Sitting in a grassy patch surrounded by heather and gorse, with a babbling brook below, and cows and ponies free in the moors behind, the sounds that fill the air are so soothing; water over stones, horses whinnying, cows lowing, not to mention the birdsong, and then of course the bees busy in the heather bells I paint…
Walls are getting a lot of bad press these days, from Mexico to Calais to Hungary, but the walls in Wicklow are very nice and not trying to keep anyone or thing in or out. They just are.
Returning to the idyllic moors the following morning, there was a large white van parked by our painting spot, with a dune buggy thingy beside it, all big tyres and engine, and a young shirtless man smoking reefer. He was very friendly, and as we set up our paints and settled in, he revved his engine and careened up the track once or twice, but the noise wasn’t an issue as he seemed to prefer to lie on the grass and take in this blissful place.
After an hour or so I heard more young male voices, all thickly accented and cussing away good-oh, an endearing Irish-ism. I looked up from deep within the heather beds and saw another three of them, not far from my mother, but she was deep in painting focus, and a bit hard of hearing, which in this case served her well. It transpired that one of them had driven his car into the ditch as he was coming up the track, a track littered with large stones and bordered by ditches – more like massive moats really – dug by farmers to keep the likes of these joy-riders out. Being high, into the ditch he went, hence the profusion of profanity, and the subsequent smoking of more reefer to come up with a solution.
Before too long they called a mechanic, and then asked us if we were planning to leave, as they had blocked the little track with the car half in the ditch and half out, but we weren’t going anywhere… It was they who had to leave, going up the track in the opposite direction in the big white van when the munchies struck, so took off to go to the shop, asking us if we wanted anything before they left. Remote as this place is, the shop must be very far away…but munchies are munchies, and within the hour they had returned with bags of crisps and sodas, and they lounged around on the grass contentedly.
Not long after we heard the sound of a racing car, looked up to see a dust cloud and a little car bouncing over the horizon, and speeding in our direction. It was the mechanic, shifting gears and squealing tyres and narrowly missing the ditch himself. He came, hauled the car out, and left. The boys relaxed in the sunshine again, no longer interested in the dune buggy, or the wrecked car now parked beside the van, and attempted to kick a ball between themselves… but so high were they that none of them could manage, and before too long they left it sitting in the grass by my painting mother’s feet.
The sun came out around 3 this afternoon, and as the day had been full ’til then, I was happy to get out into the garden to paint. A quiet garden full of flowers in the sun and the time to paint has to be Heaven on earth. It’s a meditation, a way of being fully in the present.
All summer most of the painting I’ve done have not been satisfactory as paintings in themselves, as end products, but they have been invaluable in that they have given birth to ideas. Ideas for larger, more thought-through paintings. I haven’t had the physical space or the time and materials to develop these ideas – yet. But by the end of the week I return to Jamaica and my studio, and will have with me so many sketches to develop, and a few shows to prepare for so plenty to do!
Hopefully good work will emerge. And perhaps in the developments of these ideas, the meditation will deepen. With this painting, I thought very much of my grandmother, being in her garden, painting her flowers, being the daughter of her daughter, and having my daughters here, also in this space. I know she is pleased, and pleased too that we are leading happy lives. Although she is not here, not in this physical world, I sense there is just a thin membrane between us, if only we knew how to cross it. With this painting the fuchsias’ stamen became a veil, a dainty moveable tasseled tissue that allows me to travel a little further towards her. This idea of otherworlds and layers, of being still and traveling within is an idea to explore. Of rich red hearty life and delicate pale sensitivity juxtaposed.
Plein Air oils have been my focus all summer, but yesterday the sun was shining and my mother’s garden was so very colorful, resplendent with blossoms, so doing quicker lighter watercolor work was more responsive to the essence of this sun-filtered garden. Sitting at the garden table and once again enjoying one of my favorite flowers, the agapanthus, was how the afternoon passed…
…and that was after the most wonderful morning hike up to Bray Head and beyond with my daughter and mother; three generations passing through copses of old fairy trees and ancient oaks with wild mushrooms at their roots, to a steep shale pathway leading to Bray Head, the hill after which Bray was named, and a place that has a view that goes on forever. Along a meandering cliff path surrounded by heathers and gorse we went, the Wicklow hills in all their purple and gold patchwork splendor to the west, and the view across the sea and all the way to Wales to the east. Way below, over the indigo sea, a shimmering rainbow arched, its echo misty and magical, and a single yacht, tiny in the distance, sailed towards it. The land that is Somewhere over the Rainbow exists, right here in Bray!
The remains of Hurricane Bertha was blowing around Ireland a few days ago, and a mighty cold wind she brought with her. In the early morning I went for a stepping-out power walk along Bray Seafront in bright sunshine, brilliant white clouds skidding across the clean blue sky in super-fast motion, white-caps whipped up on the sea, and everything sparkling light and looking spanking new. In wind like this there’ll be no painting outdoors, I thought to myself, but when I returned to the house Mum was packing up a picnic, full of enthusiasm to paint plein air, so off we went…. I carried my watercolors instead of the oils as I knew a canvas on an easel would blow away in moments, and when we arrived at our special spot near Kilmacanogue the only place sheltered from this blustery cold breeze was in a copse of trees amongst hosts of magnificent Purple Loosestrife flowers. Layered in clothes and a windbreaker anorak I got to work, and the above is one of the pieces inspired by these most lovely of flowers, graceful and weirdly wonderful.
As we worked a friendly neighborhood lady came out on the little narrow road to warn us of the local tractor man who would run us down if we weren’t careful… but he never turned up, and nor did any other car pass during the many hours we were there – it really is a lovely spot, hidden and yet with the most magnificent views, and of course an abundance of these purple flowers, golden gorse, heathers and rowan trees bedecked with red berries.
She went on to tell us many a story, including one of a mutual acquaintance who supposedly stole a statue of the Virgin Mary from the tinkers, painted her up and placed her in a favored spot in her garden, and then invited friends to come by on a saint’s feast day to offer the Virgin flowers and votive candles, sweet foods and prayers. Also invited were some Muslims working in Dublin who were initially unsure of the proceedings, but who soon got into the spirit of things and began to strip, dance and ululate. And another story of the same lady who held a potato party and invited friends and strangers to come by and dig beds and plant potatoes in her garden, but one hard-working participant was quietly asked not to return as the host had taken a dislike to her unassuming ways…Before long this talkative local was joined by her friend, and the conversation turned to artists and actresses, auctions and world adventures, all on this little boreen of a road surrounded by swaying purple flowers. I feel this is a magical mystical land, and many paintings are being born, mostly in my heart so we’ll see of they ever manifest, but one of this day’s encounters must surely develop….I can see it and feel it. Upon my return to Jamaica I will try to paint it.