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Arts Week 2022

I am delighted to be exhibiting my new work this Arts Week coming, in the Concert Hall, Thomastown. My exhibition is titled ‘Watersides’. Thomastown is the new Kilkenny and the TCAF committee have been working very hard, with the support of the AKA to make this years art trail a great day out for everyone, who comes to visit.

Here is some blurb from the brochure – Exhibition of watercolour paintings. Constantly drawn to the subject of water, Micheál continues to create serene waterside landscapes in watercolour, guaranteed to bring a sense of peace to any home.  Themes include local rivers, familiar beaches and coastal features. New this year is a series of wave studies, large and small, created to bring the song of the sea right into your living room. The style is representational, however the wave studies provide the freedom to blend realism with a more abstract approach. Watercolour is a great medium for splashing about.

I hope you can make it. This is my third time to exhibit at TCAF, and it is, for me, the highlight of my artistic year. All of the paintings hanging on the walls will be new, mostly painted in the last years or so. A big thank you to Claire for the wonderful work in framing them. I will also have a selection of unframed paintings with me (in my haggle box) – you might find something nice in there.

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Exhibition Season

The first exhibition of 2022 for me is the June Bank Holiday weekend – at the Clancy Brothers Festival in Carrick-on-Suir. The venue is the Brewery Lane Theatre, and I will be there Friday to Monday. There will be others there too, indeed the Art Trail takes you all around the town, there are many exhibitions, also concerts, plays and other activities. Fancy a day out?

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Studio Visits

My website has a small selection of unframed paintings, but I have a big selection of framed paintings, ready to go, hanging in my studio. You might consider one of my watercolours as a gift for a friend or a family member, perhaps a special occasion or house warming. If you are local or in the area, I would be pleased to show you what I have. Visits by appointment only. Please email me ( or phone (087 6695635) to arrange.

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For my palette I use an old dish I found in my mother’s pantry. I don’t think she would mind. It is a roasting tray I think, it has a drain, if you like, around the inside edge. This is handy because the excess water goes in there, and sometimes I use it to create a wash. It is white, porceline probably. It comes up sparkling with a quick wash.

However I don’t often wash it, watercolours stay quite usable even if they dry. It’s due a wash about now though.

I use a limited range of colours, all Windsor and Newton. For red mostly alizarin crimson. For yellow I use raw sienna, lemon yellow and cad yellow, Green i mix usually, but I use hookers green too. For blue, I use the widest range. This is because I love to paint the sea. I have ultramarine, prussian blue, turquoise, phalo blue, cerulean blue and cobalt blue. I use burnt umber and sometimes paynes grey for darker tones.

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… and no photos!

Last week I posted that I work from photos. True, but only to and extent – I should clarify.

There are two aspects (at least) to any landscape, there’s the man-made world and there is nature. For man-made items – houses, boats, bridges etc – it is important to get the details right. I am speaking from the perspective of a representational painter, which I am. I was annoyed some time ago, when I painted a boat heading out to sea. I worked from a photograph, and I was happy that I represented the boat well. I decided to re-enforce the location by painting the Hook lighthouse in the background. I thought it all worked out well. Later- to my horror – I noticed that I had inadvertently painted an extra hoop on the iconic lighthouse. I hadn’t referred to any photo for the lighthouse itself, I painted it from memory!

Nature, and natural things are different. The sky, trees. grass and so on, I think these need to be approached in a freer manner. Some do and can, paint an absolutely perfect copy of a photograph of a wave, for instance. Photo-realism. I admire this, but its a bit like playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ exactly like the original Led Zeppelin version. Admirable, but not as much fun as jamming, (check out the Boys from Nashville County / Tribute to Led Zeppelin- Irish trad jam session version – brill).

In watercolour, in particular, you have to let certain aspects of the painting do their own thing. You can paint a perfect watercolour sky in minutes, but you have to allow the water and the paint do their magic, and besides if you copy a cloud perfectly as it is, its gone again before the paint is even dry. I decide whether I want a clear blue sky or a stormy sky and choose my colours accordingly. I wet the paper, I apply the paint, the colours mix and blend, I create clouds by lifting off paint, and I am usually pleasantly surprised at what emerges. Its fun, just like jamming.

