Well, this is my finished painting, Half Door Cottage in the Mournes, which was commissioned by a local musician, Bronagh, as a present for her mother. She asked me to paint a scene that would reflect one of her mother Alice’s poems, ‘The Wee Half Door’ (also the title of her poetry collection) The brief was to include, “a cottage with a half door, mountains, an old cart and maybe a few chickens in the yard”, which was a tall enough order for me, since this was quite a different approach to the way I usually paint, but I like a challenge!
This was the first time I used the internet to research a painting, as I had a ‘shopping list’ of elements to include but no subjects to work with. I spent a day selecting various images that might suit and then went to the library to look at books on art and local photography. Armed with lots of ideas, I completed the charcoal outline sketch. Then it was a case of drawing upon the techniques I’d used in other landscapes to try and introduce some realism into the painting, as I didn’t think impressionism was the best route to take on this project. My favourite element of the piece is the cockerel – I spent two days getting the colour right on that bird! In fact, colour was very important in the whole painting in order to make it really look like the countryside in this area, so I completed a lot of the background detail outside during the summer to attempt to capture the colours of the Mourne mountains.
So, it was not without apprehension that I set off the other day with the painting under my arm to show Bronagh. An artist friend told me recently that you can tell by a person’s eyes if they like truly like something, so I was planning on watching her reaction very carefully. Well, upon seeing the painting, she threw her arms around me, which made it impossible to see her eyes, but I took the hug as a sign that she was pleased. When she examined the work, she was pleasantly surprised that I’d given the house a red door, as that had been the colour of the paintwork on her mother’s family home. She was also delighted by the inclusion of the granite wall, as she said her mother she used to sit playing the accordian on such a wall outside her own cottage.
I called her earlier to see if Alice had seen the painting yet. Bronagh she said she had given it to her on Sunday at her wedding anniversary celebrations and that her mother absolutely loved it.
The fact that Half Door Cottage in the Mournes is now hanging over Alice’s fireplace is praise enough for me! : )