Gorse and Hawthorn

The wild Gorse is one of the most commonly found plants here in Connemara. We are fortunate enough to have a wall of it in our own back garden. The first few blossoms usually appear in February but they arrived soon after Christmas this year, presumably due to the mild weather. These yellow flowers are always a welcome sight after a long colourless Winter. At the moment the gorse is in full bloom everywhere and it is a sight to behold.
Here is a photo I took of a gorse lined road in Ardbear, just outside Clifden.

 

Gorse in Flower 1

 

 

The gorse stems are thorny and evergreen but the flowers smell like coconut, sweet and summery.
Here’s another picture, a little closer up.

 

Gorse in Flower 2

 

 

And just a mention for the Hawthorn – I stopped the car on the way back in to town to photograph this lovely old tree. I love its knarly branches and moss covered trunk.

 

Photo of a Hawthorn tree

Sunshine, the beach and a Heron

The sun has been shining here in Clifden since the week end, the temperature reached 19 degrees in some areas, which is almost unheard of for the month of March. Are we warming up quite literally for a long hot Summer? Others may dispute this but the last really hot Summer that I can remember in Connemara was in 1995. We usually get a mixture of fine days and wet days/weeks, the latter standing out more in my memory for the last couple of years. Let’s hope 2012 will be a good one. There is no place finer than Connemara in good weather, it’s a bit like being in the world’s best holiday destination all Summer long, for free!
To day, I grabbed my camera and drove out to Ardmore beach ( below ), just outside the town, where I took some pictures and was lucky enough to spot a heron.

 

Photo of a beach

 

 

Here it is looking along the shore line. It stood perfectly still for what seemed like a long while.

 

Photo of a Heron

 

 

Here’s a close up. I love the reflection in the water, I’m going to have fun with this in paint..

 

Photo 2 of a Heron

 

 

And then it moved and I noticed a companion in the distance..

 

Photo 3 of Heron

 

 

One last picture looking back up the beach, a glorious day.

 

Photo 2 of a beach

Sketches in paint 2

These sketches are all based on the same scene, along the coast just outside the village of Claddaghduff, which is about seven or eight miles from Clifden.
In the vein of loose painting, I completed them very quickly (if they can be called complete). One is on a colored paper and the other two are on a heavy acrylic paper.

 

Painting: Claddaghduff landscape 1

 

 

Painting: Claddaghduff landscape 2

 

 

Painting: Claddaghduff landscape 3

 

 

I enjoy working on a colored ground or paper and it is not quite the same thing as paper that I have colored myself, although I probably need to work on this. Psychologically, one feels more free straight away and I think this usually shows. It has something to do with the daunting hold a blank white sheet of paper has on the mind – it scares us a little. This really should not be the case for someone like myself who has been putting paint on paper since childhood but I do think that it is so.
The other point about these colored papers is that they are very light and not really designed for heavy applications of paint. They tend to buckle especially if larger in size than about A5. This does not bother me especially but may be off putting for a potential buyer/owner of the piece. What is your opinion?

Telegraph poles

Telegraph poles line the road ways here and are as much a part of the landscape as the scraggy Connemara sheep. There are large areas of protected land on which there is little evidence of any human interference save for the ubiquitous telegraph poles. The harsh winds in Winter bend the poles so that one in five ( or so it seems ) breaks the line and leans over drunkenly. The first two photographs show this and below them a painting of mine.

 

Photo 1 of telegraph poles

 

 

Photo 2 of telegraph poles

 

 

Painting of telegraph poles

 

 

The telegraph poles and wires bring something to the landscape for me and more often than not I choose to include them in my work. They are after all a lifeline for the communities here. Of course, most people also have mobile phones nowadays but the uneven topography of the land and small population means that there are still pockets of land with no signal and so the telegraph wires are much needed for communication.
I use charcoal over acrylic paint to illustrate the poles and wires and I love the way these lines follow the line of the road and can bring life to a painting.

Bog Paintings

Here are some more of my Bog paintings. These ones formed part of an exhibition during ‘Bog week’ last Summer. This is a fantastic week long festival held in Letterfrack, which is a short distance from Clifden. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our Boglands through music and art, a kind of pagan thanksgiving for residents and visitors.

