Cover image ‘The Green Road, Inishbofin’ by R. Byrne
It’s been a great Summer and a busy one mainly due to my temporary job in the Elm Tree centre, a local mental health clinic. The Elm Tree is a truly wonderful place to work and a very special environment where staff and clients are respected and appreciated equally and where the well being of the people who attend is paramount. While I was there I cooked dinner ( for twenty to twenty five people ) during the mornings and for two afternoons a week we crafted, sewed and painted together. I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there and I’m glad that I’ll be able to see some of the staff and people from time to time as the centre is very close to where I live.
I spent most afternoons during the Summer with my three daughters during their long school holiday, trying to balance a mixture of fun, outings, play dates and plain old rest. Now I find myself at home again with the Winter stretching out ahead and with some real time on my hands. The kids are back in school so I have my precious mornings to paint, something I haven’t been able to do since May. As luck would have it, I received an email about a painting commission just after my contract came to an end, so I’ve got an exciting project to tackle straight away.
The subject is Inishbofin ( just off the coast at Cleggan about seven miles from here ) and I’m starting with the Green Road on the West quarter of the island. It’s a spot I know very well, a stunning blend of hill, rock and heart stopping cliffs. I remember being told about how special the islands are before I visited them for the first time. It doesn’t take long to figure this out once you go – it’s like an assault on the senses. The sea is so powerfully present everywhere, the sound of it, the sight of it at every turn, the smell of it and the taste of it in the air, quite a heady thing.
My first step is to do some loosening up as it’s been a while, so I’m starting with some small sketches. I’m using the photo above for reference .
I need to work out the composition – what is important, what is not. I decide that the cliff in the background is where the eye should be led as it is the destination of this Green road and the most dramatic part of the island. I want to heighten it a little to make it stand out. I’m changing the horizon line also, to make the sea peak out at the other side of the cliff. This ‘being surrounded’ by water is very important for the finished painting and I feel that it is lacking in the photo where it looks more like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
So far, this little sketch seems closest to how I want the painting to look – plenty of movement in the landscape and lots of bright colour – but I’m conscious that I’ve lost the sharp incline to the right in this one. I may push the whole image to the left in the next few sketches so I can suggest this better. It’s a start but there’s more work to do before I start painting on canvas..