DECEMBER 3

Absolutely beautiful day. Drank some cold medicine, then headed out to paint. Did a few sketches then started to paint. At that moment, I found myself in the arch of a rainbow.


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Then, of course, it started to shower. Seems like I would have figured out by now that when you see a rainbow, moisture is in the air. Packed up and headed toward some sheep fields away from the ocean and rain. But the minute I got out of the car to survey - NAH - need to feel a water current and the edge of the sea. (First time I noticed an A on the back windshield. “Avis”, “Amateur” or “American”? A small warning sign for the Irish.)

So, a few things about painting outside. Something always comes up. Weather, forgot the paints, hands freeing, where’s the bathroom? This was on my mind when seeing how the tide had moved the seaweed overnight. Reminded me of Monet’s hay bales. I was lucky that I only had to deal with a few gnats here….and cold hands.

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My favorite group of outdoor painters is the Group of Seven - Canadian landscape painters from 1920 -1933. They believed that by direct contact with nature, a distinct Canadian art could be developed - which became the first major Canadian national art movement. They were truly explorers - out in canoes - on the Canadian lakes- painting in all seasons.

Tom Thompson’s body, one of the best known of the Group, surfaced on Algonquin Park's most famous lake , Canoe Lake in July , 1917 - a bruise over his left temple. Some speculate that he stood up to pee, lost his balance and fell in.

Tom Thompson,  Alqonquin Sunset,  oil on panel, 1917

Tom Thompson, Alqonquin Sunset, oil on panel, 1917

Late afternoon, I headed to the workshop building to try a few more monoprints. Walking over, I caught this shot of the Bay. I am now paying more attention to water due to my book - check out the color reflection of the cloud on the water.

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DECEMBER 4

JUST SKETCHING. In a conversation over tea with Joe and Evan ( two of the resident artists), Joe pointed out how degrading it is to refer to your work as just sketching or just experimenting. “Forget the JUST and declare I am sketching! Or I am experimenting!”, he said. I agree- although I am certainly guilty of the “just” syndrome. Really, these actions are the fuel for your work- where creativity gets its spark.

I can remember years ago, one of our artists called on a few galleries in New York to inquire about representation. His portfolio was full of exquisitely executed drawings - more depth that most paintings. But he was told that drawings are not valued. Come back when you have paintings. Well, he did start painting- successfully - but those drawings are still the heart and sou of his work.

So, what the heck…here is my SKETCH from today. And a few others. I like returning to the same spot and seeing how it changes with the tide and my pencil.

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DECEMBER 5

Amazing morning at the Bay. Cloudy with mist, calm sea with chattering birds feeding at the water’s edge. My friend Ann, in reflecting about her visit here, sent me this statement from Irish poet John O’Donohue:

Well, I think it makes a huge difference, when you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you are walking into a dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you but in a totally different form, and if you go towards it with an open heart and a real, watchful reverence, that you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you.

This just makes me weep. The ancient Celts in Ireland honored the force of nature -every mountain, river, spring, marsh, tree, and rocky outcrop -possess a spiritual essence. Poets such as John O’Donohue and all other Irish poets, remind us of this spirit. Its hard for me to find those words, I am just so thankful to be here.

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After some sketches - and the sighting of a loon- I packed up and headed back to the studio. We (artists) headed over to visit the studio of Keith Wilson. Thoughtful, lovely work of his garden and the Irish landscape.

Back in the studio in the afternoon. “Line” was on my mind today. Spend some time doing transfer drawings of The Burren. Seeing this landscape - meditative and haunting - in line. Feel like I am standing on the edge of a diving board with this direction. I just hope there is some water in the pool.

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Another outing for the “Art Club” tonight. We all had dinner with the greatest couple, Clay and Sandra, the dogsitters on the Sea Road. Clay is from Georgia and Sandra is from Kildaire. This group of artists has been so social - dinners, outings and we plan to have a holiday dinner at Mary’s Cottage in a few days. And tomorrow, studio visits.









DECEMBER 6

Today we visited each other’s studios. All of us have been quietly working without much interaction. It was enjoyable to get a glimpse of each person’s progress. Three of us will be leaving next week, one staying til January 5.

I put on my “gallery hat” this morning and re-organized my walls for the visit. It was a good time to step back and evaluate my progress - and - to decide where to focus during my last week.

I feel like the road sign you see as you approach a village. “Traffic Calming”. All of my senses are starting to slow down and get in rhythm with the landscape. Just like the ocean this week, calmness settling in. I remember this happening last year. Just when you are getting in the groove, time to pack your bags!

Here are pictures of the walls. Feedback from the group - are you sure you are not a sculptor?

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DECEMBER 7

I purchased a carton of milk today and the expiration date read December 15th. I will be home when it expires. Boohoo. Making my list of things to do - first is my last trip out to Ben Wee Head. Evan and I drove out - wind was fierce but sun shining. Check out these sheep in the wind.

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Of course, spending time with the kind folks of Ballycastle is definitely on my list- from the staff at Ballinglen to the ones sitting on stools at Healy’s Bar. One of my tasks while here was to approach Ballycastle to see if they would “twin” with Snow Hill - where I live. The towns are so similar in many ways. Padriag at Healy’s has served as my contact. Since they don’t have a mayor, the GAA ( Gaelic Athletic Association makes most of the decisions for events around town.

Ballycastle is already up to fun events, like the one planned for January 1st - a mock wedding to raise money for cancer. John ( who is single) is marrying a lady in town. Padriag showed me the robe he is making for the groom- imagine a Viking King. They have most of the town involved - even a flash dance at the end. How many times to I say this? You gotta love these folks. (Here is John showing me his Christmas sweater.)

