Jessica. Oil on un-primed canvas board 30cm x 40cm.
Post published by Tomas King 17-12-2014 

Wednesday Figure Painting Sessions

Its that time of the year again. Every winter a group of painter friends get together on Wednesday evenings for a figure painting session. We hire a room and a model for the evening and share the cost. Featured above are two paintings of Laura, both in watercolour. The composite is made up of a series of two minute and fifteen minute studies. The image below is of Jessica, oil on un-primed canvas board 30cm x 40cm (12" x 16").
Post published by Tomas King 2nd Dec. 2014


Its hard to miss them, they scatter the landscape of Ireland like giant pieces of sculpture fashioned by the passage of time into strange irregular shapes more beautiful in death than in life; monolithic, defiant and resolute. They have faced cruel winds, wars, famine and the anger of another mans creed. They are the skeletal remains of so many simple parish churches.
My interest in these monuments is artistic, not religious, but it is hard to stand in their ruins on a beautiful summers day and not be moved by the wild flowers smothering the grave stones and birdsong filtering through glassless windows and not think of the poor people who knelt in these humble buildings asking to be delivered from their suffering and pain. How hard their lives must have been. It was on just such a day that I found myself painting St Dubhán’s church (top) on the Hook Peninsula. All around me the farmers were gathering in the harvest and the air was filled with the sweet aroma of freshly cut hay. The cycle of the seasons and rotation of the crops would begin again soon and I was struck by how much had changed since the church was built in the thirteenth century and at the same time how little had changed.
St Mary’s church, Schull, (above) west Cork dates from the 16th century and is situated in a stunning location overlooking Schull harbour and Roaring Water Bay. The church became ‘Church of Ireland’ after the confiscation of church lands by Henry V111 but it would appear the graveyard continued to be used by both Protestants and Catholics. The Mizen Peninsula was hit very hard by the great famine (1847 – 48) and the old section of the graveyard contains the famine burial area which had to be doubled in size in a single year to cater for the victims.
Lady’s Island (above) goes back to pre Christian times. The early Irish name for Lady’s Island is given as Cluain-na-mBan (the meadow of the women) and it is suggested that it may originally have been inhabited by female druids. The day I created this sketch in my sketchbook the graveyard surrounding the church ruins was a carpet of wild garlic, so strong, it made me feel dizzy as it crushed underfoot. In 1649 when the church was sacked by Cromwell, a young boy grabbed the crucifix from the nearby church of St Ibar and tried to escape across the shallow part of the lake but was shot half way over and the crucifix was lost. It was not found until 1887 and was returned to the church.
St Bubhans Church (top). Both images painted on tinted paper, watercolour and gouache.
St Mary's Church, Schull (middle). Pen and watercolour
Lady's Island, County Wexford (bottom). Watercolour from my sketchbook
Post published by Tomas King 5th Oct. 2014    


Hidden in the Hedgerow

These days when I load up the car to go out painting I put everything in on the basis that you never know what you will find. I try to keep an open mind but in my head what I am looking for is 'the big picture'. A landscape filled with drama, big skies, strong shapes and plenty of colour.
Last Saturday I ventured out in just such a frame of mind but what I found was an entire landscape in an area of hedgerow twenty four inches square. The colours in the dying leaves and vegetation required the full range of my palette and reminded me once again that so often, we miss the obvious. I could have painted any section of the hedgerow and it would have been just as interesting, we are surrounded by beauty, we just fail to see it because it is familiar.  
Above: Blackberry and Brier on an Autumn Day. 30cm x 25cm (12" x 10")
Post published by Tomas King 24 September 2014  


As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have always enjoyed painting gardens. The contrast between the loose lush profusion of the plants and the lines of structure in the buildings suits my style very well. The two watercolours here are a good example of that. It is the structure of the buildings that holds the paintings together, the plants are just mere suggestions, the brain fills in the bits that are missing. The painting above (The Balustrade) was painted in Ireland at Altamount House and gardens. The house is in a state of neglect and is crumbling which adds to its charm as a painting.
The Orangery at Castle Ashby was painted on a recent trip to England. It is one of my favourite places to paint for the reasons mentioned above but it had been over twenty years since I had painted there. It was a delight to return and happy to see that nothing had changed - long may it stay so.
Post published by Tomas King 24th Aug 2014 


