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.





Dublin Canvas 2017

You may have noticed pieces of art appearing on traffic lights boxes in Dublin over the last two Summers. It is the work of an initiative called Dublin Canvas . It seeks to brighten the city by commissioning artists to transform a dull traffic light box into a public work of art. I was lucky enough last year to paint two such boxes.

“The Danger was Half the Excitement” 2016 by Sheila Flaherty located on Merrion Square – photography credit Gary Connolly

The boxes have been brightening up the city for two years now.  Check out images of all the artists work so far on the Dublin Canvas website gallery.

“Art inspires the World” 2016 by Sheila Flaherty located in Harold’s Cross. Photo credit: The Harold’s Cross Xpress

The work has been getting great media coverage from both local and national newspapers 

The project set to roll out again for Summer/ Autumn 2017. If you would like an artist to paint a  box painted in your area, post a photo with location using hashtag #dublincanvas to the Facebook page. If you fancy painting a box yourself, get in touch with David Murtagh on the website and sign up to the news letter with all the information about getting involved. I look forward to spotting new artwork emerge over the course of the Summer and Autumn.