NOVEMBER 6

Landed in Fairyland. Ended up in Dublin rather than Shannon without my luggage or art supplies.. But- what the heck - I am now surrounded by rainbows, a magical landscape and kind, gentle people!

Greeted with warm welcomes at Ballingen Arts Foundation, peeked into a few studios to meet a working artists and then opened the door to my studio for the next five weeks.

I have two windows this year! And more wall space to fill. This is when you have one of those OMG I am in Ireland again and then immediately - OMG will I be able to fill the walls with something compelling? Some artistic growth from last year? YIKES.

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Spent some of the afternoon driving to my favorite spots. Bunatrahir Bay right down the road. Winter storms have changed the shoreline . But those ROCKS are still at the edge of the sea and the floating kelp still looks like wet Pappardelle noodles. Tried my hand at a sketch or two- push-ups for now. Developing a practice of keen observation is my lifetime goal.

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Then headed over toward Down Patrick to catch the last light of the day. Too rainy now to sketch and my brain was rather frazzled anyway - no sleep since 7am on Monday.

But of course, I had to have a Guinness before I hit the pillow! Stopped in Healy’s Bar and found Padriag behind the bar. A few of you may remember that he painted a portrait of me last year as a surprise. I responded by giving him a painting of the Bunatrahir Bay. It was hanging on the wall at Healy’s because he bought the pub this year! As he said to me. “I was here every night anyway, so now I am just standing on the other side of the bar.” Saw some old faces and even met a guy from Georgia who is housesitting in town. He came over after hearing me say ya’ll too many times, I am sure. Some chat about the election then off to bed. Already feels like home.

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NOVEMBER 7

OK Its hard to sketch outside in Ireland without a raincoat and gloves. Sorta stuck in neutral until I can some clothes and paints.

But being an optimist, I headed out on foot this morning to stretch my legs and sketch at the bay. Of course, the rain showers started traveling with me so I turned around and headed back to the studio.  As I rounded the corner up to Main Street, I felt a tug at my shoulder. I looked back and got a big Irish greeting on my first full day in Ballycastle.

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You have to love this weather  - Aimshir - in Gaelic. And if you don’t learn to flirt with it, dance with it, you miss all the charm of living here. Since I prefer to work outside, I learned last year that you always have to be on the “ready-set-go” and keep your sense of humor by your side at all times.

 But, no sketching for me today. On the phone with Aer Lingus for missing luggage, to Killala for groceries.. Artist from Dublin, Margo sent over James (her beau) at 5PM, to teach me how to build a fire with peat and wood. Last year I never was able to keep a flame more than five minutes. I am thinking wood sticks are the trick.

 But no time for lighting the fire tonight, off to Jeff’s cottage for dinner with all the artists. Lovely group who enjoy socializing! Jeff from Chicago, Andrea from Philadelphia, Margot, Joana and Phidelma -all from Dublin. I don’t think I had a meal with an artist last year. Everyone worked late and then we went to Healy’s Bar.

 

NOVEMBER 8

Woke up ready. My body had caught up with the Irish clock - feel rested and on the hunt for rocks and the sea. Sunny morning as I head back to Bunatrahir Bay.

 It’s funny, I am almost 67 years old and realized I never crossed the tide line last year while working. My father always told me as a child – never swim past the waves without me – so here I am, still hanging back for safety. And I am not even in the water.

So I walked out on the rocks and sat myself down. A whole new composition of sharp and soft edges, lights and darks! Got a few sketches under way, when I heard a voice to my right. A silhouette of large man glowing in sunlight – said “You are back.”

(Am I in a Jane Austin novel?)  Once I got to my feet and could see his face, it was John, the periwinkle man. What a nice surprise! We chatted some last year - I, on the shore and he off gathering seaweed and such. Good to know, I have a friend on the bay again this year.

John off to look for periwinkles. He sells them to restaurants in the area.

John off to look for periwinkles. He sells them to restaurants in the area.

 

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The chill got in my bones so off to Mary’s for lunch. As last year, I plan to visit daily for a late lunch at this lovely cottage. (the chalkboard sign outside says Hot food available today)  Mary is a delight, the space is so welcoming and the food - pure comfort. I ordered my favorite – salmon salad!

