Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hill of Uisneach Sketches

A bit of a behind the scenes here for the Hill of Uisneach image.

Usually before I work on the final for each image, I do a series of sketches, one of those stages, is a colour comp stage. This is where I play with different times of day/weather to get different light & colour options,  playing with different moods and feels for the site.

In this case the middle one was chosen by the clients as the plan was to include a fair or aonach in the image, so the darkness of the third sunset image above for instance wouldnt have been appropiate as people may injure themselves.

The final image can be seen here:

Monday, 22 May 2017

Hill of Uisneach- early Medieval Royal Assembly Illustration

A few months ago I was commissioned by David & Angela Clarke, landowners at Uisneach to create an interpretative illustration of the important assembly site at the hill of Uisneach in Co. Westmeath.The  archaeological direction was provided by Dr.Roseanne Schot & Uisneach tour guide Justin Moffatt. The illustration shows the Mórdáil Uisneach or great assembly at Uisneach during the early medieval period, The hill of Uisneach was known in the early middle ages as the navel of Ireland as it was believed to have been in the centre of the island. In the foreground you can see the figure 8 double embanked early medieval Rathnew Ringfort. On the rise beyond you can make out the mound of Carn Lúdach, from the bronze age and in the dip between it and the next slope you can make out Lough Lugh, named after the famous god Lugh in Celtic/Irish Mythology, whom the city Lyons in modern day France receives its name from.

Carn Lúdach, the mound in the background, was found with geophysical survey to have a 200 metre-diameter ceremonial enclosure surrounding it, probably dating from the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c. 1000–100BC). Traces of the enclosure ditch can still be seen at the time of the illustration. In the illustration you can also make out a temporary wooden platform from which nobles or the local king is speaking to the crowd beyond

As mentioned the ringfort is called Rathnew, it was a Figure of 8 ringfort, 90 m diameter, 2 banks with 1 ditch between, the Banks were revetted with the outer bank 0.8m high with the inner bank 1.7m high. Inside were 2 houses; the so-called Eastern House and the Western House, both of which were probably thatched. The south entrance to the ringfort was causewayed across the fosse, with stone revetment and metalled surface, flanked on either side by a row of stones, 0.3m in height. And in the larger ring of the figure 8, you can make out the remains of a circular enclosure from the Iron age, at the time shown it would have just been a slight line, as shown. There is also a souterrain which were used for storage of foods and the like during the early middle ages. A souterrain is a cave like artificial structure, which are often quite cool, so you can imagine, good fridges. There is also pens for some pigs and the prize bull of the lord inside the ringfort proper.

As mentioned Uisneach was the place of one of the most important assemblies in early Ireland and shown here is such an assembly. A fair or market would have been a major component of the assembly, with trading of various foods/goods sheltered by awnings or other temporary structures and a large drinking hall as well as tents belonged to some of the more important visitors like lords and their lesser retainers. During excavations they found the remains of at least five large dogs at Rathnew so some are shown here. The excavations also revealed evidence of bronze-working and iron-working at Rathnew, which probably took place in some kind of shelter or structure inside the ringfort as shown beside the smaller house. Finally also shown here are Cooking pits/fulacht fiaidh where they are roasting meat

As you can see Uisneach was a place of immense importance to the people of early Ireland with great ritual and social importance. The site still has alot of beauty with magnificent panoramic views, well worth  a stop as one explores ancient westmeath

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Moneen Illustration on the news!

The illustration I did of the teenage boy that died in Moneen cave 400-500 years ago, has just been featured on the national news, RTE Six One news-The report is about the book by Marion Dowd on the excavations carried out in cave which features the illustration, from time 34:43 on here: Its also been on the TG4, Ireland Irish language TV station, from 8:23 on here in the same report but in Irish:

Monday, 12 December 2016

Virtual Heritage Network Conference in UCC

An informative article and interview with Ronán Swan about TII and their work digitising their reports by Laoise Byrne-Ring for the just finished Virtual heritage Network Conference in UCC.. Kindly featuring some of my work in there too:

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Meitheal- Book on Raystown early medieval site

Meitheal Book- Raystown early medieval site A while back I was commissioned to do an illustration of an early medieval burial at Raystown for the then NRA. The book, written by matthew Seaver, will be launched on the 12th of December, at 5 pm at the Royal Irish academy, 19th Dawson st, Dublin if people want to swing by and pick up a copy. NB: I did an interior illustration, the cover, shown here, was done by the very talented Simon Dick It can also be purchased online here:

