“Angel in the Rain” – written by Steve Murnaghan (Thursday 6.30-9pm)

Steve Murnaghan and his painting "Angel in the Rain"

Steve and his painting “Angel in the rain”.

Steve MurnaghanWritten by Steve Murnaghan (joining Thursday class 6.30-9pm)

Thursday night students have shared my journey this year with the progress of Angel in the Rain which I was delighted to finish last month. It is now framed and has pride of place in my lounge room at home.

Angel with light

The painting looks even better with the lighting for it.

Mike has suggested for some time that I settle on a theme so that I can develop a series of works and I have decided that stone sculptures and statues portraiture will be it. They are such evocative images with lovely clean lines and all the imperfections of natural stone with years of weathering. I have enjoyed doing landscapes at NSA but I seem to be drawn back to portraiture all the time, whether it be in pencil or paint. I am already progressing well with the second piece in this series.

I need to get my camera and go and find original subjects to paint. I found Angel in the Rain on the internet. Using other peoples material can take you into some murky copyright areas. When I realised Angel was going to be something a bit special I took the bold step of contacting the photographer directly to ask his permission to paint it and I was very happy when he replied with is approval. I felt I could have a problem on my hands if the opportunity arose some time in the future to display the work or publicise it. Or sell it!!

I don’t have such a problem sourcing images from the internet if I don’t have any other plans than to simply hang the work at home. Flickr and Tumblr are sensational resources for some stunning imagery. Even Google Images is good. Think of what you’d like to paint, enter it into the search function and scroll away to your hearts content. If you find something you like be sure to make a note of what it’s called or where it’s from as images are often difficult to relocate if you have to go searching for them again! Print it off and paint away!

I also use technology to benchmark my progress. Each week I take a picture of my work with my phone and email it to myself. I can then get it on my desktop and compare it with last weeks work and the original from which I am painting. This comparison process easily highlights particular areas that need to be corrected for shape or proportion. Once I have got the subject correctly mapped out it is a much more satisfying task to work on the detail and the end result will be good. When a work is finished it’s interesting to see the development of the piece from the very beginning too. Here is an example of this with my current work (yet to be given a title). I can see all sorts of tweaks and adjustments I need to make next week!

Marble Pair

Steve’s painting (left) and The photo of statue (right).

Why does it have a purple background?
Because when I printed the picture out on my desk top laser printer the dodgy colour settings gave me a distinctly different picture from the original. I will correct the colours of the statue as I go but it’s probably too late to rescue the background! I actually don’t mind it.

With Angel in the Rain I enjoyed working on a large size canvas. The picture actually carried a lot of fine detail so I had to be quite disciplined with when to call it finished. I could have gone on adding dots forever! The areas of the picture that are less distinct and faded out of ‘focus’ a bit were a satisfying element. I applied largish dobs of lighter (or darker) colour over dried layers of colour and then scumbled them out with a dry brush. This technique created the lovely blotchiness of the piece. Even the little fine dots got a once over with the dry brush to soften them. One of the things I love about painting with oils is accidentally discovering a technique, or maybe simply a colour. All-of-a-sudden you go “Wha? How did that happen?”, “I don’t know but I like it!” and off you go on some new journey of creativity and discovery.

teve Murnaghan's brush box

Steve’s Brush box.

I didn’t take any pictures of Angel right at the beginning of the process but here are comparisons of an early one, one from the middle and one nearing completion.

Process 1

Process 2

Process 3


mike lamble faceMike said: I enjoyed watching Steve create this beautiful image over the months and I know my constant suggestions at times must have driven him nuts but he took it all with good grace and the end result was worth it.
It is a superb painting superbly painted with a totally professional attitude to the challenges it presented until he completed it, some of my students would do well to take a leaf out of Steve’s book!
I’m trying to find something to bag him over, for once I cant think of anything …………….. except man u 1 MAN CITY 4 thanks to the BBC.


If you haven’t read “Ask our students” article about Steve, Click here.