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Back out on the bay for one last sketch. The light was amazing. And – thanks to John’s suggestion, I walked on top of the ridge for a bird’s eye view of the rocks. Every day, little discoveries.

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 At five o’clock, I snapped this picture and headed back to studio. As I pull up, a van is pulling away. Santa Claus had arrived with packages! A duffle bag of clothes and art supplies. I scurried up to my studio, pulled out my supplies and took a deep breath, Now what? HA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER 9

It rained cows and sheep here today. It pounded on the studio skylights til late afternoon. Had to forget the idea of painting outside. Regroup! First on my list was to move to the studio I used last year. (cold in my new one). All fine with staff so made the switch to “smaller but cozy”.  And familiar.

So what to do when you can’t go outside and play? Pull out your markers and paper. I had my sketches pinned to the wall, so used them as my source for exploring simple shapes.

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After lunch at Mary’s, I noticed a patch of blue sky over the west mountains. Enough light left to get to Belderrig for a sketch or two.

Last year I didn’t have much success with this site. My painting sketches made the face of the cliff look like a painted lady with big eyelashes. (I know - hard to picture but true)

Sat down and took in the view. Attempted a few drawings but I determined that my work still felt like a lady but without eyelashes this year. I put down my pencil sword and surrendered.

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Light was dropping fast so back in the car ( I named her Little Bean) at 4:30PM. Evening time was brighter - music at Healy’s Bar. A lot of Jimmy Buffet and Beatles by a Dublin musician accompanied by two wild guys swirling around the dance floor all night. I could not understand a word they said. I just hope I didn’t marry off my daughter to one of them.

 Pictured in foreground, Phil (left )who works at the Foundation, Jeff Hirst from Chicago (right).

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NOVEMBER 10

It’s Saturday and I have declared it PICTURE WEEKEND. After all, the main reason I do this darn blog is to show the amazing landscape County Mayo.

Hiked on BenWee Head today. Sun shining, amazing views. Artist friend, Jeff is the tiny black mark on the edge- in middle of image.

Hiked on BenWee Head today. Sun shining, amazing views. Artist friend, Jeff is the tiny black mark on the edge- in middle of image.

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Moving further up the head

Daily rainbow sighting

Daily rainbow sighting

Broadhaven Bay

Broadhaven Bay

Other side of road at Broadhaven Bay

Other side of road at Broadhaven Bay

Back at Bunatrahir Bay

Back at Bunatrahir Bay

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End of daylight but just had to add this picture. I noticed this last year - dogs sit at the end of the driveway. All day long sometimes. Working dogs guarding their home I guess.





NOVEMBER 11

ANOTHER WEEKEND PICTURE DAY. Woke up early thinking of walking around town. But- when I saw this sunrise out my front door, decided to try Laken and Back Strand. These cottages are typical of mine. Nine cottages all in a circle. Looks like Smurfs live here.

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Drove over the hill to the Laken Strand - catching a glimpse of the water.

Drove over the hill to the Laken Strand - catching a glimpse of the water.

I walked the beach in the far distance, mostly in a soft rain. By the time I got back, the sun was back out. Every hour it changes.

I walked the beach in the far distance, mostly in a soft rain. By the time I got back, the sun was back out. Every hour it changes.

OK - since I started this rainbow a day thing….let’s see how long this lasts. This is driving back over to Ballycastle ( village in distance.)

OK - since I started this rainbow a day thing….let’s see how long this lasts. This is driving back over to Ballycastle ( village in distance.)

NOVEMBER 12

Beginning of work week. Took Jeff to the train station – he’s heading to Chicago after a long stay teaching and working here at BAF. Super nice, talented artist. (jeffreyhirst.com)  He will return next fall to teach a workshop.

 I headed back to Laken Strand in hopes of finding some rocks I photographed and painted last year. (Below) What characters! Reminds me of Philip Guston’s Sea series. 'When you paint things they change into something else, something totally unpredictable.' (Guston quote) Definitely feeling a kindred spirit here. Check out his work.