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Moneen Cave Commissions

16th/17th century boy

Bronze Age ritual

The book 'Archaeological excavations in Moneen Cave, the Burren, Co. Clare' by Archaeopress has just been released which has commissioned illustrations by myself inside. As written on the back of the book about the cave:

"In 2011, cavers exploring a little-known cave on Moneen Mountain in County Clare in the west of Ireland discovered part of a human skull, pottery and an antler implement. An archaeological excavation followed, leading to the discovery of large quantities of Bronze Age pottery, butchered animal bones and oyster shells. The material suggests that Moneen Cave was visited intermittently as a sacred place in the Bronze Age landscape. People climbed the mountain, squeezed through the small opening in the cave roof, dropped down into the chamber, and left offerings on a large boulder that dominates the internal space. The excavation also resulted in the recovery of the skeletal remains of an adolescent boy who appears to have died in the cave in the 16th or 17th century. Scientific analyses revealed he had endured periods of malnutrition and ill health, providing insight into the hardships faced by many children in post-medieval Ireland. "

One of the 2 illustrations I did, show the adolescent boy from the 16th/17th century who was found in the cave. He had a head of a normal 14 year old but the body of a younger child because of various periods of malnutrition. It seems he crawled into a hole in the cave to die, an end to probably quite a sad and miserable life. The 16th/17th centuries being such terrible periods of Irish history with the Tudor conquest of Ireland, various rebellions and plantations, you can well imagine the kind of hardship suffered by the normal people in the time.

The other illustration shows the Bronze Age activity, which showed signs of being used ritually. It seems either a person or people left offerings ontop of a large boulder inside, which may have been some kind of altar. Here its interpreted as a female shaman of sorts who was doing the ritual depositions and that the offerings were done facing out, rather than inwards. Its probable that someone like this would have done the depositions on behalf on the community and could well have spent days inside communing with whatever spirits or gods etc they had.

The facinating book is available in archaeopress here:

And the book is being launched at Hylands Burren Hotel, Ballyvaughan on Friday 9th December 2016 at 7 pm, its free and will feature a lecture by Dr Brendan Dunford, Burren Programme. all are welcome

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Walking the snow covered Comeraghs

I went for a sketch walk with fellow sketchers yesterday, what a great day for a hike!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Irish Cottage Interior

Continuing on from my earlier images of the exterior of a 19th-20th Century Irish farm cottage (shown here: I actually enlarged the house after further research showed me that they were often this size rather than smaller. Cottages of the time usually contained a living room with a fire, a bedroom and a parlour.

The bedroom was often behind the wall with the fire so the heat could spread there and sometimes had an upper loft for more beds with a small window. The Parlour was a room that was left untouched unless they had guests or the priest visited, the usual living was done in the living room by the snug fire. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Rathcroghan illustration in the Irish times

I was commissioned by the Roscommon County Council a few months back to do an illustration of Rathcroghan, one of the ancient Royal sites of Ireland. Today it was just featured in the national newspaper Irish Times in an article about the site. The article itself can be found here:

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

19th Century Irish Rural Woman

Continuing on from the earlier Irish cottage illustrations, here is one of the women shown in the last image. Her character design is a combination of some reading and alot of visual research into clothing at the time, good thing about this period is there is loads of photographs in the late 19th-early 20th century of Irish women.

And yes, in case you find the pipe smoking hard to believe, there is a rare photo of a woman smoking from back then, so threw it in as I thought it fit her character nicely. The second imager is front, back and side of the same character.

PS it wasnt done for #Inktober's #Inktober2016 but it is in ink, so its the right month for it :)

Monday, 26 September 2016

Sketches from Ring of Kerry

Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat- a restored famine village on Bolus head, now used as an artist retreat

Just a sketch playing with drawing from imagination

Was off sketching around the ring of Kerry over the weekend, where me and several other artists from the sketch group 'Sceitse', rented a house on Kells Beach. We spent a few days sketching while hanging out, exploring and having a laugh, great times! 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Tomb Robber

Just a little sketch, playing around with brushes

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Irish Cottage Sketch

A design sketch of an 19th-20th Century Irish farm cottage.

The sketches around it show my process, from little thumbnail sketches in the upper left, to orthographic views (front & back) in the upper right and the final perspective drawing centre.