I have not posted anything for a long time for the simple reason that the summer is the time when I take full advantage of the good weather and get outside as much as possible to paint en plein air. It has been a wonderful summer so had no excuse and in due course much of the work produced will be featured on this blog. The three paintings shown here were all done as part of a Plein Air Festival. 'Billowed Sails' above, a 12" x 16" canvas board, required all my skills and speed to get it down in paint before my subject sailed away out to sea. The sky was as you see and the combination of that and the brightly coloured sails turned a simple image into something dramatic.
'Hidden in the Reeds' was another test in speed painting. I knew the ducks would move so I quickly put in a splash of green for the reeds to get my bearings and then painted the ducks. I then built the painting up around them. As expected, they moved away in time but the need to get them down quickly gives a lovely sense of movement to the painting. Once they had gone I was a able to focus on the rest of the background.

'Wild Flower Bank' was more a test of endurance than speed. Despite the colour of the sky, it was a very hot day and I was standing in a very exposed position. By the time I finished this 16" x 22" canvas I was exhausted but its all part of the pleasure and pain of painting en plein air! 
Post published by Tomas King 16 - 8 - 2014


Harbours, boats and the sea have always had a fascination for artists. The colour, shapes, changing light and moods all play their part. Even the architecture is influenced by its surroundings; weather- beaten and battered, braced against the elements to withstand many a storm on cruel winter days but always wonderful to paint. I am no exception, when I see a view like the one above I just want to pick up my brushes and paint.
Above: The Slipway, Watercolour on paper 31cm x 50cm
Morning Sun, Oil on Canvas 40cm x 55cm
Behind the Harbour Wall, Oil on Canvas 40cm x 55cm
Post published by Tomas King 7-7-2014


I had been saving this painting together with some other garden subjects to form the basis of an exhibition on a garden theme. Its good to see it framed at last and going off with some of my other work to feature in an exhibition in a beautiful garden setting.
Above: The Garden Path, oil on canvas.
Post published by Tomas King 29th May 2014


A recent oil painting produced on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late Spring. 41cm x 55cm (16"x22").
Post published by Tomas King 27-05-2014


It has not been a good Spring here but for two days last week the sun came out and transformed everything, including my neighbours garden. The old apple trees came to life and the ground beneath was filled with a carpet of wild flowers. I did not have far to go far so grabbed my easel, paints and a flask of coffee and made-haste while the sun was shining.
The Orchard in Spring 45cm x 60cm (18"x24")
Post published by Tomas King 12th May 2014 


These three pictures were painted for an exhibition called 'Four Square' as part of a food festival. The vegetables above were dug up from a neighbours garden especially for the painting. I wanted to avoid the clean washed look of produce from a supermarket and create an awareness that they had come from the earth. 
The fish above proved more difficult to paint. The iridescent nature of their surface made their colour very elusive and difficult to define. I was surprised how much they had, at first glance there appeared to be very little but that was not the case.
I borrowed the basket from a friend and grabbed a few things from the kitchen for the painting above. I am always amazed that such simple everyday objects make paintings.
Top: Fresh Harvest. Oil on Board. 30cm x 30cm (12"x12")
Second from top: Catch of the Day. Oil on Board 30cm x 30cm (12"x12")
Bottom: Egg and Tomato. Oil on Board 30cm x 30cm (12"x12")
Post published by Tomas King 7th May 2014


These two watercolours span several years. 'Crabbing in Shallow Waters' above was painted some years ago but had been badly framed and I had been meaning to have it reframed for some time. I eventually got round to doing something about it and decided that while it was out of its frame to scan it in onto my computer. It's a painting I have always been fond of so it's good to have a record of it on file. 'The Breaker's Yard below is, by contrast, my most recent watercolour. The style of painting is much broader but that is largely to do with the subject matter.

Post published by Tomas King 1st May 2014


As we make the transition from Wintertime to Summertime and the days grow longer, I hope, over the next few months to be spending more time outside painting and less in the
studio. This seems like a good opportunity therefore to look back over the winter months and the many happy hours spent in a friends studio with a small group of fellow artists while the wind and rain rattled on the window-pane outside.

