24 Hours in November
NOTE: Scroll down for the gallery of all the paintings. They’re down the bottom, and they’re for sale (Photo-owners have first refusal)
When I was 14, fueled by a revival in the charts led by Showaddywaddy, Darts, Matchbox, and Rocky Sharpe & the Replays, several friends and I were rather fond of 1950s music. None of us could play any instruments, so we got a friend who could sing and together the 6 of us formed a band called The Blue Moon Boys
I also liked The Boomtown Rats, and on the back cover of their 2nd album, A Tonic for the Troops there’s a photo of Bob Geldof and the rest of the Rats all throwing shapes. On the biggest piece of paper I could get I drew an outline of the figures in that photo, painted them black, and painted a huge blue moon against which to silhouette them. Our band had their first stage backdrop, and I was happy for everyone to think the 6 Rats were us.
The Blue Moon Boys only ever did 1 gig, and by then 5 of us had quit - mostly in disputes between the Rockabilly and Doo-wop wings of the band. The singer recruited a backing vocalist, and the 2 of them performed with my poster as the backdrop, nobody caring it depicted 4 more performers than in the band.
In the end the boy we recruited because he could sing dispensed with the actual or pretend 1950s, and he mimed - to Looking After Number 1 by the Boomtown Rats.
So it was that decades later, in the early hours of Saturday morning last, while painting a group of people in Shanghai looking at jellyfish in an aquarium that rendered them as silhouettes, that I on the live video stream told people I was painting The Boomtown Rats. You give me your memories, and I paint mine.
I love how in our heads images - from our past, our hopes, our happiest and saddest times, realised and not - all whirl around crashing into one another and merging into each other, sometimes pausing, mostly racing, but always with no regard to time.
When I paint a lot, time doesn’t exist. I can lower my head to a canvas for 5 minutes work and raise it knowing I’ve probably slipped out to 6 or even 8 minutes, only for a clock to tell me 3 and half hours have passed and I’m in trouble with friends.
Mostly I paint the way my brain works, which is why I typically have dozens of paintings on the go simultaneously. Just before a show, online or off, I will have built up to where an impossible number of paintings can possibly be ready - because I believe that the final 24 hours can last 24 days. And I’ve often wished I could show people what those final 24 hours of painting for a show is like for me.
2 years ago, fresh from the collaborative social-media highs of my 3-month 3,000km painting cycle tour of Ireland, I had an idea. To take your images, your memories, and shove them into my world for just 24 hours, and I’d take a paintbrush and shove back at you what happens.
I needed an impossible number. Some of my paintings are on the go for years, most for months, and the lightning ones for 1 to 4 days. And yet I know 24 paintings in a day, in the right conditions, is possible. And I also know I can do 50. I just know. So 100 it would be. 100 people. 100 photos. 100 paintings.
It would have been easier - for you and for me - if I’d set up something to collate the images beforehand. Dropbox and Google Drive etc. make this very easy, but I wanted it all to happen in public in the one place in real time - where you saw the photos as I did and together we wondered what would happen next.
What happened next was that over 180 photos were tweeted my way.
A building in Kilfinnane in Limerick, a panorama of Killiney Bay, a view out a door of a Belgrade street, Puerto De Mogan on Gran Canaria, Errigal in Donegal, Dún Briste in Mayo. Peoples homes, holidays, pets. Their favourite flowers and mountains. Georgian Streets and doors in Dublin, Christmas decorations, Kinsale and New York.
Sometimes I sit very still. For hours. I’ve always said I’m very good at waiting. Why move when so many images are moving around you, and inside your head is a fairground?
From Dublin the inside of the National Library and the outside of Liberty Hall. Big tents, little sheds, a forest park in Cavan. A beloved dog recently passed, a grandfather and his grand-daughter, a correctional center in downtown Chicago.
I dive in with a building. It’s not working. And it hurts.
Powerscourt, Salthill, Barna Woods, Chapelizod. Ahh, Chapelizod.
A couple of months ago my painting arm popped lifting a ladder. Instant tennis elbow, waiting to happen since the first time 3 years ago that put my arm out of painting action for 5 months. Then I’d taught myself to paint with my left hand to carry on, but I wasn’t as proficient, and I got lazy. A 24-hour painting marathon was out of the plans. Until my sister, @aColetteDay came over from England to give me acupuncture. It made the painting marathon of sprints possible. Back on again. 3 days before the event, my arm went sore again. Enough to cancel - but I didn’t want to cancel. So I decided I’d say nothing but I knew 100 paintings was now more impossible than it was meant to be.
