Buttermilk Hill

 

 

The picture below is the view from my top window where beyond the back garden, the gorse and the telegraph poles you can see Buttermilk hill.  (You can also see the new hen run – almost finished, the girls playhouse – I leave the bunting out all Winter because it adds some cheer and Jellybean our ginger cat!

 

Buttermilk hill from my top window

 

 

 

Here’s a better view of the hill (below) from Clifden’s National School. I’ve looked at it from this vantage point many times in the last eight years.. it always makes me think of a sleeping giant, the curves and hollows of a turned away face, it’s nose the highest point.

 

Buttermilk hill from Clifden National School

 

 

 

In all the time I’ve lived here, I’ve never climbed to the top of the Buttermilk so I made it a project this week and I brought my camera with me. This next photo is taken about half way up. I had to watch my footing as the ground was thick with tufty grasses, gorse and heather.

 

Halfway up Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

Such a great view already. This northern side of town has shrunk and seems to nestle cosily in the hills and mountains beyond. There’s colour among the russet grasses too and when I look closely, I spot some purple flowers and a brilliant red leafed plant.

 

Purple plant

 

 

 

Red leafed plant

 

 

 

At last the ‘nose’ of the hill was within reach..

 

The top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

When I got to the top, a plain of land was unveiled ahead and the lakes that provide our house with water.

 

Lake and grasses on top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

The view along the Wesport Road and beyond was wonderful – St. Catherine’s nursing home with its long narrow avenue to the left and the Spire of St.Joseph’s church off to the right. I could pick out my own house and the bright green GAA pitch beyond it. The mountains looked magnificent, their peaks covered in mist and I had the feeling that they were closer at this vantage point even though this is a relatively small hill.

 

View from Buttermilk hill

 

 

View from Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

One last picture looking further north – more clouds in this one and the curling line of Streamstown bay in the far distance.

 

On top of Buttermilk hill

 

 

 

I was tempted to keep walking but my time was limited so I made a promise to myself to return in the near future.

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.

 

 

Night Bog

I found this painting (below) in a drawer of old works. It’s very small, about 4″ x 3″ and I’d started it about two years ago for a group exhibition. I was unhappy with it at the time and decided to put it away. Sometimes these discarded paintings don’t seem so bad later on so when I came across this one recently, I thought I might rework it a little. The white patch in the middle ground is a damaged area where something stuck to it and then the paint was removed. While I like the colours in the piece, I think it lacks definition.

 

Found painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

This is the finished piece below. I’ve given the sky more interest and direction using some white paint and a little charcoal. I’ve also added a fine wash of gold and blue. I tidied up the white patch with some brown ink and then I put some gold grasses in the foreground. I’ve pushed the grasses diagonally across the bottom of the image to give a sense of atmosphere. Finally I added some tiny gold highlights in the middle ground where the light of the moon might be catching the tips of the lighter bog grasses.

 

Finished painting by Deborah Watkins

 

Bog Furrow

 

I’ve been working on this one for about a week. It hasn’t come together as easily as the last couple of paintings, I’m not sure why. Perhaps my enthusiasm has waned a little since the first and I need to change direction for a while. Here’s how it started below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the next stage. This large furrow is the main interest and I’ve added a grey pool to draw the eye down and in to the painting. I’ve tried to vary the colour and texture of the grasses but I think this middle ground looks confused. I also think that the brown line following the direction of the hill downwards has the effect of slicing the picture in two..

 

Penultimate stage of bog painting

 

 

 

 

Here’s the painting as I have left it below.  I’ve developed the background a bit by adding some colour and definition to the sky and the mountains. I’ve tried to make the grasses interesting by varying the blocks of colour on either side of the furrow. I’ve also softened the brown line so that it doesn’t break up the composition as much. The direction of the grasses pushes against the direction of the hill, hopefully to give a stronger sense of movement. I’m still a bit unsure about this one – I can see the struggle in it and I wonder if this is obvious to the viewer. Let me know what you think.