Some of the work done during these sessions has already been published but I have noticed recently that as we (the artists) have become more comfortable painting together we are more inclined to experiment with our painting style. For me it began with the series of quick sketches (1 minute, 2 minute and 5 minute) which normally precludes the main painting. I had been reluctant to do these, considering them a waste of time but one week I decided to treat them as a painting and filled a half sheet of watercolour paper.
I was so intrigued by what came out I returned the following week with a full sheet of paper pasted to a board and the image, second from top is what happened. The whole thing is less than an hours work.
I then took some blue coloured paper and, applying the same technique, added a little white body colour to the watercolour paint, see above. The images on the sheet vary from between one minute and five minutes. It is such a short span of time there is no time to think and the result is a surprise. The image below of Christina is what followed for the main session. The painting of Catherine (third down from the top) is an oil on canvas which I pre prepared with a strong, dark, tinted background to enable me to focus on the model.    
The last image is another composite done on coloured paper (stone) but this time using gouache paint and, as with the previous composites, very short poses. The image at the top of this post (The Figure Painting Session) is what followed as the main painting of the evening. This also was done on coloured paper (blue) using gouache paint.
I think it is important to experiment, it gets you out of your comfort zone, forces one to look at the subject in a different way and face all the challenges that come with that.
From the Top Down:
The Figure Painting Session, Gouache on blue coloured paper. Model: Marge.
Christina, watercolour composite on white paper.
Catherine, Oil on canvas.
Christina, Watercolour with white body colour on blue paper.
Christina, Oil on Canvas.
Marge, Gouache on stone coloured paper. 
Post published by Tomas King 13 - 04 - 2014        


In the morning the weather was terrible but the sun burst through in the afternoon and I managed to get this 12"x16" oil on canvas-board down of Carrigfoyle Quarry.
Post published by Tomas King 8 - 04 - 2014 


These two images, both watercolour, were painted several years ago but like so many things in my life they had found their way to the bottom of a drawer and disappeared from sight. They emerged when I was looking for something else a few weeks ago and it was like meeting two old friends. 'Tumbling Waters' above was painted in Devon in the UK and 'The Forest of Gresigne below was painted in France.
 Post published by Tomas King 2 April 2014


The 'Reed Bed' above and 'Ancient Pastures' below were both painted last week when, for a brief period, there was a break in the weather and for a few days it looked as though Spring had finally arrived. It was not to last but I took full advantage and decided to get out with my easel, blow some cobwebs away and slap some paint around! I did not go far from home, both subjects were painted in the same area and it was a subject I had looked at last year but dismissed. However, my timing was perfect. The reeds had turned a golden yellow colour over winter and were contrasting beautifully with a clear, deep blue sky. The Reed Bed is a simple but difficult subject to handle because of the mass of a single colour in the foreground. What holds it together, I believe, is the thick oil paint sweeping over the canvas like the reeds themselves making it look as thought the wind is blowing through them.
'Ancient Pastures' was something of a departure. I wanted to experiment using watercolour on tinted paper, something I had done many, many years ago, but had used my last sheet of paper a long time ago. Its not easy to get hold of tinted watercolour paper but I tracked some down on the internet. I had remembered it was difficult to work with and nothing had changed over the years. As soon as the paper gets wet it changes colour making it difficult to judge colour values. As more paint is applied to the paper it gets easier and, of course, as the paper begins to dry out it becomes more manageable. 'Ancient Pastures' was painted in watercolour on a Grey/Brown tinted paper with touches of white body colour.
Post published by Tomas King 22 - March 2014


 I was asked by the DPSC if I would submit a painting for a special exhibition to celebrate the clubs 140th anniversary. Each artist was asked to select a painting done by a previous painter of note who had exhibited with the club and create a painting using the original as the theme. I selected John Singer Sargent’s ‘The Breakfast Table’ (1884) featuring the artist’s younger sister Violet. The original shows a classic Victorian interior with dark background and very strong directional light flooding across the table casting strong shadows and clipping various pieces of silver with pin-points of light.
       I decided from the beginning that I did not want to copy Sargent’s painting but rather to represent a modern day breakfast table with cereal packets, toast, marmalade etc. One of the main differences between then and now is we live in a world with a lot more colour and are less formal, I wanted this to be reflected in my painting. That said there had to be some connection with the original. I started by setting up the table in my studio around an old fireplace that had been renovated when the house was restored, it dates from around 1850. I created a false wall on the return at the back using a wood panel to emulate the same depth of field and then began raiding the kitchen for things to put on the table.
It looked OK but there were two problems, one of which I had been expecting. It looked flat. The light in my studio was coming from two sides and it lacked the sense of drama created by the single light source in Sargent’s original painting. I went out to my store room and found an old photographic light which has an 800w tungsten bulb. I set it up just out of picture to my right, flicked the switch and hey-presto!
The second problem was not so easily solved. I could not get back far enough from the subject because my studio was not big enough and ended up backed into a corner but decided there was nothing I could do about that and the composition looked OK so started painting. This explains why in my picture the objects on the table are more prominent and there is a little less foreground. 
Both paintings are the same size: 21 3/4" x 18 1/4" 
Top: The Breakfast Table by Tomas King 2014
Below:The Breakfast Table by John Singer Sargent 1884
Post published by Tomas King 12-02-2014        


