Top 10 Christmas Gift Idea’s at the National Gallery of Ireland

It can be quite a challenge to think of a unique and special gift for all of our loved ones at Christmas. To avoid the dull jumpers, socks and bath sets – destined for re-gifting – it would be worth popping into The National Gallerys gift shop. It is full of gifting gems.

You can pick up some absolute treasures for all ages and that suit every pocket. Avert the queues at over crowded shopping centres. Escape to the National Gallery and enjoy a heavenly walk through the exhibitions, a lunch in the cafe and check off your entire Christmas list at the shop, in one genius stroke.

It was difficult to whittle it down but here are my top 10 picks:

1. Tatty Divine Make-Up Bag. I’m loving the quirky bejewelled braces.

2. This handsome wallet  €31.95*

3. House of Disaster 1916 satchel  €67.95*



4. The official National Gallery of Ireland Diary. There is an art piece from the NGI collection depicted for every week of the year. €19.95*


5. If you gotta gift sock, at least make them Van Gogh. €5.50*

6. Christmas Sprout novelty snow globe €17.50*

7. Usborne That’s Not my Snowman €17.95*


8. A Year In Art: A Painting a Day €21.25*

9. The Art of Chivalry, Music on the theme of love CD.  €10.95*

10. Artist Adelle Hickey’s “Art of Connecting” range of beautiful journals and Notebooks. €20- €30*

*at time of publication: 08th December 2017



Netflix for Art Lovers

Dark evenings and constant talk of “it’s expected to snow” call for staying in by the crackling fire, comfort food and Netflix. If you love art and simultaneously are suffering Game of Thrones withdrawl, Medici, Masters of Florence on Netflix is just for you.

Medici: Masters of Florence tells the story of the rise to power of the Medici dynasty. The drama unfolds against the beautiful back drop of Renaissance Italy, in all of it’s architectural and artistic glory.

If you are missing “Robb Stark” Richard Madden plays the lead character Cosimo De Medici. John Bradley West of “Sam Tarley” fame plays a Medici cousin. Another GoT favourite Dustin Hoffman plays “Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici”

IMDB rates the series 8/10. Season 1 was released on the 9th of December 2016 with Season 2 promised “by the end of the year” (2017?) Check it out on Netflix here


      Image Refs: Stills from the Netflix original series Medici Masters of Florence.



If Art is Not the Champion of Your School, Is Your School a Champion?

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” – Leonardo Da VINCI

Art is not celebrated in Irish schools. Merely tolerated, viewed by the uninformed as a low level hobby. The art room often confined to some dusty corner of the school is only seen as useful when perhaps there a background that needs painting for a school play. Recent results from the Central Statistics Office however show, that this strategy is a grave mistake.

The survey concludes that; “On analysing the results, we found that students who studied Art along with Science or Maths performed better in the tests than those who did not study Art.” No news here, it has been obvious for over  500 years. Leonardo Da Vinci, the obvious poster child. You can check out the survey in the link below.  Such facts beg the question if art is not the champion of your school, is your school a champion?


Life Death and War by Käthe Kollwitz is showing at The National Gallery

I went to visit the National Gallery twice last week. I was lucky enough to have a ticket for the closing week of the wonderful Vermeer exhibition. The second visit was to see an exhibition showing in the Print Gallery*.

I am currently attending Block-T workshops under artist Nicolas Robinson and visited “Life Death and War” by Käthe Kollwitz on his recommendation.

Käthe Kollwitz was an important German artists born in 1867. This exhibition consists of 38 of her prints and drawings. I was particularly drawn to her portraiture draughtmanship. As well as portraits we see her dramatic, theatrical, graphic style prints.

The work is quite dark in subject matter. It may be best to attend in your best form. After she married in 1891, Käthe moved to a poor district in North Berlin. Her work shows empathy towards the working classes and the horrors of death and loss due to war.

Her own son Peter was killed in the opening weeks of World War I. Her series of monochrome woodcut prints convey her trauma from this event aswel as the universal suffering caused by war. Again, this is not a light subject but the work is stunning.

The artist tackles some difficult themes, starving children, a mothers loss of a child to war, helpless peasants using farm tools as weapons in Bauernkreig. Suffering is highlighted and the horrors of war and bereavement are the focal point.

The exhibition runs until the 10th of December and admission is free.

