Summer is always busy in Clifden and this year is no exception, in spite of the atrocious weather. There is a multitude of demands – children to be occupied, ferried around, fed and watered ( yes the basics, ) gallery business to be attended to, a new part time summer job ( teaching art at the Elm Tree Centre in Clifden which is an absolute joy for me ) and last but not least, paintings to be made. Continue reading
It’s been too long since my last post as I’ve been caught up in the busyness of life and children. I’m returning with a short post about a couple of new paintings I’ve just started. These are based on the Delphi valley, which must be one of the most spectacular views here on the edges of Connemara and County Mayo. I’m working on a couple of canvases at the same time, alternating between the two. This one ( above ) is 10″ x 9.5″ – I’ve kept the palette quite cool so far with lots of blue and green. The second piece below is 10.5″ x 7.5″ and I’ve warmed this one up with some pink.
I love this shade of pink – I think it’s everywhere at this time of year, not like this of course but you can see it in a haze over the grasses if you squint your eyes.
I’ll take more photos as these paintings progress and post about them again soon.
I took some photos along the roadside near Killary with a view to using them for some new paintings. I took these because certain elements attracted me – colours, the shape of the mountains in silhouette and the shape of the cut bog. I like this one below because of the warmth of the orange grasses against the blue sky – feels more like Australia than Connemara.
The light is still very low and it illuminates each blade of grass much like theatre lights. There is great drama too in the starkness of the mountains – they loom in the distance, great shadowy figures waiting in the wings.
This is a protected area so there are few signs of human interference save the ubiquitous telegraph poles and the road itself. You feel like you are standing in a bowl or an amphitheatre with mountains on almost all sides. I love the blue pool in this one below – it reflects the colour of the sky.
I have started a series of new landscapes based on these images which I will post about soon.
Cover image ‘Oughterard Bog’ by Deobrah Watkins
I’ve just written this piece for the next issue of the Connemara Journal. I took the photo above on Tuesday – the colour of the landscape here in Autumn is breathtaking and this year is no exception. Never mind New England in the Fall, what about Connemara in the Fall?
October stepped in quietly this year and gave us days of unexpected sunshine and warmth beyond anything we might normally expect. The long hot Summer has already ensured that 2013 will be remembered far into the future. I’ve always loved the colours of the landscape in late Autumn – an in between time of growth and rest. Since the bog fires in April, the grasses have changed from their luminous green shoots into fields of warm brown and again over the last few weeks into a lustrous fiery orange. When the wind is up, the now tall grasses appear to move like flames and give off an imagined heat through their colour. There’s a very particular kind of light at this time because the sun is at it’s lowest. When there’s moisture in the air, there’s a flatness to the sky that reaches around everything and blurs the horizon. It always makes me think of a theatre stage where the light is low and objects appear edgy and sharpened. Keat’s describes this aspect of the season in his poem ‘To Autumn’;
‘barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, and touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue’
(from ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats 1795-1821).
‘Land Interrupted’ by Deborah Watkins
The American poet Emily Dickinson speaks about Autumn light in her poem ‘There’s a certain Slant of light’ written in 1861;
‘when it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
(from There’s a certain Slant of light’ by Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886)
Enigmatic lines appropriate for a season where colour and light are heightened briefly before they are dulled again. Keat’s poem ‘To Autumn’ is first and foremost an ode of praise while Dickinson uses the season as a metaphor for change and the difficult acceptance of ageing. I think that both poets and many like them recognise the beauty of the season as it exists poignantly on the edge of Winter but perfectly and eternally not yet Winter.
Landscape by Deborah Watkins
This landscape is probably more true to how the landscape actually looks at the moment than others I’ve done recently. Along with the richness of some of the colours, theres a bleached out feeling to the old growth which has been touched on in this piece. It started out like this below.
Next I added some textured paste to define this long gully that disappears into the distance and the movement of the grasses on either side of it.
Here’s a close up of some of the marks below.
Next, I’ve loaded the canvas with colour. I’ve left the mountains in the background as they were – just a simple wash of colours as I want them to recede behind the ‘action’ in the foreground.
Another close up below. I’ve applied the paint thickly and in layers, sometimes wet on wet.
Here’s the finished piece. I’ve left this small area of white at the point where the gully fades into the background. The eye is drawn to that point so it seems right that it should be the brightest patch. I’m happy with this one – the swirling energy of the grasses and the landscape against the cool austerity of the hills in the distance. I like the brighter tones in this piece too which I’m going to try to keep for the next few paintings. What do you think?
