underpainting 2

Part 3

Developing the Under Painting

At this stage I am still using the acrylic Burnt Umber. I add more tonal washes and start to describe areas of light and shade. The techniques at this stage are identical to those used with watercolour. I am adding thin transparent washes so as not to lose any of the lines. These are subtle and built up gradually and patiently. All during this process I have a copy of the original close to hand.

underpainting 3

Here, I begin to fill in the dark areas of the background. So far, all of this has been done with one colour, Burnt Umber, accurately placed lines and a few transparent washes. Again, like watercolour, I have used just the background priming for the highlights. Already a lot of the original painting has been established. It’s all about planning, method and patience, taking each stage as it comes and not trying to get finished effects immediately. I believe that (in painting, as in life) the harder a thing is to achieve the more method is required. Slow, sure layered technique and thinking is the key here. This is the final stage of the drawing. The next stage is applying oil paints over our drawing…


Recreating an Old Master 1: Velasquez, Christ Crucified, oil on canvas

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The Painter

Diego Velazquez (1599 – 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).

The Painting

Christ Crucified is a painting of 1632 by Diego Velázquez depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus. The work, painted in oil on canvas, measures 98″ x 66″ and is owned by the Museo del Prado. Velazquez painted the crucified Christ using the accepted iconography of the period: four nails, feet together and supported against a little wooden brace, in a classic contrapposto posture.
Both arms draw a subtle curve, instead of forming a triangle. The purity cloth is painted rather small, thus showing the nude body as much as possible. The head shows a narrow halo, as if it came from the figure itself; the face is posed on the chest, showing just enough of his characteristics. The long, straight hair, covers a great part of the face, perhaps anticipating the death, already inflicted as shown by the wound on the right side. It lacks the characteristic dramatic qualities of Baroque painting. The influence of Classicist painting is shown by the calm posture of the body, the idealized face and the leaning head. On the other hand, the Caravaggism influence can be seen in the strong Chiaroscuro between the background and the body, and in the strong, artificial lightning over the cross.
It was most likely a commission for the San Plácido Convent sacristy. The painting was among the impounded items of Manuel Godoy, but was returned to María Teresa de Borbón, 15th Countess of Chinchón. After her death, the painting was passed on to his brother-in-law, the Duke of San Fernando de Quiroga, who gave it to King Fernando VII. The king then sent the painting to the Museo del Prado.

New Commission for St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, N.Ireland

In 2005 I was commissioned to recreate a version of Velasquez’s Christ Crucified for St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. I decided that instead of the full painting I would focus in on a detail of the painting. This then would be the task…

The Detail

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I began with establishing both the size of the painting and the “canvas”. In this case I decided to use MDF instead of canvas. The MDF (although heavier) once primed, would provide a flat untextured surface suitable for the accurate reproduction of such fine, intricate painting.

STEP 1: The Board/ Size/Priming.

The first step was to cut the standard 8ft x 4ft MDF sheet down to 4ft x 5ft. This would suit the selected detail. Next came priming. The boards were initially primed with three coats of Matt emulsion (same paint as used for home decoration). I allowed for at least two hours between coats. After which I then primed over the top of the emulsion with three more coats of white gesso. Gesso is the standard material used by artists to prime canvas. It is a mixture of chalk and gypsum with a binder. This would create a very smooth surface for painting.


Recreating an Old Master 1: Velasquez, Christ Crucified, oil on canvas

Irish Landscape: Old Bridge at the Downings

Bridge at the Downings

I came across this small, old bridge in The Downings in County Donegal in Ireland. The flowers in the foreground really presented a chance to add colour to the scene. There was a mixture of rushes and wild flowers. If there was a stream still flowing under the bridge it was heavily overgrown. There was a marshy feel to the turf underfoot suggesting a bog and the trace of water which must have been here at some stage. The bridge itself looked really old. The stones had weathered creating textures. The background led to sandy dunes and down to a beach out of site of the picture…

Irish Landscape: Old Bridge at the Downings

Crossing Borders: New Collection of landscapes and Poems by Joe Campbell: Published by Guildhall Press


Crossing Borders by Joe Campbell a new collection of Landscapes and poetry, published by Guildhall Press, Price: £11.95

Available from

“Joe Campbell said his cancer diagnosis was the catalyst for Crossing Borders, a collection of his poems and paintings produced over the past 20 years and more,that makes you inclined to read and look in a certain way, to see this work as a summation, to consider it in a fading light.

And that might make you judge it with a patronising sentimentality it doesn’t deserve. There is a coolness and distance in the beauty of the work, but also an intense belonging. This is a man who grew up in Derry with the “malevolent background grind” of army helicopters above him, but who recognised the youth of the soldiers who searched him and wanted to break down the barriers which held people apart. This collection is personal, political, intense, honest, and uncertain. There is humour and waste and an acknowledgement of failings. And there is a sense of the absurd right next to a yearning for more important things, and all the while Davy Crockett rides around and says it’s cool for cats. Campbell’s work is urgent, removed, and beautiful…”

Dominic Kearney, Irish News.

Crossing Borders is a debut collection of poems by artist Joe Campbell. A unique tapestry of beautiful images and honest experience, it is an artist’s view of life. It is also deeply personal. Described by Campbell himself as “more like painting with words than creating verse” the poetry deals with difficult, stark, life experiences such as: cancer; the troubles and bereavement and juxtaposes verse with paintings gleaned from over twenty years of professional work.

Born and reared in his native city of Derry, Campbell’s painting also reflects a deep sense of place. The images are portraits of a city and its hinterland and pay homage to its natural beauty. The collection is a blend, with poems that draw on history, distant memory and emotion and with paintings that seek to provide a visual respite and establish an empathy and common ground with the reader.Crossing Borders is above all human, deeply rooted in real life experience, a collection born out of trauma.

Crossing Borders: New Collection of landscapes and Poems by Joe Campbell: Published by Guildhall Press

Thistles & Wildflowers

Thistles & Wildflowers.

Thistles & Wildflowers