Here is my favorite rock on the left - in the distance. And here is Guston’s sea stones to the right.

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Sun shining, wind and tide both rushing towards the sea. Sat in my car to wait on tide and drew thumbnail sketches from pics on my phone. A daily exercise I hope. Keeps me thinking.

Within the hour, I took the walk over to the beach. Searched for a while but never found my rocks. Not a surprise since winter storms are at play every year. Very meditative to walk through the stones. They seemed like sea mammals at their final resting place.

Back to studio to start a short work week. (Gal pals from Delmarva heading here on Wednesday)  Pinned some work on the wall from the weekend. Now what? Focus on rock formations, paint and monoprints. Just to see what happens.

The idea of returning to small landscapes is not holding my attention. Feeling confined. Here are a few I did this weekend at Bunatrahir Bay:

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Artist Stuart Shils told me. Paint sound, not noise. I have been sketching and painting a lot of NOISE since my arrival. BOOM BOOM BOOM. So the more I look, the more I hope to turn off the noise in my head and- more importantly - on the paper.

Evening in the studio. Playing around more with shapes, starting a few panels, then did a few exercises with oil on paper. Totally not working - oil soaked into the paper before I could pull out the lights. Push-ups. Keep looking.

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And here is your rainbow - on the way back from Laken Strand. This is getting like daily devotions. HA

 

NOVEMBER 1

LINES OR MASS?

Working with potential art collectors over the years, it was fun to see if they saw in line or mass. It would help me know which artists might catch their attention. I always thought of myself a mass girl. Show me juicy painted masses of color clinging to each other and I would hum all day.

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David Park (left) is one of my favorites. He is like a master sculptor building form with color.

This time at Ballinglen I seem to be flirting with the line. In my sketching jaunt out to the rocks today, I found I was looking for contour rather than mass. (those marker exercises last week have me thinking differently)

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Afternoon in the studio found me flipping over to shapes. Worked on a few starts - small panels just to see if I could move some color around. A great artist friend told me once about his painting philosophy - I have no idea what I am going to do, I have no idea what I am doing and I have no idea what I have done. I can relate.

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Late afternoon, Andrea stopped by to show me a way I can use my etching inks without needing a press. (Thanks to Mary Lou Sussman, I came prepared with the right inks and paper)

Andrea Krupp is heading back to Philadelphia in the morning. Her work has a quiet intensity - particularly her response to Burren National Park in County Claire.

She showed me how to do a transfer drawing - the technique of placing paper on an inked surface and drawing on the back of the paper. The pressure of the pencil mark picks up the ink. I could play with this all day long. And so many possibilities. Back to flirting with line.

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NOVEMBER 14 and 15

Spent the morning of the 14th on the bay with sketchpad in hand.  Had a great studio visit with Joanna Kidney, Irish artist at BAF for another week. Lovely, sensitive drawings and encaustic paintings - seeking to make some sense of our brief and tiny lives against the vastness of our universe. Good conversations about exploring new mediums. We have made a date to work in the print room next Tuesday.

Got in a little studio time to explore my love affair with stones. Work on thumbnail drawings at night, then try to dig a little deeper with  compositions in the morning.

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Sorta like what is happening here, particularly these last two. See a little shift here in my thinking.

Sorta like what is happening here, particularly these last two. See a little shift here in my thinking.

Galpals from the Eastern Shore arrived late today. Two more arriving on Sunday. I, too, will take a holiday - from writing - since the next 10 days will be filled with touring around County Mayo with friends. Might send a few pictures of the landscape if WiFI is at hand.

Talk to you after the Thanksgiving holidays. And -have a lovely day with family and friends.

Susan, Frances and Ann at BenWee Head.

Susan, Frances and Ann at BenWee Head.


 

NOVEMBER 16-19 Touring with Friends

Can you believe that I have not seen a rainbow since last I wrote on November 15? I see it as “the luck of the Irish” since we have not had rain for over a week. My friend, Virginia went to Mass so she thinks she had some influence too.