Though I often do the orthographic drawings in pencil after the little thumbnails and change them once i have finished the final perspective drawing as I usually change the design when Im doing the perspective image and need to re-edit the orthographic images to match.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Warmup/practice sketches

Some daily warmup/practice sketches from today

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Great Pyramid of Giza- Illustration of the funeral of Khufu

The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most famous places on earth and in many ways was the pinnacle of Pyramid building. What is surprising though is this wasn’t the result of long years of trial and error or the end of an era but the result of an explosion of invention that occurred within a few generations, between the creation of the first and Khufu’s, a period of only 60 years past. This explosion in technology that happened in the 27thCentury BC in Ancient Egypt, lead the Egyptians to make a huge leap forward in building, that was unparralled for many millennia after. In fact the great pyramid was the tallest building on earth until the building of the Eiffel tower in Paris nearly 4 thousand years later.

As you may guess, originally Egyptian Pharaohs weren’t buried pyramids, but in Mastabas, which were slanted subterranean single story rectangular tombs. It wasn’t until King Djoser, around 2680 BC, that the architect Imhotep had the great idea to start putting one Mastaba ontop of the other. This idea, which created a step pyramid, was to be the start of a long line of pyramids stretching thousands of years. The next great builder of pyramids was Sneferu (2613-2589 B.C.), creating the first true pyramid as he filled in the steps to create the familiar angular shape we know today as pyramids. It was his son though, Khufu (2589-2566 B.C.) who was to create the largest pyramid the world would ever know (around 147 meters). Khufu’s son Khafre was to build the second largest (only 10 meters shorter), this shortness he made up for by building the Sphinx(apparently one of the largest statues in the ancient world). Finally there was one more in the triad of the Pyramids at Giza, which was built by Menkaure, Khufus grandson, which was also the smallest (66 metres). After this the Egyptians started making smaller and smaller pyramids and never again would such large pyramids ever be built.

The illustration shows the great pyramid at around the time of the funeral of Khufu. The great pyramid of today is more yellow but thats because of the removal of outer encasing of white Tura Limestone, which was re-used for mosques in the middle ages (a similar thing happened to Roman buildings in Europe for churches). It must have been an awe inspiring sight at the time though, a bright shining white gigantic pyramid surrounded by desert, many jaws must have dropped. There are a few theories as to why the pyramid shape (besides the practical one), it could have been based on rays of sun or a stairway to heaven for the pharaoh’s soul, or as the Egyptians also believed the mound was the shape the world was as it rose from the primeval waters so could this artificial mound be echoing the same. Unlike what the movies tell us, it was Egyptian Farmers who built the pyramids, not slaves, in fact the Egyptians had very few slaves. During certain times of the year when the farms were flooded by the Nile, the farmers would build the pyramid as a sacred duty on their time off, this would have taken many many years as you can imagine! There is a reason as well that the Pyramids were built in desert areas as to the west of the Nile was desert, which were barren but it was also where the sun set, so believed to be the land of the dead by the Ancient Egyptians.

At the base of the great pyramid you see an enclosing wall made of the same white Tura Limestone, this was transported many miles and across the Nile to Giza. Attached to the enclosing wall is the Mortuary temple, before the Pharaoh died he set aside lands for the maintenance of a community of priests, whose duty it was to maintain this temple and provide offerings for the dead Pharaoh long into the future. Attached to this in turn is the causeway that was for the procession carrying the body of the Pharoah from the Valley temple below to the Mortuary temple shown here. The Valley temple was at the Nile itself, it was here they deposited the body via boat from the western side of the Nile, where all the cities were. They are not sure as to the purpose of both temples, but the Valley temple may have been used to mummify the Pharoahs body before it was transported via the causeway, while the Mortuary temple was where other rituals may have taken place, and afterwards, where offerings were left to Khufu.

You can also see 4 smaller pyramids at the great Pyramids base; 3 of these were the queen tombs, one may have been for Hetepheres, mother of Khufu, another for his queen Meritetes, and another to Henutsen who was his 2nd or 3rd wife. Each of these queen pyramid’s, also had small chapels, which like the mortuary temple of the pharaoh were for offerings to be made to them. Only found recently, but behind these queen pyramids is a 4th smaller pyramid that was for the Pharaohs’ ‘Ka’, something similar to a soul or a spirit. Around these you will notice a myriad of smaller structures, these were the aforementioned Mastabas, after the Pharaohs started being buried in pyramids, the mastabas were still being built for officials and the upper class. There are many more mastabas at Giza now, but what is shown here are the ones believed to have been built at the same time as the pyramid itself. One of the people buried in the mastabas is Kawab, the eldest son of Khufu. Actually one theory is that the mastabas closest to the small pyramids were the sons of the associated queen. Another person of note buried in one of the mastabas is Hemiunu, who may have been the architect of the Great Pyramid itself, he was buried in a mastaba near the pyramid.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Kilmallock historical Map

