Miry Place

I’ve started a couple of paintings based on some photographs I took out near the coast at Aughrus recently. This is how the first one began.

 

First stage of 'Miry Place' painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I want the main part of the painting to have a golden glow (this is how the grasses appeared when I saw them) so I’ve used lots of gold paint in broad strokes across the page. I’ve sketched in the sky using a combination of blue and white paint and I’ve left a space for the bog pool in the centre of the piece. Here’s the next stage below.

 

Second stage of 'Miry Place' painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I’ve played with different consistencies of paint and ink and I’ve used brushes of different widths to vary the effects. I like the movement that a large sweeping brush stroke gives and I also enjoy the way watery paint pools around thicker clumps of colour. I’ve tried to keep all the colours as fresh as I can, not allowing them to muddy too much and washing my brushes often between applications. I want this dark bog pool to be the focus so I’ve used dark blue and brown inks for the central shape and surrounded it with light and metallic shades to describe  the grasses.

Here’s how the second painting started below.

 

First stage of second bog painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I’ve used blue, purple and white paint to sketch in the sky and clouds and I’ve outlined a broad shape in red to describe the russet coloured ferns I saw in the bog that day. Here’s the next stage.

 

Next stage of second bog painting

 

 

 

Oooo I like it here! Something about that red and green together – these colours appealed to me when I took the photographs in Aughrus. I love the way the blue ( a watery pool ) has bled in to the cream and pink paint. I’m sorry in a way not to have left it here as the colours are lovely and fresh and true to how they were. It does look very unfinished however and so I continued working on it as you can see below.

 

 

Last stage of Miry place painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

I’ve gone in with lots of colour to the extent that I’ve had to stop at this point so that it doesn’t become too sludgy. I’ve tried to give the area on the left of the piece a vertical direction to suggest some tall grass shapes. The dark blue shape across the centre describes a wet pool and beneath that some green plants. I’ve more to do on both of these paintings but I’ll have to wait a day or two until the paint has dried completely.

 

 

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.