Saturday, 10 March 2018

Photoshop sketches

Been playing with painting in Photoshop over the last while, great brushes out there to play with, here are some quick sketches that I did

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Clonmel Town- During the Cromwellian Siege

Clonmel town

A few months back I was hired by Tipperary county Council and Tipperary County museum to do an illustration of Clonmel at the time of the Cromwellian attack. The final image above shows what the town looked like just before Cromwells cannon open fire on the walls. As you can see it still had its medieval character, this was true of towns all over the British Isles. In England and Ireland at the time of Cromwell they still hadn't found the need to update the walls to bastion walls common on the European mainland. This is the advantage Cromwell brought to bear in his sieges here and there, he used modern cannon tactics against medieval walls. In the middle ages the higher the wall, the better, this was to stop siege towers, ladders etc from getting over. But in the coming of the canon the opposite was true, taller meant a larger target to hit and also thinner, so less likely to survive a barrage of cannon for long. Bastion walls were instead lower and with extremely thick earthern ramparts to take some of the shock of a canon ball hitting the stone facing.

Clonmel shown here has still got most of its medieval aspects intact, we did quite a bit of research into the town, surviving maps as well as what is extent to construct the town. The Down survey map of 1657 was the basis for the walls and even the drawbridge shown between the bridge and the town walls, this was aided by sections of the town wall which survive and excavations in areas which they don't. While the street and plot layout were based on the more accurate 1690 map of Clonmel by J. Goubet.  I actually underlayed the latter map combined with a more accurate map of the walls as a base to get the exact proportions of the town and its walls at the start of the illustration. What was inbetween these features was based on research of what was probably there in the town, including stone buildings and tower houses near the various gates. The market cross is where you can see the gathering of the people in the centre, this along with the abbey, and the church off in the distance at top still survive in Clonmel town, albeit with modifications or in the case of the market cross, off the road now.

The Siege of Clonmel took place April 1650. Clonmel is actually one of  battles which Cromwell lost most  of his troops in a single day in Ireland. Cromwell came to Clonmel looking to rush the siege with an assault, as he had trouble at home he needed to get back to. He battered at the walls for a few days and forced a breach. But little did he know, that the town was defended by a group of hardened northerners, lead by  Hugh Dubh ("Black Hugh") O'Neill , who had spent the last decade or so fighting in the confederate wars in Ireland and before that, many were veterans of many campaigns in mainland Europe in Spains armies.

They had prepared a trap for the English troops, as the English reached the breach they faced no opposition. They came in confidently in a large group, but soon became bottled in between makeshift channeling fortifications, one on each side of them. As the first troops came to the end they were met with a large barricade.  The first shouted "halt", the people in the back believing that the halt was meant for the defenders running away, pushed on to get in on the action. This created a huge press of men, the defenders picked this moment and opened fire from their fortifications, from the windows around and even had some cannon hidden in the houses surrounding it. It was a slaughter, men pressing in while others desperately tried to get out the firing, eventually the infantry retreated in disarray. At this Cromwell sent his best, his cavalry, veterans of many battles in Britain, they dismounted and moved towards the breach, again full of confidence. They too found themselves traped and sitting ducks and after heavy casualties were forced to retreat. In total it was something in the region of 2,500 English died that day.

That night the northerners with their ammunition nearly spent, knew it was to time to join the rest of the Confederate army in Waterford. O'Neill told the mayor of the town to entreat with Cromwell but not to tell him they had gone. The northerners withdrew that night and the day after the Mayor went to surrender the town in terms. These terms were that the town would not be pillaged or the townsfolk punished. Cromwell not willing to lose more of his troops and needing more than ever to return home, agreed to the terms. Once they were signed he was told that O'Neill had retreated the night before, which of course threw Cromwell into a rage but to his credit, after he calmed down, he honored the agreement he had signed.