I paint the sea in the same way. I have a feel for the sea. I apply the paint lightly. I add darker tones to achieve waves, using gum arabic at times to keep it all fluid. I keep splashing away until it looks right to me. I might continue to add touches for days, or weeks even, as in the case of the painting above.

So, reference photographs are essential for man-made items in the landscape and for the outline of iconic scenes (like the Skelligs), gut a good feel for clouds and the sea, for trees and the countryside is imperative. This is only achieved by going out there, by observation and immersion. Only by feeling the sense of a place can you properly capture it in a painting. Photographs are useful, but they can be limiting.

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Yes, I paint from photographs, mostly ones that I have taken myself.

It is not really feasible, for me, to paint at the scene. I choose my subjects based on where I’ve been and how I felt when I was there. For instance – a recent outing in September, the plan was to to take a walk in the woods near Durrow, to generate an appetite for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants – Bowe’s. A lovely stroll about 7k, though it was a bit damp. The return leg took us along the banks of an infant Nore, the sun came out and (wow) I got that feeling again “I must paint this”. I don’t carry my gear around on spec, but the camera on the phone is a great asset. I paint back at my little studio and use both the photo and the memory of the feeling and mood to create the painting.

Gold Creek is an example of this in action (A3 watercolour). I was in a happy mood already. The sun was in the south – directly downriver, and was almost blinding as it burst through the trees, creating a scene that no team of lighting engineers could replicate. The photo doesn’t really capture this. What intrigued me most was how the sun lit up the river bed, creating wells of pure gold in the river. I took a number of different photos of this effect, and tried to capture it in the painting.

I used to believe that the Nore got it’s name from the word Ór (Gold) as in an Ór, or abhainn an Óir. Signage generally used the spelling an Fheoir, though if you google this, no-one seems too clear, as to what this word means. It is, they say derived from this or that. After seening that splendid display of gold light in the river, I have no doubts as to the origin of the river’s name.

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A few years ago when I wanted to show off my paintings I bought cheap frames in the hardware shop. However when it came to my first exhibition, I decided that they wouldn’t do, so I got them framed professionally. Much better. I think it is only fair to the buyer to provide a good frame. Now I get all my exhibition pieces professionally framed, and any paintings I want to show, will be nicely mounted and presented in plastic pockets.

I got a few frames recently in Ikea. I popped a painting into one. It looked OK, bnut it is only chipboard and there is no glass, only clear plastic. I was disappointed. It was a reminder not to buy cheap frames.

However, I have a lot of older paintings still in cheap frames. What to do? Sell them at a discount? (it is black friday after all), or take them out and mount them properly?

I think I would like to be taken seriously as a painter, so I will keep away from cheap frames, no matter how nice they look in the shop. Anyway my framer does a great job, I’ll stick to painting.

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Padron. The story behind the painting. The subjects I am drawn to are ones I have a connection with. I have great memories of walking in Spain.  I remember especially Padron.  We were tired and weary, and tried to order some food in the small hotel we were staying in. My Spanish is limited enough and things we not going well, when a guy from a large group sitting in the bar, asked if he could help. He convinced the lady to bring us some us some bread and cheese, though the kitchen was closed. Turned out he was from Kilkenny (fluent – his wife is Spanish). In fact the whole group was from Kilkenny, about ten of them. Great guys.

Padron is a lovely little town, famous for its peppers. The centrepiece is the cathedral. There is also (as far as I can remember) a series of steps (like hundreds) up to a shrine, but we didn’t climb those. We were already tired from the long walk of the day.

So I channelled all of my memories into a line and wash painting. I was happy with the finished product, but it turned out that a number of people were interested in it, so I decided to get some prints made. Today I sold a print, and also the original. Happy days. The buyer’s fond memories of the place dovetailed neatly with my own.

I still have prints available, a nice present perhaps for a Camino vetern.