Emerging Northern Irish Female Artists

Orla Gilkeson

Orla Gilkeson lives along the County Down coastline in Northern Ireland and is inspired by the changing nature of the Irish Sea and surrounding landscapes. She produces abstract paintings and creates undeniably unique wall art.

Her work is particularly interesting in that she reimagines landscapes and seascapes using textures, brushstrokes and scraping techniques through the mediums of acrylics, watercolour and oils, imbuing them with a slight edge of magical realism. This makes her abstract paintings and fine art photography seem both timeless and yet constantly evolving at the same time. There is the slightest hint of transcendence if you pay enough attention, resulting in some very unique wall art.

‘Wave,’ by Orla Gilkeson

Her overpainted photographs are worth a look also. She uses photographs she has taken of the sea and then adds layers of paint over the top, making the photograph become her canvas, in the tradition of the great German artist Gerhard Richter. The result is a thought provoking interrogation of the idea of what landscapes and seascapes really are, not to mention what art itself is. You can see her collection of overpainted photographs here:


Her Irish Sea Glimpses Collection (a series of canvases 15×15 depicting the sea in a state of continual fluctuation) is an intriguing and beautiful series of abstract paintings. You can find some of her work on Saatchi Art here:


Overpainted Photograph Mixed Media Seascape by Orla Gilkeson

Aly Harte

Aly Harte has become more and more prominent through her mentorship programmes, podcasts, videos and artworks. She describes herself as being ‘passionate about placing importance on everyday moments, objects and places,’ and her brush approach is loose despite having quite a bold style. She produces paintings in quite an abstract style with a particular emphasis on soft pastels.

‘Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge’ by Aly Harte

Having grown up in the Irish countryside has had a huge influence upon her subjects, style and her painterly gaze. Many of her landscapes are from around the island of Ireland, and highlight important Irish symbols and products. 

She is keen to highlight the struggles of women and gender inequality as demonstrated in her 12 Female Portraits which she released for International Women’s Day last year. All of the women in the collection are known to Harte and she had them send photographs of themselves to her to use, rather than drawing from real life. They are all similar to the artist in some way – they are women she has known since childhood or met at the gym, mothers of her children’s friends or like her in that they are also self-employed mums who are trying to build a business at the same time.

One of 12 Female Portraits by Aly Harte

You can find out more on her website www.alyharte.com

Fiona Finnegan 

Fiona Finnegan is an artist working in Belfast who investigates folklore, myths and ideas of the paranormal in her work. She creates a sense of mystery and unease in her work, which is inspired by photographs from the Internet. It is difficult to associate a time or place with her images which gives them a touch of the timeless, as well as a very surreal quality. They could be anywhere or nowhere.

‘Pyramid,’ by Fiona Finnegan

The artist mostly produces images which are set at twilight, favouring the in-between times, further creating a sense of the uncanny. When she includes figures they are often hooded and hidden in shadow, and it is unclear what exactly their purpose might be. Paintings like one below ‘Ancestors,’ or ‘Vigil,’ are a case in point. Finnegan likes to use oil on wood which adds to the dream-like quality of her paintings.

‘Ancestors,’ by Fiona Finnegan

You can discover more about this fascinating painter here:


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Gifts For Young Artists – What to Buy Creative Kids for Christmas

Get Your Kids Painting Like Only Kids Can

“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” Pablo Picasso

Got creative kids? More often than not that means having to be pretty creative yourself to choose the right gifts for young artists this Christmas. Fortunately help is on hand to get you moving in the right festive direction.

1 Gifts For Young ArtistsArts and Crafts Supplies Kits for Kids

You really can’t beat these for the hours and hours of fun that can be had from them. We’ve all had the bad experience of buying kids really expensive presents that they lose interest in within a few days, if not before. That’s not the case with these kits though – they have 1500+ pieces including; pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, feathers, and beads. There are so many creative possibilities here to keep kids from 4 right up to 12 amused that these kits border on free childcare. See for yourself here:


2 Gifts For Young Artists – An Acrylic Paint Set

Why not get them started on the good stuff early? These quick-drying non-toxic paints are perfect for kids who love to paint or want to start painting. They aren’t too bad for adult beginners either. They are for using on canvas, cardboard, wood, paper to mention but a few. They are easy to mix and have a very wide spectrum of colours to keep the boredom of creative kids at bay. 

Have a look here:


3 Gifts For Young ArtistsKids Draw’ Big Book of Everything Manga

Manga has never been so popular with kids, and this book is an all-in-one collection of how-to-draw manga lessons. Your kids can learn to draw manga heads, faces, eyes, and bodies. There are also detailed lessons teaching them how to draw manga fantasy characters and monsters. There are over 1000 illustrations in this book, providing plenty of inspiration. This will keep them amused and off their phones for hours and hours.