Wanted to give you a few highlights of the week with friends. Took in Ben Wee Head, Down Patrick Head and then off to find fossils at Easkey Beach - on the other side of Killala Bay. the sun was dropping too fast to look for fossils but we did meet a nice retired gentleman from England, touring with his wife and dog, Sophie in their RV. Wherever he travels, he builds stacks of stones on the shore. ( see below)

We had a delightful visit, trying our hand at building towers as well. It was pointed out by my artist friend, Ann that this encounter might not be a coincidence - since stacking rocks has been on my mind.


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Next stop was seaweed baths in Enniscrone. According to the brochure, In 1912, ( the year of the “Titanic”) the doors of Kilcullen’s Bath House opened for business.  The Edwardian building at the time was known as ‘Kilcullen’s Modern Bath House’, an attempt to set it apart from a much older establishment dating from the middle of the 19th century. It is today as it was then.  Ironically it is that ‘modern’ building which now gives the Bath House its quaint Edwardian charm.

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The therapeutic power of the Seaweed Bath is attributed to the high concentration of Iodine that occurs naturally in sea water and in seaweed. Ann, my other tub companion and I felt like we were caught in a moment between the movies Splash and The Shape of Water.

I have to admit it was a little creepy at first, but once you get in your head that it’s OK to sit in a hot bowl of vegetable broth with spinach, you can relax.

Other highlights included Friday night at Healy’s Bar, dancing to Irish music til 2am. Irish men are a special breed. They tell you how lovely you are, buy you a pint of Guinness and then in the next moment, they are telling another lady how beautiful she is - and buying her a pint. Good hearted flirts! The evening was a great send off for friends. And the next few days, two more arrived.

During some down time, I did get a chance to work. Had a fun session with Joanna ( Irish artist) working on monoprints. Completed more transfer drawings and a few paintings at the Bay. I am definitely falling for stacking stones.

Here is the monoprint.

Here is the monoprint.

Did a series of transfer drawings

Did a series of transfer drawings

Sunny warm day found me sitting on top of cliff

Sunny warm day found me sitting on top of cliff






NOVEMBER 20-23 Touring with Friends

Three friends now back on the Eastern Shore. And friends Meg and Virginia have now settled in. Since I had two great cooks residing, we planned a farewell dinner for Joanna. A trip into Killala, next town over to pick up salmon and other ingredients . Along the way we stopped at St. Mary’s Well and Rosserk Abbey, built by the Joyce family in 1460 for the Friars of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. Both sit on the banks of the Moy River.

Lovely dinner party with all the artists - delicious food and good conversation. It was fun to fix up the cottage with Christmas lights, candles with a glowing turf fire. We even took off the plastic dining table cover and found a beautiful wood table underneath. Bringing the warmth of old and new friends together in my little home was delightful!

Rosserk Abbey

Rosserk Abbey

The next day, November 21, we headed out to find those fossils at Easkey Beach. And we did! These are amazing - a few examples for you. My understanding is that these are carboniferous sea-floor fossils on Ice Age landforms. It takes a moment to grasp that you are looking at the remains of sea life dating from 359 to 299 million years ago - during the late Paleozoic Era.

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On Thursday -Thanksgiving Day -Virginia and I headed to Ceide Fields. It is the most extensive Neolithic site in Ireland and contains the oldest known field systems in the world - going back to -3500 BC. It is located about 7 kilometers from Ballycastle, where I am staying.

At day’s end we were all invited to Mary’s Cottage to celebrate Pilgrim Day. She invited all of the American artists and a few Irish. A lovely spread of cold salmon, slaw and soda bread-with wine and finished off with Irish coffee!

Up early on Friday to get Virginia to the airport in Shannon and then met Meg in Galway. Stayed at a wonderful BNB - The Hot Spot. Obviously it was owned by artists - every room was visually inviting.

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NOVEMBER 24

Left Galway and headed south. (Meg headed west to catch her flight.) Had a lovely drive down the coast and got a room in Ballyvaughn, a small town on the edge of the sea. My destination was The Burren - a wild and rugged limestone escarpment that dominates Ireland's west coast. The name is from the Gaelic word Boíreann, which means 'a rocky place'. The Celts built their stone walls (see below) to provide protection to the soil and their grazing farm animals from the Atlantic winds. These amazing walls criss-cross the rugged landscape.

