Friday, 15 May 2015


Painted 04/05/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 14"x10".

This was a super quick speed painting I did after watching S4E4 of Game of Thrones. I wanted to see how quickly I could create something that looked decent, and managed this in about 30-45 minutes.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

ARTWORK: Mourne Mountain Walk #2

Painted 04/05/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 16"x12".

Another painting from the same set of photos as the last Mourne Mountain Walk painting!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

ARTWORK: She Wears the Stars In Her Hair

Painted 07/05/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 22"x18".


I swear there are like a million layers where I've been trying to get the skintone just right. Saturn stands about an inch off the canvas where I've been layering and layering enough paint so that the blue of the space behind it wouldn't bleed through.

The subject has gone through several facelifts, from duckfacing party girl to female Mr Burns (yes, she did look like that at one point) to finally looking like how I'd envisioned her in my mind.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

ARTWORK: Mourne Mountain Walk #1

Painted 03/05/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 16"x12".

The day I painted this, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about my ability as an artist. While I ate breakfast, I decided to watch some of Bob Ross's video tutorials - I reckoned it was the perfect thing to lift my mood while picking up some important tips and tricks to improve my technique.
Later in the day, I did this. It was a challenging piece of work - especially capturing the shadows that the trees on the right cast across the grass and the pathway. I painted this from one of my holiday snaps, and another thing I found a challenge was trying to recreate the depth of the work. To achieve this, I built the painting up from background to foreground: sky, trees in background, grass furthest to nearest, then the nearer trees depending on their distance, and then the path itself.

Monday, 11 May 2015

ARTWORK: Accidental Will Graham

Painted 01/05/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 18"x14".

Named as such because he ended up looking kinda like Will Graham from Hannibal - plus there's the stag connection. I have never watched the series so I guess this happened subconsciously :P

Sunday, 10 May 2015

ARTWORK: Self Portrait #2 - With Rats

Painted 28/04/15. Acrylic on canvas board, 20"x16".

My second attempt at a self portrait, because there were a few things I wasn't happy with with the first. I decided to paint myself with one of the things I love most in life - rats!
On my head is Teyla. On my shoulders, L-R, is Violet, Florence and Stormy, AKA Stormageddon.
I'm much happier with this one, but I'll continue to paint self portraits to improve :)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

ARTWORK: Self Portrait #1

Painted 21/04/15.

This is the first self portrait I've ever done, and it was so weird because it meant not only did I have to stare at my own face for a good few hours, but I had to work really hard to create an accurate representation of myself.
It appears quite pinkish because I painted it from a photo I took in my room - I have purple curtains and they were closed at the time. Plus, my skin is quite reddish in hue anyway!

Friday, 8 May 2015

ARTWORK: Sunset Over St Helens

Painted 14/04/15.

This one looks a lot more rough - the whole thing was wet-on-wet as I was painting late at night and didn't want to wake everybody up with the hairdryer!
Featuring the industrial skyline of St Helens circa 2012, as viewed from the Grange Valley area of Haydock.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

ARTWORK: Late Sunset

Painted 14/04/15. This is a painting of a very late sunset from a photo I took just down the road.

I used a clean, dry 2" house brush on the background to achieve a gradient, working in dark blue, sky blue, tiny amounts of green, then yellow and orange until it looked smooth.
Clouds were a varying mixture of light pink, orange and brown, using a wet-on-wet technique to blend them in.
My original photo doesn't have the sun in it, but I thought the painting would look better overall if it was featured.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

ARTWORK: Slieve Donard From Murlough Beach

Painted on 12/04/15. This is a redo of an old painting I did back in 2010, but never finished.

Took me ages to figure out how I could get decent looking pebbles on the beach when it occurred to me: gab a fistful of cotton buds, dab them in grey paint that had been mixed so it looked marbled, and slam 'em on the canvas!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

ARTWORK: Night Sky #1

Painted on 14/03/15, the first acrylic painting I've finished in about four years.

I used sponges to create the effect of nebulas/space dust, and a piece of penne pasta for the finer stars because it was the narrowest point I could find!

Monday, 4 May 2015

I AM REAL! (& some exciting news!)

I'm still alive! Feels like I preface a lot of my journal entries with that statement... but still! I'm back with a long post for you all!

Finally, I have a computer back. My dad was kind enough to set up a desktop PC for me in my bedroom. PC means Scrivener, Scrivener means being able to organise the novel much more efficiently! Yay!

As a result I'm taking a break from writing anything new, while I transfer my manuscript scene by scene into Scrivener. It's so incredibly useful - you can have index cards featuring the synopsis of every scene, so you can see an overview of the entire plot and just drag and drop stuff to rearrange them. So much easier than cutting and pasting scenes in OpenOffice and praying to your chosen higher power that you don't muck it up and lose a couple thousand words somehow.