A few months ago, I did a map of Kilmallock town in southern Limerick for Abarta Audio Guides. What you see here is just the base, more information, a background etc were done ontop by others. Twas a great commission though, as I have known about Kilmallock for a long time and as a town with so many great historical sites, it deserves way more fame and tourism than it gets. So was glad to do my part to help make that, hopefully, happen.

I just did what you see here, more information, a background etc were done ontop by others. So this is essentially just the base of the map

Closeups of some of the drawings in the map

Monday, 11 July 2016

Adopt a monument Scheme

Round Hill Motte & Bailey, now overgrown with trees, but you can see how huge it is

Various photos of myself (in blue) getting some handson experience with Geophysics
Yesterday I helped out the remote sensing survey of Round Hill outside Lismore, a very impressive Motte & Bailey (which may even be a late medieval conversion of a pre-historic hillfort!). Had fun getting some handson learning of some of the techniques of geophysics. Check out the great Adopt a Monument Ireland scheme, they are doing some amazing work around the country trying to reconnect communities with their local heritage and take responsibility of them. Give them a like and your support!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

New Ross Library Workshop

Photos from my workshop in New Ross library yesterday, where I was teaching drawing basic geometric volumes and how they interact with light. Impressive results and a lovely group of people to help out!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sketching at UCD Experimental Archaeology Centre

Mesolithic House in UCD

Early Medieval Beehive house

My pen and marker sketches done while at the UCD experimental archaeological centre on Saturday

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Visiting to UCD Centre of Experimental Archaeology

Guided tour of the centre by Prof Aidan O'Sullivan

The early medieval beehive hut

sketching the Mesolithic hut 

They lit a fire inside the beehive hut so we could chill out and soak up the vibe 
I spent the day yesterday sketching in the UCD Experimental Archaeology Centre, sketching there with Sceitse, was one of the coolest places I have sketched in. More about the UCD Experimental Archaeology Centre here:

More about Sceitse here:

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Inside a Medieval Parish Church

Continuing on from my post a few days ago of the outside of a Medieval parish church and its environs, here is a cutaway of the interior of that same church. It is mostly based on evidence from the eastern side of Ireland, so would be firmly within the anglo-Norman area. Since most medieval churches in Ireland were left go to ruin after the reformation, very little evidence of the interior of medieval churches survives in Ireland, besides the walls and structure itself, essentially everything made of stone. Because of this, the layout and walls etc are based on Irish evidence but the rest mostly comes from Britain, i.e. everything that isnt stone.  So the interior of the church structure is mainly a combination of Wells, Co. Carlow, Kilfane, Co. Kilkenny and Faithlegg, Co. Waterford. There are two main parts in a parish church, the nave and the chancel, ill deal with both individually


The nave is where the parishioners were situated in a church during mass, everyone who wasnt clergy essentially. Probably the first thing that would grab most peoples attention is the wall painting and its colour.We are so used to the drab and plain interiors of churches these days, it would quite surprise us just how vibrantly colourful medieval churches were. Most people were illiterate so wall paintings served the dual purpose of beautifying an interior and helping illustrate some of the biblical stories. Its the same with the houses, most were many vibrant colours, it seems the people of the middle ages were quite colourful lot! The interior wall painting here is mostly based off Kempley with elements from other churches in Britain like St. Johns the Baptists church in Clayton, Attleborough church in Norfolk, Broughton in Cambs, and copford church in Essex.

 Most people would have stood in the nave but from excavations there has often been found a small number of seating, most likely for the rich or better off in the community. The seating here is loosely based off ones found in AllSaints, Incklingham, UK. The stoup beside the door is based off one in St. Mullins co. Carlow, this would have been used to baptise babies, these are often found by door, essentially so children were baptised before they entered into the church proper. The statue recess is based off such a recess in Kilfane but could have been a wall press too. Separating the nave from the chancel is the Rood or chancel screen, a partitition that divided the interior space of all churches, this one is based off Barton Turf Church, UK. The roof is Kempleys' roof and it is theorised in England that alot of their churches had ceilings created by the tie beam or bottom collar, instead of open to the roof, which would have been plastered over. The reason for this is that ceilings would have been easier to keep clean, could be even painted on, as the upper parts of the roofs often could be very dirty, full of cobwebs and even bats, so keeping them out of view from below, made alot of sense.