O'Neill was to live another day and fight on the Confederate wars, while Cromwell left the remaining war in the hands of his son in a law,Henry Ireton and returned to England. Clonmel was one of his bitterest victories but the war was drawing to a close as the Royalists started to capitulate and the Irish catholics were left on their own to fight the remainder of the war. More about the siege and Clonmel in general can be found at the Tipperary county museum, here on facebook at Tipperarycountymuseum

But also here:

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Serf- a medieval world

I have also been building a medieval world while working on the Viking one, this time based in the later middle ages and around serfdom. The above show a selection of some of the quick B&W sketches I do to explore some of the locations and their spaces before I decide on what to bring forward

Sunday, 11 February 2018

More Rus Viking Exploration Sketches

Overview sketches of the Viking market and its central slave block
Exploring rhythms and spaces of the market
Playing with options for the Shipyard
Exploring the various rhythms and spaces of the streets of the town

The jetty part of the town explorations
Some options for the design of the main fortress within the town

A selection of some explorative B&W sketches of the Rus Viking world Im developing.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Rus Character Thumbnails

The main character options. I picked the name Odin, for the obvious pagan association and also as it means Fury 

The Wife of the main character. They are both people who live in the frozen wild of Russia

The Rus have recently converted to Christinity, Eastern Christianity, this shows the possibilities for the priest who feels out of sorts in his new environment

Some options for the Varangians or Eastern Vikings you could face

Some options for the Sami allies of the Rus

Some of the many little quick thumbnail sketches I have done so far, in the Eastern Viking world Im creating.

So far the story is  a fairly straight forward revenge story. Where the main characters wife was stolen by slavers and he then goes into the lions lair to rescue her. Its also a story of the old versus the new, the new industrious adaptable Vikings vs the ancient pagan Vikings

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Colour explorations

Some really early colour sketches I did at the beginning for the Rus Viking thing Im making, trying to figure out how it may look or feel before I started it properly

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Another Quickie Warmup

Just another quick warmup to start the day that didnt turn out too badly

Friday, 5 January 2018

Rus Viking Exploration Sketches 2

Exploring possibilities for the newly built Byzantine Eastern Church  in the town

The Walls of the town, Postern and Main gates, since the town is a slave trading centre, Im playing giving the design a prison feel

The eastern trade route was built on slave trading, that is what the Vikings supplied which Arab markets needed. So the background to the town is that its a slave trading centre and from this, I have been playing with the idea that its a large prison of sorts, to keep the slaves from escaping as well as acting as a hub for trading.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Rus Viking town exploration sketches

Deserted Suburbs

Streets in the Rus Viking town

Town on a jetty. I read that some Viking towns had part of the settlement built on the river itself

Docks, 3 different docks for the town, one for fishing ships, another merchant vessels and then another for military vessels
Sketch exploring wondering around the Rus town environment for that game Im playing around designing a world for

Friday, 29 December 2017

Quickie Sketch

Every day I always warmup with a quick sketch, just to clear the cobwebs out. I start with just black & white and see what comes out of the shapes, just going painting free. Its a nice way to kick start the day

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Rus Game

I have been working away in the background developing a Viking Game,  set in the world of the eastern Vikings, who went to Russia, so far Im just calling it 'Rus' like the name Eastern Vikings, I know not the most imaginative :P.

Doing it just for fun. I emphasise fun here, so accuracy isnt big, It will just be the art of it, rather than playable, essentially making the world from scratch.

 I hit the reset it there recently and so this illustration was mostly just to see if Im on the right path with mood and feel, kind of liked it, so decided to post it. Lots of more designing left!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Norman/French Soldier

An illustration of a Norman soldier, its usual now with the mention of the name Norman, for someone to go into how the Normans were descendants of Vikings etc. but in my opinion, this is much too over exaggerated. To me, they were really just French, for many reasons really for instance they spoke french, their culture was French, they fought in a french style and built in french ways, albeit with a regional character, about the only thing Norse may have been their boats, but I believe that style of boat was becoming the norm around the Atlantic by that time. There was only ever a small amount of Scandinavians who settled in Normandy, and at the time of the 1066 invasion of England they had been well integrated into the native population. And even with the Viking blood it was mostly in the Elites and they had married local for over a hundred years, every generation being half French, meant within a few generations there was very little Scandinavian blood left.