4 Gifts For Young ArtistsWacom Intuos S, Bluetooth Pen Tablet, Wireless Graphic Tablet for Painting, Sketching and Photo Retouching

For older kids who have proved themselves to be super interested in art, and likely to stay the course you could invest in a wireless Graphic Tablet. It’s perfect for home, school or on the go. This tablet is among the best in its class for digital drawing and the 4096 pressure level stylus included allows for impressive precision. The bluetooth connectivity really takes things to a new level. You really can achieve an authentic looking hand-painted effect, as well as enhance existing photographs with the creative software which comes with it. For kids or teens interested in comic book art you can download Clip Studio Paint Pro which has everything that a young comic book or manga artist could need at this stage.

Find out more here:


5 Gifts For Young Artists3D Printing Pens for kids 6-12

We’ll leave you with a particularly creative and fascinating idea – the 3D Printing Pen. You’d be forgiven for not having heard of these but they really do create physical entities using plastic filament which is shaped by using the pen. Then you leave it to dry, and you have a 3D representation straight from your mind into reality. 

Have a look here to check out these brilliant gadgets:


If you want to go the whole way and get an actual mini 3D Printer it could be really worth the effort:


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Featured Artist Blog Post – Gerhard Richter and The Blurring of Certainty

The Dresden-born artist Gerhard Richter is undeniably one of the most important painters of the 20th and 21st Century. He is particularly famous for his overpainted photographs, in which he uses the photograph as canvas. Yet he has also shown himself fluent in a variety of mediums including watercolours and oils. Further still he has produced the painstaking lifelong work ‘Atlas,’ a collection of historical photographs which link in with some of the themes of his other works, and call into question how we interpret art, history and even reality itself. 

There are many who think he is the greatest living artist.

Yet despite all of this, Richter is still plagued by doubt. Doubts about the nature and meaning of art, and of his own achievements. He seems to be forever criticising and interrogating art, believing it to be hugely relevant and irrelevant, or perhaps neither of the two. He has hung on to an honest scepticism and lack of resolution with an almost moral fortitude. 

Richter looks at his subjects with an appraising and ambivalent eye which captures a beautiful sense of uncertainty. This is seen perhaps most clearly in his painting ‘September,’ a small blurred picture which shows a plane flying towards the World Trade Centre. It was created by obscuring a media image from the time. An appalling act of violence is somehow presented as unclear, suggesting the changing nature of interpretations and memories of that awful day.

‘September’ 2005 Gerhard Richter

Even when he paints himself he illustrates uncertainty. His painting ‘Self Portrait,’ (shown above) is a blurred representation which uses dry brushstrokes to produce a hazy and mysterious effect. It is quite unsettling and makes dubious that most important of concepts – the self.

‘Self Portait’ 1996 Gerhard Richter

It seems unlikely that one of our greatest living artist is likely to create much clarity at 88. Yet his work captures so much of the blurring of lines and ideals that he has lived through. It is timeless and constantly open to interpretation, like all great art should be.

You can buy Gerhard Richter prints inexpensively here:


Or you can have a look at a signed rare print of Richter’s here:


For a more modern nod to overpainted photographs you could have a look at emerging female Irish artist Orla Gilkeson.


Picturing things, taking a view, is what makes us human; art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God.

Gerhard Richter

3 Emerging Female Artists to Watch in 2020

As 2020 draws to a close, this post considers some of the top female artists who have made a huge impact in the art world despite a global pandemic. 

1 Martine Syms

The Los Angeles based artist calls herself a ‘conceptual entrepreneur,’ and from examining her work this seems to be a way of describing herself as someone who wants to engage with a variety of mediums and platforms. She explores digital culture in an innovative and unique way through the use of videos, images and text to name but a few. She powerfully explores themes of identity and social injustice in her work and has successfully reached a mass audience.

Here is a link to her recent exhibition information on Contemporary Art Daily :




2 Lily Kemp

Despite only graduating last year Lily Kemp is already making waves in the Art World. Her work attempts to provide alternatives to the over sexualisation of the female form in the media and in the history of art. She seeks to give us a different lens to look at art through than the long established white heterosexual male one. She was awarded the Lim Ai Fang Art Prize and is definitely an artist to watch at the moment.

You can find out more at her website http://www.lilykemp.com.

3 Molly Brocklehurst

The London-based 26 year old artist Molly Brocklehurst is a figurative painter who addresses themes of nostalgia and loss through works that attempt to interrogate the nature of time and history, and our various interpretations of reality.

Brocklehurst was selected for the Signature Art Prize and the Refresh Art Award last year, and she has had exhibitions across Scandinavia and the UK. She was also named as a Saatchi Rising Star last year.


