Out of a Dark Winter’s Night

Published by Thames and Hudson, 2020

– The Original Oil Pastels –

Private View and Book Launch
6-9pm Monday 9th March

The Exhibition will hang in the gallery through 6pm Saturday 21st March

Painter or Illustrator? At art school I was told categorically by several of my tutors that I was a Painter and not an Illustrator. Unconvinced, I carried on with both; having ditched university I felt the need to have a career. Although I have always felt most at home painting, being an illustrator was something I could do if I put on some clean clothes, took a deep breath and reined myself in. I was lucky, Walker Books chased me up after my degree show. They paid real money which gave me the freedom to paint the weather an wild places that spoke my language. The two strings to my bow seemed to be a good counterbalance.

After my son Sorley was born I was hit hard by an almost unbearable episode of depression. When I recovered, for a while, the most pressing need was to make up for the time I felt we had lost. But when he went to nursery I had a bit more scope: the obvious thing to do was a book. But I wanted to bring in the weather. My first idea was to tackle Noah’s Ark but God was an editorial stumbling block. Slowly it became clear that the story I wanted to tell was mine to Sorley … about surviving a storm, which we had, together.  Over several years I tried but it hit brick wall after brick wall and I felt the decision about what I was had ultimately been made for me. But still I couldn’t quite let go. I went solo to Rossbeg in Donegal, for the first time in years, for a week in October 2014 to paint the weather and to try and get my story out on paper. Back in London I was put in touch with Roger Thorp at Thames and Hudson. He walked with his doctor’s bag a very long way from Kilburn High Rd to my studio in Kensal Green. Much to my amazement he loved it.

Life then threw me again into my own galeswept sea and for a while it took all my strength just to survive. Roger’s reaction was that he was prepared to wait for as long as it took.

Here, with those sketches, made in Rossbeg is my story: Out of a Dark Winter’s Night. For the first time I have made a book without feeling I’ve had to be anything other than myself.

Flora McDonnell 2020

NOTE: Nothing will be sold before the exhibition opens at 6pm on Monday 9th March

Out of a Dark Winter’s Night

Published by Thames and Hudson, 2020

The Original Oil Pastels

Out of a Dark Winter’s Night

Published by Thames and Hudson, 2020

The Sketches


This small group of paintings were all done within 15 miles of Glenarm in County Antrim where I grew up. I used to feel the need to always go to North West Donegal, to paint where the sun sets into the sea; a place of weather, in constant flux, where a wind pummelled ocean punches land with nothing between it and America. My fascination with that weather and my compulsion to try and translate it in paint has without doubt a direct link to my emotional wiring. This has given me invaluable sensitivity but has at times left me very exposed.

But over the past few summers I found myself wanting to paint favourite trees between Glenarm and Ballycastle further up the coast. The Mull of Kintyre is only 18 miles away across the north channel. There is weather but it is a bit softer. And the sun rises out of the sea.