Also the initial invasion force was not only Norman, but there was also Bretons and from many other areas of Northern France. In reality the Norman invasion of England, should really be known as the Northern French invasion of England or if you prefer, the Frankish invasion. At a guess, there is probably many reasons for this change to Norman instead of French, for one Vikings are very popular at the moment and so to debunk the term could damage the book or TV series your selling. Also to write books about Normans you can talk about their influence in various arenas at the time, like the crusades and Sicily but the reality is that even here they were from all over France. If you look at the middle ages, especially in the high medieval period, it is a period dominated by the French, with the likes of Gothic cathedrals reaching fruition and spreading out from there.

Finally, the Normans have been a useful neutral escape goat, like the so called Norman invasion of Ireland, while at the start there was some French & Flemish, the reality was it was mostly a south western English & Welsh invasion, but I believe in the 19th century there was an attempt to reconcile Ireland & Britain, aiming the blame on the neutral Normans would help in this goal.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Chase

Its oft times forgotten part of the middle ages, but one of the great innovations of the middle ages, besides architecture, was the evolution of sailing boats. Really without the great leaps forward made in shipbuilding, there would have been no age of discovery. It was then that the early medieval clinker built boats were replaced by the introduction of the caravel built boats in the latter part of the middle ages. What Clinker means is that the timbers of the hull were overlaid each other on their ends and nailed to each other, which gave the hull a stepped profile but caravel built hulls had their hull timbers attached to the ends of each other via pegs.

It was in the late middle ages really that trade passed beyond anything in earlier periods in Europe. Here the great power houses of trade, the Hanseatic league and the Italian city states established widespread trading networks from Russia, to Iceland to the far east. This brought untold wealth to Italy as it was the crossroads of the great highway, the Mediterranean and lead to the flowering of the Renaissance. It was also a time of great fleets, sea battles and a multitude of piracy. It was really in this late period of the middle ages that the modern age was born and all else that came later was built apon. 

Friday, 10 November 2017


Just a B&W quickie sketch 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Medieval Battering Ram

Battering rams were one of the many siege engines used in siege warfare in the middle ages, from catapults to siege towers, from underground mines to scaling ladders, sieges were probably some of the toughest fighting there was. Battering rams were probably the oldest form of siege equipment, as all you needed was a big trunk of a tree ( they could even leave the branches on the trunk as grip), sharpened on one end and a couple of men and they could batter down the gates of most prehistoric forts.

By the middle ages however, these were more advanced, and not only used on wooden gates but also on masonry walls. When this was done, they would reinforce the tip with metal in order to make it sharp enough to cause damage. The battering ram was often coated with hides to protect the ram from incendiary arrows and was also housed in order to protect it and its users when it was in use at the walls themselves. Some were known to have no wheels too and be pulled along wooden sleepers to their destination, sometimes with the help of cows to pull it. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Early Medieval Irish Evangelist Monk

Irish monks were of great importance in Europe during in the early middle ages. Most famously, they were one of the sources of reintroduction of classical knowledge back into europe, not the only source mind you, it also came via Spain from the Moors and  from Byzantium (the surviving eastern part of the Roman Empire). One of the reasons for this was the success of Irish monasteries, and that success came from what separated Irish monasteries from alot of those in the rest of Europe. Irish monasteries were places of learning (essentially the schools/universities of their day) and religious discipline, while alot of those in continental Europe tended to be  quite relaxed and undisciplined, sometimes just places of retirement.

One of the most famous Irish monks for Europe was Columbanus, he traveled throughout Europe and received alot of patronage as he was essentially shaking up the monastic system to make them more like the Irish monasteries, places of discipline and learning. Him and other monks spread Irish monastic foundations throughout europe, in places like France, Germany (pangur ban was actually written here), England, Scotland(converting both these last to Christianity), Switzerland (the city of St Gall), Italy (Bobbio) etc.  Charlemagne actually also made a law that all monasteries had to provide free education to non monks, so an area of each monastery was used for this, creating the first real places of education in Europe (though obviously only a small minority of the population bothered with this). On a side note, its one of the reasons why the early Viking attacks were seen as so abhorrent at the time and what people often miss these days, its like if a modern army attacked a modern university, armed men picking on unarmed academics, not exactly a fair fight.

