Jacky Murtaugh

Jacky Murtaugh

On the Rocks



'Fishing for Reflections' by Jacky Murtaugh

I can even compare it to an oil painting I copied from an old master more than 30 years ago. I’m not sure who has the painting now. Probably my Mum and Dad as they are my biggest fans.


And on the Seventh Day!


On the Rocks, 2011

Oil on Canvas

61 x 76cm

The Art of Persistence


It all started with this photo. It was one of those pics taken at the end of the night when your camera control is not as steady as it might be. I posted this on facebook titled 'The End'. My friend instantly wanted to commission me in an abstract painting based on this photo.


This is how it began. I had planned to focus on the lights and the movement and was prepared to let the colour deal with it's self and evolve with the painting. I love painting over red so thats what I started with. I then started to block in some of the shapes from the photo.


I started to see shapes emerging and could plainly see an image of a person right in the middle/top background. It looked like Elvis had just entered the building. More than anything I wanted to avoid this turning into a direct representation of the photo.

Because I had a lot of verticals I decided to contrast them with horizontal or organic shapes.


I then started to add some deeper shades to add some drama but this is when things started to go down hill. I never use black in any of my work but for some reason I thought it would be ok this time as it was abstract work. It soon became apparent that this was not working and I needed to rethink my strategy.

I scraped off some of the thick paint and decided to blur some of the edges and then things just got worse.


I was trying to make Elvis disappear but going around in circles making things worse.

I had reached rock bottom. Not only was this painting turning out to be a night mare but I was also experiencing some emotional stress at the time which made matters worse. I was ready for burning the canvas by this point. I actually put the painting away for a few days and worked on something else to take my mind off it. I started to think about what I'd learned in college and how colours and shapes interact with each other. I thought about individial shapes within the composition instead of the whole work and found I still had my focal point ( the microwave with burnt offerings running down the inside of the window) which had not been overworked right from the outset. I began bringing back the colour over the dark areas, elaborated on some of the verticals and eventuall changed almost all of the composition.

The reds saved me.....it brought vibrancy back into the work and blues had the opposite effect to normal, instead of them shrinking back they jumped out of the picture. I was pleased with the overall result but very nervous about how this painting would be viewed by the general public and most of all the client who was purchasing it. Nothing like the photo and a complete departure from my usual style. Suffice to say everyone who saw it loved it and I still think it one of my best pieces to date. The painting sold.

The End


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