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.

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.