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The rock floor houses a wonder of plant life. In the limestone payment, there are fissures below) are called Grikes which form between blocks of limestone called Clints.  Scattered in pockets - in a dry grassland habitat - are orchids with a variety of grasses, wild thyme and wood sage. Couching in the grikes, out of the drying wind - are mosses and ferns, marshy bedstraw and water mint to name a few.

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I drove for an hour through the area, stopping to sketch along the way. Sun settlng so headed back to hotel. I did stop by The Burren College of Art to see the student exhibition, at the suggestion of the hotel receptionist.

Studios at The Burren College of Art

Studios at The Burren College of Art

A sketch while sitting at a wall

A sketch while sitting at a wall


Dinner of fish and chips with Guinness, of course, back at hotel. The holiday spirit was in the air when a family arrived - children full of giggles with painted faces. My waitress, Perrin commented that they had just been to see Santa! (She is an elf at Santa’s shop as well as working at restaurant). And she is studying at The Burren College of Art - all the way from Oklahoma.

She kindly gave a list of places to visit for Sunday, Although she is 21 years old and I. 67, we are both searching for our artist self. We exchanged emails to keep in touch.

NOVEMBER 25

Glorious morning. (really, what day- rain or shine - hasn’t been glorious?) First stop on my list from Perrin- Flaggy Shore, about a 10 minute drive from the village. On the way, stopped and snapped this photo of the entrance wall. Hard to travel 100 feet without seeing a feast for the eyes.

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Pulled over at the fist site of beach and found several women jumping up and down eating cupcakes. I approached and jokingly said, Been out for a swim?  Yes! We do it every Sunday morning. You just have to love the Irish.

Beautiful coast drive with lots of walkers out for a Sunday morning stroll with their pups.. The pond on the land side of the cost road had much more than seven swans a swimming. I counted 20. Perrin told me that the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney wrote “Postscript” while visiting this spot. And look - more rocks. Throw me in the briar patch!

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After Flaggy Shore, headed to The Burren Perfumery - a lovely store at the end of a winding road. Beautiful surroundings, garden, shop and cafe. All the products - perfumes and certified organic cosmetics - are inspired by the beautiful Burren landscape.

garden behind the shop

garden behind the shop

Last stop on Perrin’s list - Mullaghmore, a mountain that accommodates the greater part of the Burren National Park. The rocks of Mullaghmore consist of carboniferous limestone. And we learned about this at Easkey Beach - a sedimentary rock that was laid down under the sea 350 million years ago.

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Sketched at the water’s edge while hikers made their way up and down the trails.
Sun going down - low light- time to head home. Less than a 2 hour drive back to Ballycastle.

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NOVEMBER 26

Monday morning, back in studio. All friends have returned to the Eastern Shore and only had one broken arm. Not bad considering some were flirting too close to the edge on those Irish cliffs.

Time to reflect on travels and get back to work.
Spent most of the rainy day working on transfer drawings of the Burren. Those rock walls really got to me. Not only for what they represented about living in this landscape but how they are so visual haunting and beautiful.

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Pretty obvious that my paintings were effected by my travels too. Got back on the beach in the afternoon. The rocks became the emphasis.

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NOVEMBER 27

Getting back into my daily practice - more drawings, more sketches. More great food at Mary’s and end of the day Guinness at Healy’s. Spent time preparing for my class tomorrow. High school students from Foxford coming over for sessions with three artists…..and I am one of them.

But today, continued playing with these stacking stones in the studio. These are oil/oil sticks on paper.

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Back at the bay in the afternoon doing my daily sketching push-ups. Particularly lovely light on the water.

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NOVEMBER 28

Class time this morning! I have never taught a studio class before but what the heck - I said yes when The Foundation asked me. Have to admit I had fun laying out the paper and scissors. (maybe my Mom was right- I should have gotten my Art Ed Degree)

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I had three sessions of five students for 25 minutes each. The plan- do three still life exercises: blind contour ( drawing a continual line on paper, without looking); cut outs in black paper to capture shapes; and then use string as line on black paper, creating a more abstract interpretation. The students were brilliant….a great Irish expression. The “instructors” were treated to lunch by the Foundation. Nice to gather around the table at the Center.

