4pm today and will run until June 30th 2017. The great news is all paintings are for sale and individually priced. Check out the event page on facebook for more images.

Pop in early to have your choice. Everyone is welcome to come along, view and enjoy.

A personal favourite: “Storm” after Turner. Oil on Board. €250.00

“Praying hands” after Durer Oil on board framed.

“Summer Meadow”. Oil on board. €95.00

“Farmyard at Ashford”. Oil on board framed. €55.00

“Flowers” Oil on Board framed. €65.00

“Lily Pond”. Oil on canvas. €95.00 

“Jump”. Oil on Canvas €95.00

“Connemara Scene” Oil on Board framed €75.00

“Naked Lady” Oil on board framed €95.00

“Sunset” Oil on board framed €350.00

“Canna Lily” Oil on Canvas €170.00

“Still life” Oil on Board framed €75.00




Incognito Exhibition, what you need to know.

For those unfamiliar, Incognito is an exciting exhibition in aid of the Jack and Jill Foundation. Artists from all over Ireland have donated postcard sized artwork to the exhibition (including yours truly).

They are all priced the same. For €50 any piece is yours. The fun part is, it is only after you purchase the art, that the identity of the artist is revealed. Fancy yourself as an art critic. There are so many styles so choose wisely and see if you have a good eye.

The incognito website is now open and so you can view all the artwork online at Call into the Solomon on Friday 21st April (10am-7pm) to see the exhibition. 

Check them out online where you can register your interest in a piece. Here are a few of my personal favs so far:

This dreamy textured painting above

I have a weakness for realist art, where the everyday is elevated to the divine, like the oil tube above

This Mother’s Day Weekend, Why Not Try Something a Little Different

If you fancy a bit of culture this Mother’s Day weekend, I recommend heading along to The National Gallery where there is a new and exciting portrait on show. Gareth Reid’s commission of Graham Norton has arrived and is hanging in the Millennium wing.

It show’s a different side to our favourite TV show host. A more relaxed, casual, pensive side quite far removed from his highly polished tv persona.

Gareth won the commission as the prize on Sky’s Portrait Artists of the Year 2017, available to watch on Sky Go. Over the course of 8 episodes we see artists battle it out to win the coveted prize: a £10,000 commission to paint a portrait of Graham Norton.

Perhaps the real prize for any artist is this painting is now part of the permanent portrait collection in the National Gallery of Ireland. So we are lucky to have this piece here in Dublin and free to the public to visit.

While you are there why not pop in to see the finalists and winner of the Hennessy Portrait Prize 2016. You need not have a four year degree in Art History from Trinity to enjoy these pieces. Both hold fantastic examples of contemporary portraiture that are accessible and appeal to all.

My favourite part about viewing Gareth’s commission on the final Episode 9 Season 3 of the show, is we get to see his process.

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Here we see the artist change his composition several times before settling on a final one. He paints and repaints over and over sketching using the brush and red and black oil paint. We get a real insight into how he works as an artist.

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*Image credits: Still from the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2017 Ep9 S3 available to watch on Sky Go

Gareth had three sittings with Graham ahead of painting the portrait. They met in Cork and got to know each other. Eventually it was revealed through their conversations that they are actually distant relatives. Gareth made several sketches and took photographs of Graham and the surrounding area.

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Gareth Reid at work in his studio, still from the show.

I would recommend watching the show (or at least the final episode if not the series) and then popping in to see it in person. It’s amazing to see art in real life as opposed to a representation on your tv/ media player.

Image credit: photo taken while visiting the National Gallery.

The portrait in reality is larger than I anticipated. The National Gallery is located around the corner from Merrion Square and the perfect located for lunch and a Sunday stroll afterwards.

A very happy Mother’s Day to all the wonder women this weekend.

Upcoming Oil Painting Workshop in Dublin City Centre with Artist Will Nathans

On the 15th of April next, artist William Nathans is opening up his art studio above Kennedys art supply shop  to host a life painting oil workshop. I have twice attended previous workshops and found them wonderful.

A small group of artists gather in William’s art studio on Harcourt Street. There is a live model, posed on a stage of drapery and considered, controlled lighting. You arrive with your canvas primed with a medium grey ground. Chose a view point that suits you and prop your canvas on an easel.

Will gives a demonstration on marking out your painting, using the brush and paint as drawing tools. Each artist makes a start. This is a one day workshop, so it is quite a fast pace to work at and you can’t expect any great polish on your piece, just the“Premier-Coup” approach so to speak.

There is a break for lunch,  you clean your pallet before and return to begin anew. Will gives another demonstration at this point and lots of pointers throughout the day. It is helpful and interesting to see the other artists approach to the same subject matter and an enjoyable day of painting.

Kennedy’s offer a discount on materials purchased on the day of the workshop. You need to bring your own paints and materials, outside of the easel and they will email you a list ahead of the event.

Saturday 15th April: Will Nathans – Painting the Nude Figure from Life

5 Reasons to love City Life Drawing at the Sol Gallery

Over the years one of my favourite things to do of a Thursday evening in Dublin city centre is attending the life drawing group at the Sol Gallery. Run by Keith Dollin this is a self directed art class. Meaning there is no tuition, simply a model, a venue and an eclectic group of artists drawing and painting together. It is held in the beautiful, white, high ceilinged exhibition room on the first floor of the gallery, at No. 8, Dawson Street. 

Now this art group is run in various guises on several week day evenings but the Thursday evening is my personal favourite for 5 reasons:

  1. It is an untaught class. I understand this does not suit everybody. I mean, I myself teach art for a living. But for me 2 hours of  uninterrupted drawing in the silent company of fellow artists is sheer bliss.
  2. The Thursday night is a long pose drawing session. I prefer to draw slowly and carefully. Ideally a 4 day pose but this will do. After 10 quick 1 minute warm up sketches, the model settles in for a longer 20 minute pose. If it’s your first time going a quick tip is take your time. The model assumes the same pose for 3 x sittings. I did not realise this on my first attendance.
  3. The venue: is so handy, located in the city centre, it’s not freezing (as some drawing studios can be), and there is always art on the walls. 7 o’clock is such a handy time. You don’t arrive rushed and starved after work.
  4. The Thursday group is not crowded. The other life drawing classes with perhaps quicker poses or taught classes are so popular but the Thursday group is often quieter. Arrive early to get a good seat. (Maybe I shouldn’t share this post and potentially populate my favourite life drawing class)
  5. It’s social and inspirational. Everyone shares and views each others work at the end of the drawing session. It’s inspiring to see the different styles and how each artist captures the portrait. The model poses in the middle so she or he is captured from different angles. After the drawing there is an option to join the group for a drink in The Duke.

For more info check out City Life Drawing on Meetup.