Having my computer back also means I can change the layout and style of this blog a lot more easily. It's been crying out for some tweaking for some time; I want to change it to accommodate the blog's new dual purpose - to keep all 0 of my fans updated on my writing and my artwork too.

That's what I'm here to talk about mainly, my artwork. I hadn't really wanted to talk about it much in case I jinxed stuff but 1) I'm too excited to keep my gob shut and 2) I've realised lately that when I wanna talk about stuff, I should just fucking talk about it instead of skipping around it in case of imaginary curses and whatever!

I've been focusing a lot on my art lately. Took up painting again after about... *counts on my fingers* four or five years? I'm pretty skilled with pencils and pens, but had always been terrified of working again with paint because it wasn't my main thing (I was always "the biro kid" in my art lessons at school) and because it's kinda different as mediums go.

But there were certain things that could be quickly done in acrylics that would take me a bazillion years to do in pen. Case in point, pictures of the night sky. I'd tried a few times to do something in pen that looked good, but inevitably looked like a load of black ink scribbled on so heavily that it tore the paper, with some tiny white circles dotted about.

So, in March, I dug out my old paints and some old canvas board that had been sitting looking forlorn in my room. Lit some incense up, made a cup of tea, stuck some music on... and I painted.

Since then, I haven't really been able to stop. Sometimes the day job gets in the way, or I'm not at home. I'm terrified of painting while at my fiance's in case I get a tiny spot of paint on his mum's table. I'm sure she wouldn't kill me but I've always had a thing about leaving the tiniest bit of mess in another person's house, even though my house is a trash heap. But yeah, apart from when those things have been stopping me, I've been painting a lot. I'll post the paintings I've done soon, but for ease of navigation around my blog I'll post them in separate entries, all tagged nicely.

I suppose this sudden explosion of painting came about when I realised, during my night sky piece, that painting wasn't at all as terrifying as The Biro Kid in me had thought it to be. It was actually really fun and hey, I was actually creating a night sky I was happy with! And some of the skills I'd picked up working with pen and pencil all these years still applied! I've had three really important realisations lately:

  1.  I create art, therefore I am an artist.
  2. Allowing myself to get messy? It's fucking liberating, man.
  3. Also liberating? Giving myself permission to suck. Because that is how I learn. 
All this painting will come in handy, though, because on the 23rd of May I'm taking the overnight ferry crossing back to Northern Ireland! Why is this important, I hear you ask? Well, this is actually the thing that I didn't wanna blog about at first in case of imaginary jinxes and stuff. 

The main reason for my visit, it goes without saying, is to visit my lovely Mum. I haven't seen her in a little while so the itch to return home was there anyway. Lately, though, she's been struggling with depression. When I heard that, I decided I really had to go, to see if I could help.

But there's another reason. My stepdad, Geoffrey, has the most random assortment of friends - and amongst these friends is an artist called William Mulhall. He rose to prominence after doing some work for Led Zep back in the 1970s, and since then he's painted portraits of all kinds of people - Bob Dylan, Seamus Heaney, John Lennon... He's involved with Game of Thrones, too, what with parts of being filmed over there - I think he's an extra, as are his sons, and I believe they were involved with the building of a longship for the show too? 

A year or so ago, Geoffrey had the idea to show William some of my work - and somehow he was impressed. Next thing you know, Geoffrey has this guy on the phone to me, this Actual Real Artist™, and he's talking to me for an hour or so about art and slowly unpicking my very soul through just a phone conversation, and I'm just sat there like holy shit is this for real how does he know that I'm a super reserved introvert with no self esteem and yeah. Terrifying, but enlightening.

It was after that call, where William told me to believe in myself, that I was an Actual Real Artist because I created art and, while unpolished, it was good art (a massive compliment coming from someone like him), that I realised something important. I was the main thing holding me back. Subconsciously, I'd figured that because my work sometimes looked a little wonky, and I was pretty much unknown, that it wasn't worth trying to put my work out there. I'd always been comparing myself to other artists and feeling down because my work wasn't something you'd ever see in a "HOLY SHIT THESE LOOK LIKE PHOTOS BUT THEY'RE ACTUALLY PAINTINGS" Buzzfeed article. 

So yes, Geoffrey is eager to bring me to meet this guy. Hopefully - fingers, toes and kidneys crossed - an actual, in-person meeting with this guy where I can show him some of my artwork and talk to him about it will be a big step forward. He's apparently interested in moving towards selling some of my stuff, and I'm sure that he'll be able to give me some pointers on my work and shaping my identity as an artist. I'm so excited! You bet I'm gonna be painting like a maniac between now and then!

... when I get more white paint, that is. Heheh. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

How Terry Pratchett and Daevid Allen Inspired This Aspiring Writer

I realised last night that it's been a while since I used this blog - and I thought it might be a good idea to come back paying tribute to two of my great inspirations, while I've had a couple of weeks to collect my thoughts on them.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on Thursday 12th March, after a long battle with Alzheimers in which he fought valiantly. I was reeling - I know it sounds awfully odd but Sir Terry was one of those people who, despite being ill, I kinda expected to live on forever. It's strange, I know. I just never expected to finish my shift at work that day only to be told that he had passed away.