 

Bogland painting 1

 

This piece is based on the Bog road between Clifden and Roundstone village, with the ‘Twelve Bens’ mountain range shadowing in the distance.
I wanted to describe the richness of the bog colours here when the grasses are turning golden. I contrasted these rusts and golds ( I love using metallic paint! ) with the turquoise blues of the bog water. I’ve used lots of dark blue and green here too, so that it almost appears black. I wanted to give the effect of depth and shadow in the central pool to evoke a watery darkness in the piece which I sometimes get a sense of when walking in this place.

 

 

Bogland painting 2

I’ve taken a slightly more literal approach here when describing the cut bog and the grasses. I’ve used lots of gold paint and ink to add a richness to the colours.

 

 

Bogland painting 1

This painting is more of an imagined kind of place. I liked the way the broken down fence structure in the back ground gave it an abandoned feel.

Inspiration – Blanket Bog

One of the most characteristic features of the landscape in Connemara is it’s blanket bogs. It is called a blanket bog because from a distance it appears to hug the ground like a blanket. It was formed in wet, upland areas where there was a lot of rainfall around 2500BC. This happened when farmers cleared the land of forest so it could be used for pasture. They chose the higher ground where the forests there were not so thick. However, when the trees were removed, the soil became waterlogged and more acidic due to the rain. By around 500BC, at the end of the Bronze age, the farmers were forced to clear the forests lower down as the land became unusable. Heather and thick grasses were able to grow in the upland areas but their debris did not decompose and so a layer of organic material or peat began to build up.
People began to cut the peat ( called turf when cut ) and use it for fuel in the 17th century. This activity continues to day and there is much debate about methods of harvesting and conservation of our bog lands for the future. However, small scale cultivation has been going on here in Connemara for centuries and has kept the population supplied with fuel for the long Winters. This must also be something worth protecting. As anyone who has ever visited this part of the world will know, there is nothing quite like the warm and seductive smell of a turf fire!
The appearance of the bog changes from season to season. In Autumn, the grasses and heathers turn from gold into a bright orange which creates the effect of a burning landscape. Spring brings new growth in the form of bright luminous green shoots. In between these seasons the bog appears on a spectrum that is sometimes awash with the pink and purple of heathers and sometimes black and dark like the moors of a Bronte novel.
I took these photos of the bog below, near Clifden. This one is on the road to Roundstone. The cut bog in the foreground has filled with water.

 

Photo of bog

 

 

This next photo was taken on the Clifden to Letterfrack road and shows the waterlogged ground with stacks of turf drying out in the back ground.

 

Photo 2 of bog

 

 

We celebrate the bog annually through music and art in a week long festival which takes place in the nearby village of Letterfrack. It is an excellently organised schedule of events based around our boglands. I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Bog week art exhibition for several years and for me it is always a welcome opportunity to return to this subject.
This next photo is of a painting I did last year for the exhibition. It is very small ( about 3″ x 4″ ) and it is done on a thick bamboo paper.

 

Painting of bog

 

 

I really enjoyed working with a dark range of colours here. In life the water on the bog surface reflects the the sky between the clouds, which is sometimes a startling blue. This is not conveyed very well in my photos above but I have used this effect here and in many other of my paintings. The blanket bog is so much a part of the beauty of this area and it is a subject that I will keep returning to in my work.

Welcome to my blog!

I have been thinking (and talking) about this blog and my soon to open on line shop with etsy.com since Christmas. It is now almost the end of February and I am very excited to be here at last!
My plan is to share my thoughts about living and working in Connemara in relation to my paintings and the things that I draw my inspiration from.
It’s a big learning curve for me so I hope that the blog will develop as I go along and that some of you will stay with me.

 

 

Cleggan coast painting

 

This is my most recent painting and the one that I have used in my banner. It is based on a part of the coastline near Cleggan which is about seven miles away. The photo underneath is one I used for reference while painting.

 

Cleggan coast photo

 

 

I use photographs to help me make decisions about composition, particularly with the landscapes. I also use them as a starting point for colour choices. The work then takes on a life of its own and my intention thereafter is to evoke the atmosphere of the place, the weather and what it felt like to be there that day. I try to conjure this up in my head when I have my paints ready in front of me. This was a beautiful dry day (unusual in February!) but there was unease in the air and the promise of a rain storm. The afternoon closed in to the evening during the short time that I spent there.