Sunsets in France and Spain. Sunsets in Drimnagh and Finglas.
I yelp. I shout. I probably screech. The arm hurts. Painting is one thing, but painting fast, and gripping, including unscrewing tubs of paint, that really hurts. And reaching for a tablet and a laptop. Luckily I’d decided to start the live video stream with audio off.
Scuba diving in Malta, a boat sculpture in Iceland, fireworks in New Zealand. Bray, Beara, and best friend Bill. A cat, a butterfly, a snake, a seal. A pastry, a breakfast, a bottle of wine.
I see shapes. Curves, lines, and squares are all shouting at me. Blobs of colours. 4-dimensional experiences of people reduced to 2-dimensions. I paint light through a door. I scrape colour onto a landscape, I paint the spaces between things.
A horse, a cow, a pint of Guinness. A toadstool, a child in a hat, a woman on a bed with a teddy bear. A water tower, a castle, a line of cars. Syria, Jordan, Israel.
There was a system in mind. I had a watch-list, to keep an eye for images for those who had been most supportive of the idea in its development. I had a whiteboard. I had a setup for photographing and tweeting paintings as they were finished. And I had a list to run through with my assistant.
A fox, a beachball, a boy on a scooter. Romania, Tenerife, Caprock Canyon.
Once upon a time I wouldn’t have touched a paintbrush if anyone was in even the same building as me let alone the same room. But I fixed that by going on my Painting Tour and learning to paint in public. That said, letting you into my studio while I’m painting is like letting you into my head. When I mooted this project a year earlier Andreea (@Brandalisms) volunteered to help me. So did others, but of all the people who had ever visited my studio, she had the right temperament. I don’t try and paint 100 paintings from scratch every day.
There were dogs. I wanted to pet them. There were trees. Trees that lasted lifetimes, in snow, in sun, and in leafless dignity. Red trees and yellow trees. Outside bedroom windows. Like my tree.
I concentrated on getting the video stream to work, rather than preparing a system. I gave up. Unsolicited Dave Bolger appeared in my DMs, like Mr Benn, threw numbers and instructions at me and like magic the project could begin with video. Andreea was delayed. You can’t be that good and not be in demand. With a couple of minutes before the off she has arrived, and I am happy with the video setup. At least the audio is off so we can hide our doing it on the fly.
The Connemara I tried to live in. The Donegal I tried to live in. The Liverpool I did live in. I am assaulted and overwhelmed by memories and beauty.
45 minutes in, the people of the internet tell us the audio is in fact on. Oh. We turn it off to come up with a plan. We forget to plan. Glasses. Painting with glasses is new. I can’t see. Where are my glasses?
Rivers, lakes, bays, and harbours. Iceland, Malta, Provincetown.
Once I start with the paintbrush so much vacates my brain. All the things I was going to do. The system. All forgotten. Pinning things around me would have helped. But I’m not looking for those solutions; I’m looking for how to paint the cliffs in Clare as I remember the cliffs in Clare.
Places I’ve been, Inchydoney, Manhattan, Lake Garda. Places I haven’t, Cape Town, Lisbon, the Grand Canyon.
2 columns. The hashtag and my mentions. I whizz forward looking for images. Then backwards. I am in twitter jail. Andreea holds her phone up for me.
A bicycle, a flock of seagulls, a skyscraper. A dog in the woods, a dog in a scarf, a yoda dog.
Usually, to paint fast, to paint naturally, I paint from the shoulder not the wrist. Or even paint from the whole torso, move with the paint. But with an elbow against big movements I am noodling away from the wrist. It is slow and my brain goes thud, thud, thud. I suspect it’s a clock and it’s not a good feeling.
Long grass, long beach, Long Island. 2 dogs on the stairs. 2 dogs on the couch. Wexford, Wicklow, and way up north at Downhill House.
I don’t like the paintings. They’re rubbish. I’ll stop. I can’t stop - everybody is watching. Touchscreens don’t like fingers with wet paint. Wipe. Or with water. Wipe. The stream is stuck. Turn it off and on again. Tick tock. We’re trending?
A favourite building in Dublin, boats by a lake, a rainbow. Blue, yellow, green, blue, orange, blue.
I flit from image to image. Andreea guides me. I’m an hour behind in the stream. Then I am up to date. Messages whizz by. They cheer me on. They seem to like it. I’ll go on.
