The Process

The 1916 Leaders Project was commissioned for the Irish Independent by designer Joe Coyle in late summer 2015.

The ten paintings featured as covers for a series of special supplements, edited by Ger Siggins for the Independent, leading up to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Each painting depicts a key player, surrounded by other people and events of significance in the Easter rebellion.

'I drew on thirty years of portraiture to try and recapture from old - and often retouched - photographs the larger-than-life personalities caught up in these dramatic events.'

'The few surviving photos of these men and women are so familiar to anyone schooled in Ireland as to be almost invisible. My aim was to breathe new life into the rebels, as though they had stepped into my studio to sit for a portrait.'

'At the same time I kept my palette fairly narrow to maintain a feel of the early 20th century.’


The paintings are oil on 360gsm archival paper, with an underpainting in acrylic. Acrylic dries quickly. The underpainting gives the opportunity to sketch out a tonal composition, and has the added benefit of priming the paper for the oil paint.

Although I used a limited palette for the final paintings, I prefer to use stronger colours in the underpainting. In some cases I use colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel, which explains the green faces and pink skies. I find this helps to keep the final painting fresh.

The paintings are a uniform size at 360 x 305mm, and are on exhibition at the LexIcon in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, until January 2017.