John O Grady Art-The-Edge-of-the-Deep-Green-Sea-II
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The Edge of the Deep Green Sea II, ©John O’Grady
Oil on deep edged canvas, 12″ x 12″ x 1.75″
It does not require framing and is ready to hang.


Many painters work on a particular project by creating several pieces around a theme or interest until they have exhausted it. Then, they wait for ideas to percolate until the next project grabs them and is seen through to completion.

With the way I work, having no pre-ordained or fixed idea of where a piece may go or even how it might start, even though it always comes out as nature based, certain themes, often based around colour, re-emerge after long intervals.

With this painting, I had no idea of what I was going to paint. after a long struggle, a finished painting emerged but, as often happens, the following day I came back and it felt flat. There was no emotional connection.

When this happens, it calls for bold action to let something break the deadlock.

More often than not, it’s done through colour I respond to and that helps me find a foothold again in the painting.

Here, I found the most beautiful combination of lemon yellow, Windsor green and manganese blue. This triumvirate of colours once laid down in different combinations led me to the finished piece you now see.

Funnily, it’s only when the painting was finished and I came to write this post that I found a close connection to a piece made nearly two years ago.

I have noticed this cyclical re emergence of a particular palette or theme after months or even years on quite a few occasions.

In the older blog post, the last paragraph rang a chord with my preoccupations with the present painting and in particular my comment about Whistler’s work:

“The works that stand out for me are the land/seascapes called Nocturnes. The close tonal arrangement in a dominant colour with diffused shapes pervading the work make these paintings truly innovative and verging on the abstract.”

And Whistler when talking about the artist choosing and picking says:

“Nature contains the elements, in colour and form, of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music. But the artist is born to pick and choose… that the result may be beautiful – as the musician gathers his notes, and forms his chords, until he brings forth from chaos glorious harmony…” (James Abbott McNeill Whistler)

So what conclusions can we draw from this response to colour that can give a painting momentum? Or is it best not to think too much and just do?

Here are a couple of thoughts:
Painting including landscape painting should be fuelled by emotions and feelings for any success to occur. This doesn’t mean the painting needs to be expressive and full of movement. Often, quiet understated pieces are fit to explode with emotional energy such as for example Giorgio Morandi’s Still Lifes.

In my case, I somehow connect a particular atmosphere and light that has been filtered through memory and imagination. I feel that particular recollection and almost involuntarily search for a colour that fits that feeling or emotion. It is not at all a conscious response but like tapping into a source.

In painting, colour is light and colour is emotion.

Have you experienced an emotional response to a particular shade or colour in a painting?