The Way over the Bog ©John O’Grady
10″ x 10″ oil on deep edge panel, ready to hang


The title here describes the path into a painting through a two dimensional space and works also as a metaphor for the ‘way’ this piece evolved.

I tend to steer clear of using photographs as reference. It leads to a painting with an overworked quality that becomes tighter and tighter almost as if I can’t avoid becoming a slave to the photo.

Also, my response to old photos can be so strong that I sometimes feel emotionally overwhelmed.

During the week, I came across an image from many years back, so long ago I can’t remember where it was taken even though it was somewhere in the West.

Although I couldn’t place the location, I was drawn to the image of a path running over the hill and past an abandoned farmhouse high above the distant bog and mountains. Tempted to make a painting from it, with my past experience I was wary.

I decided to take a few minutes to articulate what drew me to the image.

The faded off white colour of the farmhouse and peeling paint; the feeling that the farmhouse was gradually being submerged by vegetation; the quality of muted light in the sky and also the thought of the people who once lived there and what happened to them.

Then, I put the photo away for good.

The following day, I started work. The original photo had lots of greens in it but somehow, my painting came out with a sepia quality as if it had been filtered through time. This result wasn’t a conscious decision, more a natural evolution.

The sepia look, the subdued palette suggest the passing of time with a touch of melancholy. Yet, like when you rediscover some cherished yellowing old photo, it brings back strong emotions.

This experience taught me to believe in the power of how I can hold onto and capture the charge felt when first looking at a photo. I see possibilities for working in a similar manner without feeling stymied.

I’d love to hear what you think.