‘Saint Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest’

Completed  18/04/14

Saint Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest 
Acrylic on gessoed panel. 60 x 81 cm. 2014

Lots of sgraffito here, used to enliven the the surface of the painting and add sparkle to the trees and bushes. As I’ve always loved painting water, the river has been a particular pleasure to work on. (It’s the river Wye, running past Catchmay’s Court at Llandogo, home of The Old Stile Press and our friends Nicolas and Frances.)

This marks my return to the subject of Saint Kevin after a long absence. Seamus Heaney’s poem has for many years been the source of inspiration for my work on the theme, and indeed I’ve made enough paintings to merit a whole Kevin and the Blackbird section in the Artlog archive. (Check it out in the ‘Topics’ box at top right.)

Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest will be in:

Telling Tales: new narrative works from Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Tegfryn Gallery/Oriel Tegfryn

Menai Bridge


Opens May 10th

the saint’s landscape

Day seven, and the appearance of some sheep.

The landscape draws on work I did for the cover image for the second volume of The Old Stile Press Bibliography. Below Catchmays Court a gate leads from the garden through a hedge and into a field where balsamic poplars line the river bank, and sheep picturesquely graze. It seems the most perfect setting for this saint-in-the-making who turned his back on the world, an anchorite meditating in the wilderness. (But a slightly tamed wilderness here, with gates and fences.)

I’m cock-a-hoop that the great Ronnie Burkett popped by my Facebook page and clicked a ‘like’ on today’s Saint Kevin and the Blackbird image. I’ve admired his puppet artistry for so long. The man is a genius.

the suit of many colours

Day four at the easel has been spent finishing Saint Kevin’s jacket, complete with embroidered stars and appliquéd hearts and diamonds. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting the frilled edge to the velvet collar. In his hand (not shown here) the egg-laden nest is without the hen. I guess she’s left the saint as egg-sitter while she’s away feeding! But she’s nevertheless present in the appliqué of his jacket, lying over his heart.

As I paint I can hear the blackbirds in the garden.

‘Saint Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest’

Saint Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest 
Pencil on gessoed panel. 60 x 81 cm. 2014

Day two in the studio.

The landscape beyond Saint Kevin is that of the grounds at Catchmay’s Court, Llandogo, home of Nicolas and Frances McDowall and The Old Stile Press. This viewpoint also served as a painting for the cover of the second volume of the OSP bibliography.

Kevin holds the nest with its fragile cargo of eggs. The blackbird is referenced only in the appliqué of the saint’s jacket, the source of which is an English mummer’s costume that I also adapted for The Valorous Knight, though I significantly changed some of the appliquéd shapes.