John O Grady Art - I Dreamt of White Horses III | West of Ireland seascape with waves
I Dreamt of White Horses III, © John O’Grady
18″ x 13″ x 0.75″ oil on canvas ready to hang


“There is a distant isle,
Around which sea-horses glisten:
A fair course against the white-swelling surge—
Four pedestals uphold it.”
Extract of ‘The Isles of the Happy’ by anonymous – from a selection of ancient Irish poetry in the Myth and Saga section

I wanted the powerful charge of energy you can feel when standing on the shore of the Atlantic ocean to be expressed in this painting.

The low perspective and seeing the rush of water coming towards us, wave upon wave upon wave combine to give a vertiginous feel even though our eye is guided by the inviting distant island’s lights.

This feeling of energy is created by the duality between the ‘white horses’ galloping towards us while our eye surfs the top of the waves towards the island.

Beyond the waves and the island, a warm band of purple and blue clouds drift by from left to right. Their shapes and colours bring about some respite and balance that’s disrupted by two voluminous cumuli moving slowly towards land.

I read somewhere that a lot of painters are drawn towards painting the sea because paint can replicate the qualities of water, its transparency and opaqueness, the way filtered light passes through it and give it luminosity.

I was thinking about that while making this piece, layering textured paint to simulate the agitated sea and foam rushing onward towards land and here and there, adding passages of glazed transparent azure and teal to capture that fugitive quality of light as the waves roll in…

The island is the centre of this painting, the refuge to reach while our eyes trawl through the icy cold turquoise water.

What is your feeling about the painting? I’d love to hear.