Working ‘En Plein Air’

I’ve been doing a lot of ‘en plein air’ painting recently. There’s no doubt about it -it’s a beneficial exercise. Painting outdoors and in public hones your drawing and painting skills -and frankly; gets you noticed. The weather has finally settled into something like a summer and it’s good to get out and about.

I also enjoy talking to passers-by. I’ve never really had anybody cause problems although I know an artist who has had one twit get all aerated because he thought he was in the painting and managed to convince a guard (a second twit) to move the painter along. What an absolute pair of berks.

I’ve just had a relatively easy week, though. I’ve been at the fantastic Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat and had the time and freedom to explore the gorgeous county around South Kerry.

Anyway; I teach this stuff and if you want to have a go, have a look at my teaching web site, www.McSherryStudio.com

Illustrators Guild of Ireland Show at Luan Gallery. Press Release


The Luan Gallery is delighted to announce its winter exhibition for 2016 entitled Without the Words. Celebrating the art of illustration, Without the Words is a group exhibition selected especially for Luan Gallery which showcases the brightest talents of Irish Illustration today.
Showing works by a variety of artists, Without the Words includes samples by both established and high profile illustrators as well as emerging creative talents and forms a celebration of visual storytelling and the imagination.

Without the Words
 is an exhibition inspired by a line from Emily Dickinson’s well loved poem: ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’.
Margaret Anne Suggs, Illustrators Ireland Promotions Officer says:

‘In most circumstances an illustrator will respond to a brief which is communicated either through written or spoken word. As supporters of visual literacy, Illustrators Ireland propose to tell our visual stories, putting the pictures first- without the words. Here we tell our stories; visually stimulating the imagination to respond by creating an individual narrative, not a prescribed story’.


Illustrators Ireland is a community of professional illustrators working together to actively promote the craft and art form that is illustration. Members offer a wealth of combined experience and amongst those exhibiting include Kate Greenaway Medalist and current Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch, former Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey, and 2016 CBI Book of the Year Nominee Lauren O’Neill. With over 40 members’ work on exhibition, visitors are invited to find their own narratives within the original works.

The show combines computer generated imagery with traditionally executed drawings to present an assortment of colourful scenes and images to ignite imagination and discussion.

Aedín McGinn, Luan Gallery says:

‘We are thrilled to present this exhibition and showcase the wonderful variety of works by Illustrators Ireland. Throughout the course of the exhibition, Luan Gallery is offering up its River Gallery space to a participatory project entitled ‘The Big Picture’ in conjunction with Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch. Here, visitors to the exhibition will be invited to add their own illustrations directly to the wall, responding to the works on show and resulting in one large evolving time based mural. So come one, come all and draw on the gallery wall!’


Speakers at the official exhibition launch include: Aoife Murry from Children’s Books Ireland, Margaret Anne Suggs from Illustrators Ireland and PJ Lynch, current Laureate na nÓg.

The exhibition will open on November 5th at 6pm with a wine reception to which all are welcome and continues until 27th January 2017.

The Manhattan Fish Project

There’s an Illustrators Guild of Ireland group show coming up soon (I’ll keep you posted). It’ll be in the Luan gallery in Athlone to begin with but will then swim around the country. The IGI has done quite a bit of that kind of thing; it works a treat to get the membership known more widely.

I had the presence of mind to film part of the process of making this painting only at the outset -as usual, I then became embroiled in the little world I was creating and forgot about the camera. Still, that makes for a short, easy to view movie. It’s only a minute long although the artwork took about twelve hours to complete. There’s a bit of lively, upbeat jazz to help you with your viewing, so if you’re at work, do turn the volume down!

An acrylics on paper absurdist painting of a fish for an exhibition with the Illustrators Guild of Ireland and Luan Gallery in Athlone.
An acrylics on paper absurdist painting of a fish for an exhibition with the Illustrators Guild of Ireland and Luan Gallery in Athlone.

I painted a complete underpainting in monochrome first, which is a technique that I’m currently teaching in my art class (it’s the friendliest and best art class in the entire world!). The method is very popular with my students as you can provide yourself with a lovely ‘safety net’ before you ever embark on the colour work.

Speaking of nets; this art is for a curated show, so everyone has to submit their work for review, so there is the possibility of rejection and being thrown back in the lake. Fins crossed.

You’ve probably noticed that the background isn’t New York or London -I made it up, but it does have the big city feel about it. I fancied that the fish could be some kind of Don Draper figure, arriving in Manhattan to his ad agency. A big fish in a huge pond. After all, the piece does have a kind of fifties retro feel.

