Blasket Sunset

Blasket Evening - oil on canvas  041

What a great privilege it was to sit and observe the beautiful colors of the late evening as the sun sets over the Islands of Great Blasket and Beginish.

More paintings of the Blasket Islands on my website:

Photos of the islands can be seen at: islands-photogtaphs


Pattern and Rhythm

Cliffs of Moher
The famous Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. The forms of the cliffs running into the distance create a rhythmic aspect to the composition, and I have attempted to express the richness of the patterns in each area of the picture.

Have you ever thought about how much your life is affected, governed, controlled by patterns and rhythms. Rhythms are intrinsic to our existence. Our bodies have rhythms; the earth has rhythms; seasons are rhythmic. Rhythms are all around us in our environment.  We seem to have a basic need to organise our life and working spaces into rhythms and patterns. Without this organisation we would have chaos.

Rural farming landscape in the hills of Northern Thailand

The furrows in the field, the trees in the distance and the banana trees in the foreground all offer variety and interest to the rhythms and patterns of this composition. I also use fast flowing strokes to further contribute to the rhythms and movement in the picture.

Small wonder that works of art are often designed with the use of clearly defined areas of rhythms and patterns, which are important aspects to the composition.

Rough Sea with Sleeping Giant

Stormy Sea on Clogher Beach with Inis Tuaisceart (also known as the Sleeping Giant) in the background. The sea provides endless possibilities for the expression of rhythms and patterns.

Patterns in nature are free and random, while still maintaining a sense of organisation. Rhythms and patterns are to be found in many art forms.

Fermoyle Beach, on the north side of the dingle peninsula, West Kerry

The rhythm of the waves on the sea,rolling into the beach, an endless rhythm, random, yet repetitive, maintaining an irresistible visual excitement.

It seems our artistic sensibilities and responses are, in many cases, strongly influenced and encouraged by our need for rhythm and patterns. Often, in visual art, it is impossible to clearly define the difference between rhythms and patterns, but you know – it doesn’t really matter.

Wood Shed in the forest, by the River Wye

The wood pile, the corrugated roof, all framed by the rich foliage provided a wonderful opportunity to express the wonder of nature in its fabulous varieties of patterns

Of course there are many other aspects to a work of art, but for this post I am focusing on pattern and rhythm. I have selected some of my paintings and photos that have examples of pattern in the composition.

Villages and Terraces in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Mountain terraces and village houses offer fascinating sources of patterns in the landscape, in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco


ventry sand patterns 2
The retreating tide leaves patterns in the sand, enhanced by the golden light of the setting sun
Sunset at Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula, with the Blasket Islands in view

Without the pattern in these clouds, there would be limited visual interest

In a pond beside Tralee Ship Canal, two swans negotiate a film of ice around the edge.

There is a hint of rhythm created by the two swans, working with the grasses in the foreground. The pattern on the water in the background contrasts with the smooth surface of the ice around the edge.

Evening clouds on Ventry Beach, Dingle Peninsula

Clouds are a wonderful source of nature’s patterns

The setting sun reflects on the fishing boats in Dingle harbor

The visual rhythm created by the row of boats is enhanced by the strong golden evening sunlight, and their colours are unified. The composition gains further interest by the patterns in the clouds, water and stone wall etc.

Nature has taken root in the walls of this old building

Reduced to black and white, we are encouraged to appreciate the details of the patterns in the wall and nature’s growth from the crevices.

The ruin of the schoolhouse used in the movie 'Ryan's Daughter'

In this old skeleton of a ruin of the schoolhouse used in the movie Ryan’s Daughter, over thirty years ago, the sunlight shining through provides interesting rhythms of light and dark.

The Gathering Ireland 2013 (Part 2)

So if you come visiting Ireland this year – what can you expect? There will be so much for you to enjoy. You will, of course, merrily connect with your cousins, who will give you a tremendously warm Irish welcome. You will observe their features and mannerisms, and it will seem like you already knew them, they look so much like your sister, your uncle – or your cousin May back home. So that’s where you got your nose from, and now you see the genetic pool from where Barack Obama got his ears. Well – have you ever seen a true African with those ears?

You make a trip to see the old homestead – or what’s left of it. There’s no roof, and not a lot left of the tumbling stone walls either. But you walk inside, just to feel what it’s like in there, amongst the nettles. There’s not much to see, no possessions left here – but wait – what’s that bit of broken crockery there wedged between the stones? You pull it out and reflect. Did this once belong to your great, great, great grandmother? Was this a treasured bowl, that took pride of place on the modest kitchen table? Is this what she used for the beautiful homemade bread or scones that she made in the pot oven over the peat fire.  You reflect on the lives and activities of your ancestors here in this very room, their joys and sorrows. You feel the presence of these people, you feel welcome, connected – it’s a wonderful warm feeling.