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Link Roundup of Recent Art News From Around the World

These are some of the best stories about Art that we have found from around the Internet – all in one place for your entertainment and information. Be warned they really do range from the sublime to the somewhat ridiculous. Creativity can be found in the most unexpected places. 

It’s always great to be in the know about the latest in demand works on Artsy. Here is a link to a fascinating article put together and based on what members on Artsy are most interested in – in terms of inquiries, page views, saves, and bids.

10 In-Demand Works on Artsy This Week: November 30, 2020


An artistic couple in Bristol are using their own house windows as an actual gallery. 

It’s certainly a very novel approach to selling art without the aid of Christmas Markets or galleries.


Louise Fishman releases a new body of work at Karma New York. The painter’s style, often described as ‘gestural abstraction,’ has been reimagined and is pushing the limits once more.

The Artistic Athleticism of Louise Fishman


After the recent story of the monolith that appeared in Utah and then disappeared as mysteriously as it arrived, another one has appeared in Romania near an ancient fortress. Here is the article on artnewspaper.com. You were warned about the ridiculous elements of this link roundup. Is this a nod to Arthur C.Clarke? Would the real monolith creator please stand up?


This week’s featured gallery on Contemporary Art Daily is Whitney Claflin at the Bodega New York. The Exhibition Title is,  ‘ADD SHOT’

and it runs from October 30 – December 19, 2020. Read all about this fascinating exhibition here:

The last thing to include in this blog is a beautiful reminder of how art is as old and enduring as humanity itself, showing us what a vital place it has in human culture. Thousands of ancient rock paintings have been discovered in the Amazon. They are also very detailed indeed.


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Ten Things To Buy An Artist This Christmas

A Palette? No, too obvious!

We all know artists can be fussy, especially about all things art related! So where do you start when it comes to Christmas gifts? 

Here are a few ideas that will delight even the most difficult of your artistic friends and family. 

1 A Sketching Wallet

This is one of the best and affordable gifts you could give to an art lover. It’s perfect for carrying around and capturing the moments when the Muse visits, suiting outdoors artists in particular. The Derwent Sketching Wallet is an excellent choice, and available on Amazon and elsewhere. It contains Graphic pencils, Watersoluble sketching pencils, an Onyx pencil, tinted charcoal pencils, a charcoal pencil, a metal sharpener, a plastic eraser, and even an A5 landscape sketch pad. Perfect for artistic adventures! Who could argue with that?


2 A Fine Art Photography Giclee Print

Anybody who is in the know about the best quality prints will tell you that it has to be a giclee. The word comes from the French and means ‘to spray’ referring to the small precise sprays of ink that an inkjet printer uses while printing. Everyone loves a beautiful landscape, no?

Mourne Mountains Photography Prints

3 A Local Fine Art Class

Why not buy a voucher for a local art class so your artist can ‘brush’ up their skills? If you happen to know an area of interest that they have always wanted to develop (such as portraiture) even better!

4 Artwork Themed Homeware

While it seems these days that beautiful paintings end up printed on everything from tank tops to underwear don’t throw out the idea completely. Plates, saucers and even coffee mugs look fantastic and tasteful with your favourite paintings on them. Drinking a hot drink or even eating breakfast can become an even more mindful exercise. You can buy these items from various websites, including Redbubble. There are even sites that specialize in taking Instagram prints and putting them on coasters (to name but one option) so if the artist in question displays their art on Instagram you could actually print their own artwork onto homeware for them.

5 A Sensu Artist Brush

This stylus allows you to draw on a smartphone or tablet allowing an entirely new dimension of drawing and painting digitally.


6 An original artwork under £50

This might be an obvious one but people often rule out original artworks because they imagine they will be too expensive. Websites like Etsy have affordable original art, and some of it is outstanding. 

Abstract Canvas Art is very much trending at the moment.

Original Paintings

7 Canvases

What better gift for an artist than a canvas or two for them to enjoy their hobby or profession on? Busy artists can never have enough canvases. You may have to get some insider knowledge from partners or parents you should do so because artists can be particular about their personal preference of canvas. It should be as easy as a casual question or two though.

We like Arteza canvases and find them high quality.


8 Tracing Light Box

These are perfect for on the go and are powered by a USB. They are especially helpful if the light is poor, such as in winter time or at night, meaning you really can draw or paint in all situations.


9 Portable Easel

Again it might seem obvious, but easels can be expensive so people don’t go there. That’s why a portable easel can be a great gift option especially for those outdoor painting sessions. Make sure it’s not to difficult to adjust as that can be one of the most frustrating things about easels!


10 An Art Themed Phone Case

Artists often painstakingly photograph their works first, often on their phones. Why not get them a phone case which immediately identifies them as an artist? This watercolour case is fantastic but you could try all sorts of other ideas, such as your artist’s favourite painting.


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