“Rest Awhile”

Back to the same track, and this time into a hollow as the wind was such that setting up an easel and canvas would have invited disaster. So a dip in the road became my spot, and really it was as lovely as any bejeweled distance view. Furthermore, in order to avoid any chance of breeze I sat down, rather than stand, so the combination of not battling with the wind and sitting quietly allowed a different painting to be born, one of quiet and calm.

"Rest Awhile", 12" x 16", Oil on canvas

“Rest Awhile”, 12″ x 16″, Oil on canvas

One car passed the whole time I was there, and the man stopped to see what I was up to, and when I showed him this quiet piece he told me there was a much better view through the 5-bar gate up the hill…

Sure if I ran out of the truth it wouldn’t stop me talking

“Sheep Country”, oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

Up here is sheep country, and a few days ago I saw the best-looking sheep I’ve ever seen. Turning into a new track in search of a painting spot, a field rose to our right, and there stood a farmer, statuesque against the bright sky, his flock glinting in the sunlight. Passing him we rounded the corner and there was a view inviting us to stop, so we did, and when taking out our easels didn’t himself come to us with, “Sure it’s a long while since such a good-looking lass has been up these parts.” A broad smile on his face, he introduced himself as Pat Molloy with a warm handshake. Around him flocked the sheep, herded down the lane to the barn below by the slinking sheepdog to have their breakfast. They were beautiful sheep, and I complimented Pat, who told me they were film stars. They’d featured in The Vikings, a TV show, and American ads, and in televised sheep herding trials. Their coats were long and flouncy, sparkly white with a little wave, and there were even two black sheep amongst them, and a greyish two-tone sheep. They all had curled horns that framed their heads like a 20’s flapper hat, and they were smart, coming up to me and my easel to inquire until the sheepdog, obeying a series of strange noises uttered from the mouth of Pat, skillfully redirected them and kept them on the right track.

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Pat is a real live seannachie, a storyteller, a man who’d you’d be happy to listen to from dawn ’til dusk, ‘though the scene before us beckoned to be painted…He pointed at the purple heather-clad hill beyond and told us about a plane crash that happened there in 1945, on a day when the sky touched the ground, so misty that the hills couldn’t be seen, and the plane and it’s 25 passengers went into one of them. The passengers were French students, and one of the girls took off over the hills to look for help. There are few houses up this way, and back then even fewer, and in mist you’d not have found one. So she walked very far, over the Waterfall river and all the way to Glencree, where she found some dwellings but couldn’t be understood, speaking French as she did. A doctor was called and with his rudimentary French the necessary was communicated and a special Search and Rescue team headed back to the crash site. It must have been many hours before they reached the stranded students, but the rescue team was not a local group, so they didn’t know that a road was nearby and, not having consulted with any of the locals, led the group over hill and yonder over the Sally Gap way. That’s very far indeed. I didn’t ask Pat what time of year it was, but summer or winter it would have been a grueling ordeal.

Pat was very proud of his creative endeavors, and told us that he’s a songwriter, and showed us a CD that had been made of one of his songs, Someone as Lovely as You, and told us the whole story of how he’d written it. It’s all set in the land of my childhood, and his, from the Waterfall valley and up to where we stood, the same land where his father courted his mother by walking through the wilderness to meet up with her, back when there was no transport. He told us of the girl who works in a local pub and who starred in the video, which he said we could find ‘on the computer’, and was filmed around these parts, and he told us of some Americans who were visiting Ireland, and after hearing the song declared that Hollywood would never be the same after his song made it there, which as yet it hasn’t….and we spoke of the nature of inspiration, and of the mare he bought for his grandchildren who went and had a foal not long after the sale, the ‘bonus’, and now they keep each other company, and he’ll someday break them for the children to ride, and of his artistic son, and of my Aunt Gemma, who was a politician and was known to Pat back in the day, and of the local families who were our neighbors and his, and much more besides. He respectfully left us to paint, ‘though I missed him as soon as he left us, taking his sheep back to the bright green field.

“My Land of Amethysts and Gold”

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“My Land of Amethysts and Gold”, Oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

On the top of the world, or so it seems, way above the highest waterfall in Ireland, beside which I grew through my childhood years, and above the gentle valleys of patchwork fields spread like quilts over the slumbering land of my soul. I love this place, love this land, feel at one with it, belong to it, meld into it and thrive here. Surrounded by so much beauty!

The Heather Bank

We left the house early this morning, the sun bright and a fresh breeze blowing, knowing that showers could fall at any time and finish us, as they did yesterday. I brought yesterday’s canvas with me, as I’d really only sketched it out before it was covered in raindrops and we had to run for cover. The skies had opened and it was cold and damp and really wet for the rest of the day…So today we were extra appreciative for the lovely day that it was, and I finished my piece in sunshine.

“The Heather Bank”, Oil on canvas, 14″ x 20″

Back to the Wicklow hills, the place of my youth.

Just in from a 15 minute up the road, where we painted all morning in this lovely spot.

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12″ x 16″, Oil on canvas, Wicklow hills #2

The plan to go out West was postponed, weather sounding treacherous, but here on the East coast we had bright sunny spells, so parked ourselves off a nearby country road and set up. Our mobile studio makes it so easy, and when I got cold having painted two canvases, I sat in the front seat to warm up and fell asleep, while Mum kept at the watercolor until she did something lovely.

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It’s great to be working small, having recently done a series of large canvases, which often take weeks to complete. These two will dry and maybe get a few more strokes or glazes, but not much….I love the immediacy and spontaneity of plein air work, and don’t want to detract from that with fussy overworking, so I resolve not to….

The Wild Patch

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“The Wild Patch”, Oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

Back to the same spot yesterday, with some rain this day so finished it this morning by my mobile studio, ie. Dad’s car, the boot being my table.

“Raheen Park Sunflowers”

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Oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″

My first plein air painting this summer, and what a lovely experience it was! Clean breezy air, a quiet street, a magnificent view, and this little patch of salvaged wasteland on the top of the cliff hill that a local man cultivates into a patch of garden that everyone who passes can enjoy. Love that spirit of sharing. And as I painted a young art teacher stopped and we had a great chat about art and painting and loving life in Bray!

So good to be here. People are happy, walking and jogging and cycling, chatting away with each other or walking their dogs or with their children. This is how I grew up, with a sense of safety and the allowance to just be without fear or suspicion. This very street was where we played as kids, delighted for the suburban experience of having a whole row of potential playmates when we visited family friends. Great to be home!

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