The crowning glory of a medieval church was often its chancel window, the one here is a lovely tracery window  in the east gable of Killeen, Co. Meath. Many windows in churches would have had glazing or stained glass but others would have just remained open, only to be closed by wooden shutters that could slid into place from the inside. The altar itself is based on one in St. Caimins church, Inis Cealtra, co, Clare. Illustrations from the time show a cross and two candles ontop of a table cloth as alter decorations, as well as wooden board around the base of the alter. Altars are usually found in Ireland to be either against the gable wall or almost abutting it.

On either side of the altar are two statue recesses, found in Kilfane church in Kilkenny. The statues throughout the church are loosely based on ones from the middle ages found in Fethard. co. Tipperary and others from Medieval Waterford city. Just above the altar in Kilfane there was a slight rectangular recess, here I inserted alabaster carvings, which have been found in churchyards in Ireland and were probably imported from Nottingham and elsewhere in England.

To the left of the altar is the sedilla and the piscina. The piscina is from St. Mullins in Carlow, piscinas were used to wash the holy vessels after the mass. This is the recess closest to the chancel gable on the left wall. Usually besides them were priest seats or sedillas, which are kind of self explanatory, the priests or deacons could rest here in various parts of the mass, this particular double seat is from Kilfane.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Medieval Parish Church at twilight

An illustration of a medieval parish church based on several parish churches I have visited around Ireland but also with evidence from Britain. Parish churches were one of the most important structures ever built in Ireland, as with parish churches came the division of land into parishes. This division seems likely to have begun before the arrival of Normans but it was with the Anglo Normans where it reached its zenith and continues even to this day as one of the ways of dividing the land.

Its hard for us to imagine these days, the power that the church had in the middle ages. It was a power so complete and utter that there was no escaping it. They were the most powerful institution in the middle ages, often in some places, more wealthy than the King himself. Like a local lord, peasants and serfs, had to work some of the year, for free, on their lands. They didnt pay any taxes and they also received tithes from peasants and serfs, that is one tenth of everything they made. You can imagine this made them extremely rich. Also in every important stage of life, there was the church, when you were born, when you died, when you got married, when you gave birth and after, it was always there. And if you shirked your duties to them or didn't pay your tithes, you could be spend time in the stocks or flogging and you may not get your place in heaven in the end. Im sure sometimes they resented this but at the same time, these were extremely devout people and probably believed by doing these things for the church, they were doing it for god too and their place in the after life.

The Church here shows some typical features of parish churches in the middle ages. For instance an embankment is often found to surround an old church, which would have had Lychgate entrance, none survive in Ireland, as with many religious artifices here could be a result of the destruction brought on by the reformation, so this based on British examples. The graves themselves have been found in excavations not to align to east-west, but rather are more often aligned to the element that they are closest to, e.g. aligned to the paths or the church itself. Also a common feature of medieval church graveyards would have been the yew tree, as it was was in prehistory and still to this day, its probably because the yew trees needles sterilize the ground around them, so prohibiting other plants to grow. Also notice the house within the graveyard, this is the priests house, which would have been a common feature within many medieval churches areas.

The Parish church here is the typical of a high medieval church with both chancel and nave. The nave was the part where the parishioners would sit, or more often stand, while the chancel is where the alter was and was the holiest of holy in a church. The nave was the responsibility of the community itself to take care of with their time and money, while the chancel was the responsibility of the clergy. The church also has a double bellcote, the feature with the bells, which is often found in medieval churches in Ireland, this specific one is based on the one in Dalkeys medieval church, in Co. Dublin.

The door is based on one I visited recently in Kilsheelan in Co. Tipperary, which is probably a Romanesque doorway from an earlier church moved to Kilsheelan when the Normans built the church there. The windows are based on ones found in Wells, Co. Carlow, which are high medieval windows, note the sandstone, which is Dundry stone. Dundry stone is often found in churches in the east of Ireland, its an imported stone from Dundry in south west England and is one of the signs of an early or high medieval church. Also note the roof is covered in clay tiles, there has been some found in Dublin during excavations very similar to the ones shown here.

Im nearly finished a cutaway of the interior and shall post it in the next few days or week, we can continue the exploration of medieval parish churches there so stay tuned!