Why would the nobles and kings bother about supporting these new monasteries though? Well these were militaristic men and believed they were going to hell unless they did something, so if they could fund a school of holy monks in their area, and ones who are genuinely religious, they may stave off their eventual fate in hell. Also Irish monks were known throughout Europe for having the best Latin. This was because the Irish had to learn Latin as a foreign language, so in France, Italy or Spain, where Romance languages were evolving, when they read Latin, they would speak it in their own native way. Some of the leaders, believed one of the reasons for ill fortune at the time was because of these new evolving languages. As Professor Philip Daileader said, they believed god spoke Latin and so he could not understand these new languages, it sounded like a strange form of gibberish when they prayed to him. So one of the ways to make god understand them once more was to go back to how Latin was spoken originally.

As for the clothing of the figure, this is based on figural representations of monks in the book of Kells among other illustrated manuscripts of the time. The wrapping and folding of the cloak around the arms and neck, is my guess at what some illustrations from the books may have been, it probably would have been both a long cloak and stole of some sort. Also the designs in the cloak, both the small and large, are based on ones found in the illustrated manuscripts. The shoe is from one in the national museum, its location is not known but there are quite a few of these lovely shoes found from the time. Also note the little shaved bit on the chin, you often see this in early Irish manuscripts, not sure if anyone knows why they would have done this but its something peculiarly Irish from the time. Also the book he carries is based on one shown again in an early medieval Irish manuscript. His hair is a unique form of tonsure found in Ireland during the time, called the V tonsure.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Varangian Guard Illustration

The Varangian Guard were the elite of the Byzantine forces, the personal bodyguard of the Emperor himself but they have an unusual background. They were actually Vikings originally, they came down the Volga river and attempted to attack Constantinople itself, twice I believe. They were not very successful in the attacking of the city and the reason is found in the Norse word they had themselves for Constantinople, Miklagard, meaning the great city. Constantinople was gigantic in comparison to what they had encountered in mainland Europe, if memory serves me correctly, places like Paris and London were around 10-20 thousand at the time, while cities in the east were numbering in the hundreds of thousands, some even reaching a million.

While the Vikings weren't successful at their attempt at taking the city, they did impress the emperor, so much so he hired some as an elite fighting guard. After a while of seeing how good they really were, the Emperor made them them his person guard. They were known for their heavy drinking, brawling but also as great fighters and impossible to bribe.

These Vikings mostly came from the land of the Rus, which was an area the Vikings had settled along the great rivers there as a trade route to the East and Byzantium. Eventually these Rus, as the eastern Swedish were called, mixed with the local slavs to disappearing into their gene pool, but the name endured and is the origin of the name of the country, Russia.

For most of their history the Varangian guard were Norse or their Slavic/Norse descendants in Russia but in the later period Anglo Saxons joined the ranks, mostly from nobility who had lost out after the battle of Hastings in 1066. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Queen Arnegunde

Queen Arnegunde was a Frankish queen from the Merovingian Period, with impressive remains left over which they have been able to piece together what her clothing probably  looked like. Here is my take on her garments and the layout of her jewelry. More of the back story of Queen Arnegunde can be found over on Wikipedia:

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Viking Trelleborg Fort

Trelleborg Fort, also known as a Viking Ring fort, is a series of similar forts built around the 10th century in Scandinavia. There has been 6 in total discovered so far in Denmark and southern Sweden, the latest actually found in 2014 outside of Copenhagen, and placename evidence also suggests that there may be more out there yet to be discovered.

As mentioned they were all built in the 10th century, actually we can be even to be more precise than that, they were built around 980 AD, to be used for less than 50 years. Previous theories suggested they were built to train an army to reconquer lost Danish territories in England but now they are thought to be centres of royal power created to control provinces in the rising Danish Kingdom by King Harald Bluetooth.

 The name Trelleborg is from where the first of these forts found in Denmark, the largest was found at Aggersborg, sort of the same but multiply the number of houses and spaces. The Trelleborg fort is a circular fort broken into four quarters each with four longhouses, with probably enough space for about 50 people per longhouse, so quite sizable. They also show signs of far exchange especially from the nearly Slavic areas, so they werent just military fortifications but also had some function of exchange.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Friday, 7 July 2017

Attack on Indian Castle at Sunset

Been a while since I posted! Finally here is an image which I can show

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!