Moonlight over the Sugar Loaf - John O'Grady

Moonlight over the Sugar Loaf, ©John O’Grady, 2014
19″ x 19″ x 1.5″, oil on deep edged panel, does not require framing and is ready to hang.


Here in southern France broom is in full bloom. I was out hiking recently around the wine growing village of Gigondas. As I climbed into the mountains, the air was filled with its perfume. The way they dot the landscape and their similar colours made me think of gorse bushes in Ireland, their distinctive coconut smell and weekend walks in the Wicklow mountains…

The following week I started work on a new painting.

For the underpainting, I laid in a very loose wash. The paint bled and dripped into rivulets that joined each other as I moved the wooden panel around, enjoying not knowing what might come out. Sometimes when I work this way, nothing is revealed to me and I have to see the painting again after a few days. On this occasion it showed itself almost immediately.

Across the middle of the painting, a swathe of dark green, yellow and violet paint reminded me of the rich dark and light shades of gorse on the land. In the upper part of the painting a vague bleed of paint not unlike the conical shape of the Sugar Loaf mountain in Wicklow appeared.

It might be argued that the choice of colours made in the underpainting prescribed the outcome of the subject matter, and I wouldn’t disagree with that but my choice of colour wasn’t premeditated. It could also be said the hike the preceding week had an impact.

I purposefully choose colours quickly as an intuitive response to what is happening on the paint surface.

What emerged as I later returned to the painting was a particular view of the Sugar Loaf with the Irish sea in the distance.

At this stage though, I couldn’t capture in my mind’s eye the shape of the mountain. Fortunately I had a photo taken from the Roundwood side that helped me describe it.

Recently completed paintings offer an aerial vista of landscape but on this occasion, there is an intimate human dimension, a more down to earth feel even though the eye is directed towards the iconic mountain noticeable from afar.

The sugar Loaf’s statuesque presence bathed in the moonlight has I feel a dream-like quality.

Please let me know what do you think.