This is a book cover for a series entitled Maligned Species. Some of the other topics included frogs, spiders, and grey squirrels. My topic of course was nettles. This painting is based on a sketch I did on a walk on the outskirts of a small town called Stradbally in Ireland. As soon as I came across this wonderful scene I knew it was going to be my book cover idea.
What I was going for is the idea that nettles often seem to encroach on once busy pathways, and man-made places that have fallen into ruin and abandonment. Where once there was thriving human life, now there is only nature enveloping mans emblems of achievement and vanity. So although a maligned species, nettles are often found in secretive places, hiding forgotten wonders, and therefore possess something of a semblance of mystery.
I sometimes transfer my drawing onto board or canvas, so it acts as a guide as I paint. This is most usually an illustration technique for me. For this painting I dispensed with the drawing stage, and instead blocked in the basic forms with paint right from the beginning. This can be a much looser, more painterly approach. I think it helped to add some extra spontaneity and vigor to the final look of it.