 

Finished Bog painting by Deborah Watkins

 

Land Interrupted

I got back to some painting with the photographs I took of the bog in mind (see Shifting Seasons ). I have been thinking about this notion of the cut bog as a wound. It brought to mind a passage in ‘Tinkers‘ ( a book I have already mentioned a few times! )

In this excerpt, Howard is reflecting on a woman he sees in his mind’s eye, planting flowers. He is thinking about the effect that man has on the landscape. He imagines how a consciousness of this demands some small gesture as a ‘token of redress

 

..the flowers were an act of resistance against the raw earth like an act of sheer, inevitable, necessary madness because human beings have to live somewhere and in something and here is just as outrageous as there because in either place ( in any place ) it seems like an interruption, an intrusion on something that, no matter how many times she read in her Bible, Let them have dominion, seemed marred, dispelled, vanquished once people arrived with their catastrophic voices and saws and plows and began to sing and hammer and carve and erect.

 

taken from Tinkers by Paul Harding, Chapter 1, page 61

 

I love the hyperbole in this piece and the fundamental truth of it. It made me think of the cut bog as an interruption in something that is much older than ourselves or our forefathers or anything we can possibly imagine. I don’t intend to make any kind of judgement about the use of the bog, it is just one way of seeing it, as an ancient observer might, like a star gazing down on all of time. I think perhaps it is this interruption or contrast that draws me to the bog lands. The swaying grasses and heathers are like hairs and goose bumps on skin, a living breathing thing which when damaged, reveals a beautiful shock of glistening tissue and muscle underneath.

This is how my painting of the bog began (below).

 

First stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

Next, I added some broad strokes of orange so that this colour will come through anything I put on top and hopefully make the surface glow.

 

Second stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I subsequently added more paint and ink ( using different types of brushes ) to describe the heathers and grasses – greens, reds, pinks and gold. Then I used a dark brown ink to suggest the disturbed surface where the bog has been cut and driven through (below).

 

Third stage of Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

It’s not finished yet but I decided to stop here before the colours became muddy. I will go back to it once this layer of paint has dried completely.

Have you read anything recently that has influenced the way that you see things?

Summer’s here!

We have been enjoying some exceptionally fine weather here in Connemara. Temperatures reached the mid 20’s and higher last week which is rare for this (or any?) time of year here.

One sign of Summer’s arrival is the appearance of the Summer wild flowers and they seem (to me) to have sprung over night – clover, buttercups, pink grass heads and marguerites, my favourite of all.
Here’s a photo of a clover head, such a lovely colour – somewhere between crimson, pink and purple.

 

Photo of a Clover

 

 

I love the feathery summer grasses, the smell of them, the rustling sound of them and when you look closely, their delicate colours. Here’s an example and below that a couple of seed heads.

 

Photo of pink seeding grass

 

 

Photo of a seed head

 

 

Photo 2 of a seed head

 

 

Finally, I’ve included some pictures of the Marguerite, one of my all time favourite wild flowers. Their name makes them human – my daughters affectionately call them ‘Big Daisies’. There is a lovely field of these flowers beside the local National school but unfortunately for me, behind a high fence ( photo below taken through the fence ). I resisted an urge to climb in to the field, deciding not to risk injury to myself or my dignity and the possibility of creating a spectacle in view of my daughter’s teachers!

 

Photo of a field of flowers

 

 

These close ups (below) were taken a few metres away at the roadside which is dotted with these perfect flowers at the moment. Long live Summer!

 

Photo of Martguerites on the roadside

 

 

Photo of a Marguerite

Bog Cotton

I noticed a few strands of bog cotton while taking pictures out on the Bog Road. It usually appears later, around June so these were just a few sparse stands. Later it can be seen in gorgeous delicate swathes between the bog heathers.

 

Photo 1 of Bog Cotton

 

 

This is the single headed variety of bog cotton which likes damp ground but not ground which is completely water logged. There is a many headed form which grows in pools of water and draws up water through it’s stem. This variety uses its leaves which are long and rolled in to needles, to conserve water.

 

Photo 2 of Bog Cotton

 

 

I love it’s hairy delicateness and the way it swishes in the breeze. It holds a promise of Summer which is welcome as May has been unusually cold and wet so far..

 

Photo 3 of Bog Cotton