A day later, I woke up to the news that Daevid Allen, founding member of Gong, had passed on. He'd had cancer, it had spread to his lung and he had opted to stop treatment - in order to live out the rest of his days more comfortably, I suppose.

And I know I'm still writing my book and the world hasn't seen any evidence of it yet so this entry may not have quite the impact on people, but I feel I still need to write it because Sir Terry and Daevid were two crucial inspirations of mine, without whom the book may have never been conceived - and without whom it may not have survived past the year 2011. But more on that in a bit.

I started writing "The Great Couch Happening of '69" (shortened to "Couch" on here because I'm lazy) back in 2009, when I was going through a pretty dramatic change in the direction I wanted my writing career to go. I'd been writing semi-seriously for many years before that, and everything I did write was my idea of rather dramatic, serious fantasy - not "serious" as in "good", "serious" as in "no room for humour here, lads, just drama, death and people lamenting their ill luck and crossed fortunes".

Writing this stuff was undoubtedly cathartic as I got picked on a lot in my youth, and I learned a lot about the craft, but as I got older and matured into a pretty mellow person who stopped giving a toss, I realised it wasn't quite right for me any more. A lot of the stories just petered out, something was missing. For the longest time I couldn't quite figure out what it was.

If people were to ask me what gave me the initial idea to write "Couch", I might have referred them to the Caravan song, Winter Wine - but that's not strictly true. Because back when I was in high school, in the year or so before I put those first words onto paper, I picked up a couple of novels by Terry Pratchett in our school library - specifically, The Wee Free Men and The Colour of Magic.

Literally my favourite photo of Sir Terry ever taken.
I read them, I laughed until tears were streaming down my face - this was an experience I had never had with a book, and if I could compare a writer's career to anything cosmic, this was the moment where the second Big Bang happened for me, after I had given up and all the serious fantasy stuff had crunched back down into a shapeless singularity again. Terry's work helped me realise what was missing. I would read Douglas Adams' and Robert Rankin's novels about a year later, and they would add fuel to the fires of creation.

What 15-year-old me concluded upon finishing The Wee Free Men and The Colour of Magic was that they were two of the most fun books I had ever read. I got the feeling that Sir Terry didn't take himself nearly as seriously as wannabe-writer-me did, and his prose was hilarious, and it flowed. I've always been a pretty humorous person (in my own weird way, of course, not everybody finds me funny) and I realised that I just needed to let things go a little bit, let my own sense of humour permeate my writing and my characters.

So yes, though Winter Wine was where the idea came from, the genesis of "Couch" was really only a later stage in a process kicked off by my discovery of Terry Pratchett's work. I feel like Terry really wrote from the soul - he didn't just write what was expected of his chosen genre (like I did back when I was a kid), and he inspired me to do the same. So I decided to let myself go, have fun with my writing, and since then I've had some incredible experiences working on this book.

Daevid Allen, AKA Divided Alien, Bert Camembert, Captain Capricorn, Dingo Virgin, Ja Am...
And then there was Daevid Allen. I'd been listening to Daevid's work for many years, being that he started off with The Wilde Flowers and then Soft Machine, and I discovered his work with Gong in 2011. From there, I went on a mad quest to acquire as many of their albums as I could.

NaNo 2012 and 2013, where I'll readily admit the bulk of my novel was drafted, I spent with Gong's music in my ears, and Daevid's incredible solo work. Daevid was a man who could blend psychedelic, punk and jazz to perfection - it was this heady, freewheeling mix that provided the backdrop to the months where most of my madcap stuff was written. Daevid's music had the kind of atmosphere I wanted my book to have, albeit in written form, full of energy and colour. The bad bout of depression I had in the later months of 2011 nearly killed my novel dead, but I would say that Daevid's music was one of the things that helped bring it back.

Plus, writing aside, the music is just so damn good. I had a hard time listening to any of Gong's and Daevid's albums for a few days after hearing the news that he had passed, but a few days ago I finally put on Floating Anarchy and realised how much I'd missed it.

Just thought I'd close this entry off with a really nice quote about Daevid from The Daily Telegraph:

"Allen revelled in being the court jester of hippie rock and never lost his enthusiasm for the transcendent power of the psychedelic experience. He once remarked: "Psychedelia for me is a code for that profound spiritual experience where there is a direct link to the gods." That he never attained the riches and fame of many of his contemporaries did not concern him."

So yes, thank you Terry, and thank you Daevid, for the inspiration and the motivation. One day I'll have this bloody novel finished - thanks in part to you guys. I hope that what I'm writing is something you guys might have liked.