Sunday, February 28, 2016

Grania Uaile, the Pirate Queen

One of my Irish paintings was accepted in the OCAF 2015 Small Works exhibit.  Because the painting was so small I mounted it floating above a black back background in a deep square black frame.  This was the first time I had done a float frame and was very happy with the results.  The other painting that was accepted was the Sunflower and bee, which I framed the regular way.

The painting featured Grace, a half Old Irish goat kid that was staying at the Essence of Mulrany (pre-cropped painting at right).  Old Irish goats were once numerous in Ireland and now are endangered due to cross breeding and habitat loss.  The herd in Mulrany is one of the best remaining groups in Ireland and Grace was a delightful ambassador.

I named the painting "Grace the Pirate Queen" after Grace O'Malley (Grania Uaile) a local celebrity.  Grace lived in the 16th century, and like her father, was a notorious pirate.  She was known as the Pirate Queen.  During her rein she built, captured and maintained several small tower castles around the area.  We visited Rockfleet castle (Carrigahowleythat ) on the shore, about three miles west of Newport.  We also saw Kildavnet castle on Achill Island, near the passage between Clew and Blacksod Bays.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Achill Island, Ireland

Achill Island, Co Mayo is the largest island off the coast of Ireland.  We followed the Atlantic Drive from Mulranny.  This coastal highway hugged the edge of a land filled with breath taking views of a brilliant blue ocean crashing on the rocky beaches beneath the grass covered cliffs.  We stopped several times enjoy and photograph the views.  We marveled over the sure footed sheep grazing along the steep grassy slopes, at the very edge of the cliffs.

We returned to sea level to cross the bridge at Achill Sound.  We continued following the Atlantic Drive around along Achill Sound to Kildavnet church and graveyard.  The 87% of the island is covered in peat.  Which explains the lack of trees in most of these photos.  The peat bogs support a unique flora of grass, heathers, sphagnum moss, rushes and sedges.  It also provides a habitat for insectivorous sundews (Drosera rotundifolia), butterworts (Pinguicula vulgrais) and bladderworts (Utricularia spp.).


Then on to Keem Bay.  Keem Bay is a horseshoe shaped bay sheltered between the cliffs of Benmore and Croaghaun mountains. To day it is home to numerous birds and tourists.  In the 1940's it was the site of a large Basking Shark fishery.  The sharks were tangled in nets hung from the cliffs as they swam through the bay feeding on plankton.  The fisheries flourished until the 1970s when the populations of basking sharks dwindled due to over fishing.

We stopped at the deserted village of Slievemore on the southern coast.  The remains of almost 80 unmortared stone cottages sit on the slope of Slievemore mountain.  Sheep wander between the rock walls that run down toward the ocean.  I did a quick plein air sketch of the lower mountain side while the rest of the group wandered among the abandoned village.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Attack of the Irish snails

I did some sketching of colorful native land snails I found on one of the day trips.  The sketching turned into race, as the snails decided to come out and crawl around the sketch pad.  Trying to quickly capture various poses as they continued to change remedied me of drawing class exercises.  We may think of snails as slow, but when your trying to sketch them they definitely move faster then you expect.  Below is a short video of the snail sketching race we had.

After I was finished sketching various snail poses, I used watercolor pencils to add colors to the snail shells.  I love the colors of these pencils and how they blend.  Using these pencils was what initially got me interested in watercolor painting.

The snails were not harmed by the encounter and were all returned to the wild after the sketching event.  They even received a snack in return for their assistance.  They enjoyed both the plant material I provided as well as my sketch pad!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Newport, Ireland

We took a day trip to visit the near by town of Newport, Burrishoole parish Co Mayo.  On of the reasons we went there was to see the beautiful stained-glass windows made by Harry Clarke (1889 to 1931) Ireland's greatest stained glass artist at the St. Patric Church.  His stained glass is renown for its vibrant colors.  In addition to stained-glass, Clarke provided illustrations for Hans Anderson's 'Fairy Tales' and Edgar Allen Poe's 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination'.  His work was strongly influenced by Aubrey Beardsley, Gustave Moreau and Joris-Karl Huysman, whose work dealt with the realistic, grotesque, the morbid. The church window's subject is the last judgement.  The windows were amazing!

The left window depicts Mary surrounded by six saints and five cherubs at the top (below left). A procession traveling up to heaven below, many of these are saints and angels.

The central window depicts a resplendent Christ as judge, surrounded by saints and angels at the top (below center).  Below are the souls of the dead rising to be judged.

The right window depicts Saint Patrick surrounded by six saints. In the lower half is filled with souls who have been judged unworthy and are being thrust down to hell, including a green devil (below right).  Some believe the upside down green figure being cast down to hell is a self-portrait of Harry Clarke.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Croagh Patrick, Ireland

On a clear day, from the upstairs window at the Essence of Mulrany, I could see the distant mountains and the closer lofty peak of Croagh Patrick across Clew Bay.  Croagh Patrick has an undulating flat-topped base with a towering cone shaped peak.  The view presented to us was ever changing.  Clouds fled across the sky, circling around Croagh Patrick's peak, sometimes obscuring part or all of it from view.  At times the clouds completely blanketed the far side of the bay eliminating any view of the peak.

I took advantage of clear quiet mornings to paint the ever changing panoramic dance of clouds and shadows moving across the water and land.  I did a few smaller sketches and one large painting of the bay and distant mountain.  For big paintings I usually use Winsor & Newton tube paints, but I wasn't sure I could take them on the plane.  So I decided to make a second watercolor travel kit containing half pans of the same Winsor & Newton paints I use in my studio.  I found a Cotman Water Color Compact Set that holds 14 half pans on sale at the local art shop.  I replaced the student grade half pans with professional grade half pans based on the pigments I use the most.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mulrany salt marsh, Ireland

The Essence of Mulrany, is up on the hill side.  This location provided us with ever changing panoramic views of Clew Bay.   Clouds danced across the sky casting shadows across the water and land.  The tide moved in and out of the salt marsh changing the puzzle shaped pieces of land.

At low tide neighborhood sheep would graze on the salt marsh.  Moving from puzzle piece to puzzle piece by climbing down to cross the muddy creeks.  Farmers would send out their Border collies to herd the sheep back before the tide returned.  Sheep would run to and fro trying to avoid the dog, which usually managed to round them all up and herd them to nearby pens.  Any sheep that were left out on the marsh through the next high tide would have to stand where they were until the water again receded.  Sheep can't swim.  During one round up I watched the dog herd the sheep across the pedestrian bridge.

I did some sketches the salt marsh from the windows (high tide on the left and low tide on the right):


I also did a few Plein air pencil and watercolor sketches of the salt marsh and surrounding area during my walks (below).