*The print Gallery is located where here the Margaret Clarke exhibition was shown. At the exit point of Vermeer, there is a children’s drawing area and a stair case. The Print gallery, for those unfamiliar, is directly up those stairs.

A wonderful week at Art Academy July Summer Camp 2017

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark Michelangelo

I had the pleasure of teaching art to some remarkable young people last week ( 17 – 21 July 2017 ), from as young as the age of 5 up to 13 years of age. They all had one thing in common; a love of art and a dedication to challenging themselves to greater heights.

Art Academy training teaches traditional art skills. It avoids the gluing dried pasta onto card or make prints of your hands and calling the prints spiders, genre of art education.  You wouldn’t find any glitter glue or poster paints at the Academy. Art Academy seeks to raise the standard of art and art training here in Ireland. Classical art skills are the fundamental building blocks of any artistic journey.

Last weeks young artists preformed very well. They are a credit to themselves and their families. The future of art in Ireland is safely in their hands. Just because you are small it does not mean that you are not capable of great things.

Michelangelo, arguably the greatest artist and sculptor that ever lived, was 4 years old when he carved his first piece of stone. Bit of a health and safety issue with giving 4 year olds chisels and hammers ( my insurance company if you are reading this, calm down, I sent zero children into a quarry )  but you can take my point.

There is no instant gratification with realist art. We are all used to instant results so this can be a challenge. I can order the art materials for the entire week of the camp with one click of the mouse and they will promptly arrive at my door. With art, it takes more time and focus to accomplish your goals than many other things. It is a mindful practice. When, eventually, you complete a challenge, there is a high sense of achievement as you are confident in yourself, that you have earned your result.

I will attach some pictures and give a quick overview of our lovely art week. And sincerely congratulate the artists again on a job well done. There will be further art camps announced. I like to keep the Academy camps small in numbers so watch this space if you are interested booking.

First we had a look at some colour theory. How do we mix colours? What makes a colour dark or light? What makes it primary or secondary? What is brown?

We took a look at some of Harry Clarke’s work and his wonderful use of colour. The artists made some Harry Clarke inspired stained glass of their own.

The Harry Clarke style pieces left drying.

The artists worked on their monochrome tonal scales

The artist were introduced to the artist Caravaggio and his use of light and shade.

Our theory and demo area

Caravaggio used light and shade (tone) to render form and make his 2D paintings look 3 dimensional.

A painting of the sphere  above therefore differs from a painting of a flat circle below.

Students created tonal studies of the effect light has on form.

Combining colour theory with tonal studies the art students worked on identifying the main light and shade areas of a still life, using the restricted palette.

The fallout every evening 😉

Finally the students completed the fundamental art elements revision exercise.

Rathmines Library outfitted Art Academy with a mini art library for the week. We are very grateful for these great references. There was an art library and “free drawing area” available for when artists need to take mini breaks.

I am sorry I didn’t take more pictures of the work. Well done to all the artists to took part. A fantastic week.

Some client feedback 🙂 x

The art studio/gallery space for the week







Art Camp for grown-ups at Block T

As an artists and/or art teacher I believe that it absolutely imperative that we are  the perpetual learner. Here in Ireland there are little hidden pockets of artistic gold waiting to be absorbed. I  intend to seek these out, enjoy them for myself to build on my artistic knowledge but also share them with you.

One such gem can be found in Block T. Recently I have had the pleasure of completed the realism oil painting course there, under the expert tutelage of Florentine academy multi-award winning artist  Nicholas Benedict Robinson. I will share with you my journey on his course in the images below. It being by no means the poster model but it gives you some idea of how I progressed the painting. We worked from direct observation of the live model for 6 Wednesday evenings. Nicholas is an excellent teacher of this method.

The good news is there is another such upcoming workshop so don’t feel you have missed out. There is a full week coming up 31st July – 4th of August. Keep an eye on the Block T website and Nicholas’s website for further courses. You can check how I got on at the last workshop below:

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.

Paul James Shares his Artistic Process at The Sol Gallery

Menagerie-a solo show by artist Paul James, opened at the Sol Gallery on Thursday last, June 15th. The show was officially opened by Marty Whelan.

Paul James is a leading contemporary animal and landscape realist painter. His work is sought after by collectors and art enthusiasts worldwide. He is renowned for the skill and craftsmanship with which he depicts the fine detail and realism of the many textures portrayed within his imagery.”

Paul’s painting take a very long time to execute from start to completion. The works are very rich and detailed. They are paintings best appreciated by viewing in person.