The rain continued for most of the afternoon. Pondered next project. Maybe landscapes on paper? Headed to the library to get inspired. I always pull out the book on William Crozier (Scottish born, Irish artist) whose show I saw last year at IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) in Dublin. He is a rock guy too. I love everything about this work. The luminosity, color, composition, the transparency of paint. I can feel the water around the rocks. GEEZ. I wish I could see that way.

I am too dense…..HA…meaning…my paint application is flat, opaque - without the glow. Can you tell I am jealous?

William Crozier

William Crozier

Back home, put a chicken in the oven, built a fire and pulled out my book. Evan, one of the artists, loaned me How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley. It’s my trusted companion these days - -helping me learn to see currents, tides in a whole new way. Gives me another layer of love for the edge of the sea.

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NOVEMBER 29

Participating in the high school students outing, once again reinforced the importance of Ballinglen Arts Foundation for County Mayo and Ireland. For over 25 years, The Foundation has been bringing artists to the rural landscape of Ireland. The two buildings on the left (see below) houses studios, library, gallery, large print room, kitchen, dining and administration offices. And behind these two buildings is a large workshop shed. And - as you can see - a new museum building is under construction on the right. It is a most exciting time for the Foundation and the community. It will give Ballinglen to opportunity to install over 700 works from all the Fellows of the Foundation.

And with all the contacts made over the years, they have a long list of friends - curators, artists, museum directors, etc - standing by their side to help. I am very proud to be a Fellow.

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NOVEMBER 30

As the Staff scurried around getting ready for the Children’s Holiday Art Show, I found myself upstairs in the studio playing again. I re-visited some of my earlier marsh paintings after Perrin and i had exchanged some emails about our work. (It is fun to have a new art pen pal, so to speak).

Well, darn, I reminded myself. The attraction to the Irish coast is the extension of my love for the edge of the marsh and the sea. One is just a million times more edgy! Began making shapes based on the Irish landscape. (Each image is 6 x 6 inches).

And reading my “water” book, put me in touch with the term “surface tension.” (water held together by a bond of molecules). When we see ripples in the water, we are seeing the tension between the water and the breeze.

Well, there is plenty of surface tension here on the coast of Ireland. And by adding the markings of the turf being excavated on the bog. you’ve got a whole lot of surface tension on water and land.

End of the day, I decided to head to the Bay although it was still raining. Pulled the car next to the stone wall so I could work out of the back of the car - at least keep the paper dry. The light was almost gone so had to work fast.

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DECEMBER 1

Today the Children’s Holiday Exhibition held its Open House for young artists and families. Last year we had a big laugh over how the staff overcame the issue of no miniature marshmallows by cutting large ones into quarters. Well, this year when I walked into the dining area, there was Phil and Chrissie, once again cutting up marshmallows.

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The show highlights the work by young students from several schools in County Mayo. (another great contribution of Ballinglen Arts Foundation) The talent behind this show is Nuala Clark, instructor and curator of the exhibition.

One classroom’s collaborative work

One classroom’s collaborative work

Another classroom project

Another classroom project

Nuala working with students making holiday wreaths and snowflakes in the print room

Nuala working with students making holiday wreaths and snowflakes in the print room

After the festivities, I headed back up to my studio to finish up a few works on paper. These are interpretations of Ben Wee Head, along with concepts notes.

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Stopped by Healy’s on my way home. Feeling a cold coming on, Padraig fixed me, what we call a “hot tottie”.. Built a fire, made myself a little Christmas tree and hung my new snowflakes from today.

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DECEMBER 2

Sunday morning started with a great breakfast at Mary’s Cottage. Poached eggs, cold-pressed salmon, potato cakes, soda bread with orange marmalade. Usually take a long morning walk on Sundays but rain kept me in the studio most of the day.

Re-visited some compositions I had worked on last year- this time on paper. Of course ROCKS,

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Still working on the one below.

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Found myself missing the line drawings so put transfer drawings on the list for tomorrow.