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In the studio today, I went back to my regular theme. Fun to play around with these shapes.

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DECEMBER 8

Staying close to home today. Sketched and painted at the Bay - trying to do at least one a day. Thinking more about how to look at my drawings as “sculpture”.

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Afternoon light on the Bay

Afternoon light on the Bay

Tonight we all gathered at Mary’s Cottage for a holiday feast. It was a lovely dinner followed by Guinness at Healy’s. A 50th birthday party was taking place when we arrived. One is always invited to participate in any event happening at the bar. I have enjoyed many a Guinness while watching folks gather for rehearsal after- dinner parties, after wedding celebrations, Christmas parties, etc. Every event is part of the community - not tucked away in some private venue.

DECEMBER 9

Since I haven’t painted in a while, spent this rainy day working on the little studies below. Most of these concepts have bubbled up from spending time on thumbnail sketches drawn at the breakfast table. Good exercise to see how color changes the energy. Studies for larger work? Not sure. Did have fun adding the pencil marks for texture. I always need to put a pencil mark somewhere.

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Here are the sketches that I used for some of the compositions for color studies.

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Got back outside before the end of the day. Decided to put paper and paints in the back of the car so I could take cover if needed. The wind whipped up so fast, I had to literally hold onto the hatchback for fear it would fly off and kill at cow on the hill above me. How fast can I work to capture the spirit? Can I hold the feeling or need to create another response?

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DECEMBER 10

Sitting in the car at Dun na Mbo – on the northwest coast of Ireland -waiting for the rain to pause. I was able to stand on the edge, get a few sketches done then back in the car to warm my hands. Although the cliff is 40 meters above the sea, you can regularly get drenched in spray. When the waves crash against the cliff, the sea water is pushed upward and outward through a blowhole right next to where I was standing. All your senses are on alert with the sea crashing, the sound of the water in the blowhole - and, then the call of wild geese flying overhead. You have no choice but to embrace this Irish magical moment.

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One of my sketches

One of my sketches

Drove over to Erris Head (Gailic name is Ceann Lorris)  for more sketching. I had visited these cliffs last year and found them fascinating in their winter color - a part of the Atlantic Wild Way, There are still signs of summer tourists with rental equipment trucks and porta johns standing quietly waiting for another season of warm weather. I am thankful to have these majestic rocks and sea all to myself.

In the 1930’s, Irish naturalist R L Preager spent time at Erris Head and described it as “the wildest. loneliest stretch of country to be found in all of Ireland-the illimitable silver sea, savage coastline, booming waves.”

It is rather haunting with is north-facing cliffs- some of the most exposed in the country

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DECEMBER 11 and 12

These two days were all about taking down artwork, packing and cleaning the cottage. Always hard to say good-bye to Ballinglen and Ballycastle, but leaving with fun memories and a few new art ideas to ponder.

Ireland is the best nurturer for life. The landscape, the weather and the people embrace you -it’s like living happily in a snow globe - but this one rains when you shake it.

Looking back over my photographs, I did want to show you the painting below - a gift from Joanna Kidney’s young daughter, Evie. She came to visit her mom at Ballinglen and made a painting for each of the resident artists. I was so touched by her generosity. So lovely!

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Got to the bay for one more painting session. Last time staring at those rocks. After long walks at the end of both days, heading to Healy’s for Guinness. Will head to Shannon Airport on December 13.

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Sky at end of day.

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DECEMBER 13

Packed up Little Bean, my rental car for five weeks, turned in my cottage and studio keys at Ballinglen, gave hugs all around - then drove down the sea road -one more time before heading south to Shannon.

Bunatrahir Bay

Bunatrahir Bay

Down Patrick Head

Down Patrick Head

Stopped and snapped this picture of a wall in Killala - a good send off message from Ireland..

Stopped and snapped this picture of a wall in Killala - a good send off message from Ireland..

As I traveled to the hotel next to the Shannon airport, I stopped along the way at a few woolen mills in search of Irish sweaters and beanies for Christmas presents. Such a pleasant way to shop for the holidays.

Arriving at the hotel, I looked out my window and had this nice view of the salt marshes. A good reminder of the landscape back home.

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DECEMBER 14

Have you seen the movie American Animals? I watched it on the plane. The beginning lines particularly struck me….  “My life is great and I am really good at drawing, but there has to be more to art,” laments Spencer, a talented young artist in search of a life altering experience. “Look at Van Gogh, Monet”, he says. “Even Audubon went to prison.”  

After being in awe of a rare Audubon book in the Special Collections room at his college library, Spencer convinces a friend who convinces others to steal the book for money. A creative drive becomes the fool - immature, misguided teenagers -in search of an escape from boredom or fear. All four protagonists land in prison for seven years. True story.

Who isn’t looking for an altering experience to push them closer to their true selves? This residency at Ballinglen has been an engaging, creative experience for me and I didn’t have to steal anything. The view and generosity was free in Ireland. And goodness, my life is great and might even have a few good drawings.

Thoughts as I fly back home? DRAW. DRAW. DRAW. And, with the prompt from fellow artists, use the pencil as a sculptor’s tool. Let the line take me further into an inquiry about keen observation. And my love affair with stones? Curious to see where that path leads me.

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So back the movie and Spencer. The movie ends with an update of each of the four – in their late twenties. Spencer now lives a few blocks from his parents, in the same town where he went to college.

  He has an artist studio. He paints birds.