Looking through the open door of an old cottage on Great Blasket Island, County Kerry, Ireland.


View from Castlegregory Golf Club, County Kerry, Ireland

You have a superb choice of entertainment of all kinds – music, dancing, singing, theatre, and countless other events. You learn the meaning of ‘ceol agus craic’ (music and fun). There are many interesting tours. How can you find the time? Your cousins all want to share their knowledge and make suggestions. You are just overwhelmed by the hospitality, the generosity, the fabulous food, the vibrant and talented people, the characters – and that I’ve come home feeling!


A young couple play hurling on the beach at Couminole, Dunquin, County Kerry.

You experience the rewards of fair and foul Irish weather too!  You discover the beauty in the drama of the deep purple clouds, luminous sunlit fields, ferocious winds, hazy hills, rain, rain and high soaring seas. You are joyful for this opportunity, and euphoric on those beautiful soothing sunny days when you are able to walk up the heathery hills and along the long scenic sandy beaches. You are in raptures as you behold the sights of those breathtakingly brilliant West of Ireland sunsets. Such a privilege! You want to stay here – forever!


A dramatic view on Curracloe Beach, County Wexford


Patches of glowing sunlight on the fields of Dunquin, County Kerry


A beautiful sunset on Banna Beach, County Kerry.

The Gathering Ireland 2013

In this blog I am making a diversion from my usual theme. I would like to spread the word about something special that is happening this year in Ireland, known as ‘The Gathering’.

The Gathering, is a year long event, or series of events, planned to take place in towns and villages all over Ireland in 2013, to celebrate everything about which Ireland likes to be proud. Ireland hopes to reach out to its huge Diaspora all over the world, and invite them home to discover or re-discover the richness of their Irish Heritage.

Many people may know that Ireland has a very small population – about four million. But not so many will know that the Irish Diaspora, is estimated to be over 70 million. Or as our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) commented recently, Ireland has a population of about 70 million, of whom only four million live at home.

Ireland has had periods of very troubled economic, social and political history, some phases of which resulted in the hemorrhaging of its population. Vast numbers of its people emigrated to USA, Canada, UK and Australia. Now of course there are generations of their descendants who have grown in numbers and who still consider themselves Irish. It’s hoped that many of these people will return to Ireland to share in the celebrations, meet their extended families and connect with their roots. No doubt, for many, this will be an exciting and unforgettable experience.

Of course, in our current distressed economic times, this initiative has arisen from economic necessity, as Ireland is now in the throes of another population outflow, mainly of its young, educated and skilled people. Many of those who live here are suffering; I don’t need to explain the current economic recession. The Gathering, it is hoped, will bring much needed money into the country with its visitors. Some cynics have criticised the idea, describing it as money grabbing. But isn’t every tourist initiative intended to make money? That doesn’t make it bad or greedy.

Here are some links that provide information about The Gathering events this year:


Celebration of the Dingle Dolphin – 30 years in Dingle Harbour – living free:

See also Fungie the Wild Dingle Dolphin playing in Dingle harbour with his friends:

The Gathering, countrywide:

Old Stone building, Ventry, Dingle Peninsula

Many of the dwelling houses of the past are now the farm-buildings of today

Ruins of the homes of the people who once lived on Great Blasket Island

Most of the descendants of the people who lived on Great Blasket Island are now living in the Springfield area, Massachusetts, USA.
Oil painting on canvas by Helene Brennan
More Blasket Island paintings on

Northburgh Castle, Greencastle, Inisowen Peninsula, Donegal

If you visit Ireland you can explore the richness of its heritage. This castle was built by Richard de Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster in 1305 on a prominent rock, close to the shore, in Greencastle, Inisowen Peninsula, County Donegal.
More photos of Donegal on

McCarthy's Castle

The remains of McCarthy’s Castle at Ballinskelligs, Iveragh Peninsula, South Kerry.
Oil pastels.
More images of McCarthy’s Castle on–ballinskelligs

Cruach Mharhain Paintings

Following my blog on walking up Cruach Mharhain on the Dingle Peninsula, I am posting here a couple of my paintings in oil pastels of views from this mountain.

See other paintings on my website:

Standing at the top of Cruach Mharhain, Dingle Peninsula.

Painting of a view of Inis Tuaisceart from the top of Cruach Mharhain, which is topped with a little snow in this painting.
Inis Tuaisceart is one of the Blasket Island Group, and is locally known as The Sleeping Giant, or The deadman .Oil pastels. 29″ x 21″


Snow on Mount Brandon.

Painting of view on the descent of Cruach Mharhain, Dingle Peninsula, with Mount Brandon, snow capped. Oil pastels. 29″ x 21″