I’ll paint the quays at sunset. I can’t - I’ve just painted a sunset. I’ll paint that beautiful coast photo. I can’t - I’ve just painted another one. Hey there’s a toadstool. Oh, and another.
In between the paintings there are the photos, and in between the photos there are the tweets. A tweet from an old school friend. A tweet from an old housemate. A tweet from my niece. Tweets from people I knew before the internet existed. And from people I’ve known only online, but for years. And those who step out of the internet and into your heart. And tweets from utter strangers. I swallow and carry on.
A goldfish turned 90 degrees. Children in hats, in high chairs, in facepaint, and in tunnels.
Then I see other photos. People show me pictures of their children watching me paint. One of them watching is enough reason for the whole project. I swallow again. Cramp in my foot.
Boats in a marina. Flowers in a rock. Posters on a wall. People in New York. People in a pub. People in black and white.
I paint over 150 paintings. But I do that in my head. Also in my head I decide which ones I can execute in the time. I do notice the people behind some photos; I don’t notice others. The images largely dictate. Why amn’t I doing buildings? I said I wanted buildings? And why is the sky blue after being yellow for ten years? Andreea reads out more tweets and hands me another cup of tea.
A beach with waves. A tree with birds. Feet with flip-flops. Palmerstown with a w.
Andreea rushes for the last bus. Just you and me now. I turn the audio on and let you into the vocal side of my head. I was hoping to break 1,000 views. Twitter tells me there are over 200,000 views on the video stream. We’re too far in to get self-conscious. I sing. I laugh.
Too far behind to take a break. If 100 paintings is the 4 minute mile, I am on schedule for running it in 8 minutes. The paint starts to behave. I start to like the paintings. Maybe I’ll run a 6-minute mile.
France. Italy. Canada. Hong Kong. Indiana.
12 hours later she’s back, with energy and food. Each time I postpone a painting I now know it’s less and less likely to get done. I pick them from the beginning. I pick them from the end. I pick them from anywhere. My best friend from school doesn’t make the cut. My sister doesn’t make the cut. My dog doesn’t make the cut. Oh for another 24 hours.
The 42nd painting is a simple flower. I can’t do it. I scrape it, I paint over it, I change it, I redo it. I can’t do it. My brain is shutting down. It’s a flower. A simple beautiful flower. Paint the bleedin’ thing. I inhale. I slow down. I say relax. I do it.
I shout, I bang, I hate myself, I love my friends, I miss my dog. Andreea hands me another cup of tea.
One more. 12 photos are in play. People have spent time choosing their photos, and I disappoint them. It’s down to two. I’ll do the kayak in the lilies. I wish I was doing it larger. No, I’ll do the other one.
- 24 hours
- 180+ photos
- 23 photos not seen
- 12 photos with dogs
- 800+ twitter interactions
- 270,000 video views
- 43 paintings
All 24 hours were streamed live (except for a glitch during painting #28) and recorded as they were broadcast. The day can be watched in 10 videos on JustinTV of varying lengths - until the archive is deleted, and then I’ll try and post them elsewhere.
Pat O’Mahony and Darragh Doyle were a great help as the event neared. Dave Bolger did much more than send a couple of DMs. The event was a video event but couldn’t have been were it not for a lot of work Dave took it upon himself to do.
Once upon a time I painted through the night all the time. These days I very rarely get 24 hours. The event could not have happened without my sister covering for me for 2 days. And if you follow her you’ll know she did more than that.
Andreea was my social media eyes, ears and mouth. Her photos, vines, and tweets energised the event so that you and I could interact and all of us could engage with the paintings and the photos. Somebody who excels at strategising was making my tea. I am, enormously grateful.
The 43 Paintings
See below the gallery for selling details.
Are the paintings for sale?
Yes. Each photo-owner gets first option on buying their respective painting for €25 despite varying sizes (Contact me by DM, email, facebook). If they don’t wish to buy them I will either A) Offer them to the general public for €35 each, or B) Work some more on them and then offer them to the general public for €50 or €60. I can hand them directly to people at my studio in Ranelagh, or post them out for €2.
What about all the photos you didn’t use?
With the owners’ permission I’m considering including them in a future project or 2.
It might be the 4-minute mile and I just took 9 minutes, but what the heck. I’d like to do more paintings, and I’d like to do better paintings.
Will you do it again?
I’m thinking in the spring. I’ll work on photo retrieval and selection, and I’ll let my arm get better.
See Also: The announcement of 100 Paintings 1 Day and check how I envisaged #100paintings1day might go compared to what actually happened.