The Wheels of the World

080404_26-kevin-mcsherry-artist-nos-braves-irlandais-fighting-irish-soldier,acrylics-musket
Nos Braves Irlandais. Kevin McSherry
Acrylics on canvas (1m x 30c

This is now the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where
Arf  ‘I’m not Irish!’ Wellesley and Abba fought the combined legions of the French Empire under Napoleon Dynamite. There were some Prussians involved who turned up late/or just in time, whatever your point of view.

I wasn’t there, in fact. And neither were you. But for the Irish, it was a win-win/lose-lose situation considering we fought on both sides. Isn’t that a topsy-turvy way of going about? Not at all odd, really considering the circumstances in Ireland at the time.

So here are the lyrics of a song which has been passed down through two hundred years and which still ring true. If you think my painting is mad, try European politics:

The Wheels of the World

Come all you true sons of Erin; attend to these few simple lines:
I’ll sing you a song about spinning. It was a good trade in old times.
Some they spun worsted and yarn, and others they spun flax and tow.
By experience, my friends, you may learn how the wheels of the world they do go.

Luther spun out his existence, and so did King Henry the Eighth.
John Calvin by Satan’s temptation, their maxims he did imitate.
Tom Cranmer he joined the new system, and swore he’d make spindles of steel.
Pluto himself did assist them, perdition that turned their wheel.



CHORUS: So these are the wheels of the world, my friends, you must all understand.
For three hundred years, they’ve been spinning destruction all over the land.


John Mitchell the brave son of Erin, declared that a spinner he’d be.
He got all his wheels in full motion, his dear native land to set free. 
But Lord Clarendon the lieutenant, at spinning he was fully bent,
And unto the Isle of Bermuda the sons of Hibernia were sent.

Lord Nelson he was a good spinner on board of the ship Victory.
He was counted the greatest of spinners that ever set sail on the sea.
His shipmen were all famous spinners. For Nelson they spun very well,
But the French spun a ball in Trafalgar, and on the ship deck Nelson fell.

Billy Pitt too was a good spinner, and so was Lord Castlereagh.
Sure they spun out the Union from Ireland. To England they shipped it away.
Poor Billy spun out his existence, and banished in Charon’s old boat.
Then Lord Castlereagh saved his distance, by cutting the rim of his throat.

Napoleon he was a good spinner, for freedom did always advance.
Over deserts and great lofty mountains, he led on the brave sons of France.
Old Wellington he went a-spinning. His wheels they were at Waterloo;
But if Grouchy had never been bribed, the French would have split him in two.

Prince Albert came spinning to England. His wheel by a compass did steer.
He spun out a queen for his consort, and some little thousands a year.
John Bull must now go a-spinning. A few thousands more he must fork,
For the Queen has another young son that was spun in the city of Cork.

The factory masters are spinning. Their wheels they are turning away,
And now they are wanting their hands for to work thirteen hours a day.
They don’t care a fig for the poor. They heed not their sighs nor their moans.
They don’t care a pin if you work till you spin all the flesh off your bones.

The rich they are all famous spinners, and you are very well sure
They are always contriving a scheme to crush down the rights of the poor.
So if you’re compelled to go spinning, let each of your spindles be steel.
Let “Liberty” then be your motto, and glory will turn your wheel.

***
You can even hear a version of the song sung by the excellent Len Grahamhttps://beta.prx.org/stories/141307 Starts at 15mins 15secs.

.

All then all the little elves got bummed by the king…

Once upon a time, [well, today, actually] the Irish king-of-all-books sent a liveried flunky to the land of the magic painting elves, announcing, with something of a flourish and a booming voice, ‘Hear ye, hear ye!  A message from the king! I call on all ye little illustration-elves in your smocks of emerald green, that there be an exciting new competition to make magic paintings for the king’s children.’

‘Oh goody!’, cried all the little illustration-elves in joyous unison, merrily dancing together in their little smocks of emerald green. When they peered at the Royal Proclamation that had just been nailed to the village gibbet, they gasped in wild amaze at the the reward offered by the king, €5000 seemed an unusually high prize for an Irish king.

‘O, benevolent king!’, they all exclaimed.  However, one curious little elf took a look on the reverse of the royal decree at the terms and conditions inscribed thereon. Rather than a competition, it was really an invitation to get involved in a free-pitching episode. ‘What silly-billies you are!’ exclaimed the curious little trouble-maker of an elf.

Instead of a ‘prize’ what the king means is, ‘a tiny bag of fool’s gold in return for a year’s toil’, said the curious elf.  “And there’s more; The winner will get the wonderful chance of doing 70 whole original magic paintings for the gold. ‘That’s…why, that’s…just over €70 for each magic painting!’, cried one of the dazzled elves in alarm’, his innocent little face reddening. 
 
Evening out all the magic paintings to the same size and complexity for the purposes of this bedtime story; if it took  a day for each one, we’d be getting less than the village leper gets in groats and farthings thrown at him.
 