'Looking West along the Road' is my first plein air painting of 2014. It was painted on a cold overcast Sunday in late January and took all my resolve to venture out. The day was finished off however by a roaring fire in a local pub.
Looking West along the Road, Oil on Canvas 40cm x 56cm
Post published by Tomas King 24-1-2014


It must have been 1966 when as a young man of 19 years I first walked through the front door of 78 Derngate, Northampton. It was the height of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ I had been living in London when my ex-boss contacted me. He had set up in business on his own and needed help, ‘would I join him’? It was very early days for his new venture and the premises turned out to be an attic room in a row of terraced houses built c.1815-20. I had never heard of Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I knew when I walked through the front door on the first morning that, on the inside, this was no ordinary building.

 At the time the property was owned by Northampton School for Girls who had leased it to Ken Ward Publicity and my employer had rented the attic room from them. It was a tiny space, just room for the two of us but we worked very long hours there, often all over the weekend and on several occasions all through the night. It seems remarkable to me now that I had a key to the building and walked freely through that famous front door as often as I wanted. I can still

remember all these years later the feeling of

passing the famous screen on the right in the hall (in reality an oblong room) and working my way up the narrow stairs behind it to the room at the very top. My employer was a big cricket fan and in the summer we would pass the days side by side working on our individual design projects directly under the roof and the summer heat listening to the slow leisurely cricket commentary on a small portable radio little knowing that we were perched at the very top of a major piece of design history. The kettle was in the basement so frequent trips were made every day from the top of the building to the bottom and back up again but it was always a joy to walk through the fabric of one of the greatest Architects, designers and painters of the twentieth century.

The building had been purchased by the father of Wenman Basset-Lowke in 1916 as a gift for his sons impending wedding. The Bassett-Lowke’s were an enlightened and well connected family and it was Wenman who commissioned Mackintosh to restyle the interior at this time. What emerged was a tour de force reflecting Mackintosh’s very individual style.

He was truly a man of great vision who perceived the world in a different way. Architect, designer and painter (Dali considered him the greatest painter of the day) but as with many great men, the hand that had sowed the seed of genius also sowed the seed of self destruction and as time passed the germination of the latter would be his undoing.    

During the time I worked at 78 Derngate my head was full of pop music, girls and fashion and I did not take the time to saviour what was around me but the building left a remarkable impression and Charles Rennie Mackintosh would became a big influence on me. It was at 78 Derngate that I met a very pretty young girl who would become my wife and many years later while living in France we made a pilgrimage to Collioure in the hope of finding some reference to the great man. He had spent the last years of his life in Port Vendre, painting watercolours of the harbour there and at Collioure nearby. Despite the fact that the walls of Collioure were festooned with images of the Impressionist’s and the Fauvist's, we found no reference to Mackintosh and I returned home with only my memories.  

78 Derngate is now a museum open to the public and  in 2009 it won the best small museum award. There are countless books on Mackintosh most of which feature detailed reference to 78 Derngate. Photos from the top down:
1.House number set in light above the front door.
2.The front of the building constructed c.1815-20
3.The front door with typical Mackintosh window patterns.
4.Detail of glass panel in the centre of the front door.
5.Mr and Mrs Bassett-Lowke on the steps of 78 Derngate about 1917.
6.The spare bedroom. This was all in place when I worked there.
7.Design for a stencilled wall decoration in the hall.
8.Design for the hall screen.
9.The hall screen.
10. The fireplace in the hall.
11. Domino clock design for 78 Derngate.     

Post published by Tomas King 3 - 1 - 2013