“Tagging Along”

“This is typical of what Paul would witness whilst travelling on his narrow boat through the inner city inland waterways of Britain.  In fact it was just such a scene as this that inspired the first of what has become Paul’s urban series.  He’s almost gone full circle with this particular painting  of Canada Geese strutting along the towpath ‘Tagging Along’ together.”

At the opening night Paul took us on a step by step journey through the artistic processes employed during the creation of “Tagging Along”.

He began this painting with a charcoal sketch of the four Canadian Geese

Paul explains he used a grid system. You can see the square grid here on his slide. He decided four geese were too many and the painting only required a composition of two and the urban graffiti background.

In this step he show where he has added more detail to the goose in the foreground. You can see the measuring lines beside the second goose here. He is trying to decide proportionally what size the second goose should be if it is behind the first.

You can see traces of the other geese here. He faithfully maps in a brick wall. He explains that it is important to get the geometric perspective correct here.

When he begins painting, after the composition is worked out, he works from background to foreground. He paints the graffiti wall first, next the back ground goose and then the foreground goose. The graffiti in the painting is actual graffiti that exists as opposed to invented material.

This slide shows him at work in his studio.

In the extreme foreground he went back in with his charcoal to sketch in some Canadian drinks and paints these in.

See this and many more of Paul James’ work at the Sol gallery. Originals and prints are available for purchase. Menagerie runs until 29th June 2017.


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.





Some of the highlights from The 187th Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition.

They say what you learn in the classroom at school isn’t relevant or useful in real life. But what of all those drawings of your shoe in art class? Or the classmate posing for your 30 minute sketch? Art is timelessly relevant and evidently so at the 187th Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition.
Opened tonight, Monday 22/05/17, the show is diverse, awe inspiring and exhilarating. Here are some of the many highlights to enjoy during your visit.

From the deep, rich yet muted, jewel tones of Hollis Dunlap‘s “Man in Violet and Green” [124], the lively pallet of Peter Bradley‘s Carousel [47],  the sobering subject matter and social conscience of Jack Hickey‘s “Apollo’s Calling” [214] or the glorious hyperrealism of Blaise Smith‘s gleaming “China” [485] there is something to captivate every audience.[124] [Also the catalogue numbers, if you need a reference to purchase]




You can almost hear the crash of the Atlantic Ocean and taste the surf, standing before Donald Teskey‘s imposing “Ocean Memory” [505] In fact, I don’t know if it is the Atlantic. I am a girl from the West of Ireland and might assume or simply relate. Colin Davidson‘s “Portrait of John Hume” [99]  has a lesser heavy but equally steely blue and grey pallet and raw energy about it, even as it portrays a still moment.


The academic accuracy and expertise evident in Nicholas Benedict Robinson‘s “Hathaya R” [438] make you want to paint as much as you can for as long as you can. Don Niccolo Caracciolo Award and Medal winner and personal art hero of mine Catherine Creaney‘s “With Flowered wallpaper” [86] is another staggering feat in realist portraiture. As is the enviable skill and talent of Kyle Barne‘s  showing his ‘Man with Blue Ears” [6] portrait and winner of The Whyte Award.




There is something very confident about showing a drawing. But when you are, as accomplished an artist as William Nathans, the expertly executed “Micheal” [363] serves not only as a stand alone piece but almost as a trailer for his paintings. A teaser that entices you to want to see even more of his work. Speaking of trailers, like many artists, I enjoy paintings and sculptures of skulls. I will admit, Jason Ellis‘s works “Macrocephalus I & II [136] are all the more enjoyable having seen Alien Covenant recently.

I haven’t even yet mentioned Mick O’Dea’s portrait of “Michael D. Higgins” [385] or another of Blaise Smith’s works, the wonderful and I’ll venture controversial “Eight Scientists” [482] Winner of The Ireland – US Council and Irish Arts Review Portrait Award. I haven’t mentioned going to the bar to find Conor Walton‘s sunset coloured “An Ape’s Limbs Compared to Man’s” under the stairs. But there are many I haven’t mentioned. And my quickly taken snaps from my phone do not do these pieces of art justice. The exhibition runs from May 23, 2017 – August 12, 2017. Go to see it. Be inspired. Keep drawing.




Oscar Wilde
“every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”

Conor Walton “An Ape’s Limbs Compared to Man’s”

Colin Harris “The Birth of Venus” [202]