So it’s starting to look less like a prize now, isn’t it, children? All the little illustration-elves thought they could smell something rotten from beneath the gold. They began rummaging with their little shovels and picks like busy little elves.
 
And do you know what they found? They found lurking underneath, a frightened little goblin that told them that the king was going to take their birthright and all their first-born children along with the magic paintings. Well! The awful stench started to get worse and some of the elves began retching all over their smocks of emerald green.
 
But do you know what? they all answered the king’s call…and got royally bummed for their trouble.
 
 
[I won’t mention the publisher or book because I don’t want this endeavour to get any publicity. At all]

Bearding Michael O’Doherty

I’ve just read Marketing Magazine and saw the reference to Michael O’Doherty’s Sunday Times interview. I didn’t read the original article unfortunately. O’Doherty is quoted as saying that the one thing he’d change in Irish tax system is the artists’ exemption. “Seriously”, he’s quoted a saying, “why is it that someone who writes a crap book doesn’t have to pay tax, simply because they have a beard, whereas a team of well-groomed people who produce a brilliant magazine, do?”.
I do suppose that the man was joking [although it does start with the word ‘seriously’] or else that quote would win the Double Take accolade for being, witless, peevish and ignorant all at once. I do understand that people who pay tax regularly may feel aggrieved that a whole section of the workforce seems to be treated favourably [including myself; I’m a registered artist under the exemption scheme although I do pay tax on some work]. O’Doherty’s glib comments aside, it’s worth examining the system as it stands. First, the scheme for the much greater part, covers people whose income would not rise to the level where it would be taxed, anyway. [There was talk of capping the scheme: Here’s a quote from Visual Artists Ireland’s report on how the scheme has been adjusted: “The scheme therefore does not represent a cap of €250,000 on the artists exemption scheme but rather a cap on the percentage of total income that can be exempted from tax which applies to those who earn over €250,000. High earning artists whose total income is comprised of up to 50% of creative earnings and 50% of non creative earnings (from performing or merchandising for example) will not be effected by the new proposals no matter how much they earn. This is a significant difference to the implementation of a straight cap that was initially reported.” The likes of U2 are always thrown into the ring as an example of how this system is unfair but anyone working at that level of income has the motivation and resources to move their taxable status anywhere around the world.]
Art should be different from commerce; it shouldn’t follow the same rules -ie. produce at best cost -then sell for best price. Each artistic endeavour is only ready when it’s ready. Inordinate amounts of time and effort and research may go into a single production which couldn’t be charged for with at any reasonable hope that costs may be recouped. Paintings stay on easels for months or even years being re-worked, sculptures remain unfinished, plays undergo constant rewrites, all because it’s about a process which culminates in a finished unique work. It’s all about the endeavour and not about the pay-off which for the large part will never come. If the bearded artist’s book is crap, there’s a good chance it won’t sell; however, if the bearded artist’s book is brilliant, there’s still a good chance it won’t sell. In most cases, Beardy has to continue working in the day job -and pay tax.
Artists, live in the hope that one day, the fruits of their creativity will be appreciated enough to provide an income, or even just appreciated. The Irish tax system allows artists some hope of remaining as artists. Now imagine Michael O’Doherty of VIP, producing magazines month after month for years on his own before his magazine is recognised for its brilliance, merely because he felt inspired, thought it was important and he needed to put it out? Then, after a period of modest success, it falls out of favour with the public who have moved onto something else, with no other reason than the public is fickle. Most artists produce work for long periods of their lives without ever earning a living from it.
Further to all that, this visionary system attracts foreign talent that combines with our own, hopefully creating an environment that increases the cultural capital and therefore, the international profile of this country. We have to compete, culturally, with countries that plundered many of their treasures from defeated peoples during imperial wars. In comparison, I prefer the way we’re doing it. Under this system, Irish-born artists gain by having outside influences arriving at their doorstep, rather than having to leave these shores to seek them out. The fact that there are a few extraordinary and lucky characters that have risen to stratospheric levels of income is just the price we have to pay for this generally excellent scheme. And you may even find that they pay a certain amount of tax anyway.
All this is true, provided that art means something to you, of course. If all you really appreciate is superficial splendour and the trappings of financial success, then I could see your point.
Personally, I find that since the cabal of recent governments and business have made such a hames of the economy during the credit bubble, we need authenticity and creativity more and more. It’s through art that we can transcend the dreary repetition of day-to-day living and through creativity that we can control something in our lives. In other words, art is vital.
Being shown the gracious interiors of celebrities’ cribs and the revelry of the well-heeled month after month was always a somewhat vapid proposition and now seems somehow matted with irony and just a little embarrassing.
Finally; what’s wrong with beards anyway?