This painting took me a year

The walkway by Blackrock castle, Cork is a special place for me. 

I've visited and walked here many times at different stages of my life - as a child, as an adult, with my children, my friends, my dogs, on my own. 

The view, the water, the sky, the tide, the reflections are always changing, never quite the same with its vast expanse of weather and cloud, sea and sky.

I've painted it many times over the years.

In 2019, I'd an idea about trying to paint my FEELINGS about this place in an abstract way.  

I suppose this is the first painting where I had a very strong idea about what I wanted to convey inside my head but I didn't know how to achieve it! 

I decided I'd paint a triptych to convey the sense of scale of the sea and sky. 

I started with sketches and watercolour studies.

I was trying to capture the colours of the shipping containers, my feelings about the place and the sense of weather. 

I remember thinking that I should have worn gloves - my hands were FREEZING! 


I started off building up layers of oil paint and cold wax medium on three panels.

But it was too flat. 

It didn't carry the emotion of my feelings about this place, the sensation of weather and how it was always changing.   

I didn't know how to paint the idea inside my head so I left the panels aside for many months, working on different paintings instead. 

Close-up of the first panel at this early stage, with the texture marks from the layers oil and cold wax and powered pigment in the foreground. 

The colours were too representational for what I was trying to achieve - blues for the sky and sea and oranges and reds for the shipping containers.  

Many months later after lots of learning and experimenting with other paintings, I was ready to started working on the triptych again. 

I experimented with adding new layers and colours, trying to move away from the representational colours. 

Here, I marked out abstract shapes with oil pastel, trying to abstract the seascape. 

Many weeks and layers of oil and cold wax later, the triptych is finally taking shape. 

The blues are still too dominant, overpowering and heavy, especially the dark shape on the left of the first panel.   

I wanted to evoke a softer feeling of rain and weather and introduce some warmer colours. 

Finally, after working it on and off, over most of 2019, the finished triptych! 

Once I started using colours inspired by the shipping containers in an abstract way, the painting started to come to life.

I love how the hints of lilac in the sky and the downward movement of oil paint drips suggest the sense of weather and rain in the sky.  The warm ochre and orange tones reference the vivid shipping containers, but in an abstract way. 

It finally has the feeling that I spent so long trying to paint! 

Containers, from Blackrock castle' (triptych), on exhibition in #44 The Quay, Waterford, Ireland in November 2019.

A painting that took a year of thinking, painting, leaving aside, experimenting and more painting ...

Watch below a short video of Blackrock castle and a close-up of the painting.