I went out to the Bog Road between Clifden and Moyard last week. It was about 5.30pm and the light was really beautiful, low and clear. The colour of the bog grasses was striking – rich metallic shades of gold, copper and bronze. There was still some warmth left in the sun but the wind had a bite to it which isn’t evident in these pictures – the colours are so deceptively warm, it could be some hot and arid place..
I wandered down this road to get a better look – a typical Irish side road with impressive pot holes..
Mmmm, need a tractor to get through this next bit, good job I brought my wellies..but just look at the blues reflected in this pool.
One last picture, I like the way the hill peaks over the top of the road in this one.
I’ve been working on this large landscape. It’s 12″ x 14″ x 2″ which is a large deep canvas by my standards. It began this below.
Then I added more colour.
Next I brushed on some textured paste, my first time using this medium. It has the consistency of thick paint and is opaque white in colour. I worked into the paste once it was on the canvas to created different kinds of textures. It should probably be applied before this much paint has been put on to the canvas but I wanted to make the textures relevant to what is happening in the painting. I have a pet hate for landscape art that uses texture randomly.
Here’s some close ups below.
Next I added more paint.
Here’s the piece after a more work (below). I’ve covered the canvas with colour now and I’ve made this corner on the left darker than I’d originally planned. I’ve also added some green and brown to the pool as I wanted it to have a more murky feel to it.
When I looked back at the last two images, I saw that I had removed most of the green from the clump of grasses on the front right of the canvas so I went back and put some more green back in there.
I’ve learnt a few things making this painting – the first is that I love working with this textured paste. It brings the piece alive for me by – a bit like modeling with clay ( ahh, I remember those days ). More than that, I’ve learnt to trust this material ( paint ) which probably sounds a bit strange or perhaps too obvious but sometimes the hardest things to grasp are the things that are right in front of our noses! It’s an acceptance of the material and the ability to really work with it, to just go for it without trepidation. I think I’m finally learning to do this and I feel happy with the way the work is progressing at the moment.
I started this one with a couple of others recently. It’s loosely based on some pictures I took out on the bog road this month. I think this one is all about contrast – between the black bog and the white/golden grasses, the darkness of the earth itself and the lightness and blueness of the sky and its reflections.
Here’s how it started below.
Here’s how it progressed – I worked this whole piece very wet, playing with the inks and paint and trying to work with their fluid qualities. I love the way they react together, bleeding into each other like glazes fusing in a kiln.
I’m almost tempted to leave it as it is ( above ) but I go back to it once the colours have dried. I try to put in just a bit more detail and to describe the grasses a bit better and give them more direction..
While I am quite happy with this one, I almost prefer it at the earlier first stage as pictured above – what do you think?
I drove to Galway yesterday and stopped on the way to take some photos just outside Oughterard. It’s a favourite spot of mine – I took some photographs there last Summer. It’s a different place in January but no less beautiful and in fact there’s still a real richness to the colours of the bog and grasses, lovely russety browns and mahogany shades..
There was very little colour in the sky and this is reflected in the pools of water which have a metallic quality, like liquid silver or mercury. A lovely contrast against the earthy mix of colours around it.
There’s a quietness about the place, a stillness, as if the earth still rests. I imagine tiny tendrils underneath, waiting to move upwards and change this place again with a wash of green. Soon..
I took a trip out to Roundstone village at the week end and took some photos on the way. I travelled on the bog road which is a ribbon of tarmac that twists and bumps across the landscape. It’s spectacular at any time of the year because of the vast expanse of bog and lakes and the backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountains but it is really special in Autumn. The burnt orange colours of the grasses give off a deceptive feeling of heat and all the more striking against the blue of the mountains behind. It’s a combination that makes me think of the outback of Australia, wild and vast and hot.
There are few trees in this place which is something I miss but this carpet of orange heathers and grasses makes up for it. Shimmering colours against the low sun; yellows, browns, ochres, coppery reds – it’s a fiery mix and a golden time, a pause before the long Winter ahead. When the days are warm like they have been, it’s an extra gift, making long sunbeams indoors and tall shadows outside and unexpected warmth, reminding us to hold on to every balmy moment while we can and to savour it.
These grasses below are on the outskirts of the village.
It’s an impressive sight and the land feels alive with movement, like hair or water, the gentle sound of it making a whisper, moving back and forward and around me where I stand. Now I have the notion that I could be in some wild prairie in America, not here in Connemara where it’s green and wet.
I liked the contrast between the fence and the grasses in this next photo.
It looks bleached by the sun, not weathered by rain and wind as it has been here on the edges of the Atlantic. I want to go home now and find a sunbeam to sit in with a cup of hot tea and